Horace Andy / King Tubby
I Don't Want to be Left Outside / Zion Dub
The vocal here is usually revived by Bunny Lee on 7" or album as "Zion Gate", cut by Horace Andy in 1975 and dubbed out by Tubby in a doom-laded fashion that prefigures the heavy, heavy Radics sound that Scientist would carve out in the early eighties. The rhythm here though is created by the Aggrovators and features a descending horn riff, likely from Bobby Ellis on trumpet, Vin Gordon on trombone and Tommy McCook on tenor saxophone, that goes on to shunt the unrelenting pace through to the dub in this extended mix with vocals reverbed throughout to a concluding acapella that crackles into the run out groove. The sparser dub on the flip exaggerates the sheer weight of the bass in the mix and the percussion firing like ball bearings off the studio wall. Pressed as an export from Wackie's and available as 10" for the first time.
Badawi Vs Kode9 / Badawi vs. Juakali
Den of Drums / Crows
Mr Kode9 has busied himself up over the last few months in the remix department, in a way reflecting the wide spread of the material already issued on his own Hyperdub imprint and also on this occasion making an association content with more openly musical activists. His track is remixed from the version on Badawi's (aka Raz Mesinai) "Unit of Resistance" album (also featuring DJs Spooky and Rupture) itself reinterpretations of 2004 collaborations recorded as tracks of protest. Dropping into a sub-genre that could be horribly misinterpreted - 'dub-techno' – Kode9 get true Detroit and steps up the BPMs in line with other recent Hyperdub releases with his true sonic identity dropping into the mix about two thirds the way into the tune after a rapidly skittering break and before an urgent melodica drops in to trail the rhythm to a quick fade end – its just like a story. "Crows" is a darker prospect and, like so much dancehall derivatives, without an obvious lyric too hard work for me.
Dillinger vs Trinity
A Burning Sounds release revived from 1977 produced by Clem Bushay with tracks voiced at Channel One in Kingston and Chalk Farm in North London. Bushay is perhaps best known for his co-production of Tapper Zukie's Man Ah Warrior and as one of the movers in the Lovers Rock scene at the time, this album is one of those sound system style clash affairs where the DJ chatted over rhythms imported from Jamaica with little or no efx added in the mix, Jah Woosh's Marijuana World Tour for Adrian Sherwood on Carib Gems is another example; consequently the mix can be a little ragged. Despite this occasional sonic indifference there's plenty of lyrical invention here especially on the opening combination style "Rizla Skank" an obligatory weed paean, a jibe at rival operator Count Shelley on "Shelly with the Electric Belly" and with the inclusion of Dillinger's "Stumbling Block" on the rhythm of "Love is not a Gamble" and versioned from the original cut for Carlton Patterson and dubbed by Tubby as "Page One" on the Black & White label.
Bob Marley & the Wailers
Let's start by saying that not one of the tracks included on this album have been previously used in Heartbeat's series documenting the Wailers output for Clement Dodd at Studio One and, although the titles are familiar, selections are mainly original Jamaican single mixes, alternate takes or rarities – which makes the release of particular interest to Wailers fans, early ska and just plain great music. Recorded between 1964 and 1966 the Skatalites provide the backing in either ska or r'n'b styles, without any trace or nod to the Merseymania that gripped the rest of the world, and whilst the Wailers were still clearly in thrall to Curtis Mayfield as on the cover of "Another Dance" and although "Playboy" is certainly derived from the Contours big dance hit "Do You Love Me" its clear from such a beautiful tune as "I'm Still Waiting" that Marley song writing skills were there from an early stage. Also of interest here is the original single mix of the eventually world dominating "One Love" on which Roland Alphonso takes the sax break, the tune was inspired by Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready", "Guajara Ska" mistakenly credited to Soul Brothers and with vocal from Bunny and "I Left My Sins" an early gospel tune from the Wailers released on Clement Dodd's Tabernacle label. The album should, of course, correctly be credited to the Wailers alone.
Although the name of the Meditations may not be the most familiar of Jamaican harmony groups their sound is certainly well known through their work with Bob Marley and Lee Perry, notably as backing singers on Heart of the Congos. In fact, on a few of the tracks of this album, reissued from 1978, the similarity to Jah Bob's vocal style is uncanny, check "Life is not Easy" – which is probably a Black Ark track from the sound of the stray steer in the studio – that could easily have been lifted from Confrontation era when lead singer as Ansel Cridland issues a 'whoah yeah' extended into a quivering falsetto, or "War Mongers" where the song structure itself is pure Marley at his best. "Play I" is surely a Perry product given the shimmering reverb on the rhythm guitar and the opening track "Justice", appearing to be a contemporary outtake, is as fine a roots song as on any of the Wailers great albums. Indeed the original 1979 album was scheduled for release on Island before a (predictable) money misunderstanding and came out in a dribble on Tad's in New York instead. Four extra tracks are included from the Message from the Meditations album which appeared in the same year.
