GUNS DON’T ARGUE – ANTHOLOGY ’70-77
Although he started out as a U Roy imitator the surging joy of his first single effort for Keith Hudson, ‘Shades of Hudson’ – backed by ‘Spanish Omigo’ (sic), was enough to guarantee Dennis Alcapone a place in DJ history. He went on to cut his debut album for Studio One (unfortunately nothing from this set here) and work for the best producers in the genre including Niney, Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs, Duke Reid and most significantly - Lee Perry, when they took reality lyrics into the dancehall. And if there were one tune amongst this massive fifty five track compilation that proclaims the magic generated by that combination its ‘Master Key’, a lean bass and trombone rhythm bed on top of which the DJ chats roots into the existential. There are a stack of others that compete as pick of the bunch including ‘Teach the Children’, ‘The Great Woggie’. ‘Well Dread’ and ‘Musical Liquidator’. Together with his album for Mr.Dodd, ‘Forever Version’ this may be as much Dennis as the average reggae fan could ever want.
JAH SHAKA featuring ICHO CANDY
DUB SALUTE 2
JAH SHAKA MUSIC / GREESLEEVES CD
Icho Candy emerged in the early eighties amongst the many youths championed by Augustus Pablo for whom he cut a few impassioned sides. At the time these tunes were largely unsuccessful commercially but have since become collectors’ items and rare roots grooves for the sound system play, primarily the staple closer ‘Captain Selassie I’ on the ‘Heavenless’ rhythm. In the main his reputation then lies with ‘Glory to the King’ the nineties album he cut with Jah Shaka here reissued in its dub form where Candy’s high, floating voice often rises in the mix tremulously above the tenor range. Standout tracks are ‘Rastafari Dub’ with the vocal intro chanted in a Rasta Camp groundation style before the rough percussion drive dominates the dub and the final track, ‘Have No Fear Dub’ a more subdued effort but classy nevertheless with ersatz Pabloesque vibes over a sweet vocal, dispensed with early but returning in a dub sectioned by indecipherable drum polyrhythms.
KODE9 + SPACEAPE
KINGSTOWN (VOX)/KINGSTOWN (DUB)
HYPERDUB 10" VINYL
The low end flow rolls on this time studded and striped with spattered tablas and a descending melodica synth line. In 2004 their Hyperdub debut Prince ultraversion ‘Sign of the Dub’ and its successor ‘Spit’, marked out Kode9 and Daddi G as identifiable entities outside of grime, dubstep or any other scene. Their appearances on the second Rephlex and Tempa Grime collections cemented their dark intention. The clearly articulated and apocryphal vocals of Daddi G are traceable stylistically to mogadon versions of LKJ or Michael Smith but content-wise with a bleaker and more detached view of colonialism’s last rites in the flipside of Lord Creator’s ‘Kingston Town’. Daddi G has now evolved into his present incarnation of Spaceape, an audiovisual project that ‘explores the impact of image and sound on the bodily senses’ but these sonics are enough for the senses this time around.
DUB MASSIVE – CHAPTERS 1 & 2
Maybe this should have been listed under ‘various artists’ but Bill Laswell needs to take full responsibility for what lies beneath. The absence of the original multi-track tapes no longer provides an insuperable obstacle to the so-called art of the remix, conveniently re-titled here as ‘enhanced’ and ‘placed’ with an additional claim of being ‘created’ – or to be more direct, totally fucked-over. That many of these original dubs were created in the extra heat of valve driven studios is testament to the vision and commitment of their originators – Pablo, Scratch, Tubby, and Observer etc who achieved fresh and exciting dynamism within and around their newly created spatial frameworks. In using Pro-Tools or whatever in an attempt to ‘enhance’ the sound Laswell and engineer Robert Musso only succeed in dulling otherwise sparkling gems such as ‘Java’, ‘Drum Rock’ and ‘Dubbing with the Observer’. More successful are the later minimal dubs from Scientist where the Roots Radics built skeletally massive rhythms that are difficult to deconstruct. Roots should avoid in case their systems decline ….
LOVE YOU BROTHER MAN – THE EARLY YEARS
Barrington Levy came to general prominence with his mid-eighties hits ‘Under Mi Sensi’ and ‘Here I Come’, tunes that rang with the times and captured the speedier feelings that fully arrived with the ‘Sleng Teng’ generation. However the singer had made his mark in the roots market some years earlier as he provided producers Junjo Lawes and Alvin Ranglin with some of their biggest hits in the early dancehall period. With a light tenor that wouldn’t have been out of place on fifties doo-wop floating on the heaviest of Roots Radics rhythms, Levy’s songs still carried conscious lyrics and less occasionally rasta concerns, the times were yet to surrender to the self-referential obsessions of hip hop. Many of those tunes are included here in their discomix versions with DJ inputs from Jah Thomas, ‘Shine Eye Girl’ and ‘Shaolin Temple’, or extended into the dub, ‘Bounty Hunter’, ‘A Ya We Deh’ and ‘Give Thanks and Praise’.
Wackies keeps us involved with this real treat from studio engineer Douglas Levy, part of the original Wackies set up from 1974-75, alongside Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes and Jah Upton, and probably best known to date as mixer on Sugar Minott’s ‘International Herb’. The opener will be recognisable by those who picked up Ranking Dread’s recent Silver Camel ‘In Dub’ reissue this as Sly & Robbie’s ‘Bom Dub’for 1980 dub album is his finest work and many of the rhythms are derived from a tape given to the studio by the Rhythm Twins containing their versions of contemporary Joe Gibbs hits. Indeed the bizarrely sped up ‘Let Me Love You Dub’ sounds just like its missing a Dennis Brown vocal! There are versions to Tribesman Dub - the rhythm for Tyrone Evans' ‘Black Like Me’ and Wayne Jarrett's interpretation of Johnny Clarke’s ‘Every Tongue Shall Tell’. But the standout is a take on Steel Pulse's ‘Handsworth Revolution’ that arrived in a parcel of records from England the same weekend as the session ran; ‘March (sic) Down Babylon Dub’, with Bullwackie in declamatory form on the wire, is a dark slowed down steppers with serious intent.
