Selected by Dan
Maxi Priest & Big
As part of its summer
Roots Music Festival, the Blue Note Tokyo will be hosting UK reggae star Maxi Priest and
US roots reggae revivalists Big Mountain in a double bill tribute to Bob Marley, 20 years
after his death in 1981.
Maxi Priest' entry into the music business is the stuff of legend: a carpenter who was
asked to build speaker boxes for local reggae sound system Saxon, Priest's honey-toned
voice caught their attention and he wound up singing for them in the early '80s.
In 1987, Priest (b. Maxi Elliott) hooked up with crucial Jamaican rhythm section Sly &
Robbie for Maxi, an album that catapulted Priest to worldwide fame - due largely
to the massive success of a cover of a Cat Stevens song, "Wild World." The
singer then sunk into relative obscurity until the release of "Housecall," in
collaboration with gruff-voiced MC Shabba Ranks. A similar type of pairing - this time
contrasting Priest's smooth lovers rock sound with American dancehall rapper Shaggy's
earth-shaking rumble - saw Priest back on top of the charts with "That Girl."
Like Maxi Priest, Big Mountain are latecomers to roots reggae who first popped up on the
horizon through a cover song - in their case an unlikely 1994 hit version of '70s idol
rocker Peter Frampton's "Baby, I Love Your Way."
Based in San Diego, Big Mountain are led by singer Quino, like Priest one of the smoothest
voices in the business. Coming together in the late '80s, the group, while unable to match
the success of their first hit, have remained a consistent force in keeping alive the
sounds of roots reggae. Appearing at Jamaica's legendary Reggae Sunsplash festivals, they
have also, like Priest, recorded with the island's top rhythm section, Sly & Robbie.
Fans of Bob Marley can look forward to an evening that will see his music rendered in the
loving hands of two consummate professionals who, while lacking the universal vision of
reggae's leading prophet, have him beat hands down when it comes to sheer singing ability.
Priest & Big Mountain play the Blue Note Tokyo August 13-18. See listings for details.