Morgan Heritage ‘Here Comes The Kings’ (VP) 3/5

US-based group Morgan Heritage have constantly bridged the gap between old school roots reggae and soulful grooves with an updated version that combines the two styles. Their latest offering finds them stretching out even more into non-roots reggae territory with music recorded in both Florida and Kingston and this with mixed results. On the plus side, a take on Michael Jackson’s ‘The girl is mine’ works surprisingly well with soulful lead vocals and this could be a potential single to showcase the album more generally. Furthermore Morgan’s long-term roots fans will not be disappointed by a song such as the title track which has an endearing lilting groove with both tight harmony vocals and a rocking rhythm section with dub effects. There is even a reprise of Junior Byles’ ‘Chant down Babylon’ for Lee Perry re-titled ‘Stand up’ and one only wishes more numbers in this vein had been attempted. Where the album falls down slightly is in the group’s deliberate attempt to meddle needlessly with their long-established sound. Introducing ragga-style vocals simply sounds strange in this context and is typified by songs such as ‘Looking for the roots’ and it does come across as though Morgan Heritage are searching for new pastures, but not really finding new terrain they actually feel that comfortable with. Having too many co-producers on the album has simply resulted in a confused state of mind on their part. The group sounds far more confident on roots riddims and social lyrics like ‘Dem all run come’, which was recorded at Tuff Gong. Quite possibly, Morgan Heritage are attempting to attract a younger generation that has grown up on dancehall and ragga, but the group’s forte has always been a modern update on the roots tradition and that is surely where their long-term future success lies.
Tim Stenhouse