Thursday, February 21, 2008

No. 378: Funky Kingston

Band: Toots & the Maytals
Album: Funky Kingston
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Outside of Bob Marley records and a soundtrack, "Funky Kingston" is the best reggae album I've ever heard. Hands down.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Some of the songs run together, but that's probably just my lack of reggae knowledge.
Best song: "Love is Gonna Let Me Down" is amazing
Worst song: "Sailing On" isn't all that good.
Is it awesome?: It is.

I came into "Funky Kingston" only knowing "Pressure Drop" from the soundtrack to "The Harder They Come." "Pressure Drop" is a fantastic rave-up song, the kind of song you could dance to until you got sick.

Granted, reggae can get pretty repetitive and "Got to be There," "In the Dark" and "Sailing On" sound close to one another. Still, the distinctive music styles the Maytals reference (country, soul, rock and roll, etc.) make for such a great album.

As such, the band takes amazing covers and destroys them. John Denver's "Country Roads" gets an amazing treatment, as does "Louie, Louie," one of rock's great songs. "Love is Gonna Let Me Down," a Maytals original, is Toots Hibbert's best homage to Otis Redding's singing style. "In The Dark" is lushy produced and features gospel-style singing seen only in some of Marley's best songs.

It's a fantastic record and one that I'm glad I now have, thanks to the RS list.

1 comment:

padraig said...

"Funky Kingston" is indeed a fantastic record, but it's also one that, along with latter-era Bob Marley (from Catch a Fire on, basically) & The Harder They Come, serves as the token reggae album for rock critics. Which isn't surprising - I think straight-up roots is tough for people who aren't familiar to listen to, and those albums are more liberally sprinkled with rock and soul influences. Actually , Bob Marley's big breakthrough as an international pop star came after Island and Chris Blackwell started marketing the Wailers as more of a rock band to critics - dude even got American sessions musicians to re-record parts of "Catch a Fire".

I'm not knocking that in the least - all the albums I mentioned are unquestionably great. But I do feel like any top 500 that, outside of Marley, has two reggae records, one of which is actually more rocksteady/ska, is sorely lacking. Especially considering how massively influential reggae & dub have been - even on a ton of records that are on the list!

A few candidates for inclusion, which double as recommendations:
Augustus Pablo - East of the River Nile
Burning Spear - Marcus Garvey
The Congos - Heart of the Congos
Israel Vibration - The Same Song
Junior Murvin - Police & Thieves
Peter Tosh - Equal Rights