A rejection letter once advised F. Scott Fitzgerald that “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby character”. There are many similar edicts from editors and publishers that reveal a syllabus of errors when it comes to our greatest cultural touchstones (for more on that, see this fabulous Blog). But most people working creatively know to plow through all that. And a lot of the time, we’re glad they did.
In the case of The Congos’ 1977 release, The Heart of the Congos, we should be ecstatic that they did.
This exquisite Faberge egg of an album is one the greatest roots reggae releases ever. Rejected by Island, it received a limited release in Jamaica. But it is rightfully acknowledged now as a musical masterpiece.
Produced and arranged by the great Lee Perry at his Black Ark studio during a period of genius lucidity, consistency and restraint, the album showcases the siren falsetto of Cedric Myton and the warm counterpoint of Roy ‘Ashanti’ Johnson’s vocals. Each song brings something precious and unique to the album as a whole. Singly and in combination these songs sound like sunshine feels and they have a cultural, lyrical and musical depth that wouldn’t normally accompany that description.
So turn it up and the next time you face rejection remember to just rocksteady.