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Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Dub Review - January 2002

Alpha & Omega Serious Joke


For the last couple of years A&O have been busy remixing or being remixed. Quite clearly they were at the forefront of the UK's nu-dub scene for a number of years, and in a genre that is distinguishes by version on version on version their sound was unique and instantly recognisable. Which left A&O with a problem - how to move forward? This new set is obviously a watershed for them an attempt to move on. "The Dub Is Out There" is exactly what the title implies - a version of the "X Files" whilst the title track is "Peer Gynt" in dub! Resident A&O vocalist Nishka reappears whilst other guests are Vibronics and Messian Dread. There's a lot more textures, samples and overall variation in these new tracks whilst the loping drum patterns and driving bass retain their signature sound.

Elephant Man Log On


Number One DJ in Jamaica last year, by some distance, was Elephant Man - the Energy God, mentored by Bounty Killa and, like Harry Toddler, a one time member of the Scare Dem Crew now solo. A follow up to last year's "Comin' 4 You", this set opens with the enormous title track "Log On", the pachyderm boy's chat on 2 Hard's still burning "Liquid" rhythm, and continues through another twenty one tunes produced by the cream of Jamaica's elite panzer attack division of young producers - Baby G, Wee Pow, John John, Snow Cone, Flabba, Scatta, JR, Goofy, CJ etc. And you can't help wondering - are Timbaland and Co. tuned into this? Guests include Ce'cile, who on occasion has been known to ram in the dance with this particular DJ!, Ward 21, Ky-Mani Marley, Buju Banton and Wayne Marshall. There's a sleeve photo of Elephant Man in a rage with a white powder smearing the side of his face - its on the back of the album! Next!

Lee "Scratch" Perry Jamaican E.T.


Lee Perry Best of Lee Perry


The sheer impenetrability of Perry's post-Ark solo work is beginning to reach "Finnegan's Wake" proportions. His themes continue as God and self, death and immortality, power and impotence all exposed in the style of a Daily Star columnist on a never-ending terminal acid trip. On this genuinely new release for the reborn Trojan label, Scratch adopts a new conceit - voicing parallel vocals in left and right channels. This conspires to make the results twice as confusing or, if you really prefer, twice as long and ten times more tedious. "Tedious" is a word the producer once understood and with Junior Murvin employed to great effect in more disciplined days.

Nearly the whole stretch of Perry's Jamaican career is reasonably well represented on the vinyl reissue of a solo "Best Of" set. Unfortunately the sixteen tracks cram onto the single piece of vinyl. But even after "City Too Hot" and "Bionic Rats", albeit in their shorter versions, plus the truly magical "Soul Fire" as standouts, there's little filler here. The new set will inevitably sell well - but here's a perfect opportunity to compare and contrast

Ras Alla & the Spears Bosrah


This month's revival selection is a 1976 Tapper Zukie production with a mix from Tubbys. A classic slice of heavyweight roots with an immediately identifiable Black Ark rhythm churning away at an impossibly languorous pace which get a full work out on the dub by the Intemidaters (sic). Ras Alla, better known as Prince Alla to you and me, is one those singers who rarely cut anything other than a strictly righteous tune and here you will find him at his impassioned best. Two other equally worthy seven inch pieces from Stars are also around and recommended - Alla's "Funeral" and Junior Ras & the Spears "Babylon Fall".

Bim Sherman The Need To Live


Throughout the history of On-U Sound the late Bim Sherman recorded only two solo albums for the label, 1981's 'Across The Red Sea' and in 1995 the truly beautiful 'Miracle'. But Bim collaborated on numerous other On-U projects and released various twelve and ten inch singles. This release collates rare, previously unreleased and alternative versions of some of those productions. 'Be My Lighthouse' is a vocal version of Lee Perry's "S.D.I." and Tack>>Head's "We're Walking Right On The Edge", but this time with additional vocals by Shara Nelson originally only available on an Italian 12 inch single shared with Dub Syndicate's "Night Train". 'Devious Woman And Man' is a collaboration with Peru's Tierra Sur and a re-working of Bim's earlier, less than PC, "Devious Woman"! The album's title track 'The Need To Live' was recorded in the space of about three hours on Ministry's Fairlight and only briefly available back in 1986 on the "Bugs On The Wire" compilation. Bim recorded acoustic versions of 'Use Your Head' ('Tribulation') and 'No Longer, No Longer' along with Bonjo I and Skip McDonald. These tracks, previously unreleased, were the inspiration for singer's masterpiece, the 'Miracle' album. What could be a patchy affair turns out to be a satisfying album and a fit tribute to the memory of a great, but unusual, roots vocalist.