PALM PICTURES CD
Unrivaled amongst Jamaica’s guitarists Ernest Ranglin’s inputs can be found in most of the Islands indigenous musics and reggae sub-genres. From the 60’s onwards he produced a steady stream of quality jazz albums culminating in 1996’s ‘Below the Bassline’, an effortless jazz/dub set of reggae standards. Since then his governance has stretched into dance and world music. Travelling south from 1998’s Senegal based ‘In Search of the Lost Riddim’ Ernest lands in Johannesburg to work with the horns of the African Jazz Pioneers and voices of the Mahotella Queens, veterans of township jive. Logic would dictate we should soon hear a dubbed up and extended version of the already spacey dancer ‘Trenchtown Music’ as Ernie gets in the mood. In turns funky and reflective the mix down by Groucho is fusion at a stage where the only joints are those ablaze on playback.
WORLD IN TROUBLE
M RECORDS LP/CD
Ranking Joe (Joseph Jackson) opened his microphone account on the books of Sturgav Hi Fi in the mid seventies, moving onto Ray Symbolic Hi Fi where he mentored Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales in the ways of the conscious DJ. His reputation as a live DJ has always overshadowed his recorded output. And so it has continued to the present primarily via patronage of the touring Blood and Fire Sound System, where Joe has proved a reliable crowd puller and pleaser. But without any hesitation this new production by Ryan ‘Twilight Circus’ Moore probably stands as the DJ’s most consistent set of his career. The passion in his delivery is undimmed and he rides the rhythms like he’s still as hungry as a youth. With Style Scott on drums, Scully on percussion, Dean Fraser and Bobby Ellis on horns Chinna pulling it all together on guitar it’s like one out of time. Having once urged Ryan to step outside his old dub style I find I have no advice left – probably the best DJ album of the year.
CONGO NATTY RECORDINGS CD&DVD/6LP
A well overdue retrospective of a true British dance music legend, albeit self-released, whose career took a reverse trajectory to the norm in that he started out overground with ‘Street Tuff’ a top ten pop hit with Brit rap pack Double Trouble an act that went the same way as most UK hip hop back in the time. Reinvented as number one junglist, refusing to be drawn into the camp of intelligent drum and bass, Michael West became Congo Natty and embarked on a course of creating shamelessly righteous rollers now well in the process of reissue. This new collection openly contrasts the stark naivety of early tunes such as ‘Just Keep Rockin’’ and ‘Rebel Music’ with the soon to come ‘Humanity’ featuring the vocals of the late roots stylist Price Lincoln Thompson, the classic Sly & Robbie production on Dennis Brown, ‘Revolution’, and later contributions from UK homegrown talent Tena Fly and Spikey T. Contrasting tough breaks with sweet vocals this was the acceptable street version of the strong and sweet Lovers confection. Also imminent is double CD set of ‘The Best of Congo Natty'.
JACK RUBY HI-FI
If the Brooklyn-based Clappers label had’ve started operations in the last couple of years then surely it would have drawn the attention of the Homeland Security cultural investigation section so militant was its output. Jack Ruby was the all-conquering sound system operator from the early 70’s now best know for sponsoring the emergence of Burning Spear’s epochal ‘Marcus Garvey’ set, albeit in remixed form for international consumption. The re-issue of this showcase album, taken to the New York label for its debut release, assumes its original structure with just four tunes all in discomix style, the vocals segueing into the dubs and/or DJ versions. But before cries of ‘short change’ arise it must be said that the quality is stone killer top notch, especially the opener which has the great Ken Boothe at his most soulful on ‘Peace Time’ reflecting on the short-lived treaty between Kingston’s warring politically-based street gangs. All the dubs have the imprint of King Tubby at his classiest, no fussy or tricksy effects, just relentless but funky dubbing. Lennox Miller’s lively take on Delroy Wilson’s standard ‘Better Must Come’ is followed by the obscure DJ Jah Coller plus the dub together weighing in at almost thirteen minutes. More hardcore Clappers’ sounds can be found on the ‘Black Slavery Days’ album retrieved by Honest Jons last year.
STUDIO ONE ROOTS 2
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS 2LP/CD
A new Soul Jazz Studio One compilation always causes ripples amongst the reggae cognoscenti as the debate is joined on the opportunities missed. But it would take Jah Khomeini to baulk at this set which sinks the bit deeper into the vaults and drags some pure righteous stuff to the surface. For a starter Karl Bryan’s ‘2KStrut’ is a version to Burning Spear’s ‘Door Peep’, although the reason for its obscurity is explainable as the instrumental could be Kenny G. Adequate compensation comes in the form of Zoot (not the jazzbo) Sims’ ‘Small Garden’ a Rasta take on the steppin’ razor theme and the burro drums of Count Ossie on Zion All Stars’ chanted nyahbinghi style ‘Holy Mount Zion’. Willie Williams’ ‘Jah Righteous Plan’ will come as a shock to many of reggae’s casual acquaintances to find the singer recorded something in addition to ‘Armagideon Time’ and that Winston Matthews of the Wailing Souls had the guts not only to cover Jah Bob’s ‘Sun is Shining’ but to turn in such a stunningly spooky version, trading lines with a haunting melodica.