HIT SOUNDS FROM CHANNEL ONE (1979-1980)
TABOU RECORDS CD
The French label Tabou1 is notoriously difficult to track down; bad news, as they released the essential Satta Dub, an Abyssinians in dub set, a few years ago since when it disappeared from view. As this one is back maybe the Satta Dub will re-appear too. This is not a U Brown album but compilation of tracks produced by the Deejay lifted from his Hit Sounds label, loosely related to and recorded at Channel One as the seventies ended and eighties began. The dubs here are mixed by Bunny Tom Tom who is joined on engineering duties by Peter Chemist and Soljie. It’s not a hard driving steppers experience but more of a relaxed Aggrovators with some great vocalists, Sugar Minott, Delroy Wilson, Johnny Osbourne, struggling with below par songs. But Al Campbell’s Now I Know provides the material for a textbook binghi drumming workout by Sticky and Skully - perhaps the most used session men in Jamaican recording history and surely overdue what would be a great tribute album retrospective. Most interesting for the four versions of Weather Balloon, lyrically a little limp, but the rhythm and playing mirrors the best of Mikey Dread/King Tubby output from the same period, there’s two versions from the revolutionaries and an instrumental outing from Deadly Headly and Bobby Ellis in brass combination.
GUSSIE PRESENTING I ROY
Daddy U Roy may have been the originator and Big Youth the most exciting Dee Jay but for sheer wit, intelligence and creativity there was no match for the might I Roy. Back in the early seventies he was too often dismissed as a U Roy copyist, a move that left much of his output undervalued by many other than the hardcore reggae enthusiast. Trojan redeem themselves here by following the precedent they created with the excelled re-upholstering of Big Youth’s epochal Screaming Target – also produced by the youthful Gussie Clarke, so we have all the original cuts from I Roy’s 1973 debut with the addition of their original vocal versions, dubs and also further re-versions by the Dee Jay on the most popular rhythms. The undoubted highlights are the segueing of Dennis Brown’s magnificent vocal on In Their Own Way through to Coxsone Affairs, I Roy’s tribute to Lloydie Coxsone’s ruling sound with name checks for contemporaries and venues and the immortal rhyme: “Girls without spouse …. Drinks on the house!”; and the five takes on Lloyd Parkes ever-fresh Slaving rhythm best known via the multiple Glen Brown versions and here with an intro exchange between I Roy and Gussie that is pure street theatre. Number One contender for revive reissue of the year.
JAH SHAKA SOUND SYSTEM
SHAKA! SPIRITUAL ZULU WARRIOR - PHEBES 1981
JAH SHAKA UK (CD-R)
Like so many musicians steeped in the faith of Rastafari Jah Shaka came out of the hills of Clarendon. Arriving in the UK in the sixties he served his soundboy apprenticeship with the soul & R'n'B sound system Freddie Cloudburst and started his own operation around 1970 taking the name Jah Shaka from a Zulu leader. Featuring mainly dubwise selections and what were later to be know as Steppers tunes, his policy did not make room for slackness. From his Friday night residency at Phebes Club in Stoke Newington started Hackney circa late 1978 and over the following years he reigned supreme amongst tough competition from the likes of Sir Coxsone, Fat Man and Ray Symbolic. Ironically, although having an extensive catalogue as producer and artist, he is best known for his legendary Sound System sessions and has pressed up a number of these from tape sources, some with crowd ambience and some direct from the board. Unfortunately the former take on the sonic qualities of the rawest field recording and the latter lose the vibe altogether. No substitute then for getting out and seeing Shaka live should you ever have the opportunity in the meantime go for Phebes 1981 as a document only.
I’M JUST A DREAD
JOE GIBBS CD
It was good friend Augustus Pablo who introduced the young Jacob Miller to some of reggae's leading producers – Clement Dodd, Joe Gibbs and King Tubby – and who produced his first release, Keep on Knocking. By the time of his untimely death in a car crash in 1980 Miller was a huge star in Jamaica and was about to embark on a US tour in support of Bob Marley. This set is, compilation of the sides he cut for Joe Gibbs, betray his closeness to Marley creatively and his knack of melding popular and roots strains into a credible fusion. So Marley’s Soul Rebel becomes I Am A Natty segueing into Errol Thompson’s incredibly adventurous dub with the all the vocals and harmonies, plus extra moaned interjections from deep in the ship’s hold, strung out across the signature farting synth bass of the Fatman Riddim Section; whilst Fly Away has a straight read across to Jah Bob’s Turn Your Lights Down Low and the extended recut of Keep On Knocking utilises the Hypocrites rhythm. The title track updates Alton Ellis’ Studio One classic I’m Just A Guy and Keep On Running is another discomix with the all too scarce Welton Irie making an appearance with dancehall chat and a great intro: “ ……. Crucial mi Lion!”. This is an essential addition to the singer’s catalogue alongside his solo albums and the Pablo compilation Who Say Jah No Dread.
