Big Youth & Burning Spear
Marcus Mosiah Garvey / Version
FOX 7” SINGLE
Wailing of sirens is appropriate at the start of this epochal single, militant horns, Burning Spear’s most urgent vocal and an apocalyptically dread toast from the Jah Youth in his prime, everything that made reggae a rebel music is captured here. The bad new on this repress is that the version is not from the original Fox single but the one recently reissued in a retrospective of the work of producer Jack Ruby on Heartbeat. This is becoming an even more annoying and complicating factor of reggae reissues as there are multiple versions reissued at different speeds, edits and lengths causing x amount moaning and gnashing of teeth amongst the rootical cognoscenti and quite rightly when it come to the expectations raise by the so-called reissue of a classic (in any genre) in its original format. Anyway it’s still great and worth picking up along with the other reissues from the label including “Get Ready”.
Dennis Bovell Presents 4th Street Orchestra
Ah Who She! Go Deh! / Leggo! Ah-Fi-We-Dis
We have been kept waiting some years for reissue of these two 4th Street Orchestra albums from the late seventies originally issued on the Rama label. Through decade Dennis Bovell ran the Jah Sufferer sound and had cut his selector teeth in playing to the tough to please reggae crowd in London, in amongst the hits of the time he programmed the dubplates he had created his own and other Sound Systems, tunes that were a mix of originals and reworks of JA standards. Unlike the common practice in sounds where tunes are run version to version, as selector Dennis tended to split them up, and this technique is replicated across these two albums. Of the better known tunes there are cuts to the Kingstonians’ “Singer Man” coming as “Sing-A-Man”, “Wells Street Skank” is an adaptation of Junior Murvin’s “Tition” rhythm, “Uganda Crisis” and a melodica cut “Sure Shot” are both versions of Dennis Brown’s tremendously popular “Here I Come”. And so it goes, the whole two albums strung together make for a reflection of everything that was so vital and exciting about the UK reggae scene of the late seventies and early eighties, when Dennis and other contemporaries were ready to rise to the challenge of the assumed supremacy of Jamaican produced product with material that caught the mood in London, Birmingham, Leeds and all the other towns and cities where blues dances infused the air on a Saturday night.
EEK-A-MOUSE 7” SINGLE
Eek-A-Mouse first came to prominence in the early eighties when his Junjo Lawes produced single “Wa-Do-Dem” created a sensation on its release in the UK by Greensleeves, not only because the singer was a crazily dressed six foot seven incher but his vocal style was totally new and became know as ‘singjay’ – a mix of singer and DJ. Prior to that from around 1974he had recorded only a few singles mainly under his real name, Ripton Hylton, on his own Eek-A-Mouse label and its some of these that are now re-available. "Creation" is the monster, a sludgy dubbed out track with an even tougher version. Also around is "Wicked Shall Not Reign", more of a roots vocal with the bonus of stomach churning bass holding up the psyched-out synths, again with the dub version taking it out further and lastly there is "My Fathers Land" the most soulful of the three vocalwise but coming with another stone cold mashing version.
Reggae with the Hippy Boys
The Hippy Boys were an earlier incarnation of Lee Perry’s house band the Upsetters and, with the Barrett brothers Aston on bass and Carlton on drums, later provided the core rhythm section of the mighty Wailers; the remainder of the band was made up for most time by another Perry stalwart, Glen Adams, on keys and Alva ‘Reggie’ Lewis on guitar. All the tracks on this set date from 1969 and 1979 when the band were cutting tracks for Sonia Pottinger’s High Note label and guiding the path of Jamaican music through from rock steady into early reggae, so its no surprise to find a mixture of uncredited JA tunes, ‘Mad Movie’ is a cool groove version of Jackie Mittoo’s ‘Drum Song’ and on ‘Moon Walk’ Mrs. P. has the temerity to claim provenance over ‘Silhouettes’ and ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’. Some of these tunes have the clear but uncredited imprint of Scratch such as the belching, growling and stutters that run through ‘African Zulu’ and the proto-dubbing on ‘Straight To Head’; there’s plenty of early breaks on here too if you can stand the cheese-ometer regularly ringing the bell.
I Can't Get You Off My Mind: 18 Greatest Hits at Studio One
A beautiful job in packaging this double vinyl set package of classic rock steady and reggae from the John Holt, one of Jamaica’s finest singers, unfortunately undervalued by the later roots-only obsessives for his wanderings into crossovered. But when the tunes here are lined up then John Holt turns out to be the template for many of the great vocalists who followed and the rhythms he used at Studio One will be versioned into infinity. Many of the tracks here will be heard for the first time in pristine stereo versions rather than scratchy vinyl, no reason to throw that vinyl away but great to hear ‘Have You Ever Been In Love’, ‘Change Your Style’ (‘Hooligans’), ‘My Heart Is Gone’ (later to become “I Heart Is Clean’ to be versioned by Tubby into ‘Zinc Fence’ one of his greatest dubs), and the totally spooky original cut to ‘Strange Things’. There are two extended mixes included – ‘My Satisfaction’ which is the original rhythm for Culture’s popular ‘Zion Gate’ and ‘Change Your Style’.
