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Wingless Angels

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  • Wingless Angels

    1. I Write My Name/Good Morning

    2. No Dark There

    3. Key Man

    4. On Mount Zion I

    5. Morning Train

    6. Roll Jordan Roll

    7. Rasta Army

    8. We Shall Overcome

    9. Come In My Little Ones

    10. Four & Twenty

    11. Rivers of Babylon

    12. Ring Out Mt. Zion Bells

    13. Bright Soul

    14. Enjoy Yourself

    15. Love, Love, Love

    16. Keyman a Cappella

    Release date:
    October 21, 1997

    The original Wingless Angels album was released in 1997. The liner notes, written by Vivien Goldman, are available below:

    The nyabinghi Rastafarian drummers. Wingless Angels live in Steer Town, a village perched vertiginously high above Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and the cobalt Caribbean.

    Steer Town has been a community aslong as humans have dwelt in Jamaica. Here, Auric Indians gazed down at strange Spanish sails as Columbus landed. At Emancipation, many slaves from the surrounding coconut and sugar plantations choseto remain here, between the waters they had come to love: the Roaring River, Dance River, Laughing Water and the River Gully that runs today beneath the hard, ribbed ground of Steer Town's Middle Street, where Wingless Angels live as neighbors. A rebel spirit is natural in Steer Town . It was here in St. Ann's parish, tenty two years after slavery, that Marcus Garvey, the Great pan-Africanist philosopher and leader, was born. Now the slaves' descendants, Wingless Angels, meet on Middle Street to drum and chant down the oppressions of Babylon.

    The Nyabinghi, to which Wingless Angels belong, are a strict Rastafarian sect: Old Testament, dreadlock devotees who worship the Emperor Haile Selassie by drumming and chanting down Babylon-the forces opression. Such grounation sessions create a spiritual force field audible in these chants' potent magic, invoking Biblical cosmology to heal and inspire: Noah's ark on 'Keyman': radiant unity with the Almight on 'No Dark There'.

    Wingless Angels are a gathering together of very different Dreads. Justin Hinds with his Dominoes was a ska pioneer. Ambitious and spiritual, he was St. Ann's first pop star with 'Carry Go, Bring Come' in the 60's even before the success of other local singers, like Bob Marley and the Burning Spear. Fisherman Bongo Locksley, the Elder Dread, the drum-maker who made his first instruments from coconut shell and condensed milk cans. The enigmatic Iron Lion, known as Bongo Jackie, drummer, fisherman and diver for dreams. Lanky, brooding Winston Thomas, aka Blackskull, also a player with the Talking Heads and Bad Brains, projects rockstar flash. The guardian of the drums is Bongo Neville, dependable as a true heartical Dread. Peaceful is an ital country Dread. Warrin Williamson carves delicate birds from coconuts.

    Every day they meet, in Bongo Locksley's Steertown yard called Zion, while traffic speeds by the gate: or by the lulling waves on their beloved beach at Mamme Bay, to drum and chant their praises to their Most High Creator, Jah Rastafari.

    To the Wingless Angels, Keith Richards, the self-styled 'albino of the group', is Brother Keith, an Englishman guitarist they trust enough to invoke the spirit with through music. The relationship dates back to 1972, when they met on Mammee Bay beaches in Ocho Rios, where Brother Keith was resting from his labours recording the Rolling Stones' 'Goat's Head Soup'

    In Jamaica, the sayings of old folk are the wellspring of pop lyrics and other attitudes. Here, they say: 'Nothering happens before the time'. As Brother Keith Richards, self-styled 'albino of the group' says, 'We're talking about a quarter century of friendship here. Like a fine wine, our sound took twenty-five years to mature.'

    Lo those many years, Wingless Angels needed no name. They were simply brothers in Jah, drumming and chanting because they breathed. With Brother Keith's work out in the world as a member of the Rolling Stones, they met rarely, but the bonds were deep. Recently, the drummers re-interpreted tradition, and were joined by Sister Maureen, who had never sung publicly before and extemporized many of these songs.

    And it came to pass that Keith spent time in Jamaica again in 1995. He met with his old brethren, and they immediately asked 'Brother Keith, ya ready fe drum?'

    Their united spirit was strong as ever.

    Keith studied drum patterns, worked out how to weave his instruments around the ancient pillars of rhythm. Sympathetic souls joined the worship, like Frankie Gavin's Irish fiddle, low as a drone, rugged in tone: recalling our hidden history; when Moors ruled Scotland ten centuries ago, and Irish convicts were shipped to Jamaica as indentured slaves, six hundred years later.

    The sound is essentially African, but on 'Wingless Angels', the Weleyan hymns of the British churches, brought to Jamaica by Pentecostal missionaries, have intertwined with African heartbeats. They recorded when the sun set, in Brother Keith's Ocho Rios yard. Night insects are noisy in the background. The ease of the players' companionship ripples through the voices overheard between the rhythm tracks, making us feel present, participants.

    When the recording was done, and they needed a name, it came to Brother Keith. 'Wingless Angels', Because they sing like angels, but can't fly.

    Until twelve months later, when the seemingly invulnerable body of the Iron Lion himself was to fail: Bongo Jackie found his wings and flew away home. This recording is part of his liv-ity.

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    Vivian Goldman

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Release date: 
October 21, 1997
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