DREAD MORE DAN DEAD
Maybe the time is just right for the I-riginal punky reggae party scenester Ari Up, these days a.k.a. Madusa of Stone Love Sound and previously Arianne daughter of Nora Forster and step daughter to the late Johnny Rotten, foundation Slit and New Age Stepper. Her history weighs heavier than her locks and for those who may have written her off as ‘fashion dread’ she’s back to dash dem ‘way with a beats unaccredited bashment set and more attitude than she started out with. Her chat is now pure patois from her long time spent in Kingston, where she became a cable TV star, and her wail is as outrageously off-key as it ever was. The album is a non-stop fusion of dancehall and dub steppers mixing reality and pure fun with righteous outrage and a few cuts begging for the special dubplate treatment, particularly ‘Me Dun’ replicated acapella style to invite remix and clash contest.
WINSTON EDWARDS & BLACKBEARD
DUB CONFERENCE: WINSTON EDWARDS & BLACKBEARD AT 10 DOWNING STREET
STUDIO 16 LP
Produced by Winston Edwards in the UK back in the late seventies with Matumbi in disguise as the Wellpack Band with the clear signature mix of Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell this becomes a must for anyone who found his Pressure Sounds’ ‘Decibel’ album a revelation. Dennis just can’t help letting his musical attributes get in the way of the dub fireworks that were a fixture of the time, but with most of the original rhythms lost in time and space the titles alone stand to convince – ‘Who Made The Prime Ministers Honour List Of 1975’, ‘Whitehall Scandal’ and ‘Shake Buckingham Palace Down’. Also around, on the same label and not to be missed are ‘King Tubby Meets The Upsetter At The Grass Roots Of Dub’ with some crunching early mixes by the Dubmeister recorded at the Black Ark and ‘Surrounded By The Dreads At The National Arena’ celebrating the occasion when Tubbs played a massive twelve hour session at Kingston’s National Arena in support of Bob Marley & The Wailers. Making an unmissable set of vinyl that’s not been around for a long time.
PRINCE FAR I
MEGABIT 25 1922-DUB
The temptation to put Far I’s name on an album prompts a cut and paste job from Roy (The Royals) Cousins back catalogue, but in the hands of Sir Freddie Viadukt aka the (albeit late) Minister of Noise the result becomes almost tasteful. On the perimeters of Warrington lies NAFFI HQ where original tapes from Randys, Tubbys and the Black Ark have been manipulated into their current state, and on the whole a fairly reverential piece of work with Far I voice samples worked into the mix a la Sherwood with Dub Syndicate. But the game is really up on the pseudo (?) Amharic-titled ‘Ejarsa-Gora’ where the ‘marvel of miracles’ sample appears in the mix on top of Vivian Jackson’s ‘Yabby You’ rhythm and traces of Gregorian chant. All traceable back to the Minister’s classic ‘Voodoo Soul’ period where he bravely introduced Far I to Alice Coltrane. With the divine vocals of Roy Cousins, plus contributions from Knowledge, Charlie Chaplin and the Minister’s ex-Mrs Brenda Ray this works out as a recommendation rather than a warning.
HONEST JON’S RECORDS CD
A collection of the three ten inch vinyl pieces that have emerged on the London imprint over the past year gathering some of the finest sides of Junior Dan aka Sydney Gussine aka Left Hand Bassie, previously best known for his work with Augustus Pablo and Burning Spear but probably now famous as a collaborator of Blur’s Damon Albarn, investor in Honest Jon’s Records. Reminiscent of Scratch's 'Disco Devil' discomix, 'Look Out for the Devil' is the key track and was actually recorded down at the Black Ark by a grouping known as the Solid Foundation along with Studio One legend Pablove Black on keyboards, plus a sprinkling of assorted JA talent including Benbow, Sowell and Scully. All seven tunes here are excellent examples late seventies deeply atmospheric roots each coming replete with their accompanying dub.
DAMIAN MARLEY, STEPHEN MARLEY, METHOD MAN & REDMAN
WELCOME TO JAMROCK / LYRICAL.44
TUFF GONG INTERNATIONAL 12" VINYL
The last time one of Jah Bob’s many offspring produced a tune as culturally meaningful as this was Ziggy’s ‘Black My Story (Not History)’ from many moons ago, but this one packs a lot more power dealing in the now rather than the past. "People a dead at random ……….di youths a get blind by stardom" ain’t too far away from many ‘development locations’ in the grip of the dollar. In clean, dirty and instrumental versions this monster roots tune is remixed from his latest ‘all-star’ album ‘Halfway Tree’ that comes on Ghetto Youths International via Motown (!). As JA painfully evolves through Jamdown into Jamrock then Jamdung maybe the Junior Gong, Bob’s youngest and progeny of Miss World Cindy Breakspeare, has finally entered the real world at last. A little like Lisa Marie Presley making a tune as great as any of her Pa’s pre-US army sides, and as unlikely. The flip reverts to a gun digirap revealing boys’ fear of limp dick.
AYATOLLAH / MASH DOWN BABYLON
BASIC REPLAY 12" VINYL
A similar vintage to the Willie Williams and Cousin Marshall tune "Rocking Universally" that appeared on the same revive imprint last year, this one is another Jackie Mittoo production that’s difficult to place between JA, NYC and Toronto. The sound is so dense that we should finger Wackie’s studio as its source. Despite its early eighties vintage the feel harks back to a deeper vein of roots but with the addition of strangely dislocated female chorus, oooohing and aaaahing like they’d wandered into the studio looking for a Bert Kaempfert session – just goes to make the thing all the more perversely appealing. With Jackie’s mighty organ churning intro over the driving steppers’ rhythm laying the ground for countless UK nu dub tracks, the generic redemption lyrics are made redundant.
