On the Wire - Radio Lancashire - Home

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Dub Review - March 2005




Its tough out there for specialist music labels so the imminent birthing of two new reggae revive labels is good news. Blood and Fire’s Steve Barrow is the expectant father of two, first up being Hot Pot, a subsidiary of Cooking Vinyl, shortly to be followed by the long-anticipated and equally overdue Microphonic – dedicated to the art of the DJ. Artist producer Glenmore ‘the Godson’ Brown is responsible for some of the toughest rhythms this side of Yabby You, and like the Jesus Dread many of his tunes were mixed down by the great King Tubby. The late eighties saw three great Greensleeves compilations on his work covering vocals, DJs and instrumentals/dubs; these are long gone now and the appearance of ‘Termination Dub’ a few years ago only served to increase demand and expectation for a serious reissue programme of his exceptional catalogue. And so the LP version of this first volume is a ‘one riddim’ selection of the immortal ‘Dirty Harry’ originally version by saxist Richard Hall from the vocal cut ‘Realise’ voiced by Glen and Ritchie MacDonald from the Chosen Few. The CD contains bonus tracks including Greg Isaacs ‘One One Cocoa’ and Glen Brown’s own vocal versions ‘Save Our Nation’ and ‘Away with the Bad’. A classic, recommended without reservation.




As Calvin ‘Bubbles’ Cameron is a veteran trombonist with time served in Tommy McCook's Supersonics, Count Ossie's Mystic Revelation, The Light Of Saba, and The Skatalites, one might expect brightly charging brass led dancer numbers mixed with throbbing nyahbinghi drenched chanters – and you would not be disappointed. Cameron is a long-time session player based in the Caribbean and his family is soaked in the music business. It’s shrewd of the team up at Honest Jons to mine this particular vein carefully as other labels might have easily come up with a set to fall under a strict nostalgia banner – let’s not forget that such musicians never made their living playing this kind of music, let alone jazz. ‘Sweet Incense’ is a mid-tempo casual bone vamp like one of those friendly warm up numbers before the brass hammer drops. And so it does on ‘One People’ where the full-line up swings in action on top of a much busier rhythm that’s rinsed out again on the pumping bass version, the cut that DJs will remember. Then all is back in balance with ‘Throne’, a binghi stutter in the true ‘Babylon Gone Down’ Count Ossie style. Rush for the first pressing, it’s a true piece coming in a three-colour silk-screened sleeve with handwritten notes by Mr. Cameron.




Any early promise signalled by the UK fusion of ragga and hip hop spluttered and failed in the late eighties, its remains feeding the indigent embers of jungle. Although Daddy Freddy might have been largely forgotten following a series of superstar patronage, the boy certainly has done good in the career revival stakes over the last few years, working to best advantage his entrée into the new ruff chic so brutally engineered by the recently shy Rootsman on the great ‘Old School – New School’ set. But this new monster eighteen track album out of Germany’s P.O.T. label is too much chant, rap and scat packed onto an undistinguished set of lame one-dimensional riddims. Worse still the presence of Joseph Cotton and Freddy’s mentor Ranking Joe is wasted on weak material, unbelievably Joe is only put to work on unison vocal. Let’s hope Freddy meets Scud or Rupture one day.




Two of the new French dub institutions come together in this set out last spring sometime – but only arriving in the UK via the Orient late in the year. Improvisators Dub have appeared spasmodically on tasty little 7" releases on imprints not unlike, and obviously in tribute to, Pablo’s red and yellow JA Rockers label. And their music is in deference to the late melodica king, deep and spiritually driven vibrations. The clash with High Tone was bound to be just that as they are the Gallic equivalent of ADF and it’s remarkable that they have not yet clashed with their UK counterparts given their connections with Marseille, North Africa and other points of south. I assume the (re)mixes here are on previously issued tracks and are credited to Lenfant, Manutension, Knarf and P-Rav, with the centrepiece being the latter’s muscular workout on ‘Dub Fever’, a stomping steppers with what sounds like Jah Youth samples on top of insistent horn stabs.




Glancing at the track listing titles like ‘Dystopia’, ‘Simulacra’ and ‘System Malfunction’ tended to cast a feeling of slight nausea over me before the music began and I can’t help thinking that if Jah Wobble, on bass duties here, had been asked to name the tunes then I might have been looking forward to the journey a little more. But what happened was that the warm thunder of Wobble’s bass wormed its way to the back of my brain and stayed there uninterrupted through a slow spinal massage of circa 80BPMs for fully five tunes and over forty minutes, right until the final track’s more urgent pace drew me back from the brink of total submission. This is Laswell’s fifth release for ROIR, a self-styled never ending dub caravan, with the same faithful crew on board, co-writer Wobble, keyboardist Bernie Worrell, percussionist Karsh Kale, and drummer/percussionist Abdou Mboup. It’s difficult to see how they will ever escape this inevitably alchemical orbit, condemned forever to wear a deep groove in the ionosphere.




