Zak Starkey Launches New Reggae Label Trojan Jamaica With Compilation LP ‘Red, Gold, Green & Blue’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Trojan Jamaica is a brand new label co-founded by Zak Starkey and Sharna “Sshh” Liguz whose first release is the compilation album Red, Gold, Green & Blue. That blue is added to the title of the record as Starkey and Liguz worked with reggae legends to record some classic blues numbers in their own style. The end result is a mixed bag of tunes as the island vibe and broken-hearted blues don’t always synch, however when they do, the results are rollicking. 

All efforts have a jam session vibe and the best songs find the impressive house band of Starkey (guitar), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Sly Dunbar (drums), Tony Chin (guitar), Cyril Neville (drums), Michael Rendall (keyboards, organ) and Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace (drums, organ) pairing with the singers expertly, such as on the slinky, sexy interpretation of Screaming Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You” sung by Mykal Rose. Another exuberant jaunt is the players take on “Gunslinger” as Big Youth puts his unique spin on the Bo Diddley tale.  

The tracks which successfully manage to fuse the blues/reggae style such as Freddie McGregor singing the “Come On In My Kitchen” over the Sly and Robbie Beat while a distorted guitar cuts through the smoky haze or the short and super sweet take on Muddy Waters “Don’t Go No Further” by Andrew Tosh are worth seeking out. It is when things stay a bit one note that they aren’t as exciting, such as on the straight ahead “44 Blues” by Rose or the skittering “Baby Please Don’t Go” from Phylead Carley. Lesser efforts like “Temperature” from Big Youth has fine drum hits but stumbles through the chorus of the Little Walter jam, losing the originals appeal and the experimental album-closing “Sun is Shining” tries for too much.

A recording like the adventurous combo of “Wang Dang Doodle-Oh Well” shows the strengths and limits of the compilation as the first half delivers clunky duet between Shakespeare and Liguz, however when the song shifts to “Oh Well” Liguz takes the singing reigns with the outfit behind her lighting up and soaring. Toots Hibbard arrives to sing “Man of the World” and while missing the high notes to start, the track gains ground and sways with his raspy well-traveled voice.  

It sounds as if all involved are having fun on Red, Gold, Green and Blue and by simply having the ability to play and record with such titans of Jamaican music, Starkey and Liguz have roped in a debut release for their label they can be profoundly proud of.  

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