AFRICAN BROTHERS / KING TUBBY
THE AFRICAN BROTHERS MEET KING TUBBY IN DUB
NATURE SOUNDS CD
One from last year just surfacing from France via an electronics market in Beijing, this is the same outfit who issued the Chinna Smith dub set from Mutabaruka’s ‘Check It!’ album. The African Brothers was the roots harmony vehicle for Sugar Minott, Tony Tuff and one Eric Bubbles. Their style came across between the Abyssinians and the Prophets, deep and sweet deliveries of conscious lyrics – their ‘Righteous Kingdom’ repressed on a seven last year is a stone cold roots classic. But don’t get too excited in anticipation of this set as it’s a curious mix of vinyl lifts and studio mixes for the version addict only. Tubbs is in great form on the desk with clean, crisp snappy mixes from his funkier side, but some of the tunes drop away like a studio monitor test mix or a ditched mixdown left on the quarter inch. Dubs of ‘Lead Us Heavenly Father’, ‘Hold Tight’, ‘Practice What You Preach’ are here plus, bizarrely, two seemingly identical mixes of ‘Party Night’ bearing different titles – ‘Party Dub’ and ‘Unity Dub’.
A versionist’s wet dream. In 1973 the raw nineteen year-old Big Youth was transcendentally schooled by the urbane Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke to conjure the toasts on his ‘Screaming Target’ debut set which for this re-issue are supplemented by original vocal and instrumental tracks plus alternate cuts. Highlights are ‘Pride and Joy Rock’ on Leroy Smart’s ‘Pride and Ambition’ and the title track whose complicated lineage can be traced back to Willie Cobbs r’n’b hit ‘You Don’t Love Me’, a tune that spawned limitless versions that continue replication even today, best known being Dawn Penn’s ‘No, No, No’, but on this album is represented by two Pablo instrumentals, the violin-laced ‘K.G.’s Half Way Tree’ and ‘Organ Style’ an achingly beautiful melodica melody. Repeating the achievement of his second generation predecessor U Roy, Jah Youth had seven single shots on the Jamaican charts at one time, his popularity eclipsed that of Bob Marley on his home territory, checking back on these performances it’s not difficult to understand as he captured everything that was exciting and fresh about DJ style.
DUBSTEP ALLSTARS VOL.3
An overdue rework of the mix CD format with Kode9 selecting the cuts and unleashing DJ partner the SpaceApe, the one time Daddi G, to sermonise on information perversion themes over segues and through whole tracks, and the rhythms are largely lifted from dubplates just dropped or about to drop from Skream, D1, DMZ crew including Loefah, older names Plascticman and Benga and some newer names or maybe riddim pseudonyms, Geiom, Random Trio, N-Type and Blackdown. Amongst the fresher tunes Calenda’s ‘Forever’ is a standout with swathes of orchestral, John Barryesque, samples replacing beats as the dominant driver whilst SpaceApe strings out a breathless paranoia rap through into Digital Mystikz’ ‘Heartless Ninja’ itself repeating and paying tribute to Skream’s fabulous fluttering riff from last year’s instant classic of the dubstep genre ‘Midnight Request Line’. It’s all tension built, compelling stuff – especially with the increasingly apocalyptic snatches pulled from SpaceApe lyrics - and takes the dubstep genre even further away from its origins in the South London-based garage movements from five years ago.
CHILDREN OF THE MOST HIGH
Little Roy is not one those reggae artists who has suffered from over-recording since his first appearance on the scene back in the late sixties. His ‘Tribal War’ and ‘Prophecy’ have proved timeless classics both versioned countless times. His earliest hit ‘Bongo Nyah’, cut for Lloyd Daley’s Matador label, appears on this new set and finds Little Roy in fine voice as does the whole of the album. A mix of well crafted new songs, especially ‘Membership Card’ with covers of older material is skewed by the inclusion of ‘Our Day Will Come’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’! This may seem baffling to the casual roots fan is the kind of ‘big people’ music befitting someone of Little Roy’s vintage - as opposed to the carefully honed righteous rage of some of today’s nu roots artists - it would just be much more preferable for him to select a couple of songs with less baggage. Backing comes from musicians assembled by Carlton ‘Bubblers’ Ogilvie of the Ruffcut Band and the other ‘bad card’ of On U Sound’s 2 Bad Card alongside Adrian Sherwood, Fish and Horsemouth make for one killer rhythm section.
BIG DADA CD
Wayne ‘Lotek’ Bennett is a graduate of the tough old time London rap scene, regular collaborator with mentor Roots Manuva and driving force behind Lotek Hi-Fi, that’s along with vocalist Wayne Paul and rapper Aurelius aka Dazzla. The concept underpinning the album is a celebration of the host of largely black music styles that have been drawn into London via a common Caribbean heritage – so creating something uniquely ‘English’. Funk, hip hop, soca, disco, dancehall, reggae and dub are all unified in feel across this works. ‘Ram Dancehall’ is hip hop only in the sense of Ward 21’s mad chanted stylings as Lotek gruffly delivers the lyric in bizarre carnival style, ‘Time has Come’ features guest Sandra Melody in an outtake from ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ whilst ‘Move Ya Ting’ has both Sandra and Mr.Manuva guesting on a ragga-disco piece of nonsense and ‘Sticks and Stones’ relaxes back into the ‘chunka-chunka’ one drop pace of a true roots tune. Place alongside Roots Manuva’s ‘Awfully Deep’ as amongst the best in U.K. black contemporary music.
