10FT. GANJA PLANT
AL-HACA SOUND SYSTEM
DIFFERENT DRUMMER DIFCD26
Bridging the gap between the recent excellent Mapstation album on Staubgold and the more grainy roots outings of Rhythm & Sound, this set comes out of Stereotyp's Vienna studios - whose fabulous 'My Sound' collaboration with (the lately named) Tikiman was a treat not so mysteriously ignored by the more mainstream dance audience. Al-Haca cast the net wide with inputs from dancehall king Sizzla and the more hardcore He-Man, although the 'Killa' track is a more rounded-out mix of the Rootsman original, from Brooklyn's Cypress Hill Project's Mr.Dead and from elsewhere in New York the rapid street floetry of RQM. But the key vocal contributions come from Different Drummer Sound System's own MC Tweed who is now bestowed with the added title 'Ras'. Tweed's four songs span the set making a cohesive narrative linking the sound and feel of an album that could otherwise come across as another compilation, his lugubriously righteous style sets him alongside Ras (Simon) Bogle in the super league of UK's nudub chanters. However, most compelling bassline award goes to 'Heartbreaker', an advanced dub2stepper with added vocal verve from a certain Mr. V., albeit, I am assured by those in the know, with lyrics perilously close to Pat Benatar's 80s hit of the same name
DIGIDUB feat. RICO RODRIGUEZ
DAY 1 / POUND
DIGIDUB 10" VINYL DD001
As the acapella double-tracked trombone of Rico Rodriguez fires up 'Day 1' the unsuspecting be fooled into anticipating a full-on ska rampage, perversely the gears shift down low as a spongy underwater bassline coming from a much deeper place pegs the rhythm to heartbeat pace. It's yet another triumph for one of the UK's true dub auteurs, Lee Berwick, who as Digidub has masked some of the more experimental excursions to be launched under dub's once conservative name. Since back in the early 90s Digidub has unleashed such treats as 'Purple Boy', about the dangers of lager excess, and the unforgettable 'Scrap Bodies', the only dub album to my knowledge built from scrap yard noise samples. This new one returns to more traditional structures where Rico, who recently refused a Tony Blair glad-handing session, is able to stretch and blow in that lazy style not supported by his role in Jools Holland's worthy but tedious big band surround.
POLICE AND THIEVES - DELUXE EDITION
ISLAND 440 063078-2
Courtesy of the Clash's cover of the title and patronage of its producer, this is the album that many a punk cut their reggae teeth on, and then led the odd few into worlds from which they never returned. Inexplicably the 'deluxe' reissue is confined to the domestic US market and therefore only available as an import to those outwith Homeland borders. Before arriving at the Black Ark Junior Murvin first recorded in the early 70s as Junior Soul for producers Sonia Pottinger and Derrick Harriott vocally establishing an early debt to his hero Curtis Mayfield. In 1976 'Police And Thieves' became the biggest-selling Jamaican record of the year, its theme fitted Scratch's naturally rebellious tendencies whilst the lilting arrangement epitomised the producer's newly honed stylistic genius. In 1977 its popularity begat an album of the same name with a remarkably strong batch of material, enhanced on this reissue by contemporary material either recorded as singles or destined for the sadly unissued follow-up. The track to delight both Murvin and dub fans is the unreleased 'Memories', to the rhythm of the Uniques' 'Queen Majesty', and itself a Mayfield cover, as the singer raises neck hair with a glorious falsetto opening whose blissful effect lasts right through into the typically liquid Upsetter dub. Although Murvin went on to work with Joe Gibbs, Mikey Dread, Henry "Junjo" Lawes and Prince Jammy, he never topped this, his finest moment, and a reggae landmark album. And befitting top liner notes from Scratch biographer Dave Katz too.
BLAZING HORNS / TENOR IN ROOTS
BLOOD AND FIRE BAFCD044
Although other saxophonists may have been his equals through the history of Jamaican music, the seventies belonged to the towering presence of the great Tommy McCook. This twofer is the serendipitous result of the commercial imperative of tune recycling as each of the paired albums has McCook riffing on the rhythms of two of the most seriously deep producers in roots reggae, Vivian 'Yabby You' Jackson and Glenmore 'The Godson' Brown. Either of these albums could have stood alone for re-release but the two together almost amounts to overdose. 'Blazing Horns' first appeared on Grove in 1978, the UK imprint run by King Sounds - one of the most off-key reggae vocalists ever to voice a tune - with McCook and trumpeter Bobby Ellis interpreting some Yabby You cuts as dubstrumentals. Two years later came the Glen Brown that was only ever out as a pre-release white label. The standout track on 'Blazing Horns' is the title receiving a deserved extension treatment into a full dub. If this were a clash then 'Tenor in Roots' would win by knockout. Although both sets have to bear cheesy excursions - versions of 'When I Fall In Love' and 'Yellow Bird' - there's a totally mashing series of Glen Brown rhythms that have since become recognised stone classics, such as the doomily insistent 'Lambs Bread' (an extended version), 'Harry Meets Tommy' (Prince Jazzbo meets Richard 'Dirty Harry' Hall in 'Mr. Harry Skank'), 'Tubby's Control' (perhaps best known as Jazzbo's 'Stealing') and 'Everyday Sax' ('Slaving'). Sax overdose to listen back to back, but a must nevertheless.
