Michael Rose Interview – Part 2
In the second part of the interview Michael Rose talks about Black Uhuru, the solo albums and stream of singles, the farming, the reunion with Duckie Simpson, the collaboration with Ryan Moore and much more.
Back to the formation of Uhuru again, how that came to be. Did you know the original line-up of Don (Carlos), Garth (Dennis) and Duckie at the time? They made a couple of records as ‘Uhuru’ for Dynamic, Randy’s, and so on.
They used to sing, yunno, me used to see them and so on. But, actually, when me did done the North Coast t’ing now, that a the time now we link up with Duckie an’ Garthie, we used to see Don Carlos. Don Carlos never used to be inna the group when me deh-deh, them used to do some backyard singin’ t’ing an’ some, but them did have a one tune name ‘Folk Song’, right. But them never have nutten steady a do. Don did more look like, him more did waan do somet’ing fe himself, him an’ Gold, ca’ you remember Don Carlos & Gol’? So actually, I break the name Black Uhuru, like international, y’know.
When did you hook up with Duckie?
Inna the seventies, yunno, between ’75 an’ ’76, them time deh, or about ’74, somewhere there.
You had some common friends at the time?
Because the same neigborhood we live in, and we would be like the only lickle one them whe round deh so, an’ we a deal with music, y’know. Me never even tell all this, ca’ over the school, used to have a lickle school them use to go them time name St. Patrick school, them used to keep t’ings for summertime an’ them used to have, like, stage show. A brethren name Bullseye used to keep it, him used to have a sound deh named Heatwave, the name Heatwave, him now them used to keep some stage show, and a so now them used to, yeah, me used to sing like Dennis Brown them time deh, you understan’. And you used to have a man whe named Cappo, used to go dung a Cappo. Roberta Flack used to come a Jamaica an’ them t’ing deh an’ we used to sing fe her an’, y’know, them vibes deh. Ca’ them time deh, a the only lickle opportunity them time deh fe deal with music an’ we loved it, yunno.
So you felt the best way to reach somewhere, after the records for Niney didn’t take you anywhere, that was to form a group.
With Niney? No, the t’ing now whe you have with Niney now, after I record up them tune deh with Niney an’ so on, it’s like Dennis Brown did get whe big time, remember Dennis Brown was the big act, yunno? Them time deh you have ‘Westbound Train’ an’ Niney did busy, so me have to have a try fe get my kettle o’ fish them a gwaan somewhe, you know wha’ me a say? Yes, a so it go. And so we end up a record fe Jammys, and so on, and so on. And the Black Uhuru t’ing we rehearse an’ we jus’ try mek it work. Puma (Sandra Jones) was in Jamaica now a do some, whe you call it, she a do some volunteer t’ing, social work or peace corps, I don’t know, somet’ing.
But before Puma joined you had like…
Jayes, Errol. He used to sing with The Jayes group. Yes. And then now, after we record the firs’ album deh with Jammys deh now, y’know, we never get no money an’ Errol never get too pleased an’ Errol say, bwoy, man a continue with the Jayes t’ing, a fe him t’ing. So we no bother say nutten, ca’ up to now Errol is still dealing with the Jayes, y’know. So Errol say, “Bwoy, me waan go gwaan do fe me t’ing”, so we no bother say nutten, we jus’ mek Errol gwaan fe do him t’ing, an’ we try find another third singer, me an’ Duckie.
Did you have anyone in-between Errol and Puma at the time?
Well, Garthie did a sing with we now, before. But then now, at the same time he was doing some work with the Wailing Souls, but then Wailing Soul them start bus’ with ‘T’ings & Time’ an’ them tune deh, so Garthie kinda move on. So then now, when him leave we did still need a third person. From them time deh now we ask Jayes fe come sing with we, Errol, Errol Wilson (often wrongly dubbed Nelson). So then now… and so on, y’know.
I still think that the ‘Love Crisis’ album (today more known as ‘Black Sounds of Freedom’ on the remixed Greensleeves re-release from 1981) captures the magic with how the group sounded, for some reason Jammys, to me, he got the…
Best Black Uhuru album?