The Rootsman Roots Bloody Rootsman


Daniel "Meteo" is a Berlin-based reggaephile, DJ, promoter, label owner, artist - as Bus and Submission - and recently added some guitar textures to Pole's "R" remix set. His Meteo label plays host to Bradford's Rootsman, whose constant gigging around Europe and support of newer leftfield dub-based acts is beginning to pay dividends in the quality his own work. Having said that this is a fine collection of rare and unreleased mixes from the period 1996 onwards, with some remixes thrown in by friends and supporters, El Jathoor, Jammin' Unit and Rasboras Inc. One particular track that has bypassed your columnist in the past is one of the last stricter roots tunes cut by the Rootsman, 1996's "Sounds of Freedom" released on a Hammerbass 12", possessing a bass line so simple, fluid and melodic it's an inspiration to take up the instrument.

Various Bigga Judgement - Greensleeves Rhythm Album #19


Various No Vacancy - Riddim Rider


For many music fans the prospect of listening to a whole album full of different versions of the same rhythm would confirm all the prejudices prevalent about reggae. Perversely this is probably the best way to listen to modern reggae and the certainly the route to a better understanding of rhythm culture. The Greensleeves organisation relentlessly drives the riddim juggernaut forward with this set from New York's Chris "Goldfinga" Clarke, showcasing DJs old and new. Capleton, Bounty Killer and Sizzla are now veterans as fresh waves of new hotshot DJs compete for star status.

In refreshing contrast a rhythm album that comes across as charming when compared to its more brutal contemporaries. But then again, "No Vacancy" is a 21st century version of an old Sugar Minott Channel One classic revitalised by Computer Paul. Its more relaxed pace provides the perfect bed for a clutch of vocalists to provide the majority presence rather than the more urgent DJs. On "Cycle" Cocoa Tea's voice is sounding a little more gravely these days, Sugar Minott shares a revisit of his old rhythm with DJ Louis Culture, and with Yami Bolo, Morgan Heritage, Tony Rebel, Lady G, Sister Carol and Glen Washington in among the seventeen cuts there's plenty to recommend this set.

Various Heavyweight Rib Ticklers

UNFOLD (dn - CAT.NO.?)

Manchester's Mr.Scruff has been a longtime supporter of the dubwize selection. Perhaps this has been too readily perceived as just another manifestation of his whacky worldview with obligatory reggae riddims playing an equal part alongside those bizarre tunes picked up in charity shops across the North West of England! Pleasing then for the Scruffster to dispel such thoughts with this fine selection mixing old and new, weird and wonderful. So Tubby and Niney share space not only with Henry & Louis, the Truth and Dry & Heavy but some even more oblique expressions of dub art such as Bjorn Torske and El Malo. This kind of amalgam has been avoided in the past as being too laden with the risk of alienating the conservative dub reggae fan. The reverend Scruff is aiming for converts.

Various The Revenge of King Jammy's Super Power Allstars Volume 2


Volume 2 is isolated as the best representative of the three double CDs now out from this French label which cover the then Prince, soon to be King's output mainly from the mid to late eighties. This second set kicks off with five straight versions of the "Sleng Teng" rhythm including Wayne Smith's own epoch making original. In a what can only be a unique example of chaos theory this is the rhythm which was lifted from a casio demo pattern! Digitally modified music soon infected all Kingston's studio's to the dismay of musicians and the delight of the dancehall, the DJ soon became king and only now, fifteen years later are singers truly coming fully back into their own right. Perhaps worth pointing out that due to the dominance of the versioned "rhythm" all the albums in this series come with the tracks mixed togther - sometimes annoying not to have the whole cut absolutely clean. Still, this is an under-explored period for reissue, the hundred or so tracks over these three sets are just a fraction of the sides Jammy issued during the period. The attractions of many of these uncomplicated productions, which seem so immediately obvious today, were unjustly ignored at the time outside of the Jamaican market, proving we really need to pay more attention to what's happening now.

Various Reggae Classics - Serious Selections Volume 1


The undisputed don of reggae DJs on radio, Kiss FM's David Rodigan, compiled a whole series of "definitive" albums on his beloved genre back in the middle nineties. The distributor disappeared and so did the albums. Now a batch of them are back and worth snapping up before the supply totally dries up. Especially recommended are the three volumes covering that most neglected of reggae sub-genre's the UK's own homegrown Lover's Rock. Also around are sets on "Roots & Culture" and "Reggae Classics".

The Wailers Higher Field Marshall/Dub


Mark Ainley, from Honest Jon's Records on London's Portobello Road has been doing a fine job of late for the Soul Jazz label on their immaculate Studio One series, and he also helped out on Blood & Fire's popular "Darker Than Blue" compilation of Jamaican soul covers. The PK label is entirely down to Mark himself and this new release makes a direct and irrevocable connect between the classic reggae of the seventies and today's re-inventions. "Higher Field Marshall" is an Aston "Familyman" Barrett production, and it shows with a bass fatter that the two Barrett brothers put togther. But it's the melodica of Peter Tosh which rules the instrumental version, an entirely different, and much more breathy style than Pablo, there's a much more jazzy feel to the playing. But the flip lets Berlin's Rhythm & Sound loose on the mix and Familyman's bass sound is taken to a different level, so way down its physical. One of the essential releases of last year.