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Ites Massive (Ghetto Circus, 2000)

And the winner for most unique reggae band name goes to...Hawaiiís Ooklah the Moc. No, the name isnít derived from Hawaiian culture (at least, not that I know of). Those of us who were of prime cartoon-watching age in the early to mid-Ď80s (when cartoons came on exclusively on Saturday mornings) might remember the cool-at-the-time-well-I-guess-you-had-to-be-there cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, which co-starred a rather Wookie-like creature named Ooklah the Moc who had the nasty habit of wearing tight black Speedos (refer to pic below).

I personally was a big fan, but of course, I also liked the Mr. T cartoon:

So much for my judgment.  ("Mr. T as the coach for a crime-solving co-ed gymnastics team?  I dunno...What?  You say the dog has a mohawk?  It's a go!!")  So why would a reggae group name itself after an obscure cartoon character?  Why not?  Itís fun and creative and would be perfect for a group whose sound was the same.  OTM meets that profile in the sense that they perform music -- at least as judged by Ites Massive -- that is perfect for lighting up a spliff with friends or just chilling on a beach at sunset.  That is, it's peaceful and relaxing; certainly not "fun" in the sense of a wild, loud party.  While the name Ooklah the Moc suggests an outrageous, freewheeling, light-hearted affair, Ites Massive is extremely serene and meditative.  In fact, this is one of the quietest, most placid reggae albums Iíve ever heard; vocals seem to rarely rise above a loud mumble (with lead vocalist Ras Bird sounding a bit like Mystic Revealers' Billy Mystic; his vocals are sometimes flat, but they nevertheless have an appealing raw quality and fit well with the understated music.), and the music, though proficient, rarely surges from the background -- quite surprising, given that this is an 8-piece band with a horn section.  Still, this doesn't make this a bad album; it just might take a while to appreciate, or it may require you to be in the appropriate mood (e.g., high) to fully take advantage of.  Ites Massive is pretty much the polar opposite of much of the Hawaiian (or "Jahwaiian") and Pacific Island reggae Iíve heard; whereas many of their contemporaries favor an up-tempo party sound seasoned with heavy doses of pop, R&B, and hip-hop, OTM proudly presents 100% pure roots reggae.  And when they try to present a party vibe, as in "Dance Ram," it's still a subdued, mellow affair.  It's a refreshingly unassuming and mature sound that has helped them build a loyal fan base and has contributed to the still largely underground American roots revival of the late '90s and early 21st century.  They are one of many American bands playing quality live-instrument roots reggae (see also Groundation, John Brownís Body, Soldiers of Jah Army, Instigators, Brent Berry, Barefoot Poets, et al.) and garnering an ever-growing following, albeit mostly on a regional level.  Fans of such acts and of the vintage roots sound should definitely search out Ites Massive.  While not necessarily a classic, it contains some great stuff -- in particular, the dreamy "Spliff Mood" and "Fafa Island," as well as the bouncy (as bouncy as OTM gets) "Live Love," "Humble Vibes," "Children Free," and perhaps the liveliest tune here, the "horny" dub "Pidgeon Peas."  If the material here were bad, I'd call the album lethargic, but these wonderful songs shine through the sometimes plodding pace, and to give them credit, Ooklah is consistent with their sound throughout, which helps give them a fairly unique style.

Track Listing
1. Blessed
2. Creator
3. Sound Creation
4. Haunted House
5. Live Love
6. Fafa Island
7. No More Tears
8. Herbal Meditation
9. Spliff Mood
10. Dance Ram
11. Melvin's Surprise
12. Humble Vibes
13. Upon This Land
14. Pidgeon Peas
15. Children Free
16. Dub Ramification

Ites Massive
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Rearrange Your Positive (Ghetto Circus, 2004)

Ooklah the Moc's sophmore follow up Rearrange Your Positive has catapulted Ooklah from a pretty good roots band to the top-draw reggae band in all of Hawai'i. With their unique style, they've added a female singer Mickey Huihui, who sings lead on a couple of songs. The horn section is top-notch and there's a heavy dub influence on most of the tracks. Top tracks are "Hell Fire," "Hawaiian Man," "The Box," "My Plea," "Longest Road," and "Dark Is Gone." If you liked their first album then you will love this album. If you have never heard Ooklah before, do yourself a favor and pick this album up; they are quickly establishing themselves as one of the top US reggae acts. If they're touring in a city near you, check them out 'cuz they bring irie vibes everywhere they go. 

- Ras Fudd-I

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Track Listing
1. Hawaiian Man
2. Jah Will Be There
3. Lovers Rock
4. A.T. Attack
5. The Box
6. In This Time
7. Concrete Vibes
8. You Light
9. Hellfire
10. Hot Hawaiian Nights
11. My Plea
12. The Longest Road
13. Arena Rock
14. Dark is Gone
Rearrange Your Positive
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