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Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Dub Review - October 2002

Dry & Heavy From Creation


Dry and Heavy's fourth album on Green Tea mixes tracks from the two current sets, vocal and companion dub, that appear in their Japanese homeland (the vocal album shifted thirty three thousand units in its first week of release). Leading the growing trend towards live and warmer playing, and then retreating to the studio for wilder dub excursions, the band have now hit an assured stride. Likkle Mai's quirky singing may be an acquired taste, but its a distinctive feature and contrasts with Ao Inoue's more mature roots vocals. Their version of the Doors' Riders on the Storm recalls the parent band's (Audio Active) cover of Hendrix's neglected Burning of the Midnight Lamp - bizarre, in a loveable way. All the other tunes are originals and mixed in fine style by Uchida-san, the band's live/studio engineer, who currently could hold his own in Europe or the States.

Elephant System Elephant System


From the wreckage of industrial metalistas Treponem Pal, apparently a French expression for syphilis, vocalist Marco Neves and several other band members welded Elephant System and in the process became re-educated in the name of roots and culture. Not such an unusual story as Adrian Sherwood, this album's producer, at one time worked with Ministry, Nine Inch Nail and KMFDM - all back in more innocent days when connections were still fresh and warm. So this album, for domestic French consumption, is a throwback in sound to those crisp, punchy On U productions for the later Dub Syndicate period. In fact, many of the key studio staff are the same - from engineer Alan Branch through to the legendary Kevin Metcalfe who mastered the cut, in fact his name is probably credited on more reggae albums than any musician! So undying On U fans will wish to seek this out, especially as there is a bonus disc with four shining dubs, though the impassioned agit-style vocals reflect a band more comfortable playing live than working out new directions in the studio.

Jah Shaka meets the Firehouse Crew Authentic Dubwise


Jah Shaka is the U.K. Sound System legend, supreme master of one deck, all-conquering in the dance whose 70's live sound washed out of Acton Town Hall down the High Street and all the way to Shepherds Bush. The rhythm engine known as the Firehouse Crew trace their pedigree to mighty King Tubby's studio in the radical times of the early digital era and now back saxophone legend Dean Fraser. Strange then that despite the billing this is a lightweight affair of little interest, and reeks a selling job to an uninformed UK label. Apart from the stripped-down insistence of Persecution Dub and the similarly naked closers Rastafari Dub and Dub for Everyone, the best thing here is the great archive photo of Shaka on the sleeve.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry vs. Niney the Observer Producers


One Stop's Simply Rockers series may have been more distinguished through its artwork than track selection but as that sequence comes to a close there's more promise in this new concept, where old spars Scratch and Niney are forced in the ring again. Although still mining the same old Trojan veins, at least some of these gems still sparkle, such as Perry at his most funky on Freak Out Skank and his most whacky on Kentucky Skank. Whilst the Observer replies with takes on some of his classic sides, Water Boiling is a dub to Dennis Brown's Cassandra extended by segueing into One Train Load of Dub - the version to Westbound Train - with Tubby on the mix.

Linton Kwesi Johnson LKJ in Dub Volume 3


Linton Kwesi Johnson's first dub album came out in 1980, the second in 1991, so this third album comes to us a year late. Unlike his previous wordless outings, LKJ not only includes new rhythm tracks but also makes his debut on bass - all in the safe hands of Dub Band leader, the redoubtable Dennis Bovell. Familiarity with his old work guaranteed the previous dub volumes a ready-made audience. Using fresher rhythms lays more pressure on the playing and the mix, but LKJ has a knack of turning out memorable bass lines and danceable rhythms. With musicians Steve Gregory taking care of all brass duties, John Kpiaye on guitar and Nick Straker on keyboards, there's plenty of input for dubmaster Bovell to allow his skills full rein - which he does with typical energy and insight. Favourite title? - Dubbin di Diaspora!

Love Clinic Love Clinic


Only the Mad Professor has the sheer neck to reinvent Lovers Rock so shamelessly. Maybe all the time he has spent chaperoning Lee Perry across the globe has given him intimations of the very immediate mortality which oozes out the sonic pores of these tunes. As the Ariwa catalogue attests, Neal Fraser has never backed away from supporting female artists, and here its newcomers Joely Tonna and Lisa O'Neill - who are Love Clinic, with no lesser talents than Carol Thompson and Claudia Fontaine - veterans of UK reggae and Lovers Rock - on backing vocals. For most dub/reggae fans this kind of music, for some reason, is anathema. Probably compounded here by the inclusion of versions of Motown chestnut Reach Out and U2 karaoke fave In The Name Of Love (Pride)! But check the three closing dubs on this album, liquid, warm and sexy, then go back to the vocal versions and you too may well become hopelessly seduced.

