Luciano's story begins in Davey Town, a small, close-knit community in the Jamaican parish of Manchester, where he was born Jepther McClymont on the 20th October 1964. After singing in his local church choir and in neighbouring youth clubs Jepther eventually moved to the capital Kingston, where he became an upholsterer by day and singer on sound systems by night. It was by voicing dubplates that his reputation spread, and recordings for Earl Haynes, Zagalou's Homer Harris - who named him Luciano after the Lucky Luciano movie character - and producer Sky High soon followed, although it wasn't until he sang for New Name's Castro Brown and then Freddie McGregor's Big Ship operation that he chalked up his first major hits. "Shake It Up Tonight" duly became his first UK No. 1 in 1993, by which time he'd also voiced songs for Pickout, Diamond Rush, Saxon and Sly & Robbie's Taxi label. More importantly he'd also met Xterminator producer Phillip "Fatis" Burrell, who encouraged him to write original material and then released the two singles that were to establish Luciano's early standing as a singer of depth and meaning, namely "Chant Out" and the now classic "Poor And Simple". The Xterminator imprint was already famed for its superb rhythm tracks and a growing catalogue of dancehall and cultural anthems by the likes of Cocoa Tea, Tony Rebel and Capleton, even before Luciano joined their fold. With musicians such as Sly & Robbie, Dean Fraser, The Firehouse Crew and Third World guitarist Cat Coore to draw upon, Fatis had creaed a sound capable of taking reggae music forwards, even whilst remaining true to time honoured values of the past.

In such environment, Luciano's career flourished. And whilst his 1994 debut set "Moving Up" suffered from lack of exposure, the torrent of hit singles that followed on its heels - including "Neighbourhood Watch" (with Selvie Wonder), "Raggamuffin", "Mr. Governor" (with Cocoa Tea), "Back To Africa", "Time Is The Master" and "Bounty Lover" (with Lady G) - simply couldn't be ignored. The majority of these tracks subsequently appeared on his two excellent "Back To Africa" and "One Way Ticket" albums from the mid-nineties, and were later compiled by Jet Star for their "Reggae Max" collection. In the meantine he was attracting attention from Chris Blackwell's label Island-Jamaica, who signed him to an exclusive deal during the latter part of 1994, and then issued the celebrated "Where There Is Life" album the following year. It proved a milestone of contemporary roots music, spawning the hit singles "It's Me Again Jah", the stunning title track and a remixed "Who Could It Be" featuring US rap group the Jungle Brothers. The songs on this album - produced in their entirety by Fatis - found Luciano ready, willing and able to address an international audience, yet without compromising his musical or spiritual beliefs in any way. He toured extensively in its wake performing at major venues and outdour festivals all over the globe to considerable acclaim, and impressing everybody with his warm, kindly nature and articulate commitment to the Rastafarian cause.

Jamaican reggae music hadn't produced such a well-loved figurehead since the days of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown, both of whom Luciano quotes as being central influences upon his own career. His next album "The Messenger" (released in 1996 by Island-Jamaica) was again hailed as a magnum opus, with "How Can You" and the samba-infused "Life" adding further to his tally of hits. Yet his relationship with Island-Jamaica was to be relatively short-lived, even though he possessed qualities the reggae world had awaited for so many years, and was making music of such high calibre. Undeterred, he continued to ecord with Xterminator over the next eightteen months, issueing many fine singles and carrying out tour engagements with label mates Sizzla, Mikey General and Louie Culture as before. "Sweep Over My Soul" and then "Ulterior Motve" both became reggae anthems, receiving sustained exposure on radio and sound systems. A prayer, or indeed a hymn for troubled times, "Sweep Over My Soul" is one of those enduring, classic songs that will live forever in the reggae canon, and by which Luciano's strengths as both singer and songwriter will always be measured. So, it was no surprise that it was chosen as the title track of a new Xterminator album, which gatheed up former singles such as "Jonah", the aforementioned "Ulterior Motive", an apocalyptic "Final Call" and then "Poor Youths" alongside some exceptional, and previously unreleased material.

That fresh songs such as "Can't Stop Jah Works", "Hold Strong", "When Man On Earth", and "When Will I Be Home" uphold the remarkable consistency that has been Luciano's trademark over the past few years is unquestionable, whilst "talkig Bout" is a cultural tour-de-force, and finds him sharing lead vocals with acclaimed roots group Morgan Heritage. In short, Luciano had again delivered a masterpiece of contemporary roots music. The messages in his songs were as strong, urgent and persuasive as ever before, whilst the radiance in his voice remained undiminished, despite disappointments with Island-Jamaica and a change of management.

After completing the "Sweep Over My Soul" album he'd begun to record for other Kingston producers although with no perceptible change in standards. The hits continued to flow for labels such as Digital B, Jazzy Creation, Henfield, Flash and Revue just as they did for Xterminator, except now his talents could be heard in a variety of different settings, and to increasingly good effect. Nor is his legacy with Xterminator entirely at a close, as the two powerful duets with Capleton ("Jah Kingdom") and Sizzla ("Jah Blessing") demonstrated only too well. At the beginning of the year 2001 two new albums were released. First the Danny Ray produced "Great Controversy" featuring a star-studded array of British based reggae talent including Mafia & Fluxy, Alan Weekes, Clifton "Bigga" Morrison and Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie, and secondly "A New Day", which was largely produced by Dean Fraser.

Luciano is beyond doubt, the greatest cultural artist of his generation. But not only is he a consummate songwriter, a wonderful singer and a spell-binding live peformer. As the Messenger he is an emissary whose work contains important teachings for humanity, and who peaceable strives for the betterment of society. As such, his songs have the power to touch the soul, to communicate spiritual truths and uplift our hearts to an unprecedent degree of modern popular music.

Photo courtesy of VP Records. Text courtesy of Jet Star Records


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