An overdue reappearance for one of the most celebrated album covers in reggae, originally released in 1982 this album gained cult status due in part to the artwork of Rod Vass, featuring the stylised head of a dread in black and white on red background. The first half has five tracks by Sly and Robbie mixed by King Tubby and his pupil Scientist mixes the Roots Radics for the second tranche of five tracks. Time plays tricks as I don’t recall the opening ‘Bom Dub’ as being so hopelessly off-kilter, but it’s rescued by the intro to a dub of the Wailers’ ‘I don’t want to wait in vain’ when the MC declares: ‘… I man don’t wanna watch no TV, I man wanna listen dub LP! Go deh …’ Exactly what the late Ranking Dread has to do with all this is less than clear although it seems that production provenance is tracked back to his work with Tapper Zukie. Its Tubbys all the way though as the classically mixed ‘Dub Land’ could easily grace any collection of his finest mixes and Scientist’s snappy take of Dawn Penn’s ‘No No No’, predictably as ‘Yes Yes Yes dub’, could walk away with best in show for all efforts on that rhythm, especially when utilising the wobbliest bass syndrum in town.




Through the seventies Ranking Joe built a solid, if unspectacular, reputation as a DJ in Jamaica, but it was not until he came to the UK to tour as part of the Ray Symbolic Hi-Fi package – the first for a sound system – that his career rocketed on the back of his dynamic performances with selector Jah Screw. The set was recorded and released to cash in on that success and captures Joe at his very rude and rampant best. The more traditional roots tunes are backed by the Gladiators Band, but rougher sound of the Roots Radics emerges as dominant for the numbers inna early dancehall style. Strange now listening back to the assured slackness of ‘Cocks Man’ that predates the tentative street smarts of L.L. Cool J and Slick Rick by a good five years, and how innocent it all seems now that Kylie could make Joe blush. Joe’s DJ style had enough old school cultural nuance to make his developing tougher dancehall style acceptable to the reggae Taliban, his consequent stylistic swing made him unique – best evidenced on the opening track here a tribute to a legendary UK brand, ‘Clark’s Booty Style’ was never so hip




Leroy Smart is one of that elite pack of roots & lovers vocalists who never really hit the big time but nevertheless managed to keep on recording and generate a loyal audience amongst reggae aficionados, particularly for his immaculate work with Jimmy producer Radway. Mr. Smart, aka the Don, also came over as one heavy dude, a sort of meaner, moodier Cool Ruler who nevertheless often appeared to be on the edge of some sort of emotional crack-up in mid-song such was the quality in his voice and delivery. We don’t get that here in full effect, but all the dubs carry that voice in the intro and, compared to a lot of other disappointments in the series of Bunny Lee studio floor sweepings, this is a much more solid listen – primarily due to the retention of the horns in the mixes and the quality of the vintage rhythms but the highlight remains the pumping version of the title with plenty spring echo generated lashings through the mix. Speaking of mix though – no credits lead to suspicions of a more modern makeover.




Both of the original volumes of Reggae Goodies came out around 1977 on Bullwackies' City Line imprint, celebrating NY subway track ending at White Plains Road - and Wackies' headquarters. Both were compilations mostly made up from 7" A-sides that had appeared over the previous few years on associated labels like Versatile, Rawse and Senrab. Both are pure vocal affairs with the first volume covering the more JA-based roots concerns of the day, and that reflected in productions such as Don Carlos’ ‘Black Harmony (Killer)’, Stranger Cole’s broodingly intense ‘Capture Land’ and album highlight John Clarke’s starkly prosaic ‘Recession’. The second set is more a lovers thing, but the opener from the Love Joys, a febrile harmony treatment of Carlton & the Shoes ‘Sweet Feelings’ – last versioned so confidently by 2 Bad Card for On U Sound, the Chosen Brothers sequestering of Ken Boothe’s ‘Say You’ and ‘Black Root’ a tough closing instrudub from Wanachi can’t really rescue this weaker set. On the whole one for Wackies fanatics only.




In the early eighties, whilst both were moving between New York and Toronto, Jackie Mittoo and Willie Williams revived their respective Studio One classics ‘Real Rock’ and ‘Armagideon Time’ combination style for this new jazzier, rougher version. Drafting in Cousin Marshall, introduced on the label as ‘The Son of Alton Ellis’ and a percussionist with a nname staright out of the Mothers of Invention, Bongo Gene, they created this new cut aimed directly for the dancefloor. Rub-a-dub style deejaying runs throughout but Willie Williams' new vocal is cool to the point of narcolepsy, all delivered on top of shuffling tom-toms and the keyboards sounding like Jackie Mittoo has just had a private lesson from Monk. The dub side completes the otherness of the whole thing with daft random mumbling, sirens and assorted odd effects. Certainly the time is right for a ‘Real Rock’ one rhythm album.