May 16 2013
Legends is an overused word in music journalism but sometimes it’s justified – Joe Whyte reviews The Abyssinians for Louder Than War.
‘Forty five years of sweet reggae music from Kingston, Jamaica’ states Lynford Manning of the Abyssinians, reinforcing the breadth of experience in this, one of the only bands who can truly adopt the soubriquet ‘legends’.
After a short preamble by the MC, the three frontmen, none of whom is under the age of 70, saunter onto the low ABC stage to rapturous applause from the healthy crowd.
There’s a whole raft of reggae shows on at the moment in Glasgow, and this, The Abyssinians, is the most eagerly anticipated of them all.
Donald Manning is wearing what can only be described as a rasta onesey but he, and his two cohorts are easily the coolest looking dudes in Glasgow tonight. The backing band, The Rasites is no slouches in the style stakes either, and they’re tight, focused and downright funky. The bass player in particular, an insanely tall, lanky dread, unleashes thunderous bottom-end whilst staring down the front row and swivelling from foot to foot.
Disappointingly, particularly given the support acts full horn section, The Rasites rely on one of the two keyboard players to play the well-known brass parts on his keys. It sounds ok, but it doesn’t have that oomph that the Coxsone Dodd produced records literally breathe.
The support are called the Mezzanine All-Stars, a nine-piece dubbed-up outfit, and are recommended highly. Vocalist Easy-Ozey adds a honeyed touch to their late-night vibe.
The trio is completed by the Mannings and Bernard Collins. The tight, harmony vocals of the band is their trademark. Satta Massagana has become something of an unofficial reggae national anthem and rightly so; the song, including phrases in Amharic, the Ethiopian dialect, has been sampled, versioned and covered by almost every Jamaican artist of note.
‘Satta Massagana for Jimmy Dread’ sang Mr Strummer, acknowledging the influence of his heroes. He knew what he was talking about, that’s for sure.
Opening the set with Declaration Of Rights is an astute move. It is also one of the better known songs and its lilting dancehall is all groove with little fat. And on that note…..
Tonight is a first for Glasgow gigs; instead of a merchandise stall, the good folk from Fire In Babylon are providing authentic Jamaican cooking, and by the looks of the business they did tonight, I reckon that this summers festivals are going to be awash with the gorgeous, earthy scents of their cooking.
Defying the years, The Abyssinians skank around the small stage dispensing music to ‘cleanse jah soul, body and mind’ as Manning puts it.
It’s a hot night and The Abyssinians may have to go some to cleanse this soul, but their spiritual and downright good-time music goes a long way.
Long may they skank.
All words by Joe Whyte. More work by Joe on Louder Than War can be found here.