Bob Marley & The Wailers Catch A Fire
TUFF GONG 314 548 635-2
The first release in a major re-issue programme for Jah Bob and The Wailers. This actually comes from Tuff Gong via Island and its parent company Universal, in other words do not be surprised as the merchandising flyer drops out of the slick packaging. It's a double pack sold as the debut release for the original Jamaican recordings. The word "recordings" is used tactically as there is some debate as to whether there was ever an actual release released for domestic Jamaican consumption prior to the Island overdubs. Instead we have a remix from the master tapes by Errol Brown, a largely unrecognised dubmaster outside the world of reggae cognoscenti. The overdubs which made the product saleable to a mainstream audience are excluded. I have no arguments with the overdubbed album which was a monster whatever the pedigree. Errol Brown would have been better employed to provide us with dubs of the tracks, using all available channels. Now that would have been a treat.
KING OF KINGS 7" PRE-RELEASE
To pay any kind of attention to the mass of new reggae dancehall pre-releases which still flood in on a weekly basis from Jamaica would require a specially honed critical faculty as well as a weekly page twice this size. Occasional trips will fail to keep you up to date with what's happening, it's a full-time occupation. This tune by Ce'cile on the Front Row rhythm wherein she claims that the present crop of DJs hold no charms for her has sparked off a clutch of answer records in the style of fifties r'n'b. So Elephant Man insists that Ce'cile must make a "New Application" on one piece, whilst Beenie Man riposts with "Counteract" and Sizzla with "Give it to Them" on two further cuts. Miss Ce'cile keeps a firm handle on proceedings with credits as producer to all the versions. The rhythm is a monster though I'm still searching for a dub version on the same label.
Dub Syndicate Acres of Space
LION & ROOTS L&R005CD
As the needle proverbially drops on to the record its obviously Dub Syndicate and performing at peak. Now housed on Style Scott's own imprint rather than at On U Sound, the drummer also takes more control of the development of the ban's material only handing over to Sherwood for the final mix. Moving on from 1998's wittily titled "Fear of a Green Planet" the usual approach of voices sampled from reggae archives is now mostly replaced. This time by a stellar line up of voices from the Jamaican scene, both contemporary and classic - Luciano, Capleton and Big Youth. Whilst relatively new names Little David and Jah Bless acquit themselves admirably in such the company of such luminaries. But on first listen it’s the instrumentals which emerge as the strongest tracks, especially when the harmonica of Little Axe's Alan Glen glides alongside guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith's subtly applied wah wah pedal on "Well Cold". It would be a wonderful thing to see the band in action at some of the festivals through this summer.
The Heptones Nightfood Ina Party Time
TRENCH TOWN TTCD0046
Twenty tracks of magisterial reggae from its most creative trio, combining the two albums cut for Island in 1976 - "Nightfood" and "Party Time" - now reissued on their own label. Perversely, the waves of success created by the Wailers failed to touch the Heptones. Leroy Sibbles defection to pursue a solo career around the time did not help. With time most of this material has qualified for the status of reggae standard and the everlasting rhythms have attained immortality through endless recycling from inevitably less worthy artists. The quality of songwriting is superb, so much so as a cover version of the Four Tops' "Baby I Need Your Loving" weighs in light compared the trios' own material. "Party Time" kicks in with the classic Black Ark battery of effects on the backing track, and the brass arrangement on the cover of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" stands as one of the finest moments of Perry's production catalogue.
Headmix Reach Out
UNIVERSAL EGG WWCD034
Part of the biddly-bong diddly-dong travelling dub massive, Headmix are a real band still on a mission to educate. This new album is produced by Al Scott, also responsible for sets from Eliza Carthy and The Levellers. So the emphasis is largely on the clarity of the vocal and lead instruments, primarily the "speed fiddle" (?). Though no doubt a rousing act live, particulary on the festival scene, somehow this amalgam of wistful vocal, digeridoo and polemic evokes involuntary feelings of nostalgia for those golden days of Thatcher when everybody's prejudices were much more certain.
King Tubby Original King Key Dub
A French label now more active in the field of the reissuing of "classic" material from the seventies, though still lagging behind the likes of Blood & Fire, Pressure Sounds, Heartbeat etc. in both the presentational and quality control areas. This crisp early eighties selection lies in the ownership of one Joseph Jackson a.k.a. Ranking Joe, where the DJ utilises the Roots Radics in the main with the odd track from the Gladiators Band, but in the main the tracks remain uncredited. Not unusual for the label as they have a tendency to stay light on information - especially credits. Nevertheless these are classic clean mixes from the hands of the master, with the standout tracks featuring a militant brass sound left over from the previous decade and heavy drops marking out the Radics' inputs. However, it's way down the lists of Tubby "must haves".
Llwybr Llaethog STWFF
NEUD nid DEUD NND001
I am glad to report that Llwybr Llaethog, those grand old men of the industrial dub noise cut up scene, have lost none of their edge, attack, brutality or least of all, Welshness. A new album, their sixth. on a new label, their own, "SWWFF" remains as deliberately obscure lyrically as much of their previous work. So LL still need to be tackled sonically by us non-Welsh speakers. Although techno and drum and bass have become the predominant sounds, the influence of hip hop and the reggae masters still remain. The melodica driven "That's Better Dub" stands up against the best of Alpha & Omega. Long time fans of the band will not disappointed.
