Their first album in fourteen years, Maroon Town's Urban Myths was released on the Rockers Revolt label on 7th March. The nine-piece Maroon Town were founded by Deuan German and Rajan Datar, who shared a deep passion for classic Jamaican ska, in the late 1980s in Brixton, South London. Influences include Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, The Ethiopians, The Skatalites, Burning Spear, bluebeat, rocksteady and reggae, American Blues and Columbian Cumbia, as well as the British two-tone bands of the late 1970s and 1980s such as The Specials whose drummer John Bradbury also has produced a number of their tracks. Maroon Town takes its name from the Maroons, the descendents of run-away slaves from Jamaica's pit country to whom Urban Myths is also dedicated, and has had an illustrious career since the late 80s, even though this was not always reflected in chart success.
The present album, Urban Myths, makes a very refreshing change and is in a class of its own where music of Jamaican origin is concerned. It is far and away the most listenable collection of music on this scene in a very long time. A relatively minor niggle I have though is that the recording is extensively 'clipped' - a problem that occurs when the original recording levels are too high. This may possibly be a problem on the promo and may have been rectified for the final release, however. (I have tried to roughly rectify this for the sample above.)
A pleasing blend of ska, reggae, rap, dub and Latin funk, Urban Myths has a lot to offer, even if few of the tracks are new material. Irresistible grooves, great horn and rhythm sections, excellent vocals, great keys - this is actually still good music, very good music indeed, unlike most of the crud that tends to come from the 'Jamaican' music scene these days (that is not to say that there isn't the occasional 'good stuff' too, just that it's almost as rare as hen's teeth and is usually to be found only on the margins of the scene, alas). And not a hint of any serious misogynism anywhere! Maroon Town's album came as a huge surprise here, and a very pleasant one too. It really made me sit up and listen from the first bar.
Maroon Town deliver an extremely polished performance on Urban Myths, from start to finish. Guests such as MC Sirreal and The Wreckless Crew also fit in well. The mix of styles works extraordinarily well and produces an updated version of ska and two-tone, in the main.
The material includes one cover, Herbie Hancock's almost ubiquitous Watermelon Man, first heard on one of Maroon Town's previous albums, New Dimensions. For all that, it's still as funky and groovy as ever, if perhaps a little too stretched out. Other than this very minor point, and the relative sparsity of new material perhaps, it's impossible to fault Urban Myths. Both old and new material are just breathtaking.
Although the regular album cover is featured above, I must confess the monochrome version of my promo works much better for me. It has considerably more impact.
A stellar thoroughbred of an album from a thoroughbred stellar band, Urban Myths is utterly compelling and irresistible. This is a highly enjoyable, high-octane ride. Moreover, it is a thoroughly consistent album with not a single weak track. And unlike so-called 'dancehall,' the fabulous grooves are eminently danceable.
If you've never encountered Maroon Town before, this is a fabulous introduction to a fab band. And if old skool ska, reggae and two tone are your thing, Maroon Town's Urban Myths is a must-have. And besides all that, it'd also make a great party album. Great stuff!
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