King Tubby Meets Jacob Miller
In A Tenement Yard
Grandmaster Tubby must have enjoyed working on these rhythms from the Fatman Rhythm Band dominated as they are by the jazzy and experimental keyboard sounds of Bernard ‘Touter’ Harvey - known to all, although most likely anonymously, for providing the seductively cheesy riffs for Althea and Donna’s megahit ‘Uptown Top Ranking’. The album was originally released on a mislabeled small run pressing back in 1976 and consists of versions of tunes made famous at the time by Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller and the Inner Circle band, “Tenement Yard’ is perhaps the best known but amongst many other roots hits were “Susie Wong”, “Tired A Fe Lick Weed In A Bush” and “Dreader Dread”. Most of them are versioned here by Touter using a variety of keyboards including an Arp Odyssey picked up at Manny’s Music Store on 48th Street in Manhattan in 1976 – a venue well worth a visit just for all the photos plastering the walls. It often seems that reggae is created within Kingston’s stifling vacuum without any regard to the outside world, but just as Tubby loved Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Touter is able to quote divergent influences such as Tangerine Dream and Stevie Wonder as inspiration for his sonic explorations. Unmissable cultured stuff, dub at its highest heights.
Kode9 & SpaceApe with Ms. Haptic
HYPERDUB 10” SINGLE
Of course Kode9 and SpaceApe have long since begun to fold in on themselves and now, with the seductively titled Ms Haptic being admitted to their vacuum-sealed chamber, here comes their first tune produced for express purpose of rubbing up and down your body (it’s vinyl) as opposed to launching a synaptic probe mission for the mutant bass gene... It’s from the soon come album that was never promised, “Memories of the Future”, probably their farewell note to Planet Earth. The intro on ‘Portal’ could be one of Beyonce’s, the lagactil’d vocals of SpaceApe take an almost breezy precedence here running dangerously close to coherence at times, but the sub-bass manages a steady throbbing suck-down effect as the mix teases perilously close to that beckoningly dark sonic plughole. The regression is in full effect on ‘Curious’ with analogue breaks and a vocal that precipitates an uneasy feeling of guilt, bizarre then that the next track on this ripped disc I am listening to is a reggae mash of Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’.
Heart of Dub
Nucleus Roots were born 1995 from elements of Community Charge a Manchester-based ska/punk/dub outfit. After a period as live reggae band they reduced ranks to concentrate on developing studio skills and have continued over the years with peronnel moving in and out. Now they move forward operations to the continent for this their fifth album, featuring unreleased dubs from their last three vocal sets – and it’s a refreshing change to hear a genuine new dub album that strips down the vocals and rebuilds the tracks, especially when the voices are strung throughout the mix. For instance ‘Mankind Dub’ is like a revisit of some of the finest moments of Aswad or Matumbi, a true UK reggae experience, warm harmonies from the Naturalites over crisply chugging riddim beds and the feeling of positivity that was one time a common feature. As might be expected there’s plenty of steppers here but not to the extent that it’s driven, depressingly forced roots. P Lush’s flowing bass holds all this together as usual.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Panic in Babylon
Breaking open the cellophane on this newly arrived release one is struck by the sheer old-fashioned style of the ink drawing of Perry as an Edwardian multi-armed Krishna that adorns the sleeve, undoubtedly his best cover for many a day. A big improvement from its original packaging last year on Moll Selekta but predictably the music remains lame, composed by bassist DJ Startrek and his band The White Belly Rats and co-produced by one P.Brokow it may be a clean sound but the tunes are mere grooves at best with Perry in third rate failed alchemist mode as he re-exhausts his internal rhyming dictionary to little effect. What’s missing are some key ingredients that once made his music so vital, sonic invention and surprise, contemporary relevance of the lyrics, mixdowns that added something magical, bending the rules rather than slavishly following the ones you helped to create. In a word its all sounds lazy. What is added to this NYC release are remixes by DJ Spooky, who takes the best track on the set “Purity Rock” and adds absolutely nothing to it and Dave Sitek, of TV on the Radio – now I got quite excited about this after checking their astonishing “I Was A Lover” – who comes up with an excruciatingly unlistenable mix of the title track; Rico Rodriguez’ trombone solo here is the album’s highlight. Real Perry fans would prefer to fill holes in their collection by investigating the recent reissues of uniformly excellent revive material on the Australian Ascension label.
Zenzile Meets Hightone
JARRING EFFECTS CD
First there was ‘Highvisators’, the collaboration with another French unit, Improvisators; next came ‘Wangtone’ the meeting with Wang Lei, a classically trained musician originating from the city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province in the Southwest of China. Now comes clash number three with Hightone inviting fellow French dubsters Zenzile to merge musical identities resulting in ‘Zentone’! From Angers in Western France, Zenzile have a rock approach to dub, quoting the Clash and Ruts as influences with a good dash of Sonic Youth and Fugazi thrown in. But as they have followed the dub path for the past ten years their sound has developed a warmer pulse, sweet and heavy is their style. This time it’s a much more modern fusion sound with the roots rockers mixing with jump up and digi-dub styles, but all played live, the interplay of two bass players and two drummers from the respective bands makes for a step forward for the energy levels as each track segues into the next. Of the ten on this set the mix duties are shared 50/50 but the flow is seamless. Top tracks are difficult to select, but try ‘The Drop’ with eastern strings and a shimmering flute over a relentless bass hitting at body level, “Zentown” could easily be a Jah Shaka floor shaker or check for the opener ‘The Source’ a steady marching nu roots classics with pulsating rhythm driving through waves of string synth – a real steppers delight.