SURVIVAL OF THE FATTEST
MR BONGO CD/LP
Prince Fatty is the working name for a group assembled by producer and engineer Mike Pelanconi, credited recently with the Lilly Allen's album 'Alright Still'. The sound is pure early eighties niceness with guests Little Roy, Hollie Cook daughter of Sex Pistol Paul and now Slits lead singer, Studio One legend Winston 'Mr.Fixit' Francis and, on whooping up duties, the great Dennis Alcapone. Working backwards the nearest comparable sound is On U's 2 Bad Card project from over ten years ago, so its no surprise that Carlton 'Bubblers' Ogilvie is at work again here along with Adrian Sherwood's other old spar Style Scott of the Radics and Dub Syndicate, with Nick Coplowe aka Mutant Hi-Fi completing the On U axis connect. In the absence of anything else out there slightly leftfield of Ms. Allen's brand of urban pop reggae, this is as good as its going to get. Mixed in an analogue fuzz of vintage spring reverbs, tape echoes and delay, the whole thing is retro in a very comfy way, especially the opener Curious with vocals from Little Roy that could easily been lifted right out of a Dennis Bovell or Leonard Chin lovers' songbook.
TOMMY MCCOOK & THE AGROVATORS
KING TUBBY MEETS THE AGROVATORS AT THE DUB STATION
'King Tubby Meets The Aggrovators At The Dub Station' originally surfaced on the UK Live & Love label in 1976 and for many years stood as the best available representation of Tubby's work with producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee. Every other rhythm is a stone classic, there are dubbed out horns a plenty and the Dubmaster is in swinging form throughout, just loving those jazz flourishes of Tommy McCook and friends. Though there is one track here that stands head and shoulders above the rest and would be a certain inclusion on the impossible to compile 'Best of King Tubby', that track is The Dub Station. I hesitate to claim such significance for this dub as, annoyingly, I am not aware of the original vocal version to the tune. What is clear however is that the brass introduction is a direct lift from the theme to the James Bond movie 'Goldfinger', the opening horn riff swells then falls repeatedly as a roar develops in the distance and just as the tension cannot build any further a drum rolls breaks the pressure, the horns are released from their chains and the bass drops. The rest of the set seems like pure fun compared to this. But there is the addition of twelve equally top quality bonus tracks including a fabulous Tommy McCook flute dub of Take Five, here retitled Jah Love Rockers Dub, cut on the troublingly insistent bassline of Johnny Clarke's Enter Into His Gates With Praise.
ROCKERS: GRADUATION IN ZION (1978-1980)
DUB STORE RECORDS
Until recently seventies roots legend Kiddus I was best known for his appearance in the opening scene of Rockers, captured in the studio to voice the tune we know as Graduation In Zion. Last year the French label Makasound brought Kiddus I back into public view with an acoustic 'inna de yard' session and now the label based at Tokyo's Dub Store has brought together the singer's rare and classic sides, mainly cut for his own Shepherd label. Three tunes here were mixed by Scratch at the Black Ark, Crying Wolf which appears in original form and also in an incredible binghi dubbed vocal mix, Too Fat a discomix with random disembodied voices dropped in by the Upsetter and Security in the Streets another extended mix but more typically viscous, swirling Black Ark affair with lyrics directly related to the Kingston Peace Conference where warring factions were brought together. All the other 45s from the Shepherd label are included Love Child, Harder and Time, the latter two with their respective dubs. A beautiful set, musically stands proudly alongside other roots classics such as I Jahman's I Man A Warrior and Pablo Moses' Revolutionary Dream.
JUBILEE PALACE CD
Something of a curate's egg and rarity combined, this album dates from 1981 and was recorded in Fane Opperman's studio in Santa Cruz. The musicians seem to be a mix of Ethiopian and Californian and the music is firmly in that lush early 80s outernational slow rocking reggae groove following Jah Bob's Exodus and Jah Spear's Marcus Children (aka Social Living) that eventually, in the hands of the less skilful, developed into vacuous, pure grove good time festival fodder. The title track is an exception sounding more like an augmented African Head Charge on speed rather than weed, surely binghi at this rapid pace must have resulted in orthopaedic casualties?
REBEL MUSIC – A REGGAE ANTHOLOGY VOLUME 2
Better known these days for his contributions to reggae literature through his excellent photographic documentation of the music's 1970s heyday, best not to forget that in the late seventies Dave Hendley was the prime mover in the modern reggae revive market with the groundbreaking Volume 1 of Rebel Music. That set remains an unimpeachable representation of the vitality of reggae via an eclectic selection of then revelatory tunes that began to open up the real roots of reggae to the average punter. Expectations set by the quality and impact of that first volume must be readjusted to appreciate the subtler attractions of this follow-up, a mix of classics and rarities in the true reggae mix tape style; there are some beautiful rock steady tunes opening the show with plenty of minor key bathos thrown in, Johnny & the Attractions' Let's Get Together bearing no relationship to the Wilbert Harrison rocker and Cornel Campbell and the Eternal's wistfully yearning Music Keep On Playing matching any of the Wailers' contemporary output in 1971. Standout track is the Jay Boy's irresistible Mellow Mood, a rolling saloon bar piano version of Bob Andy's You Don't Know that also manages to purloin half the melody of Kingston Town along the way.