The most pure of all the albums I’ve heard.
Pure, I hear that.
I guess different strokes for different folks still.
When Island got involved a lot of other ‘strange’ production values took over, and somewhere along that road a lot of the promise and magic of the first recordings got lost there.
Yeah. But you see, we couldn’t help it still yunno big man, ca’ hear I now, Peter: NO money never a come from them t’ing deh, y’know.
You mean Jammys?
Yeah, ca’ all now we still a wait to get all royalty for all them t’ing deh an’ we no get none, you understan’? So we haffe move on to fresh water, ca’ remember, yunno, everytime we try an’ gather a kettle o’fish a man tek the fish an’ gone. So, everytime a man tek a kettle o’fish an’ gone, move on to fresh water, you see, and everytime we move on the sound change.
How did you work with Duckie and Sly & Robbie in those days, did you write a lot of the songs together with them, did Sly help you arrange much of the material?
Well, hear how it go now: Inna them time deh, is not like today when man mek riddim an’ man sing ‘pon riddim, you understan’? Inna them time deh you haffe come with your tune an’ you sing, an’ them play. A so it used to go. So you haffe sing, or if you na sing a man tell you seh, “Come back next day or next week”, yeah? So you have to have your t’ings together before you come a studio, so that’s how it went, y’know. Right now, I think that’s how we a get back into it fe deal with it ‘pon a level deh right now, y’know, musicians in the studio an’ we sing an’ then them play the chords to what we sing an’ build the music, that is what mek it pure, yunno.
Bring back the ‘flesh’ in the music.
Yeah, bring back the human this inna it.
People can write whatever, I guess, but there was talk about Uhuru being one of those arrogant names back then, and your name seemed to be connected to that. Whatever is true, that make me think of the environment you come from, Waterhouse in Kingston, Jamaica, a small island, and even though this can or could happen to anyone, regardless from where they come, it’s not just reggae or Jamaica in particular, but when you see so much success and fame internationally, how do you handle that? It can so easily go to your head, swell-headed, like. How did you handle so much money and attention and success at the time?
Yeah. Well, well, I waan tell you, the success never bother me still, yunno. Because me always have my head screwed on my body, y’know. So me never really frightened ’bout the success, ca’ through everytime we record a song we know seh, bwoy, we a sing for the poor people in Jamaica. But automatically the rest of the world pick it up, automatically. So it’s not like we did make t’ings get to we head or we did prey ‘pon vanity or, y’know, it wasn’t like that. It’s just that it jus’ come an’ it come.
You felt you could handle it?
Yeah man, we could handle it. Yeah man. But up to now, we no get we due what we fe get, all what we get is all advance from Island, we never get royalty yet, is all advance from Island you know, man.
Even up to now?
Is that me a tell you seh when you a talk ’bout success an’ this an’ that, the success, yes, maybe out there, but we no comfortable.
I was gonna ask you how Island treated the group, the marketing strategy made you more look like a rock band at some point, which is completely out of hand.
Is all them lickle t’ing deh we haffe… So, if we did have certain t’ings get to we head you wouldn’t even have… although you see the group did mash up still, y’know, but see the group come back together again an’ we a try an’ mek it work one more time.
How you feel at this time about the Grammy? You won the first Reggae Grammy in ’84, have your feelings about winning that changed over the years, is it still important?
Yeah, because it was like the firs’ group to win the Grammy an’ it was waiting fe years fe a music like reggae to get bus’ that way deh.
To get that recognition.
Yeah, fe get the recognition. Yeah.
For some they just don’t feel the importance of the Grammy, it depends on who you ask, as always, but you felt it made the group some good and for the music in general. The Grammy hardly represents what is really good on a whole, just because it’s on a major label it doesn’t necessarily qualify it more than an independent release. But so it goes. It was a big move for the group anyhow.
Yeah, a big move fe the group, is jus’ that at the time we did have, like, the group just fall apart. It was just a shame still, for them time deh we young an’ it no good, y’know.
