BULLWACKIES ALL STARS
The Rhythm & Sound boys continue to delve deeper into the vaults of Lloyd Barnes’ Bullwackies productions and this one comes from 1976 on the Senrab label and with Prince Douglas and Jah Upton ruling the mixing desk dubbing tunes culled from seven and twelve inch singles out on City Line and Wackies as well as associated labels such as Versatile, and Munchie Jackson’s Earth imprint. Those expecting the swirling Upsetteresque mixes made newly popular by this reissue series may be initially disappointed as the dubs on the first six or seven tracks are more stately affairs in the earlier classical style of Tubby or maybe Errol Brown at Treasure Isle both of whom provided the core rhythms represented here. Things begin to get steamier with ‘Hurricane Not I’ a version of the LoveJoys ‘Disco Reggae’ that would not have been out of place on one of Scratch’s Disco Bum twelves and the cuckoo in the nest ‘Unlimited Dub’ which is actually a dubbed singjay version of the label’s coverage of the Ali vs. Frazier Thriller in Manila itself based on John Clarke’s ‘Pollution’.
BURNING SPEAR CD
Well, it’s over twenty five years since I saw Spear part a hardcore roots reggae crowd like the Red Sea at Cleopatra’s in Huddersfield, just by approaching with dread countenance and passing through with people gazing on in awe. Things have moved on a lot since then, Spear has moved to Jamaica to Manhattan’s Upper East Side and instead of jogging on the beach keeps trim in the gym. Now as reggae’s elder statesman, in the absence of Jah Bob and Bunny Wailer’s wilful lack of engagement, Spear seems to be on his own version of a Never Ending Tour and as this column is written ‘Our Music’ is nominated for a Grammy. His lyrical concerns are no different from the time when he cut his first tunes for Clement Dodd or his breakthrough ‘Marcus Garvey’ set, but the stark and passionate chant of his familiar old time delivery has turned into more of an avuncular croon. But the rough always comes with the smooth, or in this case vice versa, as I recall watching ‘Neighbours’ one day sat with Bonjo from African Head Charge around the time of his ‘Songs of Praise’ album when he enthused about the show’s theme tune that he promptly made the mistake of covering to both the amusement and chagrin of friends and fans alike.
FREEDOM – THE ANTHOLOGY
Although his name is not as well known generally, amongst reggae lovers the output and reputation of the late Clancy Eccles rivals those of his producer contemporaries Lee Perry, Duke Reid and Bunny Lee. Perhaps the fact that he was a highly politicised individual caused Eccles’ disillusionment with the music business and his departure from the scene in the mid-seventies but by that time he had made an indelible mark on reggae history with tunes such as Theo Beckford’s ‘Easy Snappin’’, Lord Creator’s ‘Kingston Town’ and many sides from the Ugly One King Stitt. This double CD set collects mainly the best of his recordings as a solo artist and but also selected productions on artist such as Joe Higgs, the Silvertones, Larry & Alvin and Third World. Devotees of the post Studio One Upsetter and pre Black Ark Scratch can’t afford to ignore this release, with fascinating notes from don of detail Dave Katz.
PRESENTS DUB DREAD
Ten years ago Ray Keith was at the spearhead, along with Peshay and Goldie, of jungle’s reincarnation as the stand alone genre drum & bass; he never attracted the ‘intelligent’ tag of some of his contemporaries and his work retained a tougher edge than the norm. Creator of the Penny Black, UFO and DreadUK labels and coming in under the radar in the guise of London’s Most Wanted, Renegade and Dark Soldier amongst other noms des grooves Ray Keith is the owner of the fierce electrostep style that rolled across the tougher dancefloors. This mix CD puts together some of his own labels output together, artists Bladerunner and Serum and some remix skills applied elsewhere.
Based on a deep knowledge of a dub, reggae and dancehall heritage there’s x amount of lifted vocal acapellas and DJ chat strung through the mixes here peaking on the plundering of John Holt’s ‘Police in Helicopter’ for Congo Natty Records from 2004year, the break-laden ‘Wobbler’ from the hit and run Chronic imprint - anything on that label is worth snagging without objection – and Horace Andy’s disembodied vocal line and isolated horn section from a Tubby dub (“Guiding Star’ version?) on ‘Leave Dem Alone’.
KING JAMMY’S PRODUCTIONS
KING JAMMY’S AT CHANNEL 1 1977-1979
KINGSTON SOUNDS CD/LP
In 1978 on graduation from Tubby’s sonic academy Prince Jammy built his own studio at his house, just a stones throw from Dromilly Avenue, where also he started his own label using the name Jammy’s. Tubbys studios were mainly used for voicing and mixdown of finished tracks as well as dubbing, so it was natural for Jammy’s early production routines to utilise the facilities over at the pre-eminent studio - Channel 1 Studio. As a nurturer of young talent and aficionado of the sound system Jammy was well placed to cut tunes on some of the freshest young talent of the era and that’s what we have on this fine compilation, roots classics such as Anthony Johnson's version of the ‘No, No, No’ rhythm 'More Love in the City', the underrated King Everald's beautifully delivered 'Life can be Easy', the youthful Junior Reid's charmingly off-key 'No Darkness Tonight' could only be found in reggae and Early B’s ‘Learn Fi Drive’ – surely an album reissue is overdue from this great DJ. Also included are cuts from Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott, Wayne Smith and Half Pint.
