DAVE BARKER MEETS THE UPSETTERS
PRISONER OF LOVE
Having once been billed incorrectly as Dave Barker many years ago on a show I was DJ’ing with Lee Perry I suppose its time to give up the unwarranted grudge. This overview of the singer’s Perry productions is a fair summary of his short moment in the sun, notwithstanding the perennially popular ‘Double Barrel’ cut with Ansell Collins; stylistically occupying ground between JB, the Godfather, and the crooning end of Otis, Barker was a competent journeyman elevated by his association with the Upsetter. His 1970 debut album, taking its title directly from the James Brown hit, is replicated in this reissue but it’s some of the twelve bonus tracks that pull; primarily ‘Duppy Conqueror’ re-fashioned into ‘Upsetting Station (aka Conqueror Version 3)’ with Barker switching between sweet vocal and ear scraping MC squawks, the eerie ‘Tight Spot’ with its famously psychotic guitar riff and the version of the Wailers’ now classic ‘Small Axe’ with Charley Ace on DJ duty for ‘Shocks ‘71’.
ERROL BELLOT / MUST DANCE PLAYERS
ROOTSMAN / ROOTSMAN DUB 2
MUST DANCE ROOTS SELECTION 10 INCH VINYL
Errol Bellot first appeared on the UK reggae scene in 1981 with the instant British roots anthem ‘Babylon’ for S & G records, home to then established stars Carol Thompson, Sugar Minott and Winston Reedy. Later on Bellot went on to join Jah Tubbys Sound before moving to Unity Sound in North London – celebrated a couple of years ago on the excellent Honest Jons compilation ‘Watch How The People Dancing’. More of the same here but this time cut for Jah Bunny around the same period with spar Ranks Red Eye as engineer, and now revived via Hughie Izachaar’s Reggae On Top subsidiary. The rhythm comes a la Jammy’s early Black Uhuru style, bouncy and uplifting with the insistent rise and fall of the bassline belied by Bellot’s light tenor on a conscious theme and so the dub follows with plenty of vocal licks and what sounds tantalisingly like a repeated banjo riff! Erroll Mathis’ ‘Early Bird’ is on the flip with a dub.
DUB FROM ATLANTIS
THE THINGS THAT WE DO / THE THING THAT WE DUB
RENG RANG 10 INCH VINYL
Whilst the rest of the worlds plods on down in Bristol the reggae scene seems to make it own laws. Dub From Atlantis is a loose collective of bass driven musicians with Stevie and Guy (The Men From Atlantis) at its core have been promoting roots reggae, dancehall and dub in the city for a number of years and now take a step with this fine self-financed debut in ‘The Things That We Do’. There’s an evident UK stamp on this massively chugging steppers tune with the lead vocal and DJ distinguished by a repeated tenor sax riff, that riff is dubbed out on the version as the bass ramps up and on the flip – ‘The Things That We Play’ the sax returns for some refreshingly free blowing on top of a ruff percussion and efx mix. It’s as good a UK debut as UB40’s ‘King’ – no sarcasm intended as that tune remains an ignored classic – and up with N.Z.’s Fat Freddy’s Drop. Dub From Atlantis began a new Thursday session at the Blue Mountain club in Bristol from September this and their website is packed with tunes and mixes, check www.dubfromatlantis.com
ENTERING THE DRAGON
TROJAN FAN CLUB CD
You don’t have to get too far into this album before realising this is a true sonic genius at work. Keith Hudson’s reputation is unfairly tainted because the odd critic does not rate him as a vocalist but even taking his accomplishments as producer would rightly place him high in the super league of reggae’s elite. Trojan follow up 2004’s essential The Hudson Affair with one strictly for hardcore devotees, the original 1972 ‘Entering The Dragon’ LP with an added seventeen rare sides lifted from obscure collectors 45’s. The set opens with the title track, actually ‘Blackbelt Jones’, with an uncredited DJ – sounding a little like Big Youth – delivering a blaxploitationesque toast taking it to a lower lyrical level that Isaac Hayes’ ‘Shaft’!; this is followed by Soul Syndicate’s instrudub version to ‘Riot’ the rhythm that fed UK hiphop for a few months back in 1988 and one of Hudson’s most wigged-out solo efforts, the tortured off-key ‘Too Possessive And You Know It Baby (aka Fly Away)’ with spliffed-up spoken intro and dubbed vocal, after that comes a harmonica version of ‘Melody Maker’. This level of variety and invention continues for thirty tracks.
