Big Youth Dread Locks Dread
Although some earlier albums, such as "Screaming Target" and "Reggae Phenomenon", are generally held to be Jah Youth's finest outings this set released in 1975 on Virgin's Frontline imprint is the one held most dear by many of those who came to reggae via punk. The back cover portrays the Youth in confrontational pose with locks over the front of his face and baring the red, green and gold inlays which Keith Hudson had kindly supplied. Tracks such "Lightning Flash (Weak Heart Drop)" and "Train to Rhodesia" perfectly captured the rebel spirit abroad at the time, but these days some of the other instrumentals stand out as newly discovered harp-driven rare grooves ("Big Youth Special" and "Dread Organ"). Other DJ offerings also out again on the same label are Tapper Zukie's "MPLA", wherein the immortal line is delivered "MPLA - natty going on a holiday", and I Roy's underrated Channel One set "Musical Shark Attack".
Israel Vibration Dub Combo
All selections come from the vocal group's two immediately previous vocal albums on the label - "Jericho" and "Pay The Piper". Produced by the Radic's Flabba Holt in Jamaica, with Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson and Chico Chin providing the welcome horns, its all dubbed up by Jim Fox back in the USA. But the whole is considerably less than the parts as the original tunes make no links and the action in the dubs is perfunctory.
Jah Warrior/Peter Broggs Jah Golden Throne Dubwise
Various Jah Warrior Showcase Vol.2
JAH WARRIOR JWCD019
Peter Broggs is a name better known to the hardcore end of reggae fandom. This Jah Warrior (a.k.a. Steve Mosco) production is versioned from the sister vocal album, which appeared on the label last year. Broggs worked at Studio One, with Prince Far I and Sly & Robbie, and the first release on the RAS label bore his name. The vocal album was assured and mature, attributes both reflected here in the dub companion where the live horn sound stands out not only for the quality of the delivery but also for the rarity of such an occurrence - who else but those Crispy Horns again!
On volume two of his own showcase series, Steve Mosco brings together contributions from an impressive line-up of vintage vocalists, including Prince Alla, Earl Sixteen, Alton Ellis and the criminally underused Winston McAnuff. As per usual in the tried and tested showcase format the dub follows the tune all with a guarantee of heavyweight steppers style.
The Mighty Diamonds Right Time
The Royals Pick Up The Pieces
TAMOKI WAMBESI TWCD1004
"Vital Dub" (CDFL5) the companion to the vocal set "Right Time" was reviewed a few issues back in this column, the point being that although these days it's often a case of dub for dub's sake this is not the case here. Without doubt The Diamonds best collection and often rightly hailed as amongst reggae's finest vocal group sets - and there are many. Recorded at Channel One the songs are delivered over a bunch of rhythms that have received version galore, the Diamonds vocals were never sweeter, their lyrics never better crafted. Timeless, peerless and unreservedly recommended.
Another great vocal group but one that unfortunately did not experience as much success as the Mighty Diamonds. Perhaps because leader Roy Cousins also spent time as a postman in Spanish Town, a jukebox supplier, record shop owner, producer, engineer and label owner! "Pick Up The Pieces" was first released as a single on Studio One as the group was struggling through the sixties, though Cousins went on to take control of his musical affairs. This tune, a smokily delivered plaint in the style of Burning Spear or the Abyssinians, and the collection of largely sufferers' material that surrounds it remain his finest work.
The Skatalites Herb Dub - Collie Dub
In 1975, stand-up bass player of the original Skatalites Lloyd Brevett reunited the remaining core members of that legendary band for two sets of sessions: the first at Lee 'Scratch' Perry's Black Ark studio; the second at Aquarius. A year later two albums were released in very limited numbers on the Jam Sounds label. This set is the King Tubby mixes of the dubs from the Black Ark cuts; the rest were mixed on the spot at Herman Chin-Loy's Aquarius Studios.
The original inspiration for these sessions was the drumming that provided the beating heart of the marathon chanting and reasoning sessions held at rasta camps in and around Kingston, at such locations as Wareika Hill and Bull Bay. Also, since the Skatalites first time out as a recording outfit funk had hit the Caribbean in a big way. So on this welcome re-release we find the dubmeister King Tubby becoming the funkmeister with his phattest collection of versions for dancers on one volume. The drum mixes are relentless, ferocious, pounding affairs especially the six minute version of "Whispering Grass" (Yes - that "Whispering Grass"!) which is worth the price of entry alone. Released on vinyl only due to the brevity of the set at just over thirty three minutes but nevertheless essential.
