Earth, Roots and Water: Innocent Youths
by Eric Kendall
Earth, Roots and Water
Light in the Attic
Digging in the dirt for gold is Light in the Attic’s M.O., proving it to be a label that quality-loving music fans can truly count on. Take this record, for example, re-released by Light in the Attic in 2008. Innocent Youths was the first proper album released on Toronto’s Summer Records, which was one of the city’s first home-grown reggae labels. (To dig deeper into that, check out Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988 and Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967-1974, likewise put out by Light in the Attic.)
The late 1970s was a time when Toronto’s growing population of Jamaican immigrants led to a blossoming reggae scene that included the likes of Johnny Osbourne (a contributor to Innocent Youths) and Noel Ellis, to name just a couple. Earth, Roots and Water were initially formed as a studio band to provide backing tracks to the growing number of artists frequenting label owner Jerry Brown’s modest basement studio. By 1977, the band had developed into a live entity as well, playing in and around Toronto while picking up opening gigs for legendary acts like the Police and the Stranglers. (While the latter may seem like an odd pairing, it proves that talent transcends genre boundaries.)
It was an exciting time for reggae in a very unlikely place, and after listening to Innocent Youths, you won’t wonder that it has long been described as the northern answer to Lee Perry’s Black Ark. Earth, Roots and Water flirt with all things reggae, not settling on just one subdivision of the genre. “Jah Les’ Lament” is reminiscent of the Specials with its catchy, everything-is-all-right horns, while adding fuzzed-out guitar and warm-oven organs to make things interesting. The title track is reminiscent of the melodica-infused dub of Augustus Pablo, while “Liberation” delves deeper into the world of dub with some studio trickery, echoes, and tape loops.
This was definitely groundbreaking stuff for its time, and kudos to Light in the Attic for unearthing this gem. This is important history we’re listening to here, and it definitely deserves the attention.
—eric kendallblog comments powered by Disqus
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