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Published: 2017/08/18
by Ron Hart

The Congos
Heart of the Congos: 40th Anniversary Edition

From Bob Marley & The Wailers’ Soul Rebels to Return of the Super Ape by the Upsetters, Lee Perry’s Black Ark Studios was the birthplace of some of reggae’s greatest LPs. But as renowned Jamaican music historian Steve Barrow points out in 1997’s Rough Guide to Reggae, none were more “perfectly realized” as the debut LP from legendary vocal group The Congos. Originally released on Perry’s in-house Black Art imprint, indeed no album blends roots reggae, doo-wop-derived harmonies and dirt floor dub vibes quite like Heart of the Congos, as the duo of “Ashanti” Roy Johnson and Cedric Myton enjoy the backing of a massive session band that included Sly Dunbar on drums, Ernest Ranglin on lead guitar and ska sax great Val “Cipriano” Bennett amongst its ranks. This incredibly generous 40th anniversary edition of Heart expands fruitfully upon the long out-of-print Blood & Fire version of the LP by not only providing a bonus CD of disco mixes and rare dubs but also a third disc of original mixes from the Black Ark archives that distills this majestic collection of songs down to its most potent essence. With liner notes written by renowned reggae scholar Harry Wise and a fantastic remastering job courtesy of Kevin Metcalfe at Soundmasters UK, Heart of the Congos has finally received the reissue it so richly deserves.

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