Brutal Out Deh
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Brutal Out Deh (Nighthawk, 1981 [orig. released 1978])

A respected vocal trio comprised originally of Ronnie Davis, Keith Porter, and Lloyd Ricketts (and in later years Keith Porter, David Isaacs, and Porter's daughter Kada), the Itals have a genuine roots sound akin to Culture or the Mighty Diamonds.  They've never really gotten their due, overshadowed by roots acts like these, not to mention Israel Vibration and the Wailing Souls.  Like the Twinkle Brothers, they've toiled away, producing quality reggae without benefit (or detriment?) of the spotlight.  Brutal Out Deh -- their first and often considered their best album -- is well-respected, but not particularly unique or exhilarating and will likely sound dull and pedestrian to newcomers to reggae.  This is not the album to give to someone who thinks that all reggae is boring and sounds alike.  Still, the more hardcore roots fans should find enough to satisfy, as heartfelt gems like "Herbs Pirate," "Smile Knotty Dread," and "Truth Must Reveal" give an impression of why The Itals have lasted as long as they have.  While on the whole, Brutal Out Deh may sound initially like just an average Israel Vibration CD, you may want to give it a chance, for this is about as pure as roots reggae gets.

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Track Listing
1. Brutal
2. Herbs Pirate
3. Run Baldhead Run
4. Temptation
5. Action
6. Rastafari Chariot
7. Youth Must Reveal
8. Give Me What I Want
9. Time Will Tell
10. Smile Knotty Dread
Brutal Out Deh
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Cool and Dread (Nighthawk,1984)

Cool and Dread continues the Itals' unassuming sound, which can at times blend into the pack of roots reggae acts (sort of like a mix between Culture and the Gladiators, with lead singer Keith Porter's vocals adding a touch of Gregory Isaacs).  However, when they come up with the type of wonderful material that populates Cool and Humble, they demand recognition.  While Brutal Out Deh is widely considered their  creative high point, I find Cool and Humble more satisfying.  It has an upbeat sound buoyed by supple harmonies and infectious roots melodies -- even when the music occasionally shifts to dancehall on cuts like "Material Competition" and the irresistibly catchy "Jah Help Those."  From the mellow "Peace and Love" to the rousing call "Heathen" to supple roots harmony of "Sign Farewell," Cool and Dread is a wonderful showcase for the under-exposed Itals. 

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Track Listing
1. Heathen
2. Sing Farewell 
3. Easy Now 
4. Material Competition 
5. I Am What I Am 
6. What an Agony 
7. Peace and Love 
8. Chat With My Woman 
9. Jah Help Those
10. Helpful Dub 
Cool and Dread
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Modern Age (RAS,1998)

This album of the "later" Itals is not bad, but the digital-like sound requires some adjustment, especially when one expects the roots harmony '70s sound of the earlier Itals. Though the compositions are not bad, overall there seems something missing. This can be caused by expectations based on their earlier work, but I think that, anyhow, the sound is somewhat too underwhelming and the music somewhat too generic, while the vocals sound somewhat too soft. This means, in my opinion, that not every song reaches its full potential. Some songs are more evidently outright catchy, the best ones being "Titanic" and "Happen Before the Time," but upon further listens several other songs, notably "Give This Love a Try," "Surrender," "Sweet Memories," and "Almighty" are quite enjoyable or okay. That the appeal is hidden on a large part of the album relates to the underwhelming, at times un-engaging sound, in a way akin to mediocre lovers rock. The remake of the earlier Itals song "In a Dis Ya Time" is bearable, but does not approach the original, which applies even more to the ska version. Overall, however, the good balances, maybe slightly outweighs, the bad.

- Michel Conci

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Track Listing
1. In a Dis Ya Time
2. Titanic
3. Render Love
4. Give This Love a Try
5. Surrender
6. Modern Age
7. Crazy
8. Sweet Memories
9. Together Forever
10. Happen Before the Time
11. Almighty
12. In a Dis Ya Time Ska!
Modern Age
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Mi Livity (Ital Music, 2003)

Like Culture and Burning Spear, The Itals are a trio that has evolved to the point where one member -- in this case, Keith Porter -- has become the face of the group.  And, listening to their -- er, his -- latest effort, Mi Livity, it's refreshing to hear that The Itals' sound is as solid as ever.  Many of these songs, in fact, sound like they could've been released; check out "Don't Fight the Feeling," "Mighty Ruler," "Live You Live," "Humanity," and the title track, for instance.  I never noticed this in The Itals' earlier '70s and '80s work, but Porter's vocals here are often reminiscent of Gregory Isaacs in his prime (before his voice sadly deteriorated).  This is particularly evident in smooth lovers rock tracks like "The Way You Are" and "Lip Service," as well as soft-edged roots like the engaging "Omnipotent."  All in all, although there are a couple of more modern tunes, this is good, old-fashioned throwback roots material from Keith Porter, who sounds as good today as he did 30 years ago.

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Track Listing
1. Don't Fight the Feeling 
2. Heathen Rage 
3. Mi Livity 
4. The Way You Are 
5. Omnipotent 
6. Lip Service 
7. Humanity 
8. The Half 
9. Te Ta Toe 
10. Sing Song Children 
11. Battlefield 
12. Holy Holy 
13. Fragile Love 
14. Mighty Ruler 
15. The Song 
16. Live You Live
Mi Livity
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