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Saturday, July 01, 2000

Dub Review - July 2000

Anima Sound System Hungarian Astronaut


Every Eastern European country seems to have its own reggae/dub band of one peculiar strain or another, usually arty, ethnic or abstract - perhaps in preparation for full cultural accession to the European Union. In Hungary it's the massively popular Anima Sound System who present themselves as "Bartok meets King Tubby in Transylvania, Gypsyland". No better compliment can be paid to this outfit than their regular quotation of the "difficult" composer that racial impurity has a very definite positive and fruitful effect on the creative production of sound. With an opening Kerouac (?) sample amidst pizzicato strings, a repetitive descending b-line and snapping snares, you could be anywhere. Perhaps the weakest ingredients are the drum patterns which soundly slightly old hat, but hopefully the creativity on display elsewhere will ensure their survival in the extended market.

Dennis Bovell I Wah Dub


Although Dennis "Blackbeard" Bovell is a true pioneer of British reggae and dub, examples of his work these days are unfortunately scarce. The release of Pressure Sounds' "Don't Call Us Immigrants" in May 2000, which was dominated by his influence, began to address this shameful situation. More excellent news is that Linton Kwesi Johnson's label is now host for one of Dennis' best instrumental dub sets dating back to 1980. Following its first appearance the work was perhaps eclipsed by the more brutal and spartan dub style which became predominant in the early eighties. Listening back now its laden with cultural jazzy touches, especially the input from Julio Finn's harmonica on the track "Steadie". Hopefully "Strictly Dubwize" and "Audio Active" are to follow shortly.

Junior Delgado No Baby Lion


Without doubt the most emotionally charged voice in the whole of reggae, Junior "Jux" Delgado has generated enough high quality material to be on a third chapter in the series which compiles his best work - "Treasure Found". In fact, Jux ran out of patience after the second set so selection on this one is down to long time friend and admirer Colin Moore, with the help of a true galaxy of reggae experts. Most of the tunes, which range over more than a decade, are Jux productions with the exception of some Pablos and Perrys, a Bunny Wailer, a Henry "Junjo" Lawes and a Rupie Edwards produced radical chant version of Johnny Clarke's "Everyday Wondering", here titled "Rasta Dreadlocks". Standout track though is an alternate take on the Jux classic "Tition" - "Jah Jah Say" - which splices through to the dubstrumental where we find Bobby Ellis' trumpet floating on top of the mix. Timeless stuff!

Larry Marshall/King Tubbys I Admire You In Dub


Like many of reggae's most famous names Larry Marshall was apprenticed at Clement Dodd's Studio One in the sixties. It was during this time he recorded the immortal "Nanny Goat", one of the tunes that was to define the emerging reggae beat, and a rhythm that is still versioned up until the present day. The seventies saw Larry linking up with Carlton Patterson for releases on his Black & White label. Carlton used Tubbys for versions and this newly rediscovered dub album of Larry's vocal set finds Tubby, Phillip Smart and the Professor all at the controls. First up is "Watergate Rock", one of the first ever tracks credited to King Tubby as an artist, embellished by the melodica of Bobby Kalphat this classic dub would surely be included on an "All Producers Tubby Best Of". Also around at the moment are several 7" repressings of some of the strongest Black & White dub cuts including the vocal/dub of this fine album.

Sugar Minott Ghetto-ology/Dub


First time out on CD for Sugar Minott's self-produced post-Studio One album, but this time the dub set comes with it - though not with vocal and dub back to back. Working with the Soul Syndicate band and with the mix completed by King Tubby and Prince Jammy, Sugar Minott recorded "Ghetto-ology" at the close of the seventies as the first release on his own Black Roots imprint. Aimed at the ghetto youth, its sufferers' style content struck a contemporary chord and ever since the album has been regarded with a certain affection by reggae fans. The sound of both vocals and dubs is by no means aggressive or punchy, in fact the production reflects Sugar's relaxed and easy style. Originally the album was issued in the UK by Trojan with a sleeve painting depicting the shelves of a Jamaican grocery store - a pity its not reproduced here, nevertheless a fine album and a welcome re-release.