KODE9 & SPACEAPE
9 SAMOURAI / BACKWARD
Lifting an apocalyptic sample from a Lee Perry interview – ‘ … a stone will be thrown at the state and a stone will be thrown at the churches …’ – at a time when he could rap on in a sensible mode for minutes at a time (sourced from BBC’s On the Wire circa December 1984), this new offering from Kode9 matches the sentiment of the repeated lyric with a doomed-out slowed down Kremlin-style military brass band march sample. The effect is to leave with a distinct feeling of unease and a certainty that Lee Perry could never be as bonkers as the music press has been fond of portraying him over t he years. The flip has Kode9 joined by SpaceApe who moves up to one notch of funk on his delivery on his update of the Junior Murvin roots lyric and this time nearer to Mutabaruka both in sentiment and delivery of a hard time pressure theme of justified paranoia.
BARRINGTON LEVY IN DUB: THE LOST MIXES FROM KING TUBBY'S STUDIO
Another album that received only a limited pre-release back in the early eighties, this one , a little like trying to attribute an old master to the school of whoever is accredited to Tubby’s studios due to the mixer’s use of EQ, high-pass filters and the structure of the dubbing itself, although teasingly authorship is not conclusive. It’s probably not Tubby himself, more likely Scientist or Jammy, the former being the likely culprit. Opening up with one of the most familiar tracks of the set ‘Shaolin Temple’, best known from the extended version DJ’d by Jah Thomas, the epochal ‘Shine Eye Girl’ – a revisit of the Heptone’s ‘Get in the Groove’ rhythm whilst Studio One rhythms are also done over with ‘Full Up’ versioned as ‘Reggae Music Dub’ with fluttering echoes of horns and ‘Real Rock’ comes as ‘Looking My Love Dub’ and ‘Skylarking’ prosaically as itself! Its great to hear the Roots Radics before they got deep down into that brutal hornless groove that was to become their trademark and which became the template for the new dancehall styles until the digital tsunami swept all before it, energetically muscular dubbing with still enough of a joyful swing in there as a trace back to the master, Tubby.
SKREAMISM VOLUME 1
Following last year’s unleashing of the mighty ‘Midnight Request Line’ Skream and Tempa, the home of dubstep, announce the Skreamizm series, a sequence of doublepack vinyl sets designed to showcase the production work of the genre’s most promising young artist. Skream is based in Croydon, south of South London, like many of the other artists who grew up on the peripheries of garage and the edgier sound of the underground as played out on local pirate radio. The darker rolls of seemingly unachievable sub-bass sonics characterises his tunes now and if there’s any return to any previously recognisable music forms, its dub. ‘Smiley Face’ is surprisingly a little lighter than expectation moving into skank territory whilst ‘Lightening’ can’t resist another re-rinse of the ‘Amen’ break but ‘Rottan’ rescues his deserved reputation as sonic expeditionary as the track contracts a stomach wrenching bass with flutes with the mid-zones occupied by an unstoppable lurch of a riff
JAMAICA SOUL SHAKE VOL 1
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS 2LP/CD
Sound Dimension were to early reggae what the Skatalites were to ska, its predominant rhythm engine, both were house bands at Studio One and the former included Skatalites alumni guitarist Ernest Ranglin and keyboardist Jackie Mittoo in addition to the creator of some of reggae’s greatest and most enduring basslines Leroy ‘Heptone’ Sibbles’ and on drums, later to star in the ‘Rockers’ movie, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace. The name of the band comes from an echo-box machine that Clement Dodd purchased whilst on tour in England and applied on return to Jamaica to achieve the signature double-time echo of the band’s guitar sound. This compilation collates b side versions of some of Studio One’s greatest hits as well as hen’s teeth rare singles from JA only release. Originally credited to band member Im & David (Cedric Brooks and Dave Madden) ‘Heavy Beat’ starts the show, a version of Delroy Wilson’s ‘Conquer Me’ followed by the set’s funkiest piece the one-away ‘Federated Backdrop’. ‘Full Up’ is here plus ‘Upsetter’s Dream’ (Carlton & the Shoes’ ‘Love Me Forever’), ‘Solas’ (The Gladiators’ ‘Sonia) and the mysteriously titled ‘Doctor Sappa Too (Marcia Griffiths’ ‘My Ambition). All set up for the implied Volume 2 and a valuable addition to the series that brought Studio One in to the megastores.
NEGRIL TO KINGSTON CITY
Looks like something might be up on the west coast at last, with Steve ‘Mystic Urchin’ (eh?) Wilson, DJ fflood and mtfloyd recording in Jamaica, mixing down in San Francisco and mastering in Berlin all while pulling in Dub Trio’s drummer Joe Tomino, dancehall Empress Ce’cile and the talents of the criminally underrated Meshell Ndegeocello on bass this looks like serious business. And so it turns out, although with an experimental production perhaps a little too dense for realistic dub pretensions and the mix from mtfloyd not entirely pulled out from an occasional downtempo mire. On the upside Meshell’s basslines are a flow of pure badness especially on the mistitled ‘Moonrise Dub’ with vocals from Farenheit where she drives the whole thing, and when Joe Tomino’s drums appear a whole track can take on a shinier snappy feel – too much to expect Meshell and Joe working together though, it doesn’t happen except on the throwaway opener. These boys aren’t bashful about using a full horn section either judging by the militant blasts that open and punctuate ‘Mi Nuh Was Dat’, vocal courtesy of Tami Chin. There’s even some a couple of drifts thrown in with Haruna Madono’s treated cello on the track ‘On White River’ and fflood’s ‘Under the Thatch’.