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Things We Like: Junior Murvin’s “Police And Thieves”

Over the weekend I purchased a deluxe CD edition of Junior Murvin’s “Police And Thieves” at the new ear X-tacy location in Louisville. Though many know Junior Murvin’s landmark title song through its cover by The Clash, the original recording, featured here along the album’s nine other cuts, each equally worthy tracks, shows just why this song so intrigued British punks. The entire album, produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry at his Black Ark studio, is loaded with the sort of socially charged songs that found resonance half way around the world.

Life in mid-70s Kingston, factionalized by poverty, and the oppression of highly divisive political and police institutions, is at the root of Murvin’s exceptional set of songs. His dark contemplations of Rastafarian life, and the plight of blacks worldwide, is matched by Perry’s thick, heavily reverbed production. Even the drums and cymbals are heavily flanged for additional rhythmic effect. Other songs like ‘Roots Train’ and ‘Solomon’ are among the best Murvin ever recorded. ‘I Was Appointed’ and ‘Bad Weed’ are also incredibly strong.

Murvin’s voice has a quality somewhere between that of Smokey Robinson and Curtis Mayfield – a very light, high voice which contrasts nicely with the hypnotic music and lyrics, which are largely concerned with social injustice and other tough, topical issues. Lee Perry’s fingerprints are all over the sonics of the record, and he manages to mix up the sound nicely without losing a general cohesiveness. It’s not necessarily the most accessible sound in reggae, but it’s certainly among the most powerful, vital and original. It’s truly an essential recording for music lovers of many contemporary genres, and a perfect soundtrack to the sizzling summer of 2010.