DECIBEL (More cuts from Dennis Bovell 1976 - 1983)
PRESSURE SOUNDS PSCD/LP0039
The presence of Dennis 'Blackbeard' Bovell loomed large over the UK's domestic reggae scene through the seventies but has been curiously absent from the reggae revival reissue programme. This timely anthology plugs the gap in admirable fashion with selections from Dennis' seven albums released on his Rama and More cuts imprints, as well as dub versions from the singles 'Blood a go run' and 'Rowing down the River' and a couple of tracks from the later freebie dub set that came with 'Brain Damage' and 'Audio Active'. His integration with the socio-political concerns of the punk and post-punk music scenes is here represented by the opening track 'The Grunwick Affair', complete with blazing horn section atop suitably militant rhythm. The snobbishness that beset homegrown UK reggae is swept aside by a refreshingly joyful set of versions, in turn sweet, then classic and then bizarre. Coincidentally making an appearance under his Blackbeard alias in the 'I Wah Dub' album as the first More Cut album in the series to be reissued by Zonophone (EMI). A more effects laden set best taken after being convinced by the overview provided by the compilation.
CEDRIC 'IM' BROOKS & THE LIGHT OF SABA
THE MAGICAL LIGHT OF SABA
HONEST JON'S RECORDS HJRLP4
After the taster singles 'Lambs Bread Collie' and 'Africa' the full album compiling the best of Cedric Brooks work as The Light of Saba is available at last. A double album package is prefacing the CD option, but the beautiful presentation makes the vinyl highly desirable and once more it's an exemplary piece of work from Mark Ainley at Honest Jons. Like many Caribbean jazzmen his musical education was early and deep. He was listening to Trane and Pharoah but is hero was Sonny Rollins and was invited to the States, specifically Philadelphia where he was entranced by the sounds of Sun Ra. And its Ra that's the closest reference point for this collection, but more the span and depth of the Saturn singles collection than the later Interplanetary Spaceways explored by the Arkestra. The cuts swing from four to the floor Afrobeat, stoned nyabinghi chanting rhythms, deeply organic dubstrumentals and funky jazzers. There really is no reference point for this magnificent music, even Cedric's (Count Ossie and the) Mystical Revelation of Rastafari pedigree affords scant preparation for this wonderfully rich brew.
THE BUG ft. CUTTY RANKS
Last month saw the release of Maximum Pressure's 'Dancehall Techniques' retrospective featuring Cutty Ranks first tune 'Gunman Lyrics'. And here, twenty years later, it is versioned by The Bug with newly crafted lyrics sourced by the Rootsman. The crunchability factor of the fat sawtooth beats on this tune is honed down from previous Bug releases, especially on the version where the disembodied vocal samples create enough sonic paranoia to last the side. Maybe now that he has perfected the level of sonic violence required just before bleeding from the ears commences it could be time to ramp down the bass to bowel emptying dimensions. Pain can come in many forms.
JAH LIGHT MUZIK #031050004
Seriously deep rumbling dub outing from this under-recorded session musician, Junior Dan aka Sydney Gussine, best known for his work with Augustus Pablo and Burning Spear. Recorded at Harry J's and Treasure Isle in Jamaica but carried back to New York for mixing at Bullwackies, hence the floorboard rippling bass effect, the album originally appeared on the militant Clappers label - probably in the early 80s - and has since been lost to newly converted dubheads everywhere. Not too happy about the derivation of the 'KTW' acronym but any seriousness is dissipated by the hilariously (mis-)titled whistling dub 'Sawpo skank' and the irresistibly sub-Pablo 'Guided Missiles Leftist Dub)! Short, certainly not sweet, hardcore dub hounds only.
ORIGINAL GUERILLA MUSIC - THE GREAT JA RECORDINGS
SOUND BOY SBCD/LP001
The debut album from Adrian Sherwood's On U Sound label gathers the finest vocal outings of Junior 'Jux' Delgado. Produced in Jamaica by Perry, Jammy, Pablo, Dennis Brown, Niney, Chinna, Sly & Robbie and Jux himself this is a marvellous showcase for a singer whose throaty roar can evoke an emotional impact comparable to the almighty chants of the late Prince Far I. No cheapo production this with beautiful artwork featuring a youthful Jux and excellent notes from John Masouri, the album certainly represents the best Delgado collection on offer. Collectors may have invested in Junior's own reissues from a few years ago entitle 'Treasure Found', but these were poorly mastered with a thin sound whilst here we have the sixteen tracks mastered over two pieces of vinyl. No dubs though, and some of these are equally as magnificent as the vocals. Specifically the stripped down trombone dub version to 'Tichion' that can now be found on a Sound Boy single, whilst the enormous version to 'Row Fisherman' can be located on the flip of a recent single on Junior's own Incredible label.
There is musical life on the other side of the Bug and its called DJ Scud, the black hole into which true jungle was sucked in 1992 and is now being spat back through the sphincter of what we now know. Easy listening for the brain-mashed generation and enough to give any too precious roots reggae fans instant blud clot art attack. If that's not enough of a recommendation then this is as far as DJ Scud gets to greatest hits collection with ultra-smashes lifted from releases over the past couple of years. An annoyingly recognisable but unpinnable reggae chop guitar sample opens 'Deliver Me (Version)' - about as crossover as this album gets. A perfect purchase for when theres too much dancehall in the charts. It's a red and black thing of course.