The Mighty Diamonds
The Mighty Diamonds inna de Yard
Inna De Yard CC
Makasound's offshoot continues its acoustic sessions with Jamaica's best loved vocal trio; either as the Diamonds or the Mighty Diamonds, Tabby, Judge and Bunny have been together as a performing unit for nearly forty years and its fitting that their contribution to this series is perhaps the best. For some perplexing reason the set starts with an off-kilter version of the Stylistics' "Country Living" that thankfully is grossly unrepresentative – maybe this is just how it ran and we hear it just as it was. In any event 'Bodyguard" follows and sets the standard for the rest of the songs here, mostly selections from the groups' heyday whilst recording at Channel One. "I Need a Roof", "Right Time" and "Poor Marcus Garvey" are all here, as is "Have Mercy", one of the most affecting Rasta sufferer plaints but this time slowed down over rolling binghi percussion with chiming guitar responses from 'owner fe di yard' Earl 'Chinna' Smith whilst the Diamonds harmonies are muted for the occasion and continue beyond the vocal into the spoken outro. "One Brother Short", the plaintive observation on the localised 'war' of street violence, concludes this wonderful album.
Lee Scratch Perry
Chicken Scratch (Deluxe Edition)
Those expecting a bunch of whacky tunes will be sorely disappointed, for this is Lee Perry as journeyman at Studio One, clawing his way through as an artist whilst he performed x amount of other tasks for boss Clement Dodd. Not that there are no highlights here, the plainly filthy "Roast Duck" sets the hilarious, almost single entendre standard for the album – there was no such thing as PC back then as proven by "Rape Bait" and "Open Up" – as was just par for the early reggae course back in the sixties. "Help the Weak" credited to Lee 'King' Perry is an early glimpse of social consciousness, "Run Rudie Run" the first mention on a Perry track of the bad boy phenomenon and "Madhead" a pop at rival Prince Buster who had just got a monster smash hit with "Madness". And whilst the playing courtesy of the Skatalites is immaculate throughout this is more of an item for a Scratch collection than a representation of a genius' real contribution to reggae.
Water Lily CD
Arriving back in Jamaica in 1976 after a spell at Ronnie Scott's club in London's Frith Street, Ernie Ranglin, amongst a number of like-minded Jamaican jazzers – Harold Butler, Boris Gardiner and Beres Hammond – went into the Aquarius studios in Kinston to cut an album for Arco records. Released from strict formats the result is an early jazz-reggae-soul fusion stamped with Ernie's signature guitar style, wild arpeggios, filigree patterns down the scale and the nagging invention of the perfectionist at work. Taken in through tired ears thirty years later this set could be easily misfiled in the 'easy listening' bracket, reggae fans best start from the last track "Hail Count Ossie", a jazzed nyabinghi tribute to the great Rasta drummer, before arriving at the more soul inflected pieces. Save to say any album combining Ernie with Mikey Chung's guitar, Boris Gardiner's bass and the saxes of Cedric Brooks and Herman Marquis is a cultural experience.
Steel an' Skin
Reggae is Here Once Again
EM Records CD
Besotted as I am by Amrals Trinidad Cavaliers' version of Gwen McCrae's "90% Of Me Is You" (Weedbeat 7" 1979) with its dubbed out steel pans like waterfalls, it's a delight to stumble on this delight from those chronically eclectic people at Japan's EM Records. Steel an' Skin were formed as a community education project in the early seventies by Bubbles, Bravo and Mickey - refugees from the Pan Am Steel Band - linking with Peter Blackman of Ginger Johnson's Afrikan Drummers. Afrocentrism may have been their intended theme in the fusion of reggae, funk, soul and jazz with traditional ritual styles but the outcomes were wildly diverse with some tracks now sounding like sad anachronisms whilst others provided accurate barometers of things to come and still prove exciting today. Maybe the closest to come to Steel an' Skin were African Head Charge but even they did not stretch as far as "Afro Punk Reggae Dub" or generate a vocal as joyous as the Ghanaian calypso "Hi Life". The package includes a DVD of the band at work in Liverpool from 1978 whilst engaged on an Arts Council sponsored workshop programme for 'deprived communities' at which the track "Reggae is here once again" was recorded.
Its inevitable that in any DJ collection where the late Prince Far I is featured the authority of his voice will stand out from the rest, and so it is here although the other contributors – save the Big Youth soundalike, Baba Dread – can also be considered heavyweights, Jah Stitch, I Roy and Charlie Chaplin. The album has been out before in Roy Cousin's rolling reissue programme and the tracks here are of a vintage between 1974 and 1983 recorded at Channel One with all the usual suspects involved. Charlie Chaplin and Jim Kelly's "Stur-Gav Special" pays tribute to the Jamaican sound system King Sturgav Hi-Fi operated by foundation DJ Daddy U Roy from the early seventies, I Roy's "Coxsone Time" makes a reappearance and Jah Stitch's "Domino Game" is a much more civilised affair that the real thing despite the murderous language. But the surprising jewel is "Ejarsa-Gora" (birthpace of Ras Tafari Makonnen aka Haile Selassie) launched by Far I on top of Vivian Jackson's 'Yabby You' rhythm with traces of Gregorian chant and mixed by the redoutable Sir Freddie Viadukt at Naffi Studios in Warrington.