RELEASE DATE: AVAILABLE NOW
CD edition limited to 2,500 individually numbered copies.
Max "Romeo" Smith came into the world on November 22, 1947, in St. D'Acre, Jamaica. Widely regarded as the man who put the "rude" in "rude boy," Max Romeo inaugurated an entirely new reggae sub-genre that seized the public consciousness just about 30 inches off the ground, if you catch our drift. Romeo's early work with The Emotions gave no indication of the salacious and political directions his music would take later in his career. And after the shock value of songs such as "Wet Dream" and "Pussy Watch Man" wore off, the singer established a reputation for being one of the most influential artists in the roots scene.
Hooking up with producer Lee "Scratch" Perry and the studio collective loosely known as the Upsetters proved to be a wise move for Romeo. Perry's swampy production sounds complemented Romeo's vocals perfectly.
In the early 1970s, Romeo got involved with the socialist PNP party, which opposed the conservative JLP party, which had run the country since independence from Britain in the Sixties. Much of the reggae music produced at the time, particularly songs with lyrics that made reference to the biblical Old Testament, was political code to rally the Rastafarians' socialist troops.
Fast forward a few years, during which the two political parties have had a variety of violent spats and the PNP's power is consolidated in a second electoral victory. During this era, the Romeo-Perry team issued a variety of singles with potent political undertones, such as "Sipple Out Deh," and "Three Blind Mice." At this juncture Romeo came to the attention of Island Records, who dropped a remixed version of "Sipple" into the marketplace as "War in a Babylon."
The single had as massive an impact in Britain as it had in Jamaica, reverberating across two island nations experiencing economic and political turbulence. The album War Ina Babylon marked the zenith of the Perry-Romeo relationship, as well as being a career-marking record for both elements of the team. Unfortunately, the duo had an artistic parting of the ways following the album's release, which absolutely had a detrimental impact on Romeo's career thereafter.
War Ina Babylon not only captured a moment in reggae history (and has been a cornerstone of the reggae canon for over a quarter-century), but it is widely regarded as an essential element in any reggae collection.
Did You Know? "Babylon," taken from the famed fallen city mentioned in the Bible, is used by Rastas as shorthand for "modern capitalistic evil society."