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Heart Of The Congos

4.6 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Multimedia CD, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

1977 Lee Perry produced classic compared to Bob Marley's Natty Dread, Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey & Mighty Diamonds' Right Time.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 9, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: VP Records
  • ASIN: B000025RHI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,490 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Its a shame the Congos were neglected for so long, and its nice to see this record getting a fair amount of notice for the classic that it is. When I bought this CD I knew only that Lee Perry produced it and that it was considered a lost classic. Even a friend who was a serious reggae aficionado had no active recolleciton of the group. The recording is pure joy and a shining example of both Lee Perry's wild and inventive productive techniques and roots reggae at its finest. The Congos consisted of the classic male vocal trio with standard Rastafarian and Biblical lyrics. Their voices and the songs are exceptional but really pushed to greatness by Perry's atmospheric production. Perry added in an armamentarium of percussive sounds to the tracks and drenched them in reverberation. The meditative dub influences are also there and the result is a trip. The only problem is that the opening track, "Fisherman", is so perfect the rest of the album struggles to maintain that standard. Regardless, this album is totally classic and in my opinion its the best album ever produced by Perry (yes including Bob Marley and the Wailers "Catch a Fire"). Along with Cultures' "Two Sevens Clash" the best roots reggae has to offer. The bonus of disc of rarities and alternates is a great bonus.
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Format: Audio CD
Of the dozen or so reggae and Jamaican lps that I would consider absolutely indespensible, this would be one of them.
There are many reasons why this collection is a brilliant and no-brainer choice for your collection.
1). Lee "Scratch" Perry's masterful use of the studio to help enhance the amazing talent that was already there. Perry's liberal use of studio technology that was at time quite radical but now all too commonplace, such as the Echoplex reverb, phasing (how I would love to have a Mutron phaser for my mixing board- audio engineers out there know what I mean), and his Soundcraft mixing board- so simple by today's standards, but boy, what he could do with what he had...jeez louise.
2). The Congos themselves- I am in no way implying that Perry was more important than the group, but newcomers are more likely to pay attention to a name they are more likely to recognize... The Congos had such amazing harmonies- Cedric Myton's blatent use of falsetto blends so beautifully with Roy Johnson's tenor. Add to that the backing vocalists that Perry employed to help complete these songs- Gregory Isaacs, the Heptones, Meditations- and the voices are as God's would be.
This collection has it all, folks. Amazing songs- listen to the exquisite "Children Crying," the vocally rich "Open the Gate," the praise of "Fisherman", and the beautiful "Solid Foundation," should tell you all you need to know. The grooves of many of Perry's Upsetters add to the overall reggae feel of the lp.
I could go on for hours, but I'll stop. I don't tell people to go and get lps on the spot unless there is reason to do so. You need no reasons to get this one. Just get it.
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Format: Audio CD
Heart of the Congos, in my mind, is the greatest reggae album ever. The more I've listened to it, the more I'm inclined to call it one of the best albums of all-time, regardless of genre. When I first heard this album, it didn't sound like reggae. Too many people see Bob Marley as all there is to reggae (not to come down on Marley, because I do love his music) and the Congos sound is something very different. Lee Perry produces up a storm on this album. The songs are extremely dense, and new things pop up each time you listen to it. The atmosphere is loaded with African percussion and Lee Perry's trademark, echo-y sound, and really goes a long way to making you feel as if you're Jamaica or Africa (depending on which song you're listening to). If you buy this album, it's likely that you wont think too much of it on your initial listen (most of this is because of it's radical differences from the more Marley-style reggae). Don't let your first impression form your opinion of the album, though, because it truly is an intricately crafted masterpiece. Oh, and by the way, stay away from The Congos later material... it gets some critical acclaim, but it sounds absolutely nothing like their first (and best) album. Lots of 80s style cheese.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Along with Bunny Wailer's Blackheart Man and Culture's Two Sevens Clash, The Heart of the Congos represents one of the monumental summits of reggae music.

This is 70s reggae at its most complex, haunting and deeply heavy best. Ethereal falsetto harmonies, chanting background vocals from a chorus including Gregory Isaacs, guitar by Ernest Ranglin all amount to the perfect primer to both the glory days of Jamaican roots music and the peculiar genius of producer Lee "Scratch" Perry. Perry drew up the blueprint for dub reggae in the cauldron of his legendary Black Ark studio. This album is considered to be the masterpiece of Perry's Black Ark years.

As good as this is, it must be said that the one-CD version currently sold by VP records is highly inferior to the remastered two-cd, now out of print, Blood and Fire version. Seek out the Blood and Fire version due to the expanded number of tracks it contains, including gems such as "Solid Foundation" and "At the Feast" as well as the vastly better sound quality. I am far from an audiophile, but the VP version sounds muddy whereas the Blood and Fire version sounds crisp and clean -- the instruments distinct.

If it becomes impossible to find the Blood and Fire version used, the VP version may suffice, but it would be a shame to see such a shining work not presented in its full luster.
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