MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
The debut by Berlin duo Bus, Daniel Meteo and Tom Thiel, for Stephan Betke's ~Scape imprint, comes as a polished blend of dub, minimal electronica and hip hop. A Glaswegian hip hop slant comes directly from the involvement of Monkeytribe's MC Soom-T, whose quirkily appealing raps punctuate the set with different takes on how it really is in that bad girl style not heard since Roxanne Shante. Although Bus shamelessly drive the ~Scape sound in lighter, more commercially acceptable dancefloor directions, particularly on the title track and last year's single "Keep Life Right", there's enough rumble tumble bass and sub-plot riffs built into the tunes to keep the most intelligent dancer intrigued.
The follow-up to 1977's genuine classic "Heart Of The Congos" is reissued by the Congos, assisted by Blood and Fire and in conjunction with the German distributor and label Indigo. 1979's "Congo Ashanti" was always destined to exist in the shadows of Scratch's crowning production achievement but nevertheless remains a fine roots album from the genre's golden age. All the vocals are taken by the quasi-falsetto'd Cedric Myton, with harmony support from Watty Burnett and Ashanti Roy, so the delivery turns out to be a little challenging over the length of a whole album. The original vinyl LP contained just eight tunes but for this reissue four extra tracks have been added, "Music Maker" and "Feast Of The Passover" with their respective dubs. "Feast Of The Passover" is not the Black Ark version but a later re-recording.
DREAD AND FRED
WARRIORS STANCE/WARRIORS ADVANCE
JAH SHAKA MUSIC 12" VINYL SHAKA870
Storming early vintage UK digidub from 1987 that created the template for the dominant nu roots style that followed., Shaka, having dominated the UK's dub and roots dancefloor for the past decade, perversely handed the golden ticket to many lesser lights as this tune and others like it followed a simple but compelling formula of drum, bass and synth that managed to evoke a stirring and upfull atmosphere when played in the dance. So pervasive was Shaka's influence on the underground dub scene that a whole group of musicians, singers and DJs were sucked into his orbit. The time is overdue where Shaka's work from this period , together with that produced by his immediate circle, needs to be gathered together for a more seriously considered retrospective - preferably in about ten vinyl pieces!
NO BED OF ROSES
LION & ROOTS EFA39807
After all these years Style Scott and Adrian Sherwood are still running the same recording process with the basic tracks recorded in Jamaica and mixed down in London. This time though there are real heavyweight vocal inputs from the Congos' Cedric Myton on the title track, Greg Isaacs on 'Kingston 14' - though the vocal sample is some ten years in the maturing, and the wonderful Cornell Campbell on 'Nothing Comes Easy'. Dub poet Yasus Afari, best known for his work with the late Garnett Silk, and new youth DJ Uplifter, from Capleton's David House Crew, add further cultural confections. To save the inevitable torture that would be caused for all On U completists on hearing 'Private I', the saxophone sample does indeed from Deadly Headly and Scratch's Timeboom album. This is a much more 'Jamaican' sounding set than 'Acres of Space' from a couple of years ago and a return to top form for the veteran production duo.
LICK HIM WITH THE DUSTBIN
Neville Beckford aka Jah Woosh first came through in the UK with sessions produced by Rupie Edwards. He became popular in the mid seventies as roots reggae itself peaked and his sound system style rough-arsed 'Marijuana World Tour' album became one of those 'every punk should have' reggae staples. He has subsequently managed to hold a fairly firm fanbase whilst retaining control of his own catalogue via the Original imprint. The title is delivered in fine style on a skipping rockers rhythm then Woosh blows it with a horribly offkey singjay version of Dennis Brown's 'Love Me Always', then 'Fire' turns out as a lazily lazy chat on Keith Hudson's 'Bloody Eyes' - and so it goes, despite the great title this is not the DJ's best.
SPEEDSTAR RECORDS VICL61151
Little Tempo's pedigree dates back to the early nineties and Tokyo's Silent Poet collective of musicians, artists and DJs, with a first album under their current name, 'Latitude', appearing in 1995. The band did not, as erroneously claimed in this column, debut with last year's excellent 'Musical Brain Food' - of which this new set is the dub companion. What's refreshing and remarkable about the dubs here is that a mainly acoustic base provides the frameworks for engineer Uchida to deploy his old school mixing style over a series of referentially cultural cuts. So 'Boggyman Walk' could be the version of a Sun Ra Saturn 7" single and the title track a Morricone manipulation. Things are brought more up to date with "One Bully Drive" where the "Sleng Teng" rhythm is brought out for a polish but any sense of comfort is dashed when the guitar-led closer "Love" conjures up Santo & Johnny riding into the sunset. As a antidote to all those virtual dub albums out there this comes highly recommended.
