This album seems to have been a long time coming after the temptation dangled by the appearance of "Warning" on last year's On U Sound compilation, 'Chainstore Massacre', and then the singles "Silent Sound" (re-stretched by Black Star Liner) and "Ambi" (re-rubbed by Smith & Mighty) - they are all present here. Maybe the delay was caused by the demand for individual members to perform duties elsewhere. Of the quartet, MC Simon Bogle is currently collaborating with The Bug persona of Kevin Martin, drummer and producer Al McCaulay is a full-time Tinderstick and violinist Calina de la Mare is with the orchestra at the National Theatre in London. Perhaps this is also the reason why this debut, though promising, has a tendency towards clutter. The mix of dub, electronica, raga and classical sounds jars more often than fuses. A shame as all the capabilities and components are clearly in place, best illustrated by 'Warning' both the album's strongest and toughest tune which is too extended in structure ending up overwrought to the point of hysteria and confusion. In contrast this same track was surgically reconstructed for On U by Adrian Sherwood in one of his best pieces of work in years, leaving Simon Bogle's remarkable voice brutally subduing the beat in astonishing style.
CEDRIC IM BROOKS
CEDRIC IM BROOKS & THE LIGHT OF SABA
HONEST JON'S RECORDS HJRCD/LP4
The format of choice clearly must be the beautifully produced double vinyl set, so perfect one is reluctant to disturb the records in their sleeves. But now the CD has arrived this magnificent compilation is for everybody. The Light of Saba was a band formed by Cedric Brooks, Jamaican sax heavyweight and musical graduate of the Alpha Boys School and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, in an attempt to expand his own musical palette, bring other styles to Jamaica and seek a market for Jamaican music abroad. Selections for this compilation span the three seventies albums that reflected the scope of Brooks' ambition. As it was, on their release they were consigned to the collectors' market as record shops had not yet introduced the genre we now know as 'world'. The mix is an effortless stylistic fusion between reggae, dub, calypso, afrobeat, funk, jazz and nyabinghi - with percussion and brass to the fore, sometimes primal and occasionally with an Ellingtonesque sophistication - but always fascinating. Certainly the horn section is as beautiful as anything in reggae, especially on 'Rebirth' and 'Lambs Bread Collie', and on the strict four-to-the-floor 'Africa' proceeds with as much drive and urgency as any Fela Kuti track.
DUBSTEP ALLSTARS VOL.1
Although this album appeared earlier in the year it would be negligent to let any further time pass before it gets a mention in this column. More musical sub-genres have been created in the last ten years than previously existed in total. The fact that most of these are totally ersatz, have the life expectancy of a fruit fly and defy any critical engagement may precipitate the longer term effect of either a musical colonic or cultural constipation. Who knows? this DubStep thing might only last for just one compilation but it's certainly got me hooked. A mix by DJ Hatcha of a bunch of twelves from the last year or so from new artists such as Benga, Horsepower, Kode 9, Menta, Benny ILL, all moving away from the tedium of the garage vocal scene and reliving the spirit of early Chicago and Detroit through the dubbed up wastelands of South London. Sure, some of the drum patterns may prompt you to answer the door but the sheer groove, energy and space of these productions make you wonder at nerve of these boys.
PLAYING IT COOL & PLAYING IT RIGHT
BASIC REPLAY BRJT-0009
Keith Hudson may be considered as something of an acquired taste by many reggae buffs, at least vocally, but the numbers of his fans have increased dramatically since his untimely death in 1984. Out of step with the times this album was largely reviled or ignored when first issued back in 1981. Now reappearing on Rhythm & Sounds' revival imprint we have a chance to give the set a proper appraisal. The black morphologist of reggae, its brooding Dark Prince, Hudson never avoided dealing with difficult subjects and at its most extreme his work can be interpreted as stark musings on alienation and the human condition. On the other hand as a singer he was wont to break into sudden and unashamed lyrical quotes from Barbra Streisand. The six tunes are mixed showcase style with a dub following each vocal and with a timing just shading thirty minutes this set still proves rich fare. Opening with a re-take of '(Don't think about me) I'm alright' on the rhythm known as 'Melody Maker', a cuts that stands as a perfect prelude for suicide, the atmosphere remains thick in the spaces of the mix with the funk wah wah of Chinna's guitar providing constant jolts on top of smoothed out binghi drumming. Mesmerising - now bring on the much in demand 'Flesh of My Skin' not seen round these parts for twenty years or so.
