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- Jul 2020
African Head Charge Songs of Praise + In Pursuit of Shashamane Land + Vision of a Psychedelic Africa + Voodoo of the Godsent + Churchical Chant of the Iyabinghi (On-U Sound)Following the Early Years reissues a few years back, these are a second tranche of releases exploring the back catalogue of African Head Charge, the band whose nexus was - and is - British-Jamaican percussionist supremo Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah and post-punk dub-meister Adrian Sherwood, with a revolving cast of On-U sorts popping in and out. These albums range over the band’s career since 1990: Songs of Praise from 1990, In Pursuit of Shashamane Land from 1993, Vision of a Psychedelic Africa from 2005, and Voodoo of the Godsent from 2011, while Churchical Chant of the Iyabinghi is a lovingly rendered collection of outtakes and dubs based on the first two of those albums. Songs of Praise may be the best-loved oAfrican Head Charge album, but perhaps this is because it hit a historical sweet spot when ravers needed something exactly like it to come down to after an ecstatic night out. That’s my story anyway. Like all the others, it comes as a two record set with the second disc devoted to previously unheard cuts, as well as a 12” x 24” insert containing an interview with Noah. Full of chants and explicit spirituality, it has an earthy quality, the whole built around endless pattering bongos as much as dub reggae. You can get lost in it and many of us frequently did. The follow-up, In Pursuit of Shashamane Land takes that blueprint and produces it up. Alongside the Jah vibes, there’s a conscious sense of connectivity with the newly rising electronic dance scene (check the groove on the sensibly titled “No, Don’t Follow Fashion”). After that, while Noah continued to release Head Charge albums here and there, and moved to Ghana (where he is to this day), the On-U Sound connection broke down (although he and Sherwood remained close). When they reconvened for Vision of a Psychedelic Africa, they hauled in the whole of Tackhead (Skip McDonald, Doug Wimbish and Keith LeBlanc), as lethal a rhythm section as anyone could ask for. The result, while absolutely Head Charged, has an added musicality to it, as well as a cleaner forward-thrusting pulse and playful instrumentation (check the twangy guitar on “Surfari”). Voodoo of the Godsent - which has Adamski on synths and also features original Aswad bassist George Oban – is also a shinier outing (“Stoned Age Man” has an almost Pink Floyd feel), with a tendency towards actual songs. But let’s not give the wrong impression, it’s still spaced out, oddball music, that smells strongly of ganja overload in the best way.