Oh, I’d like to hear more deceptions of this kind. As I love when new bands experiment with the sound and add something to the genre, it’s still an art to play in such a way, that the listener has serious doubts about the recording’s age. Is it from the era or is it a contemporary band? I was very enthusiastic lately about Alpheus and his close to Jamaican original style of rocksteady, achieved in cooperation with Roberto Sanchez. It looks like Spanish Liquidator Music responsible for that record has a good hand with projects of this kind, because it’s them, who released the debut longplay by Mango Wood. It’s as traditional as possible and reminds you how early reggae, skinhead reggae, boss reggae, or whatever you like to call it, should sound.
Mango Wood – Stomp You Down
Mango Wood are six musicians from Madrid. This short information should already tell you a thing or two. There won’t be a lot of place to fool around. Everyone has to know their place. Simple lineup: drums, two guitars, bass, no horns – kind of similar to Steady Social Club, whom we wrote about recently. In this case, the main attraction is also gonna be the sound of keys. Main, side by side with vocals, and now we get to the point and probably the biggest strength of this record. There are three voices here, and they sing as the giants in the likes of The Silvertones, The Tennors, or The Heptones. Harmonies, choirs, and all those other vocal marvels I simply cannot name. All these things that make Jamaican hits of the golden era so lovable up till this day.
What’s conspicuous is that this album has a very coherent style. This consistency translates into quality. I promise, you won’t hear a single weak tune here.
Excellent mood set in the beginning with “Ah Reggae” doesn’t weaken for a moment through the next 12 tunes. What does change is the style of managing that mood. It’s directed mainly by the vocalists efforts. Some other times the whole track is completely dominated by magnificent keys supplemented with characteristic toasting shouts in the background. The vocal is getting a little more soulful here and there, and you might hear some more funky sounds, but generally, we move around early reggae aesthetics with strong rocksteady connections.
I see no point in dwelling into specific tunes. They are all so good, I simply won’t be able to properly describe them even with most beautiful words. It’s difficult even to name my favorites. Perhaps “Stomp You Down”, “Milk & Honey”, maybe instrumental “Night Terror” or “Mango Wood #5” – I’m shooting almost blind. When you listen to this record you have this feeling that these cannot be original compositions, because you’ve known them all for years – that’s how perfectly Mango Wood’s repertoire matches Jamaican music from decades ago. It’s not without impact on the sound that all this was recorded 100% analog. Snarky ones will say it’s a reenactment group, I will say: “Boss reggae is alive and kicking”.
I was trying to figure out if I heard an album lately which felt this way. What gave me a lead was an article on French blog Rude Boy Train. The author pointed out that the Spaniards don’t have a one, strong vocalist as opposed to for example The Aggrolites. And thanks to this comparison I had my eureka moment. Despite this significant difference between vocals (and I’m not at all pointing any direction here as the better one) last year’s “Reggae Now!” is in many aspects alike to “Stomp You Down”. Even the perfect ratio between songs and instrumentals is very similar. I hope that setting Mango Wood, who are playing together for 4 years, side by side with American dirty reggae veterans will be considered as a well-deserved compliment. Well, I don’t have a better way to praise this record.
You’ll get this album on a CD or vinyl at Liquidator Music. If you decide to purchase a 12″ plate, take 2, under my responsibility. You’ll destroy the first one playing it over and over again.