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Monday, April 01, 2002

Dub Review - April 2002

Horace Andy In Light/In the Light Dub


Top of the pile when it comes to Horace Andy albums this was a definitive early release from Blood & Fire, now making a timely reappearance courtesy of their partner in vinyl. In 1977 working with Hungry Town's Everton da Silva, In the Light found the singer freed up from the usual producer business and turning out his greatest vocal album. Even the cover versions of Problems and his old Studio One classic Fever find a new urgency. As if that was not enough the tapes were turned over to Prince Jammy who then conjured up his tuffest ever dub statement out of King Tubby's studio. Just one trip into the canyons of thunderous echo and reverb that make up Music Dub, the version to Do You Love My Music, is enough to dissolve all resistance.

Horace Andy meets Naggo Morris & Wayne Jarrett Showcase

WACKIES CD716/1722

Timely revival of two Wackies' mini-albums on one CD but also available as two desirable limited edition 10" pieces - all part of the deal with the Rhythm & Sound boys who are championing the return of Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes into the position of reggae dubmeister/legend which he never attained when this music was first created. This follows the re-issue of Andy's Dance Hall Style and Jarrett's Bubble Up, and it's the same showcase pattern of dub following the vocal in a style transitional between roots and dancehall but with a deep, spacey Scratch-lite mix. Naggo Morris not so well known as a solo artist was a onetime member of the mighty Heptones as replacement for Leroy Sibbles - so his credential are undisputed. Strange to find that after last month's referencing of Cornell Campbell's I Heart Is Clean and that it was missing from the Observer "Headshot" set, to find the tune versioned and dubbed here by Horace Andy as My Heart Is Gone.
Bob Marley & the Wailers Legend - Deluxe Edition

TUFF GONG 314 586 714-2

Peter Tosh Honorary Citizen


Legend is the best-selling reggae album of all time. As it's virtually Jah Bob's greatest "solo" hits then this is not a surprising fact. So, it would be a difficult job to make the collection much better, so why not give it some more legs saleswise? And that's what's going on here with one CD paralleling the original album but with the addition of two already available bonus tracks (Easy Skanking and Punky Reggae Party) and, to despatch this ill-conceived exercise to its creative doom, a second CD full of woefully jolly dance remixes strictly designed for eighties party people - it's that bad. Not that there are Jamaican alternatives scattered around the vaults, there aren't - but about ten years ago there was talk of some serious dub remixes that came to nothing apart from the Laswell reconstructions. Too bad, after the excellent jobs on Catch A Fire and Exodus expectations were raised prematurely.

Onto more serious matters with the Peter Tosh anthology, first issued in 1997 in the long book format, this 3 CD set now comes in jewel case, stylistically downmarket but the content is undiminished in power. Tosh launched his own Jamaican label to host his righteous and unrelenting variation of militant reggae. Intel Diplo was shorthand for International Diplomat for His Imperial Majesty! The first CD, covering releases from this and other JA labels, finds Tosh at his impassioned and obscure best, especially on Dracula a version to Vampire which outscratches Scratch at his most zany and Legalize It Version

a dub of the tune ineffectively banned from the Jamaican airwaves in 1975. The other two CDs cover a live set and "hits and classic album cuts" following his discovery by the Glimmer Twins. But there was no downpressing Tosh, even on these tracks recorded under the gaze of the corporate beast his wrath was as a hero returning through the nine gates of hell.

Mossman Mossman vs. The World Bank


Moss "Mossman" Raxlen runs Montreal's one-stop dub and reggae outlet Sketchy Wax, he spins tunes at his own club creation the Dub Lounge and now he is about to corner the Canadian roots market with the triple play launch of Cultivation, Inspiration and Dispensation records. Trepidation is the only sensible way to approach any new roots reggae removed from the true source but thankfully once more any natural fear is dispelled as this album turns out to be a well-worked and often disarmingly witty journey across the dub reggae spectrum. The band, the Ark of Infinity, come a little too close to the Black Ark on occasions, especially on It's Nice. But the fact that the trombone EFX are achieved from the application of the now extremely rare Mutron B-Phase, the very device used by Scratch, shows a sign of devotion unmatched by most disciples. Titles like Spanish Alpha and Yin Tin Tin are not only seductively authentic in themselves but the playing also betrays a joy in delivering these tunes which tends to be sadly lacking in many contemporaries. This album was issued domestically in Canada last year as an anti-globalisation protest to coincide with the summit of the Americas in Quebec - no matter the music stands proudly by itself.