MY FOREFATHER DIED IN THE SAND
SUNSHOT 7" VINYL
Last month we touched on John Holt’s spooky tune ‘Strange Things’, it could be about innocent flirting or it could border on sheer paranoia, the singer made a habit of recording unsettling tunes – ‘Ali Baba’ and ‘Time is the Master’ are just two more. Holt went on to re-cut the song for producer Phil Pratt on his Sunshot label and here is another vocal take steering the tune more firmly in the roots direction. Nothing else is really known of the prosaically named Call More (probably Carl Moore) but this black consciousness version registers with collectors, based on a more percussive bed than the Studio One original and its probably Bongo Herman or Scully driving the jaunty nyabinghi rhythm of the Pratt AllStars as the drums standing out clearly on the dub; probably mistitled as ‘Strang Mood’, but who knows?
The tension of association and contrast informs the construction of classic haiku, Stormfield do well to remind us of this in the quote from the renowned master Basho:
“Over the warriors summer grasses wave:
The aftermath of dreams,
Remarkable even in English translation; so how to convert this somehow into sonic imaginings that generate surprise. Samples from warrior clashes seep into the source mix, signature bass wobble piles on the pressure whilst the grunt and clash of swordplay scar the mix in this abstract glitched dubstep. Monkeysteak’s ramps the tempo into more regular 2-step pace, Ed Chamberlain’s could be out of Bobby Orlando’s electro textbook, Blackmass takes it back East with fluttering shakuhachi flutes on a distorted bass roll whilst Point B goes for total cut-up.
THREE PIECE SUIT
JOE GIBBS EUROPE LP
Back in 1978 on its original appearance this album was rightly lauded as a top flight DJ work and its still sounds great after all these years, with Trinity communicating the great fun he’s having in the studio knocking these tunes out. Available on both CD and LP, its best to go for the vinyl version as thankfully the politically incorrect artwork remains intact. Both Trinity and his pal Dillinger were of the new DJ school and, although there was a clear debt to Big Youth particularly, they both possessed the brashness of youth that carried the swing. ‘Three Piece Suit’ has a contemporarily heavy dubwise sound provided by engineer Errol Thompson for Joe Gibbs, and many of the rhythms are still being retrod today: ‘Song Of The Midnight Hour’ is ‘Java’, ‘Render Your Heart’ is on Junior Byles’ beautiful ‘Heart & Soul’, perversely ‘Mohammed Ali’ rides Spear’s ‘Joe Frazier’, ‘Rasta Dub’ is the Wailers’ ‘Keep On Moving’ and of course the rhythm of the title track provided Althea & Donna with a number one tune in the UK on ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ itself derived from Hortense Ellis’ ‘I’m Still In Love With You Boy’.
VIBRONICS FEAT BONEY L
SCOOPS 10" SINGLE
Maybe the sentiments in Sister Audrey’s ‘English Girl’, cut for Mad Professor on Ariwa back in 1992, aren’t still relevant today; maybe on a personal level, but out of that context its a little like updating ‘Free Nelson Mandela’. So Boney ‘L’ updated the lyrics 2006 style and manages a sweetly understated reading in that sweet old lovers rock style. But its Stevie Vibronics dub version that makes this piece worth lifting with its brief phased guitar chops running through the mix and the faraway hi-hat taking us back in time. The flip has the recently reactivated Ranking Joe ‘trodding through creation’ one more time, nice to hear that croak one more time but once more it’s the dub that counts.
