The Abyssinians released three further hit singles in 1971. First up was Declaration of Rights, and never has a call to revolution sounded so sweet and heartfelt. The equally evocative Jerusalem also appeared in 1971, and completing a quartet of hits for the year was Let My Days Be Long. Over the next few years, the trio continued releasing excellent singles, both on Clinch, as well as recording for other producers. However, in a musical scene renowned for its prolific output, the Abyssinians recordings were now to come few and far between, at least by Jamaican standards. But what records they were: 1972's Leggo Beast, a simmering blend of deep roots and soul, and the deeply religious Yim Mas Gan, excellently produced by Lloyd Matador Daly, were just some of the more notable.
The trio finally cut its debut album, Forward Onto Zion, in 1976, with producer Clive Azul Hunt. Including hits, re-recordings of older classics, and new material, the record remains a roots masterpiece and brought the group international acclaim. Inevitably, their follow-up, Arise, suffered in comparison. Released in 1978 through a deal with Bob Marley's Tuff Gong label, it did bring with it the hit single Hey You, but in truth, while not a bad album by any account, it just didn't hold a candle to its predecessor.
Perhaps this was due to the increasingly strained relationship between the trio. Soon after the recording was finished, Collins quit the group and was immediately replaced by Carlton Manning, now making the Abyssinians a family affair. In 1979, they gave a breathtaking performance at Reggae Sunsplash; the group then folded the next year. Gone, but not forgotten, the Forward album appeared later in 1980, bringing with it a variety of rare gems. Donald Manning briefly pursued a solo career under the name Donald Abyssinian. Then, in the late '80s, Collins resurrected a new Abyssinians and released two singles, African Princess and Swing Low, reactivating the Clinch label at the same time.
Meanwhile, the Mannings re-formed their own competing Abyssinians. The return of the group(s) prompted the Heartbeat label to release an excellent best-of album, Satta Massagana, in 1993. France's MusicDisc considerately gathered up non-Clinch material for The Best of the Abyssinians the following year. Two sublime dub sets, Tabou's Satta Dub and Heartbeat's Declaration of Dub, appeared in 1998. The Abyssinians promptly released a new album, Reunion, the same year, which featured the Mannings and Collins indeed reunited. However, it was a short-lived reconciliation and the next year Collins, with a new lineup in tow, released Last Days, credited to Bernard Collins the Abyssinians. ~ Jo-Ann Greene, Rovi
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