KNIVES TO THE TREBLE
MARS RECORDINGS CD
Burning Babylon is a one man dub reggae project from Boston, Massachusetts USA, created by Slade Anderson previously guitar honcho in various punk/metal bands in the Boston area in the eighties before he underwent overdue bass conversion, ditched all that toppy twang and headed overboard deep into the bottom end. Glen Brown’s Tubby mixed ‘Termination Dub’ provided the Damascene moment. Despite some of the titles here almost sounding like an intended pastiche, ‘Mash Up the DJ’ and ‘Satta Stylee’ indeed!, it’s clear from the music within that the boy Slade was determined not come out to play until he understood the rules. But inhabiting the ground between early Twilight Circus and Dub Syndicate is not a place to stay for long right now, following the guide from ‘Mek we Jump’ the set’s sweetest and least glum track might be the way to go.
SOUNDS FROM THE BURNING SPEAR – BURNING SPEAR AT STUDIO ONE
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS CD/DOUBLE LP
Mooted some twelve months or so ago this compilation has arrived at last. Such was the clash of personalities between Spear and Coxsone that he once remarked when asked about their collaboration "It is not I who deal with Clement Dodd, it is Clement Dodd who deal with I", nevertheless it was Studio One that gave him his ‘Iriginal’ voice. As both the debut albums, ‘Presenting Burning Spear’ and ‘Rocking Time’ have appeared sporadically over the past few years, both with alternate versions included, Soul Jazz have wisely concentrated on Winston Rodney’s magnificent series of first singles. Opening with ‘Door Peeper’ as mystical a piece of music that has ever been committed to vinyl and still a total sonic mystery, the productions come across as starkly confrontational with little embellishment save for the forlorn harmony of Spear’s now forgotten partners. As essential as Pressure Sound’s exemplary ‘Spear Burning’ in any serious collection of Spear and JA rhythm.
COCAINE IN MY BRAIN – ANTHOLOGY
TROJAN DOUBLE CD
Another misleadingly titled set from the reggae juggernaut, although the forty odd tracks on this compilation pull together the critical sides from the DJ’s early days with Lee Perry, notably the ‘Tighten Up’ version ‘Cane River Rock’ and ‘Dub Organiser’ the key track from recently reissued and unmissable Scratch meets Tubby album ‘Blackboard Jungle’, plus a couple of killer Niney the Observer produced toast on Dennis Brown tunes - ‘Flat Foot Hustling’ on ‘Here I Come’ and the combination with Trinity ‘So Long Rastafari’ – it’s the missing years which are as notable. To make an anthology on the last of the great 70s DJs truly definitive the addition of material from the Hookims at Channel One is essential, as is stuff from Yabby You, Pablo, Winston Riley - and not forgetting Clement Dodd. What we get though is stacks of later Bunny Lee cuts and self productions many revisiting the tried and tested rhythms that have had the reissue retread a too many times of late. Nevertheless, through the 70s Dillinger was in prolific and often majestic form and failing bagging the essential ‘CB200’ album this is an OK place to start for any newcomer to his work.
DEEP IN THE ROOTS
With the departure of such a towering figure as Leroy Sibbles one would have expected the Heptones to fold, resting on their glory days with Studio One and Lee Perry. However the arrival of Dolphin ‘Naggo’ Morris signalled a new lease of life in the late seventies under the brief patronage of Niney the Observer at the then firing Channel One studios. Morris, coming with stripes from his ‘Su Su Pon Rasta’ (versioned as ‘Heavy Manners’ by Prince Far I) for Joe Gibbs, was a seasoned roots vocalist and an inspired replacement. This set compiles tracks from two albums, ‘King of my Town’ and ‘Better Days’, adding four towering discomixes which are the real bonus. The dub mixes employed by Niney come from Channel One house engineers Maxie and Bunny Crucial and seem heavier than the popular rockers sounds of the time, especially the roiling bass and thundering low-end piano on ‘Through the Fire I Come’ as tough a sound as the Heptones ever got on record.
WACKIES CD / LP
Not only Wayne Jarrett’s finest moment on vinyl but this is also a truly great dub showcase album belying the generally accepted factoid that nothing outstanding happened back in the early eighties. Fresh from cutting the wonderful ‘Youthman’ for Glen Brown, Wayne Jarrett’s roots credentials were impeccable as he arrived at Bullwackies for the application of Clive ‘Azul’ Hunt’s sparklingly original arrangements and Lloyd Barnes neo-Black Ark honeyed mixes. All the six tracks here are the highest expression of classic Wackiedom, from the fuzztone riffs ladled on the dub mix of the Horace Andy cover ‘Every Tongue Shall Tell’ to the flutes fluttering in and out of the ‘Rockfort Rock’ version ‘Bubble Up’ that make the restrained syndrums of ‘Darling Your Eyes’ almost acceptable. But all is mere preparation for the seductive descent into the viscous void that is the mix of ‘Holy Mount Zion’ a deeper than deep version of ‘Drum Song’, and the fourth Studio One rhythm on the set. But beware, before rushing out to buy this one best check if you have ‘Bubble Up’ in your collection - it’s the same album!