Joe Gibbs and the Professionals No Bones For The Dogs - Dubs From 1974-1979


The production work of Joe Gibbs has been in evidence since the reggae recycling business began some ten or fifteen years ago, most notably for the excellent compilations put together by Jah Barrow in his Trojan days. Joe's son Rocky then laid claim to the task and set to work issuing patchy sets out of New York. Heartbeat put out an excellent rocksteady set from Joe's Amalgamated label and a collection of reggae "greatest hits" by The Mighty Two - Joe and his engineer, Errol Thompson. This new Pressure Sounds set is the first serious attempt to put together some of the pair's best dub workouts from the early seventies and as such goes straight into the list of 'top ten essential dub albums', a must for newcomers and collectors alike. Highlight are too numerous to list, but Earthquake is a restrained riot of a track laying waste to the notion that all dub must be murder, but slaughter does occur on Babylon Bridge wherein Thompson tears up the 12" mix of Culture's Baldhead Bridge, Fulfilment/Prophesy Reveal will delight the ex-punk contingent on discovering a declamatory DJ/dub version of Two Sevens Clash, and the title track, a take on the Paragon's sweetest ever tune Why Birds Follow Spring, is certainly one of the most joyful horn dubs ever to be cut to vinyl. Tribal War, Kunte Kinte, Up Park Camp are all there as version follows version. Pressure Sounds on top.

Various Good Times Skank


Joey Jay with his brother Norman made their Notting Hill carnival debut as the Good Times Sound System in 1980. Carrying second-hand gear and home-made speakers and using their dad's Ford Cortina to carry gear through the police cordons to the pavement outside 37 Cambridge Gardens, where they sold their mum's food, played tunes and attracted a nice little crowd. Good Times, its title taken from a Seventies disco anthem by Chic, began life as a reggae sound system called Great Tribulation. So here Joey takes it back to its roots with a free-form cultural selection from Trojans vaults that makes a nice soundtrack for any season. Especially good to see cuts included like Ronnie Davis' False Leaders, Vernon Buckley's Save Us Jah and the Messengers' Crowded City.

Wackies Rhythm Force African Roots Act 2


Bullwackies All Stars African Roots Act 3: Strictly Dubwise


More long unavailable Wackies material released again through the Berlin based Rhythm & Sound outfit - sensible both on vinyl and in CD digipak form. The second and third of a five part dub series. Act 2 comes from Bullwackies' golden year of 1982, and offers fully worked dubwise versions of tracks voiced elsewhere on the label by Max Romeo, Barrington Spence and Junior Delahaye. Alongside producer Lloyd 'Bullwackie' Barnes in the studio was Junior Delahaye contributing keyboards, drums, drum machine and fulfilling engineering duties at the mixing desk. Leroy Sibbles, on bass guitar, brought three classic Heptones' Studio One rhythms to the session, Fight It To The Top, Love Won't Come Easy and Sea Of Love. Unfortunately, as was the practice at the time when mixing dub albums, all trace of vocals are dropped from the mix. But that's a minor quibble, the viscous, churning sound of these dubs sounds great today

Originally issued in 1983, African Roots Act 3 is basically the dub counterpart of Sugar Minott's 'Wicked Ago Feel It' album with Jackie Mittoo providing the musicians drawn from the group Itopia. Subdued and hypnotic, musically more sparse than its predecessor - and therefore sounding more modern, 'African Roots Act 3' again offers the trademark combination of Wackie's originals and classic Studio One rhythms, with two more Heptones' tunes - I Hold The Handle and Love Me Always, and a take on the Real Rock rhythm better known as Armagideon Time.

The X-terminator Sound Rough inna Town


Following up their debut release, the Bobby Digital compilation "Flag Flown High", Maximum Pressure bring on another heavyweight of modern Jamaican music in the form of Phillip 'Fatis' Burrell, perhaps best known as producer of some of Sizzla and Luciano's finest work to date. This 18 track album also includes titles from the extremely underrated Ini Kamoze, Capleton, star of the future Jah Cure, Cocoa Tea, Josey Wales, Mutabaruka and others. Of the thousands of labels that have been spawned in Jamaica over the past 15 years X-terminator, sometimes Exterminator, is most revered as a creator of roots and dancehall for the modern era. Just like Coxsone Dodd at Studio One Fatis had the ability to generate new talent through his label, had anyone witnessed such an impressive stable of artists assembling helping the X-terminator label to lead Jamaican music through the changes of the nineties which would at last truly internationalise the genre in the post-Marley era whilst reclaiming roots and conscious lyrics back into the dance after the domination of guns and slackness. This selection serves as a great introduction to those nervous of or new to dancehall and modern roots. Standout tracks are the 'beyond-dancehall' Who is Laughing with Sizzla and Ninjaman in righteous combination, the mournful trombone which punctuates Jah Cure's Trod in the Valley and As for Now, an unreleased cut from Sizzla. Gunzalis and Repatriation both come dub style, which should raise interest in the two largely ignored Exterminator dub sets which appeared on CD around three years ago.