Thirty years after they stormed charts around the world with Pass The Dutchie, Musical Youth are working on a new album to show that reggae still rules.
The Birmingham band – featuring original member Michael Grant and long-standing vocalist Dennis Seaton – plans to release When Reggae Was King, a collection of classic covers, this summer.
Tracks include Musical Youth’s versions of Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come, Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff and John Holt’s I’d Love You To Want Me.
Then there are covers of UK reggae favourites including Beshara’s Men Cry Too, Aswad’s African Children and Matumbi’s After Tonight.
The 12-track record concludes with a bonus new Musical Youth song, Father, co-written by Seaton.
“The album is a selection of songs from the years 1972 to 1982,” explains 45-year-old Dennis. “In the first half of the decade Jamaican reggae came to Britain and in the second half British acts took reggae back to Jamaica and we have tried to reflect both elements on the record.”
When Reggae Was King also features new versions of Sugar Minott’s Good Thing Going, Gregory Isaacs’ Front Door, Dennis Brown’s Money In My Pocket, Delroy Wilson’s Sharing The Night Together and Victor Romeo Evans’ At The Club.
Dennis admits that he and his 43-year-old Musical Youth bandmate, Michael Grant, were keen to pay tribute to the reggae stars that influenced them as youngsters growing up in Birmingham.
“Each of the artists were influences because each had their own style. These guys are like the gods of reggae music,” Dennis says.
Musical Youth were formed by pupils at Duddeston Manor school, the line-up completed by siblings Patrick and Freddie ‘Junior’ Waite and Michael’s brother Kelvin.
By 1981, Dennis Seaton had joined the band as lead singer.
They were often likened to The Jacksons and in 1982 it seemed they would emulate the American group’s success. Pass The Dutchie, based on The Mighty Diamonds’ Pass The Kouchie, was a massive chart-topper worldwide and gained a Grammy award nomination.
Two albums, The Youth Of Today and Different Style, were released but the band split in 1985.
Dennis released a solo album, Imagine That, with input from Stevie Wonder, in 1989, and later formed the band XMY.
Any possibility of a full Musical Youth reunion disappeared when Patrick Waite died of a hereditary heart condition in 1993.
Dennis and Michael joined forces again in 2001 and, as Musical Youth, recorded the album Legal Now in 2005. It was available only through the band’s website.
“The single that we recorded with Pato Banton, Pretty Woman, is on that album – it’s a fantastic track,” Dennis says.
Kelvin was invited by Dennis to rejoin Musical Youth last year.
“I asked Kelvin if he wanted to join Mikey and myself,” Dennis reveals. “He went away and came back and said, no he didn’t want to do it. It’s not a problem. The show must go on. I will not be asking again.
“That’s the official line – he was asked and he declined.”
Kelvin is believed to be preparing to release a solo album.
Dennis adds that drummer Junior’s on-going health problems means he cannot be considered for the band.
So backing Dennis and Michael in the new Musical Youth are keyboardist Andre Bassing, bassist Amlak Tafari, Guitarist Chocho and drummer Bunny Dryden.
Their gig diary is filling up. Forthcoming shows include a slot on the Here and Now 80s package at Butlins, Minehead, on May 26, Palace Theatre, Redditch, on June 1, Birmingham Botanical Gardens on July 8 and Stafford Gatehouse on July 20.
And Musical Youth do not intend to go away again.
There are already plans for an album of original songs to be released in 12 – 18 months.
“Our long-term plans are to carry on playing as much as we can,” says Dennis, who intends to stay ‘Youthful’ for some time yet.