Reggae Covers: UB40 – Strange Fruit (Billie Holiday)

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Lyrics based on the poem by NYC’s own Abel Meeropol, Birmingham UK’s UB40 prepare a version of Billie Holiday‘s 1939 original that loses none of the shame and menace of the original. Heavy at times with synthesizers and inescapably colored by UB40’s skanking, horns-laden method the point, purpose, and aesthetic of the original reemerge.

Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.


Reggae Covers: Jackie Mittoo – Sunshine of Your Love (Cream)

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In a song with an all-time unforgettable signature riff there’s little room for improvisation, or so it would seem. Inexorably following in the melodic tracks of the original by Cream Jackie Mittoo (of Brown’s Town, St. Ann Parish, Jamaica) yet manages to turn the almost menacingly lustful original into a bit of cheerful shopping music.

Reggae Covers: Jimmy Lindsay – Ain’t No Sunshine (Bill Withers)

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Starts kind of respectful, even mechanical, but quickly assumes its own character and style. Jimmy Lindsay’s recording of the Bill Withers original brings hints of African drums, rock & roll (that sax solo!), and his nascent rasta consciousness.

Reggae Covers: John Holt – Hey Jude (The Beatles)

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A neat cover of the well-known original by The Beatles, John Holt has the sweetness of voice to pull this off where other singers might fall flat.

Reggae Covers: The Music Doctors – In The Summertime (Mungo Jerry)

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Appearing the same year as the original by Ashford, UK’s Mungo Jerry, this reggae version is built around a solid piano performance and an almost cute-feeling rhythm track.

Reggae Covers: The Cats – Swan Lake (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)

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A smooth, totally unexpected reggae version of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1876 classic ballet score. Groovy flute playing and a skank-worthy beat from Mile End, London, UK’s The Cats.

Reggae Covers: The Mohawks – Let It Be (The Beatles)

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A timely-if-straightfoward cover of the 1970 original by The Beatles this track is representative of the energy of The Mohawks, heretofore best-known as creators of ‘The Champ,’ an oft-sampled horn break from the world of hip-hop.

Speaking words of wisdom,
let it be…