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The return of Zap Pow

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Guitarist Dwight Pinkney has been in three outstanding bands during his 50-year career, and while he enjoyed his time with each, Zap Pow holds a special place for him.

That band split in 1978 after nine years together. Last year Pinkney and fellow original member, saxophonist Glen DaCosta, started a new version of Zap Pow.

The six-piece unit began recording in early 2016, and by Christmas last year had enough songs for an album. That set, Zap Pow Again, is scheduled for release this month.

It contains four songs from the band's heyday, including This Is Reggae Music and Sweet Loving Love.

“Wi doing this with a purpose to bring back Zap Pow on the front page. The music wi made was ahead of its time so wi could never drop the standard,” Pinkney, 72, told the Jamaica Observer.

Bassist Lebert “Gibby” Morrison, keyboardist Richard “T Bird” Johnson, drummer Lando Bolt, trumpeter Everol Wray, singer Geoffrey Forrest, and harmony singer Fiona complete the new Zap Pow.

Pinkney wrote six of the songs on their comeback album — including Compatible and Overwork, Underpaid — which will be distributed through VP Records.

While they gained widespread respect among their peers, Zap Pow was never a household name like their contemporaries, such as The Soul Syndicate, Third World, Inner Circle, and Now Generation.

Their un-conventional arrangements produced classics like This Is Reggae Music and Last War. The bass line on the former, played by co-founder Michael Williams, drove future hit songs like Ini Kamoze's World-A-Music and Welcome to Jamrock.

Bermudian reggae artiste Collie Buddz sampled Last War for his hit song, Come Around.

Manchester-born Pinkney started his professional music career as a member of The Sharks in the late 1960s. That band played a number of recording sessions at Studio One before splitting.

He and Williams grew up in the Maxfield Avenue area of Kingston. Their friendship grew while playing in trumpeter Winston Turner's hotel band in Ocho Rios.

They soon get tired of playing lounge music for tourists and returned to Kingston and formed Zap Pow in 1969. It was vogue to be in a band at the time, but Pinkney and Williams were determined to be different.

“Wi wanted top a the line musicians. Wi had a vision to be the top band inna Jamaica,” he said.

They recruited DaCosta and trumpeter David Madden — graduates of Alpha Boys School — trombonist Joe McCormack, drummer Max Edwards, and later, singer Beres Hammond. That was the classic Zap Pow line-up.

The jazzy instrumental Mystic Mood, written by Madden, was their signature song. In recent years, however, This Is Reggae Music has been given new life through heavy sampling by producers.

Though once signed to Island Records, Zap Pow never soared to the heights of some of their contemporaries. Pinkney blames lack of proper management for that, which led to their break-up 39 years ago.

Shortly after, Pinkney joined the Roots Radics which was arguably the most successful reggae band of the 1980s. He also recorded solo hit songs and a series of well-received instrumental albums.

Michael Williams died in 2005.

Last year Zap Pow were honoured by the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association for their contribution to Jamaican music.