THE BEST OF …. ORIGINAL EIGHTEEN / DELUXE EDITION
A foundation reggae artist and, like many others of his era, schooled at Clement Dodd’s Studio One where he influence the development of other prodigies like Dennis Brown, Errol Dunkley and Freddie McGregor. His early tunes were cut under the wing of Lee Perry, then a scout and arranger for Dodd, who in 1963 penned the ska stormer ‘Joe Liges’ and ‘Spit in the Sky’ both attacks on the errant Prince Buster who had recently left the label. Later he worked freelance for many other producers most notably Bunny Lee for whom he cut 'Better Must Come', so popular that it was adopted as a theme song by Michael Manley's PNP to maximize their vote among 'sufferers', during the 1971 election campaign. This set builds on ‘Original Twelve’ effectively the best of Delroy up to 1967 and concentrates mainly on ska and rocksteady tunes so an overview, even of Studio One output, its not. The two extended mixes here are not exactly inspirational so best to concentrate on Delroy’s great vocal performances, notably the original mix of ‘Conquer Me’ on CD for the first time and the immortal ‘Rain From The Skies’ where he created a modern standard largely unrecognised except by fellow Jamaican vocalists who just can’t resist a great tune.
LIFE GOES IN CIRCLES – SOUNDS FROM THE TALENT CORPORATION 1974 TO 1979
Tommy Cowan is forever immortalised in reggae history as producer of Israel Vibration’s 1979 debut ‘The Same Song’, he later went on to initiate Reggae Sunsplash. As usual that’s only half the story, back in 1974 he formed the Talent Corporation to nurture local talent in Jamaica with the intention of obtaining as much exposure for its artists that was normally afforded international artists. Certainly the range and quality of the tunes gathered here argue that Cowan certainly had impeccable taste, although sad to say most of the material only became local hits. Devon Iron’s ‘Jerusalem’ is as strong as anything he cut for the Upsetter (there’s an alternate 7” available too), the Abyssinians ‘Love Comes and Goes’ is just stone beautiful and with its version attached the blissful horn section can stand alone sans efx. Dennis Brown has the title track with the stereo mix only separating the voice and backing track on headphones, ostensibly a mess but here an emphasis on what a really great vocalist he was. The album closes out with Roman Stewart reggae-lite ‘Hit Song’ but with the bonus of Dillinger’s earnestly amusing ‘Natty Sing A Hit Song” moving into an inventive dub with vamped horns, organ and vocal returns. The artwork is a little cheeky though – a straight lift of Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Hub Cap’ on Blue Note.
VERSION DREAD – DUB SPECIALIST
A reissue of Heartbeat’s Chris Wilson compilation of classic b sides of various seventies Studio One 45rpm releases, some straight version and some well dubwise – hence the title. Also a chance to pick this up on crisp double vinyl with the addition of two extra and unmissable tracks, specially extended mix to Ernest Ranglin’s now chill-out staple ‘Surfing’ and six-minute dub to the twelve-inch pressing of Carlton & His Shoes’ lovely ‘Never Give Your Heart Away’. Interesting piece of revisionism in the sleevenotes claims that Clement Dodd was more ‘interested in the musicality’ rather than dubbing the track, at least Syd Bucknor gets a credit. Most the tracks here will be familiar to longtime fans so that makes the set a good primer for newcomers. Two standout rarities are Sound Dimension’s ‘Zion Lion’ on the ‘Melody Life’ rhythm but the flip of High Charles’ ‘Zion’ single on the Studio One subsidiary label Winro complete with reverbed DJ toast as intro and through most of the track, also ‘It Deep Pt.2’ by Lloyd Robinson and the Brentford Disco Set boasting a fartingly inept wah wah and jolly organ, deep it certainly ain’t.