Jamaicans and reggae fans were special guests at a free, outdoor party in Brooklyn that celebrated two milestone events — the 42nd anniversary of super, reggae group, Third World, and the 53rd anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.
The lucky crowd that wandered into Prospect Park on the eve of the final presentation of Celebrate Brooklyn 2015 concert series unknowingly happened into one of the best performances of the season, and perhaps the most memorable Third World showcase in recent times.
The reggae ambassadors blazed a rousing showcase delivering pop and even an operatic concert.
Full disclosure dictates objectivity, therefore it was an unexpected treat to see colleagues singing, parodying, and vigorously applauding vintage reggae recordings from the years Third World signed with Island Records, Mercury, and CBS Records.
But there it was, scenes of fellow scribes bouncing to Jamaica’s hard-driving beat as if work was way-laid for a session.
Needless to say, TW has had a long and exalted history since Stephen “Cat” Coore and Michael “Ibo” Cooper formed a union 42 years ago in Kingston, Jamaica.
Throughout the years they have invited Richie Daley, Milton “Prilly” Hamilton, Willie Stewart, Herbie Harris, Irvin “Carrot” Jarrett, Carl Barovier, Rupert “Gypsy” Bent III, Leroy “Baarbe” Romans, Mikel Wallace, Robbie Lynn and the late William “Bunny Rugs” Clarke into their Third World configuration.
Through all the various grouping, TW has endured.
Each reformation seemed to either established new audiences or forced the ficklest of fan to remain optimistic that the original hit-making lineup would rethink a departure and jam again in unity.
However, neither of the very best — Cooper and Jarrett — seemed willing to return to the lineup.
And, fans continued to hope for the good old days of Third World excellence.
After tragedy struck early last year with the passing of beloved lead-singer Bunny Rugs, the group performed at the Apollo Theater on a bill that included Kymani Marley, Lauryn Hill, Maxi Priest, and the Wailers.
Although the mini set fronted Brown as Clarke’s replacement and celebrated the king of reggae’s 35th anniversary performance at the legendary Harlem show place, it proved the beginning of a reformation and the start of a new era.
This recent Brooklyn date is proof of a commitment to re-energize and reaffirm a Third World dominance.
Undeniably, the summer concert performance far exceeds any recent appearance by the super-group.
Along with Tony “Ruption” William, Maurice “Smooth Lion” Gregory (Papa San’s brother), Norris “Noriega” Webb and A.J. Brown the, lead, Cat has survived nine lives and is the only original band member to steer reggae’s enduring band.
On a day following the Aug. 6 anniversary of Jamaica’s independence Coore walked onto the Celebrate Brooklyn stage holding a Jamaican flag behind him. Raised above his head, he immediately won cheers from nationals still in celebratory mode from their trailblazing lead challenging British colonialism.
The colors alone prompted crowds to roar approval.
The talented musician built on the momentum hailing the island and its milestone achievement. The Coore of the group looked out into a sea of fans and informed them that in addition to the Caribbean history penned in books, his own brainchild was in the midst of celebration of their 42nd anniversary.
With that, cheers drowned out the noise of planes descending on the city.
He wasted little time talking and quickly introduced Causion, an Antiguan singer who won new audiences and approval from the crowd that appeared to be loyal Third World fans.
It was still early, but it seemed as if the evening could not get any better.
Third World ensured a reggae party and that the group will be recalled for their enduring excellence.
For some, the test would be Brown’s lead on songs made popular by Clarke.
The daunting task must have seemed intimidating for the former cabaret singer.
Although he has been touring with the group, appeared at the Apollo Theater and reportedly has been holding his own on the road, he had never fronted the group in the borough reputed to be most populous by Jamaicans.
Brown proved himself more than able delivering all of the hits made popular by the band – “Forbidden,” “Sense of Purpose,” “Reggae Ambassador,” “96 Degrees In The Shade,” “Try Jah Love,” “Reggae Party” and a discography that tested his mettle.
And by the time he voiced the group’s biggest hit song penned by Gamble & Huff, he was fully assured of the title — “Now That We Found Love” but mostly that he is now leader of Third World.
Every member of the band also reestablished prowess delivering a very spirited and uplifting session. They offered a sampling of their latest single collaborated with Damian Marley and his Ghetto Youths.
The Ethiopian Amharic-titled “YinMasGan” entreated revelers to perhaps another potential hit which translates to “Let Him Be Blessed.”
The treat heightened when Coore sat with an electric cello to toast his birth-island.
From a classic performance of a song pledging allegiance to the island, the avowed Uptown Rebel segued to Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and in the process won more cheers and ovation.
Jamaicans in the crowd accompanied him in hushed tones singing: “I pledge to thee my country, all earthly things above…”
To most, the authentic Third World was back, forward, and beyond.
Ruption seized moments with a percussive routine using his djembe drum.
His solo segment recalled Jarrett’s athletic prowess when from 1973 to 1989 the percussionist made music while somersaulting, dancing and delivering a solid routine that consistently won raves from audiences.
Ruption drummed like his life depended on it and the audience responded in kind. As the djembe sounded, the rest of the band-members amplified their back-up using a tambourine, shekere, chimes, and other percussive instruments.
It was a moment in time, Brooklyn revelers will not soon forget.
With Coore and Ruption carving out their own unique contributions, Brown with an already proven performance truly won new fans when he soloed for an encore singing opera.
Italian was his appropriate language and he conquered the entire audience.
Crowds stood in appreciation, cheered with approval and as the final song of the evening, Third World proved a first world attraction.
Malian band Awa Sangho opened the evening’s concert.