Mad Professor Dubbing You Crazy
Mad Professor and the Mad Men Band Dub You Crazy with Love
Neal Fraser doesn't baulk at getting into bed with the new corporate Babylonian in the form of Alan McGhee's latest incarnation, the publicly-owned Poptones label. At the risk of finally suffering from over-exposure as against the usual minimal interest, the Prof opts for a compilation sourced from his legendary "Dub Me Crazy" series. Through the early eighties and on through the decade he was one of the few to maintain any interest in dub and the more cultural side of reggae, and this selection pays testament to his whacky dedication. But closest to Neal was UK Lovers Rock, which he championed most famously with Sandra Cross and her version of a Stylistics' tune reworked as "Country Living". Usually perceived as a lower form of reggae life, Lovers Rock is overdue a sensible reappraisal despite an excellent compilation from David Rodigan on Rewind Selecta from a few years ago. "Dub You Crazy with Love" is a follow up to a first volume of Lovers versioned released back in 1996, but perhaps now the time is right. If all that new reggae, hip hop and r'n'b is too edgy then this is a perfect chill out album to carry into the summer whether the original versions are familiar or not.
Mission Control Dub Showcase
It would be tempting to dismiss this the Poptones in Dub imprint as the mere vanity project of Alan McGhee's wife who, together with Xan the singer from Mission Control, made up the late Technique - on of the final flowerings of Creation Records. But there's something about that girly voice, with an almost uninterested delivery a la lovers rock 1980's stylee, that just provides the sweetest of sucker punches every time. Its that effect at work here. So that when Lee Perry guests on "The Last Trumpet" it comes as an unwelcome intrusion. Mixed in a suitably restrained style by the Mad Professor, the dub follows the vocal thereby avoiding an overdose of those vocals. The issue for Poptones is not the quality of the product but the perennial question for anything hinting vaguely at reggae/dub - how do we market this?
Noiseshaper Prelaunch Sequence
DIFFERENT DRUMMER DIFCD14
Birmingham's Different Drummer label is quietly building up a strong track record of dub infected releases. Axel Hirn and Flo Fleischmann, both from Vienna, now reside in Berlin where they formed Noiseshaper in 1999. Dub Syndicate and Zion Train formed the templates from which many of these teutonic dubsters take their inspiration. Putting together a dub poet from Chile, a blues singer from Louisiana, a soul singer from Cape Town might tend towards desperation rather than inspiration but it works in this assured and seamless debut. For the first half of the set at least, the second half launches into some less satisfactory experimental noodlings which may have worked better in a different context.
Static Dub for the Modern World
Not exactly clear where these tracks are arriving from, are they dubs to vocals versions which can be found elsewhere? This would be good to know as the album is exactly what it says. A stellar line up delivers rhythms new and old in the classic styles, keeping drum and bass at the heart of the mix! In classic JA style each of the fifteen tunes is credited as being "adapted", in other words stolen, and the publishing claimed for the producer! But I find little complaint when the music comes courtesy of Mafia & Fluxy, Sly & Robbie, Touter Harvey and Ian Lewis of Inner Circle and Dean Fraser, Nambo and Chico - the Ras Brass, and amongst the engineers mixes by Scientist, Bunny Tom Tom and Gussie P. There's probably an unprintable story hiding in the generation of this album which brings us a sort of "Big People's Dub".
Linval Thompson & Friends Rockers from Channel One
Not just another trawl through the bottomless pit that is the Trojan "back catalogue", but a song, DJ version and dub sequencing of some of Linval Thompson's heavier self-produced late seventies sides. The tunes were all mixed at Tubby's but recorded at Channel One through 1978 and 1979, so the relentless driving rhythms are generated by the studio's house band the Revolutionaries whilst the toasts come from Ranking Dread, Big Joe and Trinity. Concerns are all militant and cultural as might be expected from the vintage of the originals. Quality artwork and sleeve notes from Chris Prete of reggaezine "Let's Catch The Beat" round off one of the best revival releases from Trojan for some time - despite the inevitable presence of Linval's old chesnut - "I Love Marijuana"!
Various Studio One Soul
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS SJRCD/LP50
Jamaican sound systems were originated on the jazz and r'n'b 78s and 45s imported from the southern states and across America by the likes of Duke Reid, Clement Dodd and Vincent "King" Edwards. No surprise then that one way or another the indigenous music of black America proved to be the key external influence in the development of Jamaican music - and remains so to this day. This album documents just a handful of the songs which were heard, largely on radio, by Jamaicans in the sixties and seventies. To take the tunes into the sound system they had to be re-created domestically and no-one did a better job than Mr.Dodd at Studio One. And oh! - that bass! Although not wanting to quibble too much about the compilation, how the Mad Lads' version of Curtis Mayfield's "Ten to One" can be excluded may just be my own personal prejudice, after all the sublime voice of Cornell Campbell of the Eternals delivers "Queen of the Minstrels" straight off a silver cloud. Starting with Leroy Sibbles from the Heptones versioning Charles Wright's "Express Yourself" and eighteen tracks later ending with Willie Williams mutating McFadden and Whitehead's "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" with typical Jamaican panache into "No One Can Stop Us", it’s a lot less obvious that the label's last set "Studio One Rockers", and probably their best selection so far.