Roots Rock Reggae presents the history of Reggae like never before. Rather than writing out the history of Reggae himself, Foster opts to use the words of the singers, musicians and deejays he has interviewed over the years, who have created and moulded the history themselves. The combining the chapters with interviews, is Foster's own chapters documenting subgenres (dub, dub poetry, etc) and other types of things (Reggae in America, etc), though the interviews are the books main draw.
The book starts with an interview with the late tenor sax player/bandleader Tommy McCook from foundation ska band the Skatalites. Mr. McCook is always a great interview and this book continues the tradition with Tommy tracing the history of both Ska, the Skatalites, recorded music in JA and many other topics including doomed Ska trombone genius Don Drummond. Other oldies acts interiewed are Desmond Dekker who relates the story of his long and successful carreer, Ken Boothe who talks of his time as Mr. Rocksteady, as well as former Paragon John Holt whose interview is particularly interesting as he tells the story of discovering U Roy toasting over a Paragons track at a sound system and taking U Roy to Duke Reid to be recorded starting the huge deejay craze.
Representing the roots side of Reggae music are such amazing singers and groups as Johnny Clarke, the always entertaining Horace Andy, The Itals, Wailing Souls and many others, including a great interview with Ducky Simpson from Black Uhuru as well as a seperate interview with Uhuru's former lead singer Michael Rose, giving a nice double perspective on the group. Count Ossie is also here talking about Niyabingi music as well as Rastafari and its part in reggae history, and even Marcia Griffiths is here representing roots women perspective.
As far as international reggae, the UK's Steel Pulse gets a chapter as do African reggae artists Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dube and Majek Fashek. and Dancehall fans get treated to interviews with Eek-A-Mouse, Cutty Ranks, Ini Kamoze, Buju Banton, and the man currently heating things up for reggae music in the charts, Shaggy.
Fosters own chapters aren't quite as good as the interviews obviously, but he shines sometimes, especially towards the end of the book when he makes chapters for singers, vocal groups, instrumental groups and deejays where you can read at least a paragraph or two on anyone from Max Romeo to the Pioneers to The Upsetters to U Brown and Lone Ranger. He also has chapters about Reggae in the U.S., intrumental Reggae, Dub and the forgotten art of Dub Poetry. Even a small article on Jungle music and Dancehall (which isnt much more than a comparison of names...Cutty Ranks, Shabba Ranks, Buju Banton, Burru Banton, Pato Banton, etc)
All-in-all this is a good read. Pretty much any fan of Reggae can find something in here they like. My only complaint was that producers weren't represented as well. Where would Jamaican music be without Coxsone, Duke Reid, Bunny Lee, etc. Also, the Dub section leaves much to be desired. But again, Chuck Foster has put together a great book to add to anybodys Reggae library.
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