METEO / THIEL
BASS AND GO
METEOSOUND CD EP
Daniel Meteo and Tom Thiel are known as collaborators in the hiphop-influenced dub electronica vehicle "Bus". Whilst Bus have released two vinyl EPs and an album on Pole's high profile ~scape imprint, Meteo’s label has them debut under their own names. Leading the way now for European soulful dub-technologies out beyond the boundaries of sub-glitch Bus take the four tracks on this EP in wildly different directions. The title track mid tempo stepper with stripped ricochets of afro beats and multiple non-repeated riffs and handmade guitar working on top of a stomping riddim. ‘We Do’ returns to a more comforting half tempo for a classy off the edge dub where at times its tempting to hear a suggested melody. Side ‘b’ opener ‘Miami’ revisits an imagined stoner travelogue soundtrack from the eighties whilst ‘Towards Bounce’ could be a snatch of Louis and Bebe Barron in dub, and not before time.
PAUL ST. HILAIRE
FALSE TUNED 12" VINYL
The artist formerly known as Tikiman returns from his travels with Rhythm & Sound with this restatement of his claim to the title once owned by I Jahman Levi as the meditative man of reggae. His disappointing album from last year ‘Unspecified’ finished with a remarkable drifting beatless track ‘Changerine’ to be followed up by the remarkable 'Faith' collaboration with Rene Lowe of Scion, released on his own False Tuned imprint from late last year. The three tunes on this EP hopefully offer a similar portent for what is to come as 'Guiding You' picks up from his earlier work with Mark and Moritz but de-grains the sound to reach a warmer place with harmonies and murmured indistinct spoken vocals with the overall effect suspended somewhere between longing and melancholy. ‘Dr.’s Degree’ is a far darker affair with a random rhythm and stretched efx to stress test the studios insurance policy. ‘Roosty’ takes us back to the classic territory the artist attempted to explore with limited success on ‘Unspecified’, in a smaller dose it becomes much more appealing.
DREAD BROADCASTING CORPORATION – REBEL RADIO
TROJAN DOUBLE CD
In the early eighties radio in the UK was a pretty dire place to be, even virtually, then came DBC – straight outta Neasden, the Dread Broadcasting Corporation, and although its high-rise block signal failed within a few miles, captured cassettes would reach further into the nation. DBC was the place that Ranking Miss P and Louis Lepke started alongside x amount of reggae dedicated DJs not least the dear departed Dub Bug – where is he when we need him now? The tunes on this peerless collection start with UK’s reggae anthem Aswad’s ‘Warrior Charge’ and pick up Papa Levi’s seminal UK proto fast-chat ‘Mi Go Mi King’ and Prince Lincoln’s outernational plaint ‘Humanity’ early on disc one with further flavour of the times added by archive jingles from original broadcasts cut into the mix throughout. Lest we forget that back in the day there were no reggae reissue labels or well-selected compilations of contemporary hits. Cassettes made by fans of the music or dubbed off shows on DBC were the only way to hear the music, certainly for those outside Jamaica or London. Also great to hear the mix on this collection reflecting the output of the station with Lovers clashing with dub, roots with ska, dancehall with calypso – no sanitised ‘urban’ programming.
OUT ON A FUNKY TRIP: FUNK AND SOUL FROM RANDY’S 1970-1975
Prefaced by a couple of steaming ten inchers this collection showcases some of the funkier sides cut at Randy’s by producers Vincent Chin and his son Clive. Many Jamaican musicians tended to earn their living not through reggae sessions but playing soul covers at the touristy hotels spread along the island’s north coast, just as many UK jazzmen kept body and soul together by playing in popular dance bands. And the chops are all gathered here, whether from the younger guys best represented by Sly Dunbar in Skin, Flesh and Bones or the older school with guitarist Lyn Taitt brought to Jamaica pre-ska times by Byron Lee. ‘Stepping Up’ has Taitt deliver a Steve Cropper-esque solo whilst it sounds for all the world like Junior Walker arriving for the sax break, the title track is straight out of a Roger Corman exploitation movie with unrestrained moog generating a brand new frug agogo. Perversely the highlight tag is reserved for a Toots b-side, a horns-fuelled Memphis style dubstrumental jog sounding reminiscent of that classic you can never remember.
STUDIO ONE FUNK
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS CD/DOUBLE LP
For years Sound Dimension may have provided token classic reggae funkified breakbeats for the bags of many a dance DJ in the shape of ‘Greedy G’ and ‘Granny Scratch Scratch’ but few had the nerve to explore much further. Just a glimpse of what they missed is in this set of nineteen JA originals, US covers and dub versions of earlier hits – mostly instrumental – that makes the most satisfying listening experience so far in this series and probably its most commercial offering. Blood and Fire utilised Curtis Mayfield’s song title ‘Darker than Blue’ to kick off the idea of relating reggae back to one of its many cultural feeds subgenre now its a whole new marketable proposition and new subgenre. Standout tracks here are Vin Gordon’s trombone version of Larry & Alvin’s ‘Your Love’ in a style that could have come out of a 1950’s Los Angeles r’n’b combo, the Sharks’ bass led rarity ‘Music Answer’ from the early eighties but bred from a yet to be born mechanikal funk, Cedric Im Brooks sax take on Horace ‘Skylarking Doctor’ mysteriously emerging as ‘Idleberg’ and ‘Poco Tempo’ a rare Studio One melodica outing as Pablove Black versions ‘Sidewalk Doctor’.