What was the real cause of the group to break up at that time, money?
Well, fe tell you the truth, y’know Peter, we never have nutten verbally an’ it’s like, we did young an’ no know whe a do, an’ like any other band it jus’… like Commodores an’ the other man deh, whe him name…?
Yeah, it happen to anyone of them, the biggest band in the world, it happened to Sting and The Police, an’ Sting gone by himself, y’know wha’ me a seh?
You have no more (Stewart) Copeland an’ no more drummer and no this, you understan’.
What did you do after the break-up there?
After the break-up, yunno, me kinda tek to the hills, yeah?
You went into farming.
Yeah, I go to the hills an’ go pray an’ farm an’ them t’ings deh. And then start record again, beca’ people would come a Jamaica come look for me an’… people from Germany, all ’bout, New York, say deal with music again and them want record me. Sly them start do somet’ing with me.
And you collaborated with Tyrone Downie?
Yeah, me an’ Tyrone Downie them did do somet’ing.
‘Demonstration’ was one of them.
The Government Band, The G.O.V.T. y’know.
And we start a album then, but the bass player of The G.O.V.T., which is Tyrone bredda, go drownin’ off in a pool in New York, so everyt’ing go fall down again.
You set up the Grammy Rose label, ‘Demonstration’ was I believe the first tune on that imprint.
Yeah, ‘Bogus Badge’ an’ them tune deh an’ ‘Na Go To Your Bed Hungry’, ‘Demonstration’. Yeah.
Then there was a time-gap there again when that band fell apart, and you turned up with some singles for the RCA label and finally the ‘Proud’ album.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, and we did the ‘Proud’ album up a Englan’ deh.
I remember I saw the ‘Keep The Fire Burning’ video on MTV-Europe at the time, but for some reason that tune never ended up on the final album.
No, wha’ you mean, on the ‘Proud’ album?
No, it never come ‘pon it.
Why? I think that would’ve been one of the stronger tracks.
Yeah, it never did come ‘pon it, is a shame.
I suppose you didn’t have any control or say how the final product would be.
No, I didn’t have no control, y’know, but I waan tell you, management an’ then now some whole heap a lickle t’ings did ‘appen ya man, you understan’, a whole heap a lickle t’ings. But that album was a brilliant album.
Yes, I have to agree with that. I think, from what I can remember, I did see some very negative comments especially in the reggae press, but I don’t think they got what that album was about, you could execute a ‘dance’ album very well. It was not intended as a crossover album from what I hear, with some reggae attached to it, more a dance/club album with some reggae attached.
Yeah, but that’s how artists are. You know, if you’re not an artist you cyaan do other t’ings aside from what you do else, it’s like you’re limited.
It doesn’t compare to anything else with what you’ve done before, it’s so totally different, it stands on its own in that regard.
At least within the reggae sphere, it’s a pretty ‘misunderstood’ album I think.
I like a lot of it. On one of the tunes, not sure if it was ‘Don’s Party’, one of two reggae tracks, you have some excellent horns on that.
(Sings) ‘Don is havin’ his paaarty, where is the police tonight…’, yeah.
Who played the horn-parts there?
Could be, I have to go look for it.
I think Fela played on the title track, ‘Proud’. Yes.
OK. It should’ve been more welcomed among reggae aficionados though, perhaps that has changed over the years.
A so it go, yunno, ca’ guess what: as an artis’ you have to be open for t’ings, you cyaan have everyt’ing a go smooth, y’know. Ca’ I could be here talkin’ with you an’ then you go round an’ write some t’ings right now that… But I don’t business, ca’ guess what: I am an artis’ an’ I’m open for critics, and if you don’t like it, well, then I don’t see what fe do an’ where I go wrong, you understan’? So, I am open for it.
Well, you don’t make music for critics, as long as you’re pleased with it yourself then there’s no need to worry.
Exactly! You understan’, so a so it go.
After ‘Proud’ you had a pause from the music again, then you appeared on, say, the dancehall circuit with plenty of singles, with Sly & Robbie’s Taxi imprint as the first stop I think it was.
