SLY & ROBBIE & THE TAXI GANG with BITTY MCLEAN – THE LOVE RESTART TOUR – FEB 2019
Sly Dunbar (drums) and Robbie Shakespeare (bass), the arrangers, producers, songwriters, session musicians and developers of raw talent, are widely acknowledged as ‘the world’s greatest rhythm section’. ‘The Riddim Twins’ have been together for over 35 years….between them they are estimated to have played on or produced over 200,000 recordings. Their list of collaborators is a veritable who’s who – there’s every prominent Jamaican artist from Beenie Man to Sean Paul to Peter Tosh, Don Carlos, Michael Rose, Junior Reid, Shaggy, Cherine Anderson, Bitty Mclean, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Ini Kamoze; and they have played with and produced artists such as Ben Harper, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones, Grace Jones, Paul McCartney, Carlos Santana, Sinéad O’Connor, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, UB40’s Al Campbell, Joe Cocker, No Doubt, the Fugees, Michael Franti and countless others.
Sly and Robbie, affectionately known as the Riddim Twins, are perhaps the premiere architects of the modern sound of Jamaican music. Building on the cornerstones of Studio 1 and other early pioneers of the Jamaican recording industry, Sly and Robbie became the driving force behind the fabled Channel 1 sound that dominated reggae throughout the late 70’s and early 80’s. Subsequent work, most notably with Peter Tosh and Black Uhuru, set the pace for the changing sound of reggae in the post-Bob Marley era.
Sly and Robbie also have an extensive tour history on the world stage. Their group the Taxi Gang includes a horn section and features an ultimate lineup of top Jamaican recording musicians. Sly & Robbie and the Taxi Gang have recently been top performers on the Tribute to the Legends, the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Reggae in the Desert and Reggae on the River in the US. They tour North America, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and China. When Sly and Robbie and the Taxi Gang perform their music is far outside of the box – jazz Reggae – very courageous and experimental. Theirs is reggae music at its highest heights.
Touring as a singer with Sly & Robbie & the Taxi Gang on this February / March US tour is Bitty Mclean. The youngest of six children to Easton and Leonie (nee Reynolds), Delroy McLean was nicknamed “Bitty” due to his small stature. As a teenager he performed with local sound systems and after studying sound engineering at college, he was employed by UB40 as an engineer and producer, and occasionally also sang with the band.
A much loved talent with an astonishing voice and unnerving ability to pen a pop smash, McLean launched himself into the high end of the British charts. In the early 1990s he had a string of Top Ten hits with cover versions of songs including The Shirelles’ Dedicated to the One I Love (UK No. 6) and Fats Domino’s It Keeps Rainin” (Tears from My Eyes) (1993), which was his biggest UK hit, peaking at UK No.2. McLean’s song “It Keeps Rainin’ (Tears from My Eyes)” topped the charts in New Zealand and the Netherlands in 1993.
Born in 1972, Bitty’s earliest memories were punctuated with the music he would hear courtesy of his father’s sound system, where he started by singing over Jamaican Dub and Instrumental riddims. In 1992, McLean not only co-produced but played and sang on UB40’s hugely successful album Promises And Lies which sold 8 million copies. Bitty’s own recordings including It Keeps Rainin, Dedicated To The One I Love and Here I Stand notched up 3 UK top ten singles by 1994 selling over 1 million records. The subsequent years saw Bitty accrue a fearsome catalogue of top 30 singles and he performed on three UK arena tours supporting UB40.
In 2004, he released the album On Bond Street KGN. JA., which featured his vocals recorded over vintage Tommy McCook and Duke Reid-produced Treasure Isle rhythms from the rocksteady era, most with new lyrics of his own, but also using David Ruffin’s “Walk Away From Love” and David Gates’ Make it with You. Bitty complemented these 35 year old tracks with such elegance it was hard to believe he was not there when the tracks were originally recorded.
Bitty followed up with a major collaboration with the worlds’ greatest rhythm section, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. The trio recorded Movin’ On, a brand new studio album in Kingston, Jamaica. Featuring the hits Real Thing, Lately and Let Them Talk, Movin’ On came out in 2009 to widespread critical acclaim, as the New York Times hailed it as the best Reggae album of that year.
McLean and Sly & Robbie toured Japan, Europe and Morocco in 2008 and 2009. Bitty went back to the studio and recorded a follow up to Movin’ On entitled The Taxi Sessions. The Taxi Sessions blends Sly and Robbie’s classic hard rockers and rub a dub riddims recorded during the 80‘s with a first rate line up of Jamaican musicians with Bitty’s trademark voice. Featuring the Riddim Twins’ distinctive sound along with Bitty’s songwriting and vocals, The Taxi Sessions not only reaffirms, but also solidifies Bitty McLean as one of Reggae’s premier singers and songwriters, as exemplified by superb tracks such as Blessings By The Score, Brotherman or A Step Closer. They also released a live DVD recorded with Sly & Robbie and the Taxi Gang, during their concert in Paris in May 2009.
In 2018, Bitty released the “Love Restart” album. Produced with Sly & Robbie and Guillaume Bougard, and mastered at Abbey Road, Love Restart came out August 21, 2018 on TABOU1’s bandcamp store and was distributed worldwide starting September 2018.
Bitty toured Europe with Sly & Robbie in August 2018 to promote the Love Restart album.