MARK IRATION / SPLITZ HORNS
STRUGGLE / FORWARD EVER
Remarkably this is the first vocal outing for Iration Steppers’ Mark Iration cut for Steve Vibronic’s Leicester based dubplate style imprint Scoops, where all is pressed on the format of choice these day – ten inch vinyl. Picking up the age-old theme of ‘struggling inna Babylon’ its not so much the lyric that stands out more Mark’s assured delivery coming across with a clear Sugar Minott influence on this expansive keyboard driven thudder segueing into the dub where the keys maintain a repeat figure punctuating a dub mixed with plenty of imaginative touch. The flip features the welcome return of the Scoops house brass section aka Splitz Horns with a tune that on the opening chorus veers a little close to the melody of George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’ before jazzy solos rescue the day and the ensuing dub raises to higher levels.
RED EARTH RECORDS CD
Over the years many of the reggae based bands coming out of Africa have turned out to be a disappointment, with a few majestic exceptions that is, Nigeria’s Sonny Okasun comes to mind. Soothsayers suck in African musical traditions to London’s more fusion friendly environment and find a more successful formula for the collision of afrobeat, urban jazz and dub. Nigerian vocalist/percussionist Adesose Wallace, from AfroCelt Sound System, and Netsayi Chigwendere, Zimbabwean ‘Chimurunga Soul’ singer, take majority of the vocals whilst Roots Manuva collaborator Ricki Rankin both sings and DJs on ‘Never Give Up’ – soon come remix from Manneseh. All moulded together by co-writers and producers Idris Rahman and trumpeter Robin Hopcraft this music can transfer dancefloor genres without any stress. Mad Professor is on remix duties for future singles.
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 Me’shell 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 Me’shell’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’.
JAH PROMISE / ALMIGHTY
CHRONIC 12” VINYL
Jungle the way it should be, chasmic bass, flagrantly ripped roots samples and tearaway breaks – there’s some debate as to the identity of the borrower here, but after circling Lemon D the consensus landed on one Dan Miracle. Those familiar with Natty Congo’s fiercer efforts, thinking of a stripped down version and will be near the mark as Johnny Osborne’s classic Studio One cut ‘Jah Promise’ from is Truth and Rights album is gutted, filleted and spread amongst a foundation d’n’b structure with the horns and vocal bouncing around in militant conqueror style. These tunes disappear in rapid fashion; best pick this one up now.
DOWNBEAT THE RULER – KILLER INSTRUMENTALS FROM STUDIO ONE
In competition with other early Jamaican sound systems Clement Dodd earned the name ‘Downbeat the Ruler’ and the popularity of his sound led directly to the creation of the Studio One label for the production of indigenous tunes to replace the dominance of American 50’s r’n’b. Good to see Heartbeat re-enter the fray and contest the title for top Studio One revivalist with the Soul Jazz people. This reissue is ‘straight to the head’ with the opening five tunes, ‘Rockfort Rock’, ‘Real Rock’, ‘Swing Easy’, ‘Mojo Rock Steady’ and ‘Heavy Rock’ forming the cornerstone upon which much of modern reggae was built. The bands featured here – Soul Vendors, Sound Dimension, Brentford Road Allstars and Dub Specialist consisted of the same group of interchangeable musicians and now can be viewed in the same critical light as say, the Meters or Booker T and the MGs.
WANG LEI MEETS HIGH TONE
JARRING EFFECTS CD/DVD
Wang Lei is a Sichuanese musician now relocated to the more experimentation friendly city of Guangzhou in China’s southern province Guangdong. Starting his musical path with worthy studies of Sichuan opera he was distracted into rock, techno and now dub via visiting luminaries such as Rico Rodriguez and trips to France courtesy of Paris/Beijing cultural connections. His dalliance with electronic music unfortunately made Wang Lei’s music sound perversely old fashioned when taken to the west but the collaboration with nudub heavyweights High Tone has reintroduced the space that was always there in traditional Sichuanese music – such as the mighty qin, a seven string fretless flat bed instrument that can sound like the most abstract delta slide – and with the addition of non-mechanical bass textures in the mix from rubbing up to free-form reggae means there’s something a little way different happening here as evidenced by the opener ‘Tchen’ and its flute, sparse percussion and sampled strings. On the other hand Wang drags High Tone in the other direction towards greater risks and away from the dub reggae frameworks, witness ‘Ballistik Affair’ – not a cover version of Leroy Smart’s Channel One hit – with its slow progress over multiple voice samples from mainly Latin sources. The package is nicely fleshed out with a DVD edit of the two acts performing together in France from 2004.