Oh yeah, yeah. Me did start cut a whole heap a singles all over the place, on Imaj label, all kinda t’ings. Then me get link up back with Niney again to work with Heartbeat, ca’ Heartbeat say them waan do somet’ing with me, and them send Niney come find me an’ we record an’ album which is self-titled, with ‘(You Too) Short Temper’ an’ those songs. Yeah, an’ after that Heartbeat them give me a contrac’ an’ we did a couple of albums now an’ then, yeah? They put them out, the albums, the contrac’ have finished, yeah? So it’s like me still have me own career an’ me do the Black Uhuru an’ me a do Mykal Roze right now. It’s like Outkast, him a run with the group an’ do somet’ing on his own.
Something just hit me, I remember now I saw you on the telly here about 1990, I think you did a part in the ‘One World, One Voice’ charity project to fight environmental destruction (which was musically produced by Rupert Hine and created by Kevin Godley), where Junior Delgado was there along with you, doing the interview, and this was the reggae contribution to the whole project, you remember that?
Yes! And Delgado played the guitar?
Probably, it’s been some time now, but that represented the reggae on a vast array of global music and styles, I believe Bob Geldof and Sting and Joe Strummer and Lou Reed and the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan among others were featured on that album.
Yes, yes, yes. You got a copy of that album?
Yes. That was a good track, I felt you should’ve done that music on your own too.
Yeah, should’ve done good. Yeah. But me na know, maybe me can… I don’t think I should, I don’t like to go back to what I do before, its so with me now.
Right, forward every time.
Yeah, me always like fe do new t’ings, y’know. But there’s a new album out now, ‘9 1 1’.
I was gonna ask you what that is about in general, I haven’t heard it yet.
The Love Injection, yeah.
Is that some sort of comment, a connection to what happened to you in America last year, when US authorities arrested you on false charges?
No. No, no, no, is jus’ the whole t’ing whe ‘appen, y’know, whe ‘appen right now inna the world an’ the whole problem.
I have yet to hear it, what’s the comment about the current runnings in the world, the terrorism and the other warmongers who hide behind ‘democrazy’?
It just a say ‘what a t’ing going on’, y’know, ‘what a t’ing, what a t’ing’. You know, its like ‘fire everywhere an’ what a t’ing a gwaan’, yunno. Well, it talks about the whole issue with Muslim get tricked an’ the whole t’ing. The album is a very good album, you have songs like ‘Too Blessed (To Be Stressed)’, ‘too annointed to be disappointed’. You wanna hear it, you care for that? Let me see if my son can connect this (then he plays various samples off the ‘Babylon 9/11 – Tip of the Iceberg’ album).
OK. Who are these people, Love Injection?
Who? From England, they used to have this sound system Love Injection.
And they consist of… what’s the background?
It’s a guy, a young guy, one a them guys deh whe live a Englan’ from long, long, long time. You know those guys who wears straight-foot pants from long time? Yeah, most of the track them, I think Sly did play them, yunno.
Yes, and it was mixed at Mixing Lab by Fatta (Marshall) an’ them an’ so.
When was it issued more specifically?
December of last year. (Sings parts from ‘Satan In the Valley’). Oh, this is the title track, the ‘9 1 1’, yeah? You have to go get a copy, don’t it (chuckles)?
Right. Anyway, this episode with US authorities, that was last year sometime?
You was just passing through to do some business or some shows at that point?
Me? Yeah, me did do some show an’ then we come back a Jamaica fe pick up another work permit to do some more show. Them tell me seh them charge me fe come a foreign when me don’t have no membership, an’ it wasn’t like that. That was the argument.
It was some mix-up with someone behind the law?
Yeh, some mix-up with other people them a look for. And then it jus’ leave off now a whole heap a garbage an’ all kinda stuff, an’ all now me jus’ can’t get by.
Still, nothing has changed?
Nothin’ no change, nothin’ no change.
Peter, I don’t even wanna talk about it, ’cause right now it jus’ bring grief an’… you know?
Right, I understand you.
