THE CONGOS Heart Of The Congos (VP) 

"Heart Of The Congos" is the Jamaican vocal duo's 1977 debut, an album that "Reggae: The Rough Guide" hails as "the most consistently brilliant" of its producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's career.  To a listener perhaps not quite so immersed in the genre, it's sweet-voiced, lilting, almost folksy reggae. Melodically accessible yet given foreign-sounding distance by Perry's foggy production, it makes Bob Marley's contemporaneous Island albums look like they were ruthlessly primed to explode in western marketplaces. Nevertheless there are famous names credited here, including bassist Boris Gardiner, later to be a UK chart topper, and drummer Sly Dunbar.

As with several of the songs here, "Fisherman" loads up on biblical imagery, but then seems to wander off in search of "the beat collie weed in town". "Congoman" deploys a primitive rhythm box, weird, glazed-sounding vocals and spacey sound effects, and "Children Crying" is punctuated by what sounds like elephantine trumpeting. "Can't Come In" epitomises what The Congos do well, with its dreamy, drifting verse vocals. Overall, "Heart Of The Congos" is an acquired taste, but it's not difficult to see what all the fuss is about.