Fred Locks’ 1976 LP Black Star Liner sits on any short list of classics from Reggae’s golden era of the 1970s. The LP, available again in a newly remastered edition, evokes the earnest vision of repatriation that Marcus Garvey articulated and attempted to actualise a century ago.
Writers Steve Barrow and Peter Dalton put the release in context in Reggae: The Rough Guide: “‘Black Star Liners,’ which became an enduring roots anthem that helped define the period. Fred Locks’ voice was totally opposite to the deep roots rhythms that supported it as well as to the serious themes of iniquity, faith and repatriation.”
At the time of the album’s initial release, the singer simply recalled, “I wasn’t so versed in Rasta but it’s really because of sufferation over the years why you find more to write about. Even Black Star Liners was a song I start to write about two years ago (1973). It never reach completion until the day in the studio, you know, the very last words.”
The album is the result of the collaboration between producer Hugh Boothe and his friend Fred Locks (born Stafford Elliot), both of whom were members of Jamaica’s Twelve Tribes Of Israel (Rastafarian) organization. The album followed the release of the single “Black Star Liners” in 1975 on Boothe’s Jahmikmusik label (an affiliate of Twelve Tribes’ Jahlovemuzik Soundsystem).
Despite the frustrations of getting the album off the ground and distributed in the 1970s – it first was licensed to the U.K. Vulcan label which vanished within a few years – the recognition and impact of the album have been the lasting markers of its success.
Singers including Carlene Davis and Luciano have paid tribute in the years since, and it has helped keep the vision and ideals of Garveyism close to the core canon of Reggae for five decades. It is in many senses a Roots touchstone. Thanks to Fred Locks the melodic line and phrase “Seven miles of Black Star Liners coming in the harbour” remains embedded in the lexicon of the Rasta community.
This deluxe edition, scheduled for release on the 9th of February 2024, is presented in its original stereo mix, lovingly remastered and restored, an upgrade on the pressings available in recent years. In addition, the cover art has been colour-corrected for an accurate reproduction of the original. Extensive liner notes by Noel Hawks and a rare photo by Michael Morgan on the printed inner sleeve give the release additional depth. The original purple Jahmikmusik labels found on the 45 are also used for the LP.