IM & DAVE
STUDIO ONE LP
This album occasionally floats into view and disappears again as quickly – last seen in 2002 - best to snap it up now before it disappears again, it's only out on vinyl. Using mostly tracks from Cedric 'Im' Brooks and Dave Madden, there are a few prime Jackie Mittoo instrumentals and a solitary vocal from Lloyd Williams utilising rhythm from the Wailing Souls' Back Out With It for Black Man Train. Three bonus tracks are added on top of the original release and they are killers, especially Ethiopia and Conqueror – previously known as Heavy Beat. The listing is heavy on Heptones versions with the title being a take on Fattie Fattie, Soul Brother is an instrumental cut of the group's Message from a Blackman and Feel It is Only Sixteen. Elsewhere there's treatments of the Royals' Pick Up The Pieces (Soul Walk), Rainy Night In Georgia (Stormy Night) and John Holt's Love I Can Feel (Candid I). Any recent converts to Cedric Brooks' Light of Saba incarnation via the Honest Jons' reissues will fall for this one.
This collection of early eighties tunes produced in the sub-genre of dancehall called 'rub-a-dub' is mainly the result of Henry 'Junjo' Lawes commissioning Linval Thompson as producer for the ruling Roots Radics to punch out a set of tough riddims and Scientist to keep it street on the mixing board down at Channel 1. Rub-a-dub was largely a style created for the DJ to ride a relatively simple chat on a slow stepping beat created by emphasis alternating on each between bass and snare drums with a steady bass guitar line, relatively few flourishes expect on added percussion and EFX in the mix. The style can seem repetitive and tedious at first encounter but the energy and wit of the chats plus the pure swing of the music repays in time. Key tunes here are Ranking Joe's tale of 'steppin' it in' Sheperd's Bush (sic) and his River Jordan, the DJ cut to Barrington Levy's 1979 hit Cross River Jordan and Nicodemus' great Boneman Connection, a cut on the Diseases rhythm, "what a whole heap a bone"! Yellowman's Operations Eradication is included as is Trinity doing over Freddie McGregor's Big Ship as Safe Sail, but the real attraction of the set is access through to some of the younger generation who all chew like hungry dogs on their riddims, Lui Lepke, Toyan, Captain Sinbad, Lee Van Cliff.
STUDIO ONE DUB VOL.2
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS CD/2LP
Although the studio down at Brentford Road could never claim to be a hotbed of dub its certainly true that of the thousands of rhythms created there many provided the raw material that fed dub's late flowering at the back half of the seventies. Neither Sid Bucknor, Clement Dodd's cousin, who commissioned the original one-track set up at Studio One nor the later head engineer Sylvan Morris were renowned for dubbing tunes as many of their classic sides were pre-1974 when what was demanded was version rather than dub, but where they could not be topped was on cutting quality sound on great tunes where the bass was as dangerous as any of the current dubstep missiles. So the argument whether its dub, version, instrudub or instrumental, all becomes a little too academic in the face of this wave of grooves. The opener, a version to Slim Smith's take on the Spinner's soul hit I'll be Around, is as stone chilled jazzed dub as you would need on the hottest day of the year, and this set continues with alternate dubs to classics – Always Dubbing is a sax dub to Bob Andy's immortal Unchained – and rarities alike – Welding is Ital Sound's Solder Bolt - delivering a welcome new key to the labels seemingly endless supply of version.
PRINCE JAMMY DESTROYS THE INVADERS
Not to be outdone by the relatively junior stablemate at Tubby's, Scientist, who had not only won the world cup, but vanquishing the vampires and claimed the title of heavyweight dub champion, in 1982 the Prince got on the case with this clutch of brutally stripped dubwise excursions. The likely scenario is that Jammy packaged up a set of mixes and shipped them out to Greensleeves H.Q. who consequently came up with the concept and suitable titles – Conspiracy on Neptune, Saturn Bombardment, War in the Asteroid Belt etc. The provenance of these tunes is not generally known and no dubbed out vocals give clues to their source; suffice to say that here are eight spliffed out nodders from the machine that was known as the Roots Radics with an unrestrained application of every space efx at the disposal of Tubbys pre-digital set up.
TONY TUFF / EARL 16
TONY TUFF MEETS EARL 16 AT THE DUBFRONT
Dubfront is Oli Dread's roots & dub project based at the Tabanackle Dub Chamber in Cologne, Germany. In common with other European based nu roots outfits Dubfront is looping back to old school talent in an attempt escape the dead end of dub for dub's sake. The approach adopted here is the increasingly favoured showcase style with fewer tunes on the set but are extended into discomix versions and vocals split between roots veterans Earl 16 and Tony Tuff, the latter coming to prominence in the early dancehall era. All the components are in place including a real live brass section but the mixes are a little pedestrian and the material not distinguished enough for this company, even Ranking Joe sounds a little weary on Hail the Rastaman. The set sparks off towards the close with Fire Dub a wicked Perch/Zion Train remix of Oh What A Fire and an Echolab video mix of Teach Us Africa.