retroactive: Funky Kingston

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Specifics

  • title: Funky Kingston
  • artist: Toots and the Maytals
  • release date: April 1975 (US release)
  • runtime: 10 songs, 35 minutes

The story of this album is a strange one and one that I admittedly had no prior knowledge of.* I was simply of a fan of the music.  The album artwork that you see above as well as the title: “Funky Kingston”, were used for Toots and the Maytals debut album in 1972 which was released in the UK. The album pictured here (and the one I will be reviewing), came out in the United States in 1975. Same title, same album artwork with the only difference being the tracklist.  Three songs made it from that original debut to the ’75 United States release:  “Pomp and Pride,” “Funky Kingston” and Louie Louie.” 

IMG_0094On a more personal note; Reggae is a genre of music that I always come to whenever I need some comfort music.  When I need to relax or reset my mind, Reggae is the best way for me. Like most people, I started with Bob Marley and The Wailers (Thanks Grandma).  Eventually in my teens, I went to Sublime and alternative rock/reggae bands like Slightly Stoopid, SOJA and the Slackers until I finally circled back to the classics like Pete Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and of course, Toots & the Maytals.  This album is the best reggae record I’ve ever heard hands down.  No song is skippable and the soul that resides deep in this record is timeless. Many of these songs will sound familiar to you.  Not only have they been covered by artists like The Clash and The Specials but Toots and The Maytals also did their fair share of covers (as you’ll hear below).  For this review, we’ll go through the whole thing, track by track including my favorite lyric and why you shouldn’t skip that particular track. Hope you enjoy the writeup and I hope the message of this album gets through…

  1. Time Tough: 
    • favorite lyric: “I go to bed but sleep won’t come// Get up in the night// I couldn’t fight my feelings// Early in the morning// It’s just the same situation”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: Track one sets the stage for the rest of the album.  By setting it up this way, Toots and the Maytals let us know that life isn’t perfect but their positive attitude shines through on this one making the song feel uplifting and positive.
  2. In The Dark:
    • favorite lyric: “Riddle me this, riddle me this, riddle me, riddle me that//
      I bet you don’t know just where I’m at”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: Fred “Toots” wouldn’t be considered a great singer in terms of technical ability but I don’t think anyone can hold a candle to him when it comes to infusing soul into his lyrics.  He cries, croaks and effortlessly floats all over this song and makes you feel every word (even if you don’t know what he’s saying all the time).
  3. Funky Kingston: 
    • favorite lyric: People keep on asking me for, Funky Kingston!// But I ain’t got none// Somebody take it away from me”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: This right here is what Reggae is about: unbridled enthusiasm and a tremendous lust for life.
  4. Love Is Gonna Let Me Down: 
    • favorite lyric:I can see the morning sun// And knowing that everything, everything is alright”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: Toots is going off on this one.  He’s belting out these lyrics and you can feel the heartbreak in his voice but you also hear something else that isn’t as apparent: triumph. Despite heartbreak and despite love letting him down, he’s always gonna give it another shot.
  5. Louie Louie:
    • favorite lyric: Three nights and days I sailed the sea// I think of the girl constantly”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: Ending side one with this Richard Berry cover is perfect.  Toots and The Maytals put their own, reggae spin on it of course but it’s the perfect ending to an emotional side one and it brings us to the second half of the album with our heads held high.
  6. Pomp And Pride:
    • favorite lyric: For today, today// Today is a happy day!// For tonight, tonight// Can be a happy night, yeah!”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: This is such a happy and positive song.  From the lyrics to how the song builds and climaxes throughout; it’s uplifting and it’s a great start to side two of the album.
  7. Got To Be There:
    • favorite lyric: Got to be there// Just to answer to your name when the roll is called for your fate”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: Sort of a religious song, but also a song about responsibility and accounting for your actions.  This album is filled with uplifting messages but it’s also not afraid to motivate listeners to live a more positive life.
  8. Country Road:
    • favorite lyric: All my friends there// Older than those ridge// Younger than the mountains// Blowin’ like a breeze”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: It’s “Country Road” sung in Jamaican patois…; the lyric changes are also pretty cool if you’re a fan of the original John Denver version; and it’s a song that is timeless regardless of what era, genre or voice it is sung in.
  9. Pressure Drop:
    • favorite lyric: “I say when it drops, oh you gonna, feel it// Know that you were doing wrong”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: You’ve probably heard this sung by everyone else other than The Maytals and that’s a shame…. because this is the track that put the Maytals (and one could argue Reggae) on the map.  It’s inclusion on this album is symbolic and powerful and it’s one of the strongest tracks on a record full of them.
  10. Sailin’ On:
    • favorite lyric: “I wish you were there with me while I’m sailin’ on”
    • why you shouldn’t skip: The reason this album is so good is because of its cohesiveness.  It’s uplifting but incredibly real all at the same time.  It preaches positivity and love but more importantly, it lives in the real world.  Death is apart of life and never has it sounded more beautiful and serene than in “Sailin’ On.”  A perfect ending to a perfect album.

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*all research is from wikipedia

**lyrics are from genius.com

 

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