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» GUEST RUNDOWNS, NEW RELEASES » AFTER 30 YEARS IN THE VAULT, CAPITAL LETTERS’ “VINEYARD” IS FINALLY SEEING THE LIGHT!

AFTER 30 YEARS IN THE VAULT, CAPITAL LETTERS’ “VINEYARD” IS FINALLY SEEING THE LIGHT!

Capital Letters ‘Vinyard’ is ready to roll.

Having sat collecting dust in the old Greensleeves vault for over 30 years, VP Records recently released Wolverhampton-based Capital Letters’ ‘Vinyard’, to the delight of many roots reggae fans. It comes in digital download, CD (17 tracks) and vinyl formats.

capital lettersVP Records, based in Jamaica, London and New York, describes itself as a ‘pioneering force in the reggae music industry’ – harbouring a catalogue bursting with roots and culture, soca, dancehall and ‘whatever you’re having yourself’ in musical formats from the Caribbean region. On the musical pitch for 25 years, VP has been promoting artists from Alborosie to Yellowman – and many many more in between.

What makes this recent release (from Capital Letters) interesting is that it may be described as their first real plundering of the U.K.’s 1980s roots reggae scene (with a creditable product) from a source that many may have missed (or not been around for) first time round. In recent times Sugar Shack\Reggae Archive Records have done some sterling work in tracking down, polishing up and releasing 1970s\80s material from Capital Letters and many other sources from across the British Midlands. Indeed it may well be that this initiative has prompted VP to delve into their extensive cellars, as acquired from the formerly formidable independent Greensleeves label.

The album’s 10 tracks cover the usual range of roots reggae and Rasta-related themes in a competent and considered manner. Opening with the lively ‘Muss Muss’ and the tests associated with gaining access to Zion, ‘Murdering Style’ follows with a beautiful bounce, chastising on the perils of the gun – a message that was subsequently overlooked by too many members of the Caribbean (and other) communities worldwide. The notion of travelling ‘back to the future’ then resurfaces in ‘No Jobs’ – with a delightful roots-based rhythm reminding us that the jobs market that attracted so many West Indian (and other) natives to England after the Second World War was but a brief spike in the history of the developed world’s economic volatility. With the modern world under threat from ISIS and other extreme religious groups, it’s ‘back to the future’ time again, as Capital Letters pose the question (in a delightful) ‘Why’track, with regard to the one true faith. Or more to the point, what does it matter who exactly God is vis-à-vis the importance of righteous living. These Rastamen then take refuge in their ‘Vinyard’ track, to cultivate a substance that still leaves them outside the legal Pale, in a jurisdiction that subsequently did a U-turn on its legal status classification.

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The album’s B-side kicks off with ‘How Far’, extolling the merits of unification over the demerits of splits and conflict. Thereafter, the evils of the old greedy enemy (oft times the politicians) ‘Baggawolf’ are aired, before the ‘Old Old Owl’ comes calling in a jaunty track, delivering wisdom in generous dollops. The album’s penultimate track ‘Africa Bound’ raises the touchy topic of the Rastaman’s frequently frustrated route to redemption – that is, the return to their historical and spiritual home. Closing the vinyl version, ‘Fi Wi Parents’ pays homage to their predecessors – including the generation that took the hard road and brought their youth out of Jamaica in the middle of the last century. However, the band are not afraid to chastise the ‘seniors’ who should – but fail miserably – to lead via good example, as they put filthy lucre before spirituality and progressive politics.

Of the bonus tracks available via digital download and CD – whilst as ever it’s ‘different strokes for different folks’ – the female-flavoured ‘Fall In Love Forever’ stands out for this listener, but not ahead of (their first breakthrough single) ‘Smoking My Ganja’ as (one of three tracks on this release) recorded (in 1979) for the late and legendary John Peel’s B.B.C. radio show.

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All round this is a welcome release from VP, which many will hope gets the exposure it deserves and proves to be a harbinger for many more from the old Greensleeves vault. An added bonus is that Capital Letters have now reunited and will soon be touring on the live circuit. Now there’s a ‘back to the future’ prospect worth waiting for!

 

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