So I say, fine, I’m not the person. ‘What’s up?’ It’s a no-no, same way. I don’t know…
They had a benefit concert in aid of this cause in New York I think?
Yeah, them did have a benefit show, nutten that has been done makes sense, it’s just like everything that’s been done is pushed aside.
What about the farming, you still do it back in Jamaica?
No, it’s more I try to get back to singin’ now when we’re back together now an’ stuff. Yeah.
What did you plant?
Coffee? OK, not raising animals or anything like that.
No, no, wasn’t any animals. People just, they work with you an’ then when night comes they steal from you.
Ahhh, well, typical isn’t it? Where in Jamaica did you have that piece of land?
Blue Mountains, you did that for some fifteen years or so?
Somet’ing like that.
Some hard work, huh?
Yeah. People from the neighborhood they don’t want to pay, so it’s like the workers, them work for themselves over there.
There’s a whole bunch of singles spread out over the nineties, you were prolific in those days indeed. If you could pick at least five of those, what would you choose, which one do you still hold in high regard?
The whole a them (chuckles)?
OK, there’s a vast amount of them, I know, but if you could single out a few of the records you’ve cut in that period, what would you pick?
Yeah, and there’s still a bunch to come out right now.
If you would make a Top Five of all those…
Yeah, did you get ‘Over the Mountain’? It was on the ‘Father Jungle Rock’, the Junior Delgado riddim. Yeah, that was in the Christmas time deh (’04).
Sorry, haven’t heard that one yet.
You cut records for Penthouse, Star Trail…
Mmm, ‘Blood Up’ an’ them tune deh.
That was a nice cut, the ‘Baltimore’ riddim I think.
‘One A Wi, Two A Wi’.
Yeah, that was for Sly them, innit?
Right, when was that album done with Sly & Robbie, the ‘Taxi Sessions’?
Which one? (Asking a family member in the background) Yeah, ’90. 1990.
That was one of the better nineties albums, I think it arrived on a pre first, then some time later it came out in a (inferior) remixed form on a French CD (re-titled ‘X-Uhuru’).
Yeah, I saw about that.
Another recent tune I liked was ‘Trendsetter’ for Stuart Brown’s African Star.
Stuart Brown, he operates the African Star label and sound system. I believe he settled in Ghana for a while.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. He has a bunch of songs for me.
So you cut an album for him.
Mmm, but the album no come yet. Yeah.
(Chuckles) Typical. And the ‘War A Fe Done’ for the Firehouse Crew, that was a tough piece of music.
Yeah, the ‘War Haffe Done’. Yes.
There’s so much of such an high quality, records for Mikey Bennett’s 2B, Mac Dada, Incredible Muzik, Fat Eyes, Kage 1, and so on.
Yeah, I’m gonna put out a Michael Rose ‘Platinum Hits’ (laughs)! You know what I mean, like a ’20 Platinum Hits’. Yeah, just compile all of them an’ put them out, ’cause I don’t get royalty. So I’m gonna do a album now an’ put it out.
There was no money to speak of.
A: No, me no get no royalty, them jus’ tek that.
What about your own productions? The Imaj label did issue a few songs back then, like ‘Hot Stick’ and ‘Living Dangerous’. Is that label still in function, I believe it was operating through your brother, or have you put that to rest now?
Imaj? Yeah, the album whe me a go put out, a Imaj me a go put it on, like it would be ’40 Platinum Hits’ on Imaj. Ca’ me is a part of Imaj.
It’s your brother who set it up originally?
My brother. Yeah. So him cool it off now because him get into some other stuff and then he got sick and everyt’ing, an’ it kinda cool off. So like for 2006 we gonna jus’ rearrange or regenerate the label again, mek it surface. Yeah, a whole heap a work done with all Ronnie Thwaites, Brushy One-String (son of the late Freddie McKay), an’ a whole Gregory Isaac an’ a whole heap a artis’, Cocoa Tea, Yami Bolo, and Lord Tanamo from the sixties. You remember Lord Tanamo?
Sure, the mento and ska era.
