Album Reviews

Matumbi – Music In The Air

(Trojan) UK release date: 3 October 2005

It’s rare any record labels generate any excitement with me, but you can bet that anything from Trojan records is bound to have me drooling. Their constant releases of classic reggae always represent quality and this two-disc anthology from top-notch UK reggae band Matumbi does not disappoint.

When you hear about British reggae the ultimate horror of UB40 immediately springs to mind. If you feel that way I’d certainly recommend checking out this collection. If you close your eyes it becomes difficult to believe that this music originated from south London rather than Kingston, Jamaica.

There are 33 brilliant reggae tracks here selected from the band’s 70s output. There’s varying styles including rasta, soulful reggae, roots and funk and there’s plenty here to rival even their original Jamaican idols. The first disc is predominantly made up of the band’s broad western influences from various genres. Kool and the Gang‘s Funky Stuff is reworked as Reggae Stuff and an instant classic is born. This is definitely a tune no self-respecting sound system should be without. Other highlights include a chilled-out rendition of Rose Royce‘s Wishing on a Star and a simplistically effective Tell Me Again, which imagines a bleak future when music is nothing more than a distant memory. Bob Dylan‘s Man in Me (one of my personal favourites) gets a sublime reggae makeover too in a cover version that doesn’t taint the memory of the original.

The second disc has a more traditional roots feel, kicking off with some great tracks such as Gloria and the jaunty stomp of Call in Al Capone. Trojan know their audience so there’s also some rarities and unreleased sessions for devoted fans.

Comprehensive sleeve notes chart the band’s story from early teenage days in Battersea via wrongful imprisonment and inevitable changes in line up. This makes for a fascinating read for the connoisseur and provides a lot of the social context for the tracks.

Trojan’s regular anthologies appear to have done it again. If you’re a reggae fan this is an enjoyable listen and a welcome addition to your collection. If you’re not then I wager you’ll still love it. Summer may now be a distant memory, but this is sure to bring a summer vibe back into your life

Trivia: Matumbi is derived from Nigerian and means Reborn. This collection will certainly rekindle interest in them once more.

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Matumbi – Music In The Air