Errol Holt: ‘Rastafari Time’ Album Review

Courtesy of Ohm Records
Courtesy of Ohm Records

Ohm Records has just re-issued Errol Flabba Holt‘s extraordinary 1975 solo debut album, Rastafari Time. The album, originally issued on the Sky High label in 1975, features the multi-talented 25-year old Holt as producer, lead vocalist and bass player backed by an all-star collective of players. Supporting Holt on the album is an early incarnation of the Roots Radics, which included Lincoln “Style” Scott (drums); Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson (keyboards); Gladstone Anderson (piano); Nowell “Sowell Radics” Bailey, Dwight Pinkney, and Eric “Bingy Bunny” LaMont (guitars); and Christopher “Sky Juice” Burth (percussion). The album also features the deadliest horns section to ever emerge from Jamaica: Dean Fraser, Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall (sax), Vin Gordon and Ronald “Nambo” Robinson (trombone), and Bobby Ellis (trumpet).

Most know Flabba Holt as the incomparable bass player and de facto leader of the legendary Morwells and Roots Radics band. Born Errol Alexander Carter, the bass player got his start in the business playing sessions for the likes of Bunny “Striker” Lee and Lee “Scratch” Perry in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, he had a tremendous singing voice that drew comparisons to that of Paragons crooner John Holt. Flabba’s voice was so eerily similar to Holt’s that people began referring to him as Errol Holt. His vocal talent was undeniable, and in 1975, he had a sound system hit on his hands with “A You Lick Me First” from the Rastafari Time album.

The album opens with the rollicking bass and horns-driven “My Heart Is in Danger,” a brilliant arrangement mixed to perfection by Anthony “Bunny Tom Tom” Graham. Graham’s balanced mix gives equal weight to each sound while at the same time, preserving the characteristic heaviness of the tracka nuanced approach to mixing that would become his signature style. With tunes like “Sufferation,” “I Am Not a King,” and “Jah Will Provide,” the album is a testament to Rastafari, a spirituality and way of life that was still largely unknown to the world in 1975.

Rastafari Time is one of the earliest studio albums to feature the talented Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson, the young keyboard player discovered by Holt who would go on to become one of the most influential reggae producers of the 1980s. 1975 was a landmark year for the keyboard prodigy as Augustus Pablo would also feature his undeniable talent on Hugh Mundell’s smash hit single, “Africa Must Be Free By 1983.” Once again, it is the brilliant mixing of Bunny Tom Tom which transforms the bass-driven “Sufferation” into a Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson showcase. 

Rastafari Time is such an extraordinary piece of work on so many levels. It is almost incomprehensible that an album of this magnitude is just now finding its way back onto the shelves after more than four decades in reggae purgatory. Since Ohm Records only pressed a limited number of copies, I highly recommend everyone grab this one while it is still available. You may never have the opportunity to own this timeless masterpiece again.