The Best of Dennis Brown: The Niney Years
Although he worked with a vast array of producers, the Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, had three distinct great periods; first up as a youth with Clement Dodd at Studio One, in the late seventies his commercial success arrived in collaboration with Joe Gibbs but his finest work came in the earlier in that decade working with Winston 'Niney' Holness aka the Observer with whom he retained a productive relationship for the ensuing twenty years. This selection spans that period up until just before the artist's death at age 42. Lots of well loved classics are here such as "Cassandra", "Tribulation" and his brooding claim on the Gaylad's "Africa" but even those familiar with Dennis' output may be tempted by the rare or unissued tracks. Two extended bonus tracks appear only on the two album vinyl set "Westbound Train" followed by U Roy's toast "Train from the West" and
"Tenement Yard" with Ranking Buckers' "Kill Landlord", both with plenty of dubbing in the works. On the CD there's a monster version of arguably one of Dennis' finest roots tracks "Wolves & Leopards" with I Roy joining for the deejay version "Step on the Dragon"; preceding this is another extended cut "Here I Come (Love And Hate)" with another vintage I Roy chant "Jah Come Here".
In A Dis Ya Time
The Itals came together as a duo in the mid-seventies cutting the single "In Dis Ya Time" on Lloyd Campbell's Spiderman records from a rhythm provided by singer Ronnie Davis, the release was a local hit and eventually became the tune for which they are best remembered. Ronnie Davis and Keith Porter were later joined by Lloyd Ricketts and the then harmony trio cut their debut for U.S. label Nighthawk in 1981, released here with original tracklist and artwork. By the time this set appeared, although a solid collection of tunes, there were already a bunch of vocal groups occupying the ground