KINGSTON ALL STARS
Liner notes from the first LP ” Presenting Kingston All Stars ”
Composed of some of the most gifted musicians to ever walk the mean streets of the Jamaican capital, the Kingston All Stars project is a celebration of the heyday of vintage reggae, taking the form of a contemporary music project that pays homage to the glory days of the music’s past. Spearheaded by Canadian producer, engineer & musician Moss Raxlen, who was also the driving force behind the great Rocksteady: The Roots Of Reggae feature documentary, and who produced Lynn Taitt’s last-ever works, the Kingston All Stars revolves around a robust core of legendary session players who have been respectively responsible for the lion’s share of the greatest Jamaican music ever committed to tape.
Drumming mastermind Sly Dunbar is of course half of the great rhythm duo, Sly and Robbie, who have collaborated with a galaxy of global stars in addition to their exhaustive work for every producer of note in Jamaica; bassist Jackie Jackson joined the Supersonics at the birth of rock steady, became a key player in the reggae revolution as part of the Beverley’s All Stars, and has been a touring member of Toots and the Maytals since the early 1970s. Guitarist Hux Brown was a rhythm player in the All Stars and Toots’ band, too, and also cut key work for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry in the early 1970s; lead axe man Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung was in the Now Generation with his brother Geoffrey and went on to make a dramatic impact in both the Revolutionaries and the Compass Point All Stars, notably backing Grace Jones and Joe Cocker in the latter. Keyboardist Robbie Lyn was an important session player at Studio One in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was also part of the In Crowd band, as well as Now Gen, which led to work with Peter Tosh, along with Robbie & Sly. And after something of a false start in the mid-60s as a drummer and singer with the Caribbeats, Ansel Collins switched to the keyboards, making an instant splash with ‘Night Doctor’ (one of Sly Dunbar’s first recordings), and then reached the UK pop charts through hit recordings like ‘Double Barrel’ and ‘Monkey Spanner’ for Winston Riley, as the musical part of the duo Dave and Ansel Collins. Jimmy Cliff, the Mighty Diamonds, Marcia Griffiths and Black Uhuru are just a few of the noteworthy acts to subsequently benefit from Collins’ recording and touring input, and he has enjoyed success as a solo artist too.
Such a powerhouse of talent would overwhelm most album rosters, but the Kingston All Stars project does not end there: the resident drummer of Lee Perry’s Black Ark, Mikey ‘Boo’ Richards also contributed, as has the sax and trombone team of Everton and Everald Gayle. There are kette drums from Supersad and Calvin, lilting steel pan from Dean Barnett, and guitar and percussion from Roger White and Mossman, as well as Stranger Cole and Trevor McNaughton of the Melodians on backing vocals.
The album’s guest vocalists are in keeping with this music pedigree, since select numbers are tackled by Cedric Myton of the Congos, his singing sparring partner, RZee Jackson, and the original Greenwich Farm Rastaman, Prince Allah, along with the otherwise unknown Alana Jonsana, an elder dread from the downtown trouble zone brought to the project by Mikey Chung. Everything was captured on tape at Mixing Lab studio in Kingston during the winter & spring of 2016, with further overdubbing and mixing overseen by Moss in Montreal. With a corresponding dub album in the works and a set of prominent live performances to come in different international locations, this album is only the beginning for the Kingston All Stars, whose continued presence speaks to the general longevity of Jamaican popular music. Long may they continue to reign!
David Katz is author of People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae.