DENNIS BROWN PRESENTS PRINCE JAMMY
UMOJA / 20TH CENTURY DUBWISE
BLOOD AND FIRE CD
Collating two albums first released in the late seventies on DEB, the label that the late Dennis Brown ran in the UK with the help of friend Castro Brown. Of the two ‘20th Century Debwise’ is the more celebrated and certainly the tougher set with the then Prince Jammy in particularly fierce form clearly separating out a new style from King Tubby’s more classic, inventive and at times jazzy approach. In fact the earlier album, released as ‘Umoja Love & Unity’ – and not to be confused with the Pablo album of a similar title – emerges as a blueprint for what was to become the UK nu roots style of the nineties that also developed under the influence of Jah Shaka. ‘Umoja’ has more brass evident whereas ‘Debwise’ is hardcore drum and bass. Mostly versions of Dennis Brown staples of the time, there’s also mixes of tunes from Lennox Brown, Junior Delgado and the Tamlins. Representing Jammy at his heights.
THE BUG AND WARRIOR QUEEN
REPHLEX VINYL EP / EXTENDED CD
Kevin Martin aka The Bug threw the dice now other young guns are queued for their turn at the table throwing down even more fucked up beats, but even in his previous incarnations Kevin was a master of taking it to the edge and its on the edge he stays with the introduction of ruff style Warrior Queen aka Wendy Culture, staple of sound system clashes across the UK. The rhythms on the six bonus dubs thud like a four pound wasp banging against the side of a portaloo trying to escape the noise emanating from the mutant casio keyboard echoing in the bowl. Of course all this is as English as an Ealing comedy, especially Kevin’s studied Bug persona, perhaps Mark E. Smith needs drafting in for vocals next time.
I AM A LEVI (EXTENDED) / PART 2
BASIC REPLAY 12" VINYL
Trevor Sutherland first recorded as ‘Youth’ for producer Duke Reid back in the early sixties only becoming Ijahman Levi around ten years later after trips back and forth between JA and UK. ‘I am a Levi’ was recorded in 1975 in London’s Gooseberry Studios and re-recorded for ‘Haile I Hymn’ his debut Island set that soon became a homegrown classic, a sort of roots style ‘Astral Weeks’. The original version, although opening up as a meditative chant, turns out to be a much more serious affair sonically when it appears an early studio practice session for Einsturzende Neubauten who seemingly assume control of dubbing with enormous crashing metalloid drops zooming unpredictably into the mix. At the end of the three mixes, each one becoming progressively more testing, taking off headphones has the same physical effect as stepping off a roller coaster.
EAST OF THE RIVER COBRE / VERSION
HONEST JON’S RECORDS 10" VINYL
A quick follow up to ‘Look Out for the Devil’ and both pieces preface a soon revive set for this neglected artist. As always the geographical details are as seductive as the tune as we learn the River Cobre runs from St. Catherine through Sligoville and on to Spanish Town reaching the sea at Brayton by Tryall Heights in turn giving name to the Hi Try label on which this tune was first released. Mixed at Joe Gibbs studios its one of those nagging melodica tunes that’s obviously not Pablo and therefore a desirable item given his relative domination of the instrument, delivered on top of a choppy percussion bed with more space in the version. Vocals ‘Wise Man’ and ‘Jah Foundation’ on the flip.
LOVE GROCER MEETS BUSH CHEMIST
EAST OF JARO/JARO DUB
CONSCIOUS SOUNDS 10" VINYL
Love Grocer is a musical collaboration centred around the songwriting duo of Chris Petter on trombone, keyboards & bass and David Fulwood on trumpet & guitar whose two albums have been heartily recommended in this column and, as the Crispy Horns brass section, have worked with a literal who’s who of British reggae with their tunes recently being picked up by none other than the mighty Shaka. Here they meet Bush Chemist aka Dougie Wardop of Conscious Sounds Studios and together come up with this prime roots instrumental and dub on top of a languorous binghi style rhythm track reminiscent of those lovely old Bongo Herman tunes but with this time with those instantly recognisable horns that make you want to sit back with a cool can of Red Stripe rolling across your brow.
‘Hornsman Serenade’ is as good as it sounds and I suppose Dougie could just not resist ‘Steppa dubs 2’.
WARP CD/DOUBLE 12" VINYL
Not checked out Freddy vs. Jason yet and no intention of doing so really so I suppose these tracks from Chris Clark as Milanese may very well make up for that experience as he turns in this debut meeting the expectations of what we all thought Alec Empire might sound like if he was really such as big fan of Lee Perry. The lyrics of ‘Billy Hologram’ need a bouncing ball software upgrade on the iPod but its clearly a shotgun wedding of Mark Stewart of Maffia era and the throatier Buju Banton, snatches of blurry ragga vocal lines smear the surface of the junglist disruptions of ‘So Malleable’ and by the time ‘Iacon’ comes up its clearly noise, not ‘noise’ as we know it rather as a Bash Street Kids vs Whitehouse clash, whereas ‘Head Bocs’ perversely displays disturbing orchestral intentions for a closing track. It’s as though we didn’t really appreciate that swift passage through the sonic tunnels of industrial, jungle and gabba, now we must endure self-induced flashbacks.
DUBBING WITH THE ROYALS
PRESSURE SOUNDS / BEATBACK CD/DOUBLE VINYL
Like many other artists Roy Cousins was another student at Studio One where he cut the first version of his most famous ‘Pick up the pieces’. In 1972 he set up his own Tamoki label, later to re-emerge as Tamoki-Wambesi and Dove, in attempt to control his own product. Running both a post office in Spanish Town and a series of jukebox operations helped to keep things together until the success of a ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ compilation licensed to Ballistic in the UK eased him back into the business when he nurtured the talents of the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Earl Sixteen, Cornell Campbell and the Meditations. Apart from a couple of super rare DJ versions from Prince Far I and I Roy, this dubwise set is an excellent companion to the previous Royals release on Pressure Sounds also titled 'Pick Up the Pieces' with dub versions of real from the heavyweights Tubby, Jammy, Scientist, Lee Perry, Errol T at the mixing board.
SOLDIER OF JAH ARMY
Earl Sixteen may be better known these days for his work with Dreadzone, Manasseh, Rootsman and especially Leftfield who scored a massive dance hit with his vocal assistance back in the early nineties but the artists pedigree stretches back to the seventies when he recorded an impressive series of sides with producers Lee Perry, Mikey Dread, Augustus Pablo, Linval Thompson, Coxsone Dodd amongst others. This set from the Parisian imprint allows us a glimpse back to those earlier days with his version of ‘Malcolm X’ originally cut for Joe Gibbs and used as a demo for Dennis Brown’s hit version from his great ‘Visions’ album plus ‘Rastaman’ a tune cut for Pablo here with its dub. Five discomixes appear including the eight minute epic ‘Going to Africa’. All strictly roots and culture of course but this album is the place to head if you cannot bag his ‘Studio One Showcase’ despite the sad lack of provenance against the tracks.
WEST BOUND D TRAIN
WACKIES 10" VINYL
The original guitar lick opening Dennis Brown’s version of this tune was filched by the Observer from Willie Mitchell’s production of ‘Love and Happiness’ for Al Green. On this relick Dennis’s lyrics are usurped by the come and gone Super T, once a Kingston 3rd World cop with a rep as bad as that other ex-lawman Duke Reid. This 1983 cut runs the D train from Itopia deep into Wackie’s territory in that deeply viscous sub-Scratch style that typifies Lloyd Barne’s mixes of the time. The flip lifts the mood as ‘Style and Fashion’ are celebrated in a combination style by knockabout MCs Jah Batta and Skatee who stretch the fun for the whole cut – just.
STEPPING UP EP
The first of two ten inch pieces both tough dancers paving the way for the album ‘Out on a Funky Trip’ with funk, soul and dub all licensed from Clive Chin of Randy's fame. An artist who is now getting more recognition is guitarist Lyn Taitt featured here on the JBs’ style ‘Steppin Up’ whilst with Toots & the Maytals its more of a Memphis groove with the rare dub ‘Who Knows Better (Version)’, Jablonski retreads Manu Dibango’s ‘Soul Makossa’ in what surprisingly emerges as a lighter almost showband version of the original but a peculiar choice for closer is Jimmy London’s take on the Everley Brothers’ ‘Cathy’s Clown’ only redeemed by a too short guitar break that even Chet Atkins would have been proud of.
STUDIO ONE CLASSICS
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS CD/DOUBLE VINYL
This must be a case of Soul Jazz taking breath before issue of a Studio One rarities and unreleased tracks album for its stone killer hits right the way through with vocals, harmony groups, DJs, instrumentals, dubs and no surprises at all. Still, its nice to hear ‘clean’ takes of tunes I have never heard without hiss and pop, especially Jazzbo’s ‘School’ – even though he steals the motorbike intro from Jah Youth’s ‘S90 Skank’, and Lone Ranger also takes inspiration from that elder DJ on ‘Automatic’ as like Youth’s ‘Jim Screechy’ he quotes the Last Poets.
Recommended for Studio One novices and as a great party album.
STEPPIN’ THE NEIGHBOURS – JAPANESE MEETS DREADBEATS
FOR LIFE MUSIC CD
Picked up for next to nothing as a Japanese cutout in a dubious Beijing back-of-the-shop operation this is the kind of release that won’t reach the West because the roots credentials don’t ping that red, green and gold flashing credibility indicator, but as a sample of reggae pop exotica executed to perfection would be difficult to better. As Spinna B-Ill and the Cavemans (sic) scat through ‘Boogie Walk’ and the Cool Wise Men with Momoko Bito on vocals sweetly murder Erroll Garner’s ‘Misty’ in a ska-lite style one can only yearn to spend a night at the club where all these guys gig. Needless say this is all gobsmacklingly faultlessly played with tongues nowhere near cheeks.
JAH SET IT / GHETTO GEDDON
NATTY CONGO RECORDS 12" VINYL
Dating back to around 1992 this Rebel MC Ras Project production disappeared from view but never touched any kind of original visibility to evince a fall from sonic grace and possessing that irresistible mix of ferocity and cloying sweetness to be found on most of the London produced ragga inflected jungle from the period. Although the main tunes on these 12s form what is now understood as the prototype strain of jungle based d&b, the dubs are all half speed and still sound in front of the pack. Also around at the moment is the previously unreleased X-Project tune featuring Junior Reid and Supercat ‘Banana Boat Man’ and the unbelieveable ‘Walking in the Air’ that does audaciously sample that ‘Snowman’ tune.