JAVA JAVA JAVA JAVA
IMPACT LP CC-2003-1
In typically perverse JA style this is the dub companion to 'Java Java Dub' and more pertinently a claimant to the 'first dub album' title alongside Herman Chin-Loy's 'Aquarius Dub' and the Tubby mix of Scratch's 'Blackboard Jungle Dub'. Whatever, this largely drum and bass affair provided an early clue to the new direction back in 1973. Not only do the labels read 'Java Java Dub' but are pressed on the wrong sides to throw off unworthy seekers of the grail, so the album opens with 'Java' where the signature far-east sound of Augustus Pablo's melodica makes its first appearance but is listed as 'Guiding Dub' a version to the Heptones' 'How Can I Leave You' later and better versioned as 'My Guiding Star' that cut that kicks off the flip. Produced by Clive Chin and remixed by Errol "ET" Thompson, the dubs are cultured, stately affairs with none of the pizzazz or experimentation that would appear two or three years later in the engineer's work with Joe Gibbs, and as such it's one for dub connoisseur rather than those seeking controlled psychedelic explosions. Other standout tracks include a one away rhythm 'Black Man's Land' on which Tyrone Downie gets down and moody on a great lost organ rare groove and the irresistibly loony whistling cut 'Ordinary Version Dub'. Owners and lovers of the Randy's sets on Blood and Fire and Pressure Sounds will want to possess this.
AFRICAN ROOTS ACT 1
As the R&S Wackies' reissue programme continues apace with vinyl twelve and ten inch releases and albums in both formats it would be a mistake to ignore these two new releases. Firstly, the rarer of the two, 'Tribesman Assault' is a genuine seventies reissue from around 1977 that collected Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes' early tunes recorded in Jamaica at a series of studios - Randys, Black Ark and Treasure Isle - that sparked the building of the House of Wackies back in the Bronx. Roots Underground are basically the early Wackies house band based back in Jamaica, Reckless Breed, featuring the guitar of none other than Jerry Hitler! The there are nine dubs, mostly versioning old but lesser-known favourites, distinguished by some occasionally outrageous funktastic drumming from Jah Scotty and Johnny Diaz. The set closes with the sole vocal, a reading of 'Open the Gates' from K.C.White and the Lovejoys.
I have previously claimed in this column that Clive Hunt is amongst the greats of Jamaican music, a fact that is not yet properly acknowledged. The first album in the African Roots series does not bear any artist name but the credit belongs to producer and arranger Hunt whose authorial stamp is evident on the finished product. Revisiting some of his own rhythms from Channel One ('Three Meals a Day' and 'We Should Be In Angola') and versioning a couple of stone classic Studio One rhythms ('Undying Love' and 'Freedom Blues') there's a variation not only in pace and style but also in the mix - rare in dub albums. For example, following the ponderous beats of opener 'Addis Ababa Dub' with which we are led through a spooky Upsetterland the mood is changed instantly with the jaunty guitar led workout of the following 'Rock Ago Rock' - and so the flow continues. The titles and tracklisting are hopelessly confused and confusing, and as usual with Wackies there is virtually no information attached to assist the hapless punter.
TWILIGHT CIRCUS feat. BIG YOUTH
LOVE IS WHAT WE NEED
M RECORDS 10" VinylMREC230
The only way ahead for Ryan Moore was to take a full-on rootical excursion and here he more than tests the water with the introduction of some vintage tremulous chanting from the great Jah Youth with the addition of the underused and underrated Aswad Horns - Michael 'Bammie' Rose, Eddie 'Tan Tan' Thornton and Trevor Edwards. The four mixes were recorded between the Twilight studio in the Netherlands and Junior Delgado's place in London, the main track has Youth voicing a plea that tragically could have been lifted straight from a 70's roots tune, three mixes follow - a horns-led dub, a synth-led dub and lastly a stripped down version. The rhythm is a great swirling juggernaut of a thing that judders forward with Captain Youth in strict control at the helm, all mastered onto obligatory ten-inch vinyl. Soon come from the same source is the four track Luciano piece "What We Got To Do" and the album "Foundation Rockers" where a party of all the aforementioned is joined by Mykal Rose and, from the U.K., Brother Culture.
JOE GIBBS PRODUCTIONS - ROOTS, CULTURE, DJs AND THE BIRTH OF DANCEHALL
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS SJRCD/LP76
Joe Gibbs and son Rocky had resisted all entreaties from the revival crew until the tracklisting of Pressure Sounds great dub/instrumental set 'No Bones For The Dogs' broke their resolve, or was it the cash advance? Soul Jazz take advantage of Joe's weakened state with another typically idiosyncratic selection mixing classics and rarities, vocals, DJs, dubs and instrumentals. I will declare an inbuilt resistance to all the early 80s biddley-bong style of DJ'ing of which there are two woeful examples here as an introduction to the 'birth of dancehall'. Good job then that there's a wonderful Mighty Diamonds' tune, 'Identity', of such aching simplicity that makes up for that pair of sonic blemishes. In the more cultural vein there are dubs and instrumentals from the Mighty Two and the Professionals, and top notch vocals from Junior Murvin, 'Cool Out Son', Dennis Brown, 'I'm Coming Home' and Culture 'Jah Jah See Them A Come' that all further contribute to rescue the compilation from the weaker DJ tracks. But the highlight is the take on Lloyd Parkes' 'Mafia' reversioned as 'Dreader Mafia' by Rasta equivalents of Laurel and Hardy, Suffy and Wally.