OK. Lord Tanamo, he was from the Skatalites. Yeah man.
How did this album with Ryan Moore come about, the ‘African Roots’ for Twilight Circus?
Well, hear how Twilight now: Me deh ‘pon tour, I was on tour an’ one night when we got to Holland, Ryan Bailey (singer/road manager) come to me and says a producer wants to do a track, so me go do a track for the man. And then now the man actually brought the studio come in the hotel, and we record the track! And when the man put out the tune, I was surprised to hear it. And then he came back and he came back and then now we actually did done the album, he was very happy and up to today he’s very happy. And I see some in France, I went into Virgin (Megastore) and I saw the album, in Bordeaux in France, yeah, we see the album. So, the Imaj label we a go revitalize it forward, yunno, fe put out some. Yeah man, so that album it turn out very good, that album its a whole different mood, that album is different from all the albums out there.
I heard one track off it from the web radio, but the sound he get, it’s like the foundation is back there again.
The old sound! (Laughs) He get back the old sound, the old Jammys sound!
How does he achieve it?
Me don’t know how him do it, y’know, bredda. I don’t know, but that was lovely, innit?
It was, makes me wanna hear more. You think you will do some more material with him?
Yeah! Actually I jus’ finish another album with him, he was in Jamaica before we came on tour, an’ we done the album a’ready.
That’s good, looking forward to the result. How many tracks?
Me nuh know, ’bout sixteen. Yeah.
I heard a sound clip from the latest tune that is out there, came out this spring I believe, ‘Dollars’ on Beres’ Harmony House label. This is the first fruit of your reunion, you and Duckie now?
Yeah, the Black Uhuru. You saw something on it recently?
No, not a write-up, just heard a clip from this track. How did the reunion come about again, and that you decided to check Beres for the production?
Me see Beres one mornin’, actually Beres saw me when me pass him, me hear a man seh “How you do?”, and when me look that was Beres Hammond (chuckles)! But him seh him na see me, so me seh me deh a country an’ so him say when him a go see me. An’ me seh “Wha’ happen to Thursday?” an’ him say “What ‘appen to now?”, an’ me say alright an’ him say him a come up a me yard an’ him come in a me yard an’ talk some work, we talk for ’bout three hours. And when him a go him look ‘pon me an’ seh “Wha’ happen to Black Uhuru one more time?” So me look ‘pon him, y’know, him look through him glasses, so me say to him, seh “Alright, me hear you different, you can work it out an’ we go mek it work”. Two days later him call me an’ Duckie an’ him meet up an’ I was in the country, Ochi, an’ Duckie talk to him ‘pon the phone an’ me seh “Alright then, me a go mek it work for the people”. So we go link up a day later an’ call off what we do otherwise and we jus’ tek it from there. And actually, Black Uhuru, we jus’ finish an album and we gone to eleven tracks and, I don’t know, early next year you will hear that album, because actually it no finish up yet, ’cause harmony still needs to go on there.
And everything is laid at Beres’ studio, Silekshan?
Who plays on it?
Sly them plays I think on some of the tracks.
I think Beres is using Flabba a lot on bass, Flabba Holt?
Um, I think ‘pon some of the tracks them Flabba plays, yeah. But some of them are with Sly & Robbie them same way, ’cause they work there too.
And everything is done in a classic setting, the acoustic way, with a focus on doing it the way it used to be, with ‘real’ instruments?
Yeah man, yeah man. The heartical way, yeah, the heartbeat.
How has the reception been to that track so far?
Well, it was up an’ everything an’ t’ings did a gwaan fe it, but we need to do a video right now. When we go back to Jamaica we a go do a video.
As you know, I guess there’s a lot of sceptical views on this reunion about the group, that its just about money which will just lead to it lasting for about a year or even less than that, that you will end up in a bitter feud again, or whatever. What could you tell those people from what you feel about it so far, that you’re back together again?
What could I tell those people? I could say to those people…
It’s working, and I hope they could actually think in a different way to how something can work, y’know. That this is somet’ing that can work, you understan’.
