Vin Gordon & The Real Rock Band, Heavenless
Vinyl LP / Digital download, Roots Garden Records
Produced and mixed by: Nick Manasseh
2) Minor Vendor
3) Outta Jungle
5) Raytown Rock
6) Slide Ruler
7) Heaven Again
Vin Gordon is a man in demand, it’s great to see one of reggae’s legends still relevant today and gracing new singles and albums with his classy trombone sound. This new album ‘Heavenless’, is a great showcase for his talents, mixing a couple of old classics with some new compositions. Kudos to Roots Garden Records for putting Vin on centre stage and releasing what is seven tracks of classic, infectious, instrumental roots.
Vin Gordon in the 60s
So who is Vin Gordon? It’s no understatement to say his influence is vast, it is probably easier to list who he hasn’t worked with over the years than who he has! After learning the trombone at the famous Alpha Boys School of Music, Vin started his recording career in 1965 at Coxone Dodd’s Studio One. This period saw him working alongside some of the greats, including The Wailers, The Skatalites’ Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevett, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, The Abyssinians, The Heptones, Delroy Wilson, Bob Andy, Alton Ellis, the list reads like a who’s who of Jamaican reggae.
The 70s and Bob Marley
His solo career was notable for two big hits, the 1968 ‘Heavenless‘ (credited as Don D Junior, his nickname) and ‘Real Rock’, which he composed alongside the keyboard king himself Jackie Mittoo, a massive reggae anthem and probably the most covered riddim in reggae history. Moving into the 70s Vin started to freelance for the star producers of the period such as Lee Perry, Jack Ruby, Joe Gibbs, Duke Reid, Yabby U, Striker Lee, and Harry J. But it was in 1977 that his recorded sound was to be heard by millions. His friend Bob Marley brought him to London (Vin was his favourite trombone player having played on the Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration albums) to record the massive Exodus and Kaya albums. While there he also worked with Aswad contributing to their heavy horn based tunes such as ‘Warrior Charge’, which was notably featured in the Babylon film and ‘Dub Fire’, immortalised by Dennis Brown as ‘Promised Land’. More recently Vin has spent the last couple of decades touring the world as a member of The Wailers and The Skatalites.
So here we are in 2016 with Vin going strong and perhaps producing his best solo work yet. The album kicks off with a re-working of his hit ‘Heavenless’, the track bumps along with an incredibly catchy riddim, one of those irresistible tracks that can get even the hardest soul moving. Vin’s trombone is of course centre stage, a masterclass in using an instrument sparsely but effectively. Second track ‘Minor Vendor’ has the feel of a film soundtrack to it, it sounds like the theme tune of the main character, it’s all swagger and attitude. ‘Outta Jungle’ features the vocals of Shaka Black, who you may have heard on the recent Horus Records single. This is a proper brooding roots track stomping and skanking along.
Track four ‘Revenge’ is the second ‘oldie’, a dubbed up revisit of the 1974 track which Vin played on with Tommy McCook. Next up ‘Raytown Rock’ is more of an upbeat, easy track, something to bring you up from the more melancholic ‘Revenge’. It’s interesting that the trombone is not as common as instrument as some, but in the right hands has the just the same power to conjure up different moods and feelings. These two tracks being perfect examples of the contrast. Track six ‘Slide Ruler’ has more of a ska beat to it, perfect horn material and the album finishes with a reprise of ‘Heavenless’. It’s all great stuff!
One final credit must go to Nick Manasseh who recorded and mixed this gem. A man that needs no introduction in reggae circles, he has been on the scene since the 80s and his influence as DJ, writer, producer, mixer is immense. His body of work is too much to tag on here, perhaps that needs to be another article.
Have a listen below to the SoundCloud clips and make your own mind up. The album does it for me, a cool mixture of roots, ska, dub and of course a showcase for the talented Mr Gordon. Early bird vinyl copies of ‘Heavenless’ are available to order from the Roots Garden site ahead of the official May 2nd release date. Buy now!
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