Raver Reviews: Heart Of The Congos | 40th Anniversary Edition (North Parade/VP) | MIDNIGHT RAVER
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Raver Reviews: Heart Of The Congos | 40th Anniversary Edition (North Parade/VP)

VP/North Parade has just come forth with the 40th Anniversary Edition of The Congos landmark debut LP Heart Of The Congos, which was produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry at his Black Ark Studio in 1977.  The new edition features 3CDs / 3LPs which contain the original album, a set of alternative mixes, and a set of the original Black Ark mixes of each classic track.  VP/North Parade has done an outstanding job over the past several years reissuing many long out-of-print and rare vintage reggae titles and this newest release is one of their best yet.

This set is a no-brainer for reggae fans as the third disc alone is worth the cost  of the entire package.  Of course, the third disc features Perry’s stunning original Black Ark track mixes, each of which is an enduring testament to the supreme talents of the enigmatic producer and his use of unorthodox instrumentation, sound effects, and production techniques to achieve a signature sound that has yet to be duplicated.  Take the original mix of my favorite tune from the album “Open Up The Gate,” which features a sparse, bare-bones mix with an added assortment of percussive elements, piano keys, vocals, and a hammering cowbell absent from the final mix that was issued on the 1977 album (“I’ve got a fever and the only cure is more cowbell!”).  This tune is as timeless as ever in this raw and stripped-down format and truly makes me appreciate Perry’s genius even more.

The rawness of classic tunes like “Ark of the Covenant,” “Fisherman,” and “Children Crying” gives these vintage tracks new life and the listener is given the rare opportunity to reinterpret each once again.  Included on Disc 2 are alternates and dubs, including the sublime “Noah Sugar Pan,” where Perry gives the dub treatment to “Ark of the Covenant”;  the Congoman 12″ version along with an alternate titled “Congoman Chant”;  the scintillating dub version to “Fisherman” titled “Bring the Macka Back”; and the “Solid Foundation” Disco Cork along with the killer dub version.

Listening to this brilliant set is a bit like trying to drink from a fire hose.  There is so much to absorb here.  Heart Of The Congos is the album that cemented Perry’s genius in the ears of listeners, critics, and colleagues alike.  There is so much bubbling under the surface on each track that the listener finds something new in the mix with each listen.  I don’t know why an reggae fan would turn this one up regardless of how many times they’ve purchased it in the past.






  1. Rob says:

    How does original recordings differ from Blood and Fire release?

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