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16 November 2012 Written by 

Reggae Legends: Fred Locks

The persistence of VP Records – who now turn their attention to the mighty Fred Locks - in the issuance of its ‘Reggae Legends’ series, is to be heartily welcomed. Whilst this artist might never have reached the dizzy heights of some of his contemporaries from the 1970s golden era of roots reggae, none will have missed the everlasting impact of his ‘Black Star Liner’ release. Fred Locks is so called due to the length of his locks. This growth was sparked by Selassie’s visit to Jamaica in 1966, though his new found faith was rewarded with eviction from the family home!

This release - ‘Fred Locks - Reggae Legends’ - is comprised of a generous 4 CD box set of Locks’ work. The first CD – which the artist will always be associated with – is the unforgettable ‘Black Star Liner’ album. The title constitutes a mark of respect to political leader Marcus Garvey and his efforts at relocating Black Americans to Africa, via his ill-fated shipping company of the same name. This release played a key role in bringing the new genre to the market, whilst the title track remains a classic of the age. Recorded at Channel One, Randy’s and Harry J’s and mixed at Treasure Isle, none can claim a love of the ‘roots’ yet be without this gem. A notable feature of the album is the high-pitched brass and backing vocals, appropriately applied to complement Locks’ barrel bottom bass tone in the delivery of carefully considered messages of consciousness. The uplifting spirit of this compilation is well reflected in the ‘True Rastaman’ track’s warning that ‘Rasta don’t work for no CIA’.

The package’s second CD ‘In Dub’ is a version of the aforementioned classic and offers 14 versions for dub enthusiasts to enjoy. Long considered lost - having only been aired on dubplate specials on London sounds Sir Coxsone and Frontline – these versions are a most welcome companion to the classic album and provide the perfect antidote for those who have had their quota of message music! Such is the level of innovation evident in this release that it’s hard to believe it’s almost 40 years a playing. On top of the versions, the CD includes a melodica cut from Pavlove Black (where the ‘Black Star Liner’ rhythm becomes a ‘Jumbo Jet’), whilst the same track offers some ‘Redemption Rock’ under the guidance of Drummie.

Adding to the package’s attraction is the 1982 ‘Love And Only Love’ CD, assembled with the aid of Locks’ associates, the talented Creation Steppers. Continuing in a proselytising vein, the title track advises that ‘the good you do lives after you’, whilst the remaining 9 tracks dispense similar wisdom on related themes of religion, righteousness, Africa, the promised land, poverty and peace. The fourth and final CD is the appropriately titled ‘Missing Link’, which was intended to be a follow up to the aforementioned ‘Black Star Liner’ classic. Recorded in Kingston at Harry J’s studio, it emphasises the spiritual orientation and influence of the Twelve Tribes Rastafarian sect on the artist, who had forsaken his Catholic roots by this time. Stand out tracks include ‘Gun Court Affair’, ‘The Only One’ and ‘The Key Of Life’ - with the latter track featuring in standard, dub and acappella style!  This release is especially welcome for those keen to retain the full original Fred Locks package in their locker.

Though frequently frustrated by the music ‘business’ (or the lack thereof) Locks has enjoyed a lively career from his Studio 1 debut in the 1960s to date. Though many assumed he had gone missing in action - further to a move to the U.S. in the early 1980s – his works resurfaced under the direction of producer Fatis Burrell in the 1990s. Lest anyone should think Locks is a relic of the past, earlier this year his new CD release ‘Music Is My Calling’ hit the airwaves to much acclaim. However, it is the classics carefully collected by VP Records in this ‘Legends’ series that are most likely to be associated with the legend that is Fred Locks.

SOURCE: united reggae



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