Title
Artist
Label
Format
Date

Branches And Leaves
Milton Henry
Iroko Records / A-Lone Productions
CD / LP
October 7, 2013

Track list
  1. Crisis
  2. Crisis Dub
  3. Rastafari Cannot Die
  4. Branches And Leaves
  5. Rastaman Beware
  6. Beware Dub
  7. Gimmi Gimmi Teke Teke
  8. Time To Dub
  9. Let Go The Ego
  10. Ego Dub
  11. Hold My Hands
  12. Mother Dub
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
Although being active in reggae business since 1966 and having released quite a few noteworthy singles including the 1969 released "No Bread And Butter" (credited to Milton Morris), "This World" (credited to King Medious) from 1972, and 1976's "Gipsy Woman" to name three, probably most (older) reggae fans only know Milton Henry from his 1984 released debut album "Who Do You Think I Am?". The latter was produced in New York City by Lloyd "Bull Wackie" Barnes and released on his own Wackies imprint. Barnes was also the producer of the more rushed second album "Babylon Loot" that came out in 1986 on the Japanese Tachyon label. After that no new albums were released, and thus one can only draw the conclusion that Milton Henry, despite being a great and talented artist, is one of the most underrecorded Jamaican vocalists.

Born in Allman Town, Central Kingston, Milton Henry's talent was discovered at the tender age of 13 when vocalist Carl Dawkins heard him playing his guitar and sing. He enlisted him as an arranger and became an affiliate of the circle that included Carl Dawkins, Slim Smith, and and early line-up of The Techniques. Milton Henry's motivating source were music greats like Slim Smith who together with Curtis Mayfield had a lasting influence on his singing style. In 1966 he formed the short-lived vocal group The Leaders together with Keith Blake (who would later take the moniker Prince Alla) and Roy "Soft" Palmer. After the group disbanded he was a member of The Progressions, replaced Max Romeo in The Emotions, and then embarked on a solo career.

He recorded occassional singles for different producers including Lee "Scratch" Perry and Bertram Brown. During this time, Milton became more and more interested in the business and the organizational side of the art. His parents had relocated to New Jersey in the United States, where Milton Henry would eventually settle as a US citizen in 1979. He then met Lloyd "Bull Wackie" Barnes in New York City, and the two started to collaborate together. The Wackies label released hits like "Come On And Rock With Me" (featuring Clive Field Marshall), "Why The Fussing", and "Who Do You Think I Am?", which helped define his career.

After a very long hiatus, Milton Henry makes a welcome comeback with his third album entitled "Branches And Leaves". The latter is a 'showcase' album - 6 vocal tracks plus its dub versions - the result of his collaboration with acclaimed Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez of A-Lone Productions. Just like the 2010 released Earl Zero album "And God Said To Man", this brand new set recaptures the 1970s Greenwhich Farm sound, known from releases on Bertram Brown's Freedom Sounds label, which included artists such as Prince Alla, Earl Zero, Rod Taylor, and Philip Frazer. All riddims were laid by the Lone Ark players (for this occasion named Lone Ark Riddim Force after Bullwackie's house band), while the vocals were voiced at Wackies studio in Brooklyn NY.

Two of the vocal tracks featured here, "Rastafari Cannot Die" and "Let go The Ego", were released on 12" vinyl by Iroko Records in June 2013, although with different mixes. The album title stems from the words to "Rastafari Cannot Die", a truly beautiful tune with great lyrics and a singer whose unique vocal delivery simply commands attention. Without any doubt one of the standout tunes of this collection. The other previously released tune, "Let go The Ego" - a song that deals with the boastful insecurity that plagues the music industry - carries a completely different vibe and mood. Inspired by a remark of Milton Henry's friend Anthony Chimming, the riddim track with its great horns and especially its threshing guitar style brings to mind the Soul Syndicate, one of Jamaica's top session bands in the 1970s. The album opens with the mesmerizing "Crisis", a wonderful thought-provoking song that instantly grabs your attention. "Rastaman Beware" and "Gimme Gimme Teke Teke" are solid tunes that deal with issues of the Babylon system, while the real fine album closer - "Hold My Hands" - goes into lovers territory. The expertly created dub versions are simply great to hear and are the icing on the cake.

Milton Henry's long overdue third album - released as gatefold LP and digi-pack CD with a cover photo of a young Milton and the lyrics of the songs - will leave the listener mesmerised by the classic style, warm riddims, and smooth vocals. Highest recommendation!!