Capital Letters: ‘Wolverhampton’ Album Review

Sugar Shack Records
Sugar Shack Records

The brand new studio album by UK reggae collective Capital Letters was released on vinyl and CD on March 23, 2015. Issued on the Sugar Shack Records label, Wolverhampton is the first studio album for the group in more than thirty years. Formed in Wolverhampton in 1972 by Danny McKenzie (guitar/vocals), Earl Lynch (keyboards/vocals), Junior Brown (bass guitar), George Scarlet (lead guitar) and Wenty Stewart (drums) under the name The Alphabets, Capital Letters were one of the most popular European touring acts during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Much like fellow countrymen Steel Pulse, Capital Letters developed a style representative of the unique experiences of marginalized black youth in ruff and tumble white, middle-class urban townships like Handsworth, Leeds, and Brixton.

Having spent much of summer 2014 in the UK studio of Noel Browne, former Studio One Band, Taxi Gang and Maytals keyboard player who achieved considerable success as a producer with Luciano, Mikey Spice and Jack Radics in the late eighties and early nineties. Brown produced fourteen brand new studio tracks with the Capital Letters in 2014 in anticipation of the band’s first album in more than three decades. All fourteen tracks were then handed over to Sugar Shack Records’ Dave “Oldwah” Sandford for final mixing and mastering.

Wolverhampton is an exceptional roots reggae album, especially for a group coming off of a thirty-year hiatus. The songwriting, vocals, musicianship and production value of the set is top-notch, making for a very noteworthy roots reggae album that will most assuredly rate among the best reggae releases of 2015. The album opens on a very strong note with the foundation reggae roots sound of “Jah Music” followed by its remarkable version titled “Wolf.” This is authentic reggae roots at its absolute best – heavy, rhythmic, atmospheric.

The hard and heavy head-knocking riddim of “Wolf” gives way to the upbeat, high-power vibe of tracks like “Place On Earth,” “Dat Nah Stop,” “False Natty,” “Tell Me What’s Wrong” and “Opportunity,” songs which feature heavy themes and strong messages for being so buoyant and cheery. The album is rounded out by fascinating semi-biographical tunes like “Wolverhampton,” and “Jamaica” and a killer lovers rock tune titled “Movie Star.”

Wolverhampton is a is a surprisingly superb roots reggae album and an undeniably enjoyable listen. Unlike many contemporary reggae albums, many of which are unimaginative and lacking in substantial depth and soul, Wolverhampton is a deep, thoughtful, and brilliantly-produced album that is every bit a bona fide modern roots classic. Wolverhampton is available now in CD and digital formats with a planned limited vinyl pressing of the album which will include accompanying dub mixes for the first five tracks.

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