The Congos – Heart of the Congos (1977)
Virtually ignored upon its release, and left to languish in semi-obscurity for decades thereafter, Heart of the Congos is now hailed as a masterpiece of Jamaican music. Led by the vocal duo of Cedric Myton and Roydel “Ashanti” Johnson, The Congos teamed up with Lee “Scratch” Perry, the mad genius producer behind many of the island’s finest (not to mention innovative and experimental) records, to create a truly arresting cycle of songs.
At its core, we have the melodies of Myton’s falsetto and Johnson’s tenor swirling in, above, and through Perry’s dreamy stew of polyrhythmic beats and staccato guitar riffs. From the opening drum fill of “Fisherman” to the slow island fade-out of “Solid Foundation”, Heart of the Congos takes the listener on a 400 year odyssey of Jamaican culture- the everyday life of fishermen, villagers, and children; the mystical, syncretic traditions and beliefs; the struggles for survival and redemption; the contradictions of living in a verdant, and often turbulent, land that is a paradise to some, and hell for others. With its feet on the ground and its head in the clouds, Heart of the Congos is essential listening.