AT THE CONTROL – DUBWISE
After Mikey Dread first recorded for Lee Perry in 1976, he continued to cuts sides for Sonia Pottinger, Joe Gibbs and Carlton Patterson – the latter graced by some of King Tubby’s most stately dubs on the producer’s Black & White label. In parallel with this recording activity be gained notoriety as DJ and engineer on his ‘Dread At The Controls’ radio show for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. This success spawned the legendary African Anthem album, a re-creation on vinyl of his radio show which re-ignited an interest in things dubwise in 1979 and the early eighties. At The Control Dubwise was released in the same year and this is its first re-issue in digital format. The radio jingles, usually recorded at King Tubby's studio, are here again and are just as insane as first time around, none more so than Fast Forward Dub, a version of Harry Mudie’s Let Me Tell You Boy rhythm with an interrupted sneeze intro morphing into a shout of “Dread At The Control”, halfway though the track a herd of goats wander into the studio and eventually gnaw their way through the power cables after water is poured through a cuckoo clock. Master Mantrol is the track reviewed in last month’s column Dread All The Way re-remixed by Crucial Bunny. The original ‘dubwise selection without objection’!
BOB ORMROD AND SKAVILLE TRAIN
OFF THE RAILS
REGGAE RETRO CD
Glastonbury based Skaville Train begin life in 1987 and were, by all accounts, big in Japan, drifting apart hey re-emerged as Ska Bop in the spring of 1997 with principal members remaining from Skaville Train Bob Ormrod, mainly on sax, and Jeff Reed (Drums). Their specialty was in re-creating the musics that rocked the dancehalls of Jamaica in the late fifties and early 1960’s – shufflin’ blues, latin dancers and ska bounce. Of late Bob Ormrod has featured as the horn player shaping the unique sound of the UK’s underrated Martin Campbell and here makes a solo appearance with some of his old spars in attendance. And it’s a beautifully crafted set that lies in that nether region betwixt Jamaican indigenous music and the post-bop jazz that influenced many of its greatest musicians. So there are loving versions of Oliver Nelson’s The Drive and Russell Henderson’s (John Surman’s pianist) Good Times Will Come Again alongside Don Drummond’s Green Island and Derrick Harriott’s Tonight, but standout track is the Coltrane/Gillespie tribute Dizzy Train on which Bob blows on a rhythm which is a wild countrified take on the dancehall of today.
DRUM SOUND – MORE GEMS FROM THE CHANNEL ONE DUB ROOM – 1974 TO 1980
PRESSURE SOUNDS CD/2LP
The long association of Pressure Sounds with the HooKim brothers continues with this strong dub selection sourced in the main from the flips of 45s on the Well Charge, Hitbound and Channel One labels. But the big news is that also includes a version of the crown jewel of any sound system, the killer known as Kunta Kinte which has only ever been available before on a dub plate – not surprising as the track was built like an ultimate sound system tool containing all the necessary ingredients to urge the selector to ‘pull up and rewind’. The mix supplied some of the key dubplate triggers deployed in the junglist heyday, notably being covered by Congo Natty on Kunta Kinte (Original Junglist). Two extra versions of Kunta Kinte will also be available on a specially pressed 45. That headline should not overshadow this excellent selection of dubs mostly featuring the newly developed ‘double drumming’ technique of Sly Dunbar, there’s dub versions of the Deejay cut of The Mighty Diamonds’ Poor Marcus (Hotter Fire), Tubby’s recut of Junior Byles Fade Away (Rootes Dub), Dillinger’s Plantation Heights and Wailing Souls’ Back Weh in amongst lesser known rhythms from the Channel One vaults – a real treasure for the hopelessly lost versionist.
RUPIE EDWARDS ALLSTARS
RUPIE EDWARDS PRESENTS SUCCESS ARCHIVES VOLUME 3 (INSTRUMENTALS)
There’s a whole bunch of Rupie Edwards reissues around at the moment and the producer has made the mistake of compiling the tracklists rather than outsourcing to a label that might have a better feel for the revive market. As a result the albums mainly patchy affairs with little recommend them with this exception of the instrumentals set which is a curiosity more than anything. Lovers of the early Upsetters material will ease into Sey Go Dey by Carl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan or Herbert Spliffington by Earl Bailey, there’s a couple of relaxed Tommy McCook cuts and every other name is a JA session legend. On top of all that it’s mayhem in the IPR infringement department as Rupie claims credit for everything except for The Magnificent Seven!
THE ROOTS OF SLY & ROBBIE – STRICTLY DRUM AND BASS
The creative department of Trojan is on max overdrive this year, its 40th, what with the BBC succumbing to the illusion that a tribute week is a tick in the reggae box. The recent sets from members of Radiohead and Super Furry Animals, with the usual well worn tracks on display and the newly initiated ‘Roots of’ series are disturbing new manifestations of desperation. This overview of Sly & Robbie’s input to reggae largely pre-Taxi years is basically a mixtape without enough surprises; however the one joker in the pack makes the album unmissable - for me at least. John Holt & the Aggrovator’s version of Philly cheesemeister Lou Rawls’ You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine, a Gamble & Huff tune, perfectly captures the early eighties sound coming out of Jamaica that blended so well with the emerging Lovers Rock scene in the UK. There’s the full, nearly eight minute, discomix cut here that segues into the dub with Sly & Robbie previewing elements of the techniques that would later develop into their Taxi signature sound – the lower register syn drums and deep rolling piano turns making for a richly lugubrious but sensuous mix. The magnificence of this tune can be extended even further by adding Jah Stitch’s Deejay take Natty Dread Ting and King Tubby & the Aggrovator’s You’ll Never Find, which finds Tommy McCook opening with a Coltranesque flourish before descending into smoochy baritone sax instrumental.