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  Listen Up! 10/17/03 Listen Up!

Friday, Oct. 17

The Ethiopians, “Everything Crash: The Best of the Ethiopians,” Trojan Records. I walked into the office and heard the otherworldly falsetto harmony of this classic Jamaican vocal trio on “Reggie Hit the Town.” This excellent compilation lets you hear the evolution of Jamaican music, from ska to rock steady to reggae, through the exquisite vocals of the Ethiopians. Leonard Dillon is the lead singer and writer of all these songs. He works to the strengths of whatever style he’s in, coming up with lively melodies with lots of repetitive hooks and room for call and response harmonies. This is classic stuff dating back to the late 60s and early 70s. Highly recommended.

Joss Stone, “The Soul Sessions,” Curve Records. The front cover looks like a long-lost 1971 soul record, with intentionally obscure lighting on the woman’s face behind the microphone. I say intentionally obscure because they don’t want you to realize this is a 16-year-old white English girl belting out songs like she lived in Memphis between 1940 and 1970. I don’t know how she’s doing it, but oh, my goodness this is a magnificent record. Every once in a while, she succumbs to oversinging a line, but for the most part, she simply nails all the melisma and passion required of the genre. Betty Wright – yes, the singer of “Clean Up Woman” better than 30 years ago – produces this with a keen ear for the perfect soul backing arrangements. Every song is a highlight here on one of the most exciting debuts I’ve heard in years.

--Steve Pick


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