Lee Perry The Compiler Volume 1


Lee Perry Skanking With The Upsetter


In the taxonomy of Upsetterdom these offerings would be low in the hierarchy of meaning, either as revenue streams flowing into Scratch's frequently ample and emptied coffers or as additions to the producer's oft tested reputation as creative genius. Nothing wrong with the tracks on The Compiler Volume 1, we've heard them all before, but they appear to be licensed from a French company whose owner once kissed the ring of King Perry and whose eye gazed upon the Ark. Truly baffling. As for Skanking With The Upsetter, this comes from a label that seems to have been launched solely to host tunes that Edward "Bunny" Lee has failed to market elsewhere - probably due to the fact that usually the word "rarities" is not qualified by the explanation that the tracks are usually inferior outtakes not good enough for release at the time of their creation or since - up until now. Truly perplexing.

U Roy The Lost Album - Right Time Rockers


U Roy usually comes at the top of the toaster list, usually for the immaculate DJing skills he demonstrated whilst riding all those Treasure Isle rhythms to the top of the Jamaican charts in the late sixties and early seventies. But if there were to be one album to convince the non-believer that the vocal talents of Ewart Beckford are second to no DJ and that his phrasing, timing and delivery are a match for the greatest jazz singers, then this is it. Reviewed over a year ago in this column this album consists of specials recorded for the sound system, released in a limited edition in 1976, revived a couple of years ago on a small US label, but now made available to all via Heartbeat Europe. U Roy lines up a batch of the Mighty Diamonds' Right Time rhythms, Ali Baba and Dress Back Wicked, and proceeds to dispense his lyrical magic. Set this alongside I Roy's Musical Shark Attack, another great Channel One set, run the vocals, toasts and dubs back to back and go straight to version heaven.

Various Time Bomb - Rhythm Album #20


Various Bad Kalic - Rhythm Album #21


The latest two offerings to the great beast that lurks somewhere in the sizzling sweat of the dancehall, Greensleeves inexorably funnels lethal material without fear of sanction or reprisal. Time Bomb is born out of John John, for the past ten years or so pretender to King Jammy's dynastic throne. For around the same length of time Stone Love have weighed in as regular contenders for the sweetest and hottest sound system on the Isle of Springs, Bad Kalic is their own peculiarly twisted rhythmic progeny. Neither of these sets hold any surprises, which is probably the attraction for fans of the genre, a mix of rough DJs and lilting singers. If there were a choice between the two then the presence of Cecile, Merciless and Elephant Man, with his original cut of the preposterous Shizzle Mi Nizzle, on Bad Kalic is the clincher. Merciless always seems to come up with a new and usually conscious angle whilst Cecile is, of course, the girls' champion - and the rhythm is a juddering stone killer with sampled bodily noises of undetermined origin!

Various Dubwise & Otherwise


The UK's premier reggae revive label takes a breath whilst waiting to produce their upcoming Yabby You & Michael Prophet dub set. Basically this is a budget priced CD only introduction to the label and the roots genre as a whole. With the seventeen tracks occupying 66 minutes of the format and the proceedings being closed by The Tamlins's totally sublime reading of Randy Newman's Baltimore followed by the Sattamassagana rhythm and Leroy Smart's Jah is my Light then toasted by I Roy as Wicked Eat Dirt, its as good a sampler as can be had in the racks today.

Various Jamaican Memories


Its now clear that Trojan's new marketing strategy is to recycle all the usual stuff that we know and for some reason keep on loving, licence a lot of the same stuff to others labels and then on the odd occasion put out something so wonderful that we forgive them all their sins. Jamaican Memories was an album of twelve tunes issue on a Trojan subsidiary Blue Cat, but here it's re-released with an additional sixteen contemporary cuts. Appealing to true fans of vintage Jamaican music this mix of ska and rocksteady produced by Clement Dodd, Duke Reid and Joe Gibbs, not forgetting the mysterious Charles Ross, is as a sweet breeze amidst the slew of recycled oldies that pervades the market. Top tunes and instant rare grooves can be discovered in the eponymous Roy Richards harmonica instrumental, Tommy McCook's Moody Ska, Take it or Leave it an early Claredonians' and A Fool a youthful Alton Ellis. Recommended for those fans of early reggae r'n'b crossover - hardcore style.

Yabby You King Tubby's Prophesies of Dub


For most roots reggae fans who came to the music after 1980 this was one of those albums that a lot of people talked about but had never seen let alone heard, all copies were in the hands of the cognoscenti, reluctant to commit the vinyl to cassette for wider consumption. Enter Blood & Fire, champion of Joe Public, to revive the set on CD in 1984. Now the return of the vinyl, and familiarity has not in any way detracted from the powerful impact this music still has today. Both Tubbs and the Jesus Dread operate at peak on truly classic tunes such as Conquering Lion (Conquering Dub), Jah Vengeance (Version Dub) and Run Come Rally (Hungering Dub) and throughout the set - which even improves on the original by the inclusion of bonus tracks Living Style and Greetings, the latter a majestic parade of horns and percussion through shimmering walls of echo and reverb.