SKANKING WITH PABLO: MELODICA FOR HIRE 1971-1977
EARMARK 2xLP -43009
There are quite a few Pablo vinyl represses around at the moment including 1979's 'Rockers Meets King Tubbys Inna Firehouse' and the last album from the melodica king 1999's 'Valley of Jehosaphat' - and what with the long-awaited biography on the near horizon, interest in one of reggae's most charismatic figures will remain high. These two pieces of heavy vinyl come from a joint venture between Italy's reissue specialists Get Back and UK's Sanctuary Group, busy re-sparking the Trojan catalogue. Dave Hendley compiles a collection of sides from Pablo's earlier rebel-rock period with highlights being the super-rare 'Fat Baby', a version of Big Youth's 'S90 Skank' for Keith Hudson, 'Lama Lava' a Black Ark cut of 'Java' and 'Ape Man', a Dennis Alcapone production on the rhythm of Greg Issac's great 'Look Before You Leap'. Plus the high quality packaging, artwork and notes, this set sits well up the order in a 'must have' Pablo compilation top ten.
PLANET MU ZIQ084CD
SOUNDMURDERER + SK1
REWIND RECORDS REW001CD
The "Amen" break forced scattered sonic ruptures in the UK underground dance scene, a hundred dirty jungle tunes popped through and they spawned a thousand more. Now like some undisposable horror character, its all back - and not before time as the need increases for a radical enforcement of regular interruptions to the insidious babbling/blabbing of anodyne passive sound constantly invading our waking moments. Sound Murderer is an unmissable retrospective from Remarc, who also has a set out of unreleased dubs dating from 1994 to 1996. And Remarc lies full fifteen pure digital generations before the re-monikered SounderMurderer himself, Detroit's Todd Osborn, and his sonic Tonto SK1 aka Tadd Mullinix aka Dabrye, neither of whom who bear any audible stigma from the routine hacking of the ruffneck soundz of early jungle and forcing them back through the mincer/mixer whence they came. It's to be hoped that the sheer blind energy waves of these bastard kidz of Mark Stewart and Cutty Ranks never crash on any beckoning soggy corporate shore. Your friends will need strapping down for this one.
TWILIGHT CIRCUS DUB SOUND SYSTEM
M RECORDS CD250
Ryan Moore has taken the backwards track to roots reggae legend status. Still technically a member of Canadian indie cult heroes Legendary Pink Dots he found himself marooned in the Lowlands and, tens years or so ago, slowly began to build a reputation in the dwindling field of roots reggae - but starting from the dub end. His devotion to the 'warm' sounds of vintage analogue studio gear could have put him in the 'weird and wacky' category but such was his dedication that over time he won over even some of the most anal of roots fans with a series of beautifully crafted self-produced albums on which he not only played, but arranged and mixed. His confidence is now such that he has taken to collaborations with Luciano, Big Youth, Michael Rose, Ranking Joe and the Aswad Horns - these are not lightweight players or personalities. The result is a set of finely worked nu roots tunes that can sit proudly alongside the best contemporary reggae - especially engaging is the use of the brass, with beautiful contributions form Eddie 'Tan Tan' Thornton on 'Blue Motion' and the full Mighty Three Horns on 'Alpha Skank'.
DON'T GIVE UP YOUR CULTURE
A collection of roots reggae tracks sourced onto the German label by Rodguel 'Blackbeard' Sinclair and mixed down by Tubby mainly from Channel One, from the early seventies through to the mid-eighties. Notable in this batch is Wayne Jarrett's 'All I Want To Do' on Yabby You's 'Jesus Dread' rhythm, an alternate take of Jacob Miller's 'False Rasta' originally cut for Augustus Pablo's Rockers and, on the same rhythm, Johnny Clarke's restrained and brooding 'Don't Know Who to Trust' which comes with a vibes laden dub version - possibly Pablo at work again? As a showcase of great Jamaican singers this is a fine set as there's also appearances from Rod Taylor, Horace Andy, the Might Diamonds and Linval Thompson.
AT CHANNEL ONE - SEVENS, TWELVES AND VERSIONS
PRESSURE SOUNDS PSCD/LP42
The Wailing Souls arrived at Ernest and Jo Jo Hookim's Channel One in 1976. Their first recording was 'Things And Time', an update of their earlier Studio One 'Back Out (With It)' rhythm with new words and melody. It went straight to number one in the Jamaican charts and they never looked back as the time they spent at the label confirmed their status as one of reggae's great harmony groups. The Hookim Brothers pioneered the release of the twelve inch single in Jamaica and the group were one of the main beneficiaries of this brand new format that stretched tunes into dub and DJ discomix versions. Highlights here include 'Fire A Mus Mus Tail', based on the Jamaican folk metaphor of fire blowing at the tail of a mouse but who thinks its the effect of a cooling breeze . it was a major Sound System hit in Kingston and London as cut after cut after cut of rhythm were played out in soundclashes; alternate vocal and dub takes to 'Lawless Society', recorded during the last session at Maxfield Avenue before Channel One studio closed for good and the recut of the gorgeous 'Mr. Fire Coal Man'. This impressive collection adds to Pressure Sounds already excellent catalogue of Channel One compilations.