The “iron-man” of the reggae scene in Cleveland, Ohio is without question, Carlos Jones. Carlos’ journey is a history of Cleveland reggae itself. He started out as a sideman (percussion/vocals) with the band I-Tal in the late 70’s. Their contribution to Cleveland’s musical history cannot be overlooked. Even though there were earlier local reggae bands forming out of the Jamaican communities in the city, I-Tal brought reggae to the masses with their unique, rock influenced reggae sound, their shows having an almost "Grateful Dead"- like atmosphere, packing clubs with ecstatic fans hypnotized by the seductive and mystical rhythms and socio-political messages. I-Tal mostly toured the mid-west and east coast, and had one full LP release in 1981 simply titled, I-Tal. Being one of the first American reggae bands in the country, they were the first live reggae experience for many people, playing the clubs, colleges, and festivals in the region.
After having been a sideman for about five years, Carlos began to come into his own as a songwriter and onstage presence. In 1984, an offshoot made up of 5 of the original I-Tal members formed, called First Light. Jones was the principle songwriter and became front man of the group. First Light achieved a kind of rock star-like status in its popularity, with its powerful and eclectic brand of music, which mixed rock, funk, blues and reggae, and also had a reputation for being a pretty hard-partying bunch of guys that liked being where the action was. Performing over a large part of the country, they seemed poised to break into the national spotlight. The band had an unprecedented run all the way up into the late 90’s, with several independent releases: debuting with a 3-song EP on vinyl called "Musical Uprising" in 1985 and then following with two full length CDs: "Meltdown" in 1987, and "Groove Telepathy" in 1994. There were also two “cassette only” recordings, "Live at the Empire" and "The Official Bootleg" which were both released in 1991.
By the mid-90s, feeling the need to return to a rootsier sound than First Light was known for, Carlos formed a stripped-down, mostly acoustic, four-piece combo which he named Strictly Roots, which would later be changed to P.L.U.S. (the Peace Love Unity Syndicate) now more commonly known as The PLUS Band. After doing both projects for a number of years, Carlos decided to make The PLUS Band his full-time pursuit and First light disbanded in May of 1998. He has been on a mission since then to carry the message of peace, unity, consciousness and the joy of reggae vibrations to all who will listen. As a first order of business, Carlos released a 14-song solo outing called “Peace Love & Unity”. It was a lo-fi but well crafted effort recorded on a 4-track deck in his home, which saw moderate local distribution. This served as a re-introduction to his fan base as a solo artist, and would provide material for the band’s first full-length CD release, “Roots With Culture” which would come in 2004.
"Full Circle, A Retrospective” was released in 2000 on Little Fish Records, a fledgling indie label run by Larry Koval, who signed on as manager for Jones in 1998. This basically is a compendium of tracks pulled from various recordings spanning Jones’ career, including some of his solo work, and included some previously released and un-released First Light tracks as well. On it, you can hear a live version of the anthemic "Where Reggae Comes From", complete with manic crowd chanting, recorded at The Empire Club during the height of the First Light era.
In April of 2004, the band’s first full length CD, Roots With Culture was released after much anticipation and it did not disappoint. Described in The Beat magazine as “a powerful, 14-track collection of slinky grooves and thundering bass lines, Roots With Culture delivers a message of peace and harmony, with Jones’ heartfelt vocals leading the way, all wrapped in a production that can stand up to the best of them.” “It will undoubtedly, over time, become a staple in most reggae collections.” (Chuck Foster - Reggae Update, The Beat Magazine – Vol. 24, no.1, June 2005)
Carlos, and his Peace, Love, Unity Syndicate (the PLUS Band) have matured as songwriters, musicians and performers, giving energetic and uplifting performances for an ever-expanding following, Since their humble beginnings in 1998, they have been awarded “best of” in their category every year. They were voted Best Live Act (overall) in Cleveland at the 2004 Scene Music Awards, and in 2007 were awarded permanent "All Star" status in the Free Times Music Awards. They maintain a hectic pace of gigging at clubs, private events and festivals, playing out every single weekend. As a result, the band’s soulful rhythms and heartfelt message have made it one of Cleveland’s top draws for more than a decade.
2008 will see Carlos celebrating a musical career spanning 30 years, as well his 50th birthday. The band is planning to release its second full length CD, which is currently in the works, and some of Carlos’ music is featured on the soundtrack to a film, which recently premiered at The Sundance Film Festival called NorthStarr. When asked about his plans for the future, he’ll simply tell you, “The future is right now. I just want to keep on playing this music from my heart for as long as I’m able to, and keep the positive vibration alive for all those who can dig it, ya know? As long as I’m able to continue to do what I love, what more could you want out of life? The PLUS band’s official website is www.carlosjones.com