Tsé Ghost Dub
A label set up by French hardcore technohead Laurent Ho to explore some "non-dancefloor" directions. Although there is a clearer debt to dub here than on other contemporary click and cut excursions, the music is equally as rubbed down, grainy, distant and on occasions subtly brutal. The feeling of the music traces ghosts, disappeared people and ended relationships in constant drift. The more lo-fi this ersatz genre becomes the more attractive and persuasive its charms become. Fans of Nurse With Wound and Coil can begin the pilgrimage here and journey via Chain Reaction through Rhythm & Sound to end eventually with Studio One.
Various 500% Dynamite
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS SJRLP/CD55
It's the "no formula" formula once more as dub meets ska meets dancehall meets ... Or perhaps the formula is just "this is what we like to play in the dance down at Soul Jazz"? Either way this label's proudest claim is bringing all these Jamaican genres to new audiences who thrill to the discovery. Star track is Freddie McGregor's "Natural Collie", fittingly cut for Earl "Chinna " Smith's High Times label, though the chilled quality of the tune really demanded inclusion the 12" version to reach full stretch-out potential. Also weighing in heavy dubwize are Joe Gibbs', or should we say Erroll Thompson's, "Dub 3" and Pablo's classic "East of the River Nile" from the Black Ark. Whilst the customary rare groove slot is occupied by (Harry) Mudie's All Stars' "Loran's Dance". Though how Byron Lee keeps sneaking through the door and onto these compilations is still beyond my comprehension.
Various Joe Gibbs Anthology - Love of the Common People 1967 - 1979
Despite the presence of a bunch of overfamiliar compilation fodder this double CD collection, which spans over twenty years of Jamaican musical history from rocksteady through to reggae, must rank as the best collection from this most prolific of producers. If you have never heard material from MC legends Count Machuki or Sir Lord Comic then check them here, in addition to Shorty the President's hilarious "Natty pass him GCE" and Prince Far I's elemental "Heavy Manners". Top notch vocal sides are gathered from the Heptones, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, Leo Graham, Lee Perry and Ken Parker to name but a few. It is noteworthy that the credits on this 45 track release are a feast of comprehensive detail - probably the result of Mr.Gibbs being put out of business in the eighties after a run in with the publishers of a tune versioned by J.C.Lodge! So an excellent starter for those unfamiliar with the span and quality of the man's catalogue, but true dub fans still await the serious compilation which still lurks somewhere in the producer's vaults.
Various Below the Radar - the Best of Wordsound Dub
Various Ambient Dub
At one time there was a word common in reggae parlance - upful, which meant just what you might think, joyful, uplifting, revelatory, cheerful etc. I suppose the antonym to upful would be downful, which is a particularly appropriate description for this release. Nowhere can I find a better argument for the programming individual tracks by a DJ, radio or dancehall, for most the tracks on this album stand alone as solid pieces, albeit downtempo and occasionally slurred and over-atmospheric. I hesitate in listing any of the tracks in an attempt not to over elaborate this point. But collected together this really is a depressing experience. For some this could be a recommendation?
Various Firehouse Revolution (King Tubby's Productions In The Digital Era 1985-1989)
PRESSURE SOUNDS PSCD/LP
By the mid-eighties Prince Jammy had not only graduated from King Tubby's studio but had begat the monstrous "Sleng Teng" rhythm, which reproduced itself geometrically through the rest of the decade. Back down in Waterhouse Tubby rebuilt his studio, situated in the heart of the Kingston ghetto known locally as Firehouse, encouraging some of the younger talented youths to the mixing desk and guiding them through their engineering duties.
Here are sixteen tunes that Tubby essentially executive produced from a period that is often overlooked by reggae fans, but slowly the collectors market is starting to acknowledge the value of these forgotten gems. Opening with three cuts of the Anthony Red Rose's 'Tempo' rhythm the album then sampling some of the cream of the studio's works from between 1985 to 1989. "Crank Angle Part 2" a rhythm version of King Kong's "A.I.D.S." is perhaps the most startling selection with its helicopter intro prefiguring the drum & bass infatuation with the sample by almost ten years, followed by a repeated synth bass line of gargantuan proportion. There's a King Tubby mix on a version of the 'Sleng Teng' rhythm called 'Under Me Fat Thing' and contributions from Little John, Johnny Osbourne, Tinga Stewart and Lloyd Hemmings with a good slice of brutally minimalist dub action. Watch out for others to follow in reviving this neglected era.