This will be in Reggae Report soon come.
ITALS: Still Vital
In the history of great Jamaican harmony vocal groups that exploded out of the fruitful period of the mid ‘70s, the Itals are certainly one of the best, alongside such luminaries as the Heptones, Meditations, Mighty Diamonds, Culture, Wailing Souls, Gladiators and Israel Vibration.
The original trio, Keith Porter, Ronnie Davis and Lloyd Rickets, formed in 1976, and after some classic singles it was their debut album, “Brutal Out Deh,” on the Nighthawk label five years later which catapulted them into the international limelight.
Through the years, the group has gone through some personel changes, yet Porter has always remained as lead singer and songwriter. In 1985, Rickets left the group and Donovan Brisset (who is currently lead singer of a local St. Louis band, Reggae At Will) took over for about two months before leaving for the States. At that time, David Isaacs (a well known Jamaican vocalist) stepped in and has remained an Ital until this day. Then around two years ago, original member Ronnie Davis also decided to leave, so at that time Porter and Isaacs went at it as a duo. But Porter, wanting another vocalist to compliment the group, recently added another member. On a recent stop over in St. Louis - in the midst of their latest North American tour - we discussed that and more, as I had the opportunity to speak with Porter, who’s a soft-spoken, righteous Rastaman.
“Yeah, Itals are touring right now,” began Porter, “to keep spreading the conscious vibes, you know, the positive vibes. Even if we don’t have a new album out, we love touring ‘cause the people keep coming to see Itals everytime. We do have a new album coming out on RAS, though, it’s called “Modern Age,” and hopefully it will be out sometime in the spring. So right now, we’re touring ‘til around Christmas, then we’ll go back to Jamaica. Then when the album’s done we’ll start touring again. We plan on touring all over, even hopefully going to Japan and South Africa.”
Porter continued on about the Itals and the group’s upcoming album. “Right now, the group Itals consists of David Isaacs, me and Kada, a new female vocalist. Our harmonies are real tight right now and I’m very happy with the sound we have. The Vitals, our back-up band, are again on the road with us. They also are from Jamaica, and are excellent musicians. They’ve been around eight or nine years now and they’re the regular set of players I generally take on the road with me.
“You know, of course, we’re still singing about Roots and Culture and Reality. The new songs [on “Modern Age”] have the Roots Radics and some different musicians, all cream of the crop musicians from Jamaica. We may also record a re-mix, you know, a do-over version of ‘In A Dis A Time.’ So look for that, too.
“With the Itals, I’m still generating the songs, and they’re still beautiful harmonies, beautiful music and still nice riddims. I remain the same from that time [the early days] ‘til now. You know, my music has always come from the roots - you see, there can never be a branch without the roots. We do try to bring other flavors into it, like dancehall and things and for this next album, Itals bring, unlike any other album, we have a mixture of songs on it, you know, ‘cause with different musicians come different styles, but it’s always the roots. See, the music I put out is just the music of the inspiration. The Itals’ music is always reality music. And if you hear the group now, with David and Kada singing harmony, you’ll really enjoy it.”
On his off days, Porter enjoys staying in shape through soccer and swimming, loves to watch basketball, and also is into meditation and reading the Bible. “You know,” Porter concludes, “from creation I’m a Rastaman. Without H.I.M., there is nothing that I could do. There is nowhere I could go. So I have to praise H.I.M. and give thanks and praises for everything, everytime.”
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