The New First Family of Reggae: Morgan Heritage
Author: Ryan A. MacMichael
Morgan Heritage has come a long way.
In 1994, the Morgan family (Denroy, David, Jeff, Lukes, Memmalatel, Ray, Peter, and Una) released their debut album on MCA titled "Miracle." Considering their billing as "the next generation of reggae," the album was almost a total flop. Each track reeked of popness and major label interference. There was no roots, there was no lovers rock, just mass market reggae.
But three years later, the next generation of reggae was born -- for real this time. 1997's "Protect Us Jah" on VP Records was an outstanding effort, certainly one of the year's best releases. The collaboration with Bobby Dixon turned out to be a Godsend for this (mostly) young group. Lovers tracks like "Love is Flowing," "Let's Make Up," and "Me or You" were hot, but the real strength of this group proved to in roots. "Exalt Jah," "What Man Can Cry," and "Let Them Talk" were excellent classic roots tracks with their feet planted firmly in the present. "Protect Us Jah" was perhaps the most spiritual album of the year.
Could it be a fluke, though, that a group that had put out such a mediocre album the first time around could return so strongly? Not quite. In early 1998, "One Calling" was released, another "year's best" qualifier. This time around King Jammys handled the production, with even better results than Bobby Dixon brought. Out of the 14 tracks on "One Calling," 10 of them were outstanding. Again, roots sounds prevailed on "God is God" ("God is God and man is man, / So it is written, so let it stand"), "Trodding to Zion," and "Iziz to Jah." VP had done it again -- whatever it was that they were doing, it brought out the best in the Morgan family.
Later in 1998, Artists Only! Records released a compilation called "Morgan Heritage and Friends." With Morgan Heritage only prominent on three tracks (Denroy Morgan, Jr.'s "Link Up," the group's "Liberation," and "Fellowship," an excellent tune with Toots Hibbert), it's more of a collection of relative newcomers like Military Man and Jahmali. There are certainly some great tunes here (with Ras Shiloh appearing, you know that there has to be some definite value to the collection), but it's not an essential Morgan Heritage release, despite their high billing.
So what can we expect in 1999? Well, actually, the Morgans have already dropped their third album on VP, "Don't Haffi Dread" ("Don't haffi dread to be a Rasta"). Needless to say, we have another winner on our hands. Packed to the brim with great tracks (18 of 'em on this one), standouts include the title track (which also gets a decent remix job at the end of the disc), "Trodin' Jah Road," and "Earthquake." The formula they've used on their last two VP releases has worked again: very powerful roots with scattered lover's rock resulting in the year's most positive release thusfar. Bobby Dixon returns to the mixing board to work his magic.
A Ras John Report: They have arrived. With the release of "Don't Haffi Dread" on VP Records and "Morgan Heritage Family and Friends" on Artists Only Records, Morgan Heritage has put a strong claim on the title of "Top Reggae Band" for the worldwide Roots Massive! These two collections are musts for any collection if you are a fan of conscious Reggae.
Here's some GREAT news! LIVE at Club Normans in South Florida between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, a musical powerhouse took the stage about 2AM on a nice tropical Saturday Morning and grooved through a 90 minute set of non-stop hits... Morgan Heritage hit the crowd with music and they loved every minute of it!
Bob Marley has some very talented children who have picked up his torch of spiritual Reggae with zeal but Denroy Morgan (who joined his kids on stage for a number mid-show) can be just as proud of his offspring. Peter Morgan has one of the best voices in Reggae Music - music in general and his brother "Gramps" Morgan is nearly as strong with a voice that sounds a lot like Peter Tosh at his best. Although his mike was much too low in the mix, Mojo Morgan can handle putting a DJ Dancehall stamp on the band's dynamite blend of positiVibes. Luke Morgan didn't do any singing in this show but he built the foundation riddum all night with rich and powerful bass lines. Last but certainly not least was sister Una who was doing a final show before taking a maternity leave. Besides adding beautiful harmony vocals to the music all night here songs with Gramps prove she has what it takes to be a Reggae Songbird all on her own. Put them all together and you have a musical and spiritual force of great power.
This Ras John's Pick as Band of '99... Don't pass up a chance to see them LIVE and make sure you pick up "Don't Haffi Dread"... more on that and "Family and Friends" in Ras John's Picks and Previews... I spoke briefly to father Denroy and let him know how to reach I so, we hopefully will have the chance to hear a lot about Morgan Heritage here at RadioREGGAE.com. Jah Bless, Guide and Protect!