RICHARD DORFMEISTER PRESENTS
A DIFFERENT DRUMMER SELECTION
DIFFERENT DRUMMER DIFCD24
A ten year celebration of a label that has championed the melding of dub into house from a UK perspective, Birmingham's answer to Chicago's Guidance except Birmingham said it first. Best known for Rockers Hi-Fi, formerly Original Rockers and Groove Corporation aka G-Corp, the label invited G-Stone's Richard Dorfmeister to select and mix through his favourite tracks from the back catalogue. Nothing unexpected then, it's a chilled groove from start to finish with Noiseshaper's two bluesy tracks 'Movin' Togther' and 'The Only Redeemer' occupying a higher creative ground. Other tunes come from Painted Van, Phase 5, International Observer and Overproof SoundSystem. How to enjoy what on occasions might sound like house music and avoid all those stabs of creative guilt.
MANASSEH meets THE EQUALIZER
STEP LIKE PEPPER
SELECT CUTS SC2010
Its always seemed like Manasseh, aka Nick Raphael, just has not come out often enough to play and this album proves it. Dating back to the mid 80s Manasseh began on W.A.U.Mr.Modo with Sound Iration, began his own Riz lable in the early 90s, dabbled with majors Sony and BMG in the mid 90s and now seems to concentrate more on sound system work. A shame, and no disrespect to Select Cuts but the fact that this excellent album is not snapped up for the domestic market proves shameful negligence from what remains of the UK record business. For this is not so much of a dub album but an album imbued with the ethic, influence and techniques of dub and produced by an artist who loves the music but is not constrained by any perceived parameters of the genre. The opener 'Do Right Dub' is a vocal dub with quirky folk blues vocals by Sara Paparani, 'Amun Ra' is Tommy McCook with Henry Mancini in session whilst 'Like a Nyabinghi' is the best thing not recorded by African Head Charge and 'Skenga' Rupie Edwards in warp factor X. 'Nigh Train Version' adopts a truncated 'Take 5' and 'Undergroud' has the vocals of the late Devon Russell on a beautiful reading of the Curtis Mayfield tune. A stunningly varied album which has Manesseh and his contributors all on top form.
DUB THE MIGHTY DRAGON
RISE ROBOTS RISE RRR005
A dancehall-funk version of the Streets, but cleaner, sharper and with stacks more wit. Max Turner and Marcus Rossknecht have been bouncing between Berlin, London and Barcelona, finding a synchronous tedium with the increasingly bereft club dance scene they decided to trim back to what they love best - rhythm! And it's a brave move as this music stands stark, without embellishment, ready and waiting for devotion or ridicule in equal measure. Take the Small Axe people (see Wire # 230 April 2003) with speed, polish and vocals and the sound is getting near. An album that opens with a song dedicated to the 'milkman' gives the impression of being defiantly English, but the parochial effect soon wears off and by the third track 'Summerblue' the whole thing has become digitally all too infectious. Music can be sexy and funny at the same time.
DUB CONFERENCE IN LONDON
FREEDOM SOUND RECORDS FSLP002
Compared to the work of Dennis Bovell this could be listened to as 'dub by numbers', recorded 'punk style' in a single afternoon by a band at whose core were the Robinson brothers Trevor, Ewan and Paul. Paul went on to adopt the Barry Boom alias for a solo career, but his main claim to reggae fame is as the producer of Papa Levi's revolutionary Mi God Mi King' - perhaps the best ever UK DJ single. Something of a pedestrian affair the album does have its highlights with the inclusion of a couple of steppers tunes, 'More Time' and the thunderous 'Jah Rastafari' that could have provided the template for much of the later work of Alpha & Omega. For collectors of UK dub only.
MAGNETIC LEARNING CENTRE
I have now traced my aversion to all things tagged "industrial dub" back to my two long years spent as a labourer in a cotton mill where the most treasured skill was lip reading. Ex-Prong/Swans sticksman Ted Parsons' new project skirts around the definition with the introduction of Teledubgnosis as 'ambient dub metal scientists'. Perhaps its his new Nordic domicile that's lifted his spirits for a debut not half as dark as its cloak. Deep, but avoiding the active search for doom as in "another largactyl cocktail please", the treatment of Parsons' percussion and the appearances of Tony Maimone's fluid bass lifts this album to another level from that occupied by many of its label mates. UK reinforcements arrive from The Bug on a remix of "In Heaven, A Devil" and hardleaders Tech Level 2 on "80 Creeps".
EGYPTIAN - GREENSLEEVES RHYTHM ALBUM #40
With Lenky's Diwali finally ringing the bell, its time for all the other contenders to step up. Probable champion of the next 'riddim' wave is Donovan 'Vendetta' Bennett's Don Corleon productions and the follow up to his 'Mad Ants' and 'Krazy' hits, the much more seductive 'Egyptian'. Engineered by Blaxxx and using an ersatz bellydance riff straight out of Abbott and Costello meet the Mummy, its already well-aired and out in force on pre-release. Hottest cut so far is Vibz Kartel's "Sweet in the Belly" but watch out for the sucker punch of even sweeter vocal readings a la Wayne Wonder's Diwali treatment 'No Letting Go'.