THE NEW AGE STEPPERS
THE NEW AGE STEPPERS
ON U SOUND / BEAT RECORDS BRC79
1981's eponymous debut of the New Age Steppers now gets a Japanese reissue with four extra tracks of material from the same period. Strange that On U producer Adrian Sherwood has usually denied the existence of such contemporary material - perhaps the explanation is that tapes may have been in the possession of label in-house eminence grise Mark Stewart? The cleanish New York no-funk sound of 'May I', albeit punctuated by flabby helicopter whirring sounds, clearly predates the soon come viciousness of the artist's unsurpassed meisterwerk 'Learning to Cope With Cowardice'. Driving force behind the formation of N.A.S. one Arianna Foster aka Ari Up is let loose Frank Chickens style amid 'Avant Gardening', a melodica mutant version adopting a melody seemingly chopped from "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes"! But the real bonus here for On U devotees is 'Singing Love' a DJ version (Jah Woosh?) of the album's Ari Up take on Bim Sherman's immortal 'Love Forever' dubbed out in true punky rebel style. The totally daft mock constructivist collage of the original artwork is recreated in characteristically high-end Jap style. Given the recent resurgence of an 80s cool that never really existed at the time this album deserves reappraisal.
U ROY WITH BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS
KINGSTON 12 SHUFFLE
TRAX ON WAX 10" VINYL TOWKGN12
Previously only available as separate tracks on the Upsetter section of the voluminous but exemplary JAD label retrospective of Jah Bob and the Wailers pre-Island output, the tune we know better as 'Trenchtown Rock' comes with the greatest of all DJs riding the rhythm swooping in after the first vocal line. Perhaps not so much riding it as wrapping himself around it, pushing and pulling it, in the jazzy style that was all his own despite his legion of imitators. The 'a' side comes complete with a Peter Tosh melodica version on the segued dub, whilst the 'b' side is a version of the original tune bearing one of Marley's most celebrated lyrics - "one good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain" followed by an old school Scratch popping dub. Collectable and unmissable, still hot after all these years.
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS SJRLP/CD84
Business as usual down at Soul Jazz with a selection to make conservative reggae buffs choke on their chalice. But who is to argue when the percentage series has shifted over a quarter of a million units. Bringing tunes like Lloyd Chalmers' production of Tall T and The Touchers' 'Touching The President' and Alozade, Hollow Point and Mr.Vegas' post modern dancehall version of Barring ton Levy's 'Under Mi Sensi' to megastores has got to be regarded as either a social service or an act of insurrection. Roots vocals, DJs, rocksteady, not quite right funk, and early dancehall are all bang mixed into the pot without conscience. Reggae anthems such as Tenor Saw's "Golden Hen", The Uniques "Queen Majesty", Yabby You's "Conquering Lion" line up with more obscure but no less worthy cuts from Papa San, Prince Mohammed and Sister Nancy in the kind of mix that only used to circulate on cassette.
SILENT SEASON DUB
THINNER RECORDS #039
Thinner is a German net label distributing dub inspired electronic music in the form of mp3 files via http://thinnerism.com, though the artists here are widespread through Europe the main feel is distinctly Northern. For the digitally educated musos amongst us this may be just another game of spot the pre-sets at play in the processing of digital sound. But for the rest of us digitally-challenged dumb punters as long as we can follow the reassuringly friendly download instructions then the result turns out to be a rich seam of glacially cool glitchdub, all smooth wavy surfaces, distant promises and long, dreamy endings. Falter is Martin Juhls from Dortmund who also contributes as krill.minima, either way he's the dubbiest of the cast with stretched landscaped delays and wide valleys of reverbs in 'Nachtflug' and 'Palmengasse'. Another creator of icy visions is Andrew Eigus aka Selffish from Riga, Latvia, but more compositional in approach, 'Static Cloud' proves his time as a child chorister helped remove the fear of the human voice common across the laptop generation. Bernese Benfay's 'Falke' threatens to develop into an unknown house sub-genre before pulling back from the brink, but favourite track has got to be Off the Sky's 'Non Linear Surface Tensions (Stratus Variate)' - for the title alone. Log on and chillout.
SOUNDS AND PRESSURE VOLUME 5
PRESSURE SOUNDS PSCD41
Pressure Sounds' occasional budget releases are clearly no more than a marketing tool to either capture newcomers or remind old reggae lags of the presence of their outstanding catalogue. This one opens with the beautiful rasta plaint cum tirade against organised religion and hypocrisy, Johnny Osbourne's 'Purify Your Heart', followed by Jah Spear's alarm saturated vocalised dub version to 'Spear Burning' dedicated to the man from whom he derived his name 'Jomo'. And so it goes, a balance of dubs and dubstrumentals with the highlights being Pablo's beautiful 'Mountain View Dub (Version One)' and that other melodica virtuous Bobby Kalphat with the wicked 'Counter Punch' weighed against some lesser known vocal outings from Mike Brooks with 'Train From Bosrah' and the Mighty Rudo with his musings on 'Waterhouse'.