ON-U SOUND CRASH : SLASH AND MIX
ON-U SOUND / BEAT RECORDS CD
The core of the On U Sound history and reputation distilled into an album lasting just less than an hour with thirty one tracks mixed, cut-up and manipulated in an On U Sound System DJ style, for the Japanese market initially and strangely, as the East is far more familiar with this music just as they are with rockabilly, ska, 50’s r’n’b and a slew of other musics that receive scant cultural recognition in the land of their origin. So some of this turns out to be genuinely ahead of its time as in the dubbed brass band on the Maffia’ ‘Jerusalem’ and any of the African Head Charge tunes and the rest anchored back in eighties sonics and sensibilities, Gary Clail still embarrassingly arch and ‘Stadium Rock’ epitomising the decline of Tack>>Head. As a curio this will provide some much-needed fun for hardcore On U fans or act as an intro for the unsuspecting novitiate.
PHILLIP SMART PRODUCTIONS / VARIOUS ARTISTS
FIVE BOROUGH FIRE - DIGITAL DANCEHALL NYC STYLE
STREET PLATINUM AND GOLD CD/2xLP
This does for New York City what the Honest Jons release profiling Unity Sounds, ‘Watch How The People Dancing - 1986 1989’, did for London. A two album collection of essential Phillip Smart productions that runs from the 80s through the 90s and uncovering another lost but essential chapter in the real history of dance music, after all Kool Herc couldn’t occupy every street corner and gym in the city. Along with Jammy, Scientist and many more contenders Smart came up through the Tubby school of sonic adventure as an assistant engineer before moving to NYC to originate HC & F studios now one of the longest running and most important reggae studios in the United States. Whilst Tubby’s crew were generating riddims like ‘Tempo’ to follow the might ‘Sleng Teng’, Philip Smart echoed the changes in Brooklyn moving dancehall into the digital age with killa soundbwoy business like Sammy Levi’s "Come Offa The Road" and Scion Success’ "The Trainer".
THE BUNNY LEE ROCK STEADY YEARS
Coming rapidly after the excellent Pressure Sounds rocksteady set ‘Safe Travel’ is another exemplary representation of this short-lived genre that ended the ska era and prefaced the eventual domination of reggae, this set concentrates more on some of the more well-known hits of the era. Rocksteady allowed the influence of US soul and r’n’b to become dominant in the vocal stylings of the time as is evidenced by the increased number of cover versions, but more dramatic was the change in the sound that introduced the insistent drum and melodic bass as pre-eminent in the mix. This set brings together some of Bunny Lee’s greatest productions, the series of hits that gave him his nickname of ‘Striker’, delivered by the finest vocalists of the time including Slim Smith, Pat Kelly – the Sam Cooke of Jamaica, Ken Parker and Alton Ellis. For many soul fans these side may merely represent a form of second-class sub-genre of the real thing, but for the real fans of Jamaican music this period it’s almost as though the sonic holy grail lays within tracks such as these.
RELAXIN’ WITH LOVERS VOLUME 4
SONY MUSIC ASSOCIATED RECORDS CD
When in Beijing people are likely to visit the Great Wall or the Forbidden City. Me, I visit the Grand World Second-Hand Electronics Market and visit the many CD stalls there picking up fantastic bargains of Japanese cut-outs such as this Lovers Rock volume from 2003 featuring the work of Clem Bushay. The series is still in print as far as I can discern with other material from DEB, Studio 16, Trojan and homegrown Japan. I already confessed to an irrational obsession with Lovers Rock but anyone taking the trouble to search this one out will come under its spell too, primarily for the presence of a version of the old doo-wop chestnut ‘Silhouettes’ here sung by Janet ‘Silly Games’ Kay, however the song is followed by a monster version also featuring DJ Prince Jazzbo and Rico on trombone – truly the epitome of out of ‘strength comes sweetness’. Also irresistible is Louisa ‘Caught You in a Lie’ Marks’ cover of the Jones’ Girls’ ultra-prosaic ‘Mum and Dad’, which runs along the lines ‘… how can I tell my Mum and Dad, I’ve been bad ….’ – you know the story, all against music that like vintage bottled Ladbroke Grove.
SHAKE THE NATIONS - A NEW BREED OF DUB IV
This one snuck through in 2004 mysteriously evading this column’s attention, a dub of many nations sampler in the style that DubHead has applied mainly to the UK in the past. Twilight Circus’ Ryan Moore, a Canadian ex-pat in Holland dedicated to Jamaican music, kicks off with his latest incarnation as the Dub Project and the sound of ‘Impact’ expands into a more elastic, abstract framework contrasting with his recently established nu-roots style as displayed on the churning closer, returning as Twilight with Big Youth for ‘Dub is What We Need’. In between these the international highlights are Japan’s ‘Trial Production’ who may have a mundane name but come with a clearly well-developed bag of influences as their ‘Roots Exotica’ attests and from France Brain Damage with Black Sifichi may be in the area of Ry Cooder’s ‘Paris, Texas’ with their opening sample there again Cooder wasn’t bashful about trampling Blind Willie Johnson’s path but ‘Circle Dub’ emerges into a more of a space cowboy epic. Sir Larsie I are from Germany, AB-10 Norway, Sism-X France and Infantry Rockers and Sound Imperium both from the USA. Other high quality sides are lifted from recent releases by UK nu roots stalwarts Vibronics, Nucleus Roots, Iration Steppers and Jah Warrior.