Yeah, you just have to continue, keep on doing it and…
Exactly, and sometimes people don’t want fe see some things work, sometime it takes another part of it, sometime you can’t get to the other party there, you understan’. (Chuckles) You know what I mean? So stay tuned for the next thrilling episode (laughs)!
And Sly & Robbie now, you can just let the world know that we don’t leave anybody out, we just did this tour as a test to see if we were receptive by the people out there, a small tour. So we actually jus’ did it to tes’…
Test the waters, like.
Yeah, to see if they were there for us, if it was good.
And it is?
Yeah, yeah, beca’ the tour, it’s been good so far.
Uhuru was joined by a British pick-up band on that tour and, from all reports, it went down well with the audience. Duckie and Michael, or ‘Mykal’ (the spelling he prefers), has been on the road once more since this reunion came about, but the album has been, for some unknown reason, held back by the Harmony House camp. ‘Dollars’, the first 45 from this project, was a satisfyingly mellow effort but, as far as I know, this was the only record appearing out of all the tracks they cut for Beres. Will the album ever see the light of day? ‘Dollars’ certainly gave indication of good things to come. Let’s cross fingers that we’ll get to hear it one day soon.
Rose has got to be one of the most dynamic performers in all of reggae music, he has certainly developed from his early days into someone who control an audience without much effort. The roar from the audience at the Essential Festival ’96 was something I’ll never forget. You could almost touch the expectations in the air before he went on stage, and when Rose finally appeared, the crowd erupted. Back then he had released his first self-titled Heartbeat album which I still consider to be his finest after the brilliant ‘Sly & Robbie Presents The Taxi Sessions’, and the records has just kept on coming from that time until now,
There’s been a steady stream of singles over the past sixteen years and it is to his credit that most of it has been of such a high standard. Rose has been of the better lyricists in Jamaican music over the past decade as well, with social issues being his number one priority, and the results has been, for the most part, important documents of the street life that people have to face in Kingston from day to day, and Rose should be saluted for the upliftment he brings directly to the sufferers in the majority of the songs. I just wonder if it ever reach their turntables among all the bashment releases.
In any case, Rose deserves their attention. The highlights of his output on 45s is simply too many to count or give examples to within this space, but some standouts that deserves to, and should, be compiled is his collaboration with Mikey Bennett in the vibrant, driving ‘Cookie Jar’, and in particular ‘Street-Wize’, arguably his best single during the nineties. Lately he did a brilliant cut to Fatis’ heavier-than-heavy lick of the ‘Real Rock’ rhythm, ‘Kill Off The President’, and ‘Trendsetter’ (African Star) as well as ‘Jah Love Hot’ (on the Doctor’s Darling’ rhythm) were both in the high standard we have come to expect by now. There is also some good singles on the French Heartical imprint worth looking for. On the album front, perhaps the most interesting effort in the new century came on the M Records label a few years back, ‘African Roots’ and its follow-up ‘Warrior’, both produced by ex-Legendary Pink Dots bassie Ryan Moore. It carries the old-school feel but is firmly rooted in modern innovations.
As for Uhuru, who can go wrong with ‘Showcase’, still on a Taxi reprint? Greensleeves also had the good taste of including the original ‘Love Crisis’ album/mix to their remixed version, ‘Black Sounds of Freedom’, not too long ago. It is still, at least to my ears, the ultimate Black Uhuru release, and now in crystal clear CD sound. Now, what remains is that ‘definitive’ Michael Rose anthology, including even the deejay track(s) he recorded as one ‘Tony’, his Upsetter release of ‘Observe Life’, through his Niney records and the early Grammy Rose singles to, if possible, the massive ‘Keep The Fire Burning’ (RCA) and a selection of his best 45s over the past fifteen years. It should happen. Also, the DEB-produced ‘Wood For My Fire’ and ‘Rent Man’ (excellent both of them, Uhuru at their peak?) popped up, finally, on the Ranking Joe set, ‘Zion High’, a couple of years ago and is worth it alone for that CD. Catch him next time he appears in your area, Michael Rose is not one who will disappoint.