Rico Man from Wareika


With a pedigree that lines him up with in the premier league of Jamaican musicians, Rico Rodriguez, like many of his compatriots, has still had to struggle to make a sensible living in music. A musical graduate of the Alpha School for Boys, Rico arrived in the UK in the early sixties and made a couple albums for Trojan. His full potential as a lead player did not arrive until the seventies when, during the "reggae boom" he cut the "Man from Wareika" album for Chris Blackwell's Island. Utilising many of the greatest reggae

musicians of the day the self-produced set contains 100% self-penned high quality instrumental tunes, mixed by Errol Thompson, Karl Pitterson and long time sidekick Dick Cuthell. The overall impression is of an album matching the standards set by the likes of Jackie Mittoo and Cedric Brooks for Studio One a decade or so earlier. These days Rico plays in the likes of the Jools Holland Big band and, more fittingly, Jazz Jamaica. He should have his own gig.

St.Germain Tourist

BLUE NOTE CD/LP 7243 5 25114

The fact that St.Germain accomplishes with ease a transfer from Laurent Garnier's techno-based F Communications imprint, implanting himself seamlessly within the historic Blue Note organisation, pays testament to his skilful deconstruction of genres. Variously known as a sampler of soul and blues loops and voices (some five or six years before the disgraceful Moby), the leader of a funky little jazz outfit or the pioneer of cool ambience, Ludovic Navarre enters this column due to the two superb dub inflected excursions featured on this new set,. The first of which, "Montego Bay Spleen", is adorned with the impeccable guitar artistry of Ernest Ranglin, and the second, "La Goutte D'Or", versions Winston Riley's "Stalag" rhythm, with a sweet interplay of vibes, flute and percussion. On "Sure Thing" we find John Lee Hooker vocal and guitar samples from Jack Nitzsche's soundtrack for Dennis Hooper's "The Hot Spot". The release of this new album will ensure that Ludovic Navarre leapfrogs (sic) Eric Cantona to the top spot as greatest living Frenchman.

Sizzla The Enemies Are Confounded


Sizzla Live and Give Praises


Get 'em whilst they're hot! Of course its absolutely impossible to even attempt to keep up with the tide of vinyl that sweeps into the UK from Jamaica on a weekly basis. But to avoid touching down on some tunes now and again would surely be negligent. Super righteous Sizzla has so far spat on major label deals which means he comes up with gems like these two. The Exterminator side is just a great tune full stop, whilst Solgie's mixing job on the dub of the Harmony House piece - "Silekshan II" - is enough to convince that classic dubbing style and continued studio innovation is here to stay.

Systemwide Osmani Stepper EP


The militant dub tsunami sweeps on and the USA's West Coast BSI is on its crest. Formed as an antidote to all that Pacific North West rock nonsense, since 1997 Systemwide have developed out of the studio and into a performing unit with drum & bass, DJs and vocalists, decks and keys. Here the title track is remixed in two versions by Alpha & Omega, whilst John the Rootsman reconstructs "Contrapositive" in fierce style. BSI seems to be developing a dub oriented manifesto which makes them a label worth checking. A Systemwide vs. Muslimgauze 10" vinyl piece should also be around about now.

Linval Thompson Ride On Dreadlocks 1975-77


Various The Park Is Mine


Compared to some of his Bunny Lee stablemates like Johnny Clarke, Cornell Campbell and Delroy Wilson, Linval Thompson did not have a great voice. What distinguished the young singer was his lyrics, which more often than not related to the struggle of youth in the ghetto, specifically dreads. Here Blood and Fire continue their now established, and it must be said irresistible, tradition of running vocal and dub together on eleven of Linval's tunes from the middle seventies - all with storming mixes from Tubby's desk. Highlights are the version of "Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks" which has DJ U Roy intervening with his wonderful "Joyful Locks" toast, and best of all the sonically spooky "Cool Down Your Temper" which entreats the youth to chill. Linval went on to help initiate the emerging dancehall style, especially via his sponsorship of Junjo whose productions dominated the early eighties.

"The Park Is Mine" is a compilation of Bunny Lee produced vocal sides from the early to late seventies. Lots of fun to be had here by matching the hopelessly confused twenty track listing with the actual order of appearance, then matching all the vocals with the versions on all those dub albums you bought without knowing the source!

Webcam Weaving


Webcam is the solo side project for Fred Luneau who is also involved in Micro:mega. As owner of a recording studio for a long time Fred has been fascinated by the mixing desk and its peripherals as a means of manipulating sound - a "dub project" was obviously the way to work this out of his system. The influence of Jan Gabarek brought in Benoit Ricard on multiple saxes, whilst the shadow of Red Snapper resulted in Philippe Maynard on double bass. Although the production's lineage can be clearly traced back to Laswell-style approach, there's more of a live feel to the best of the end results. The more reggae or rock based tracks turn out to be the weaker as the clich├ęs begin to grate. Nevertheless Fred is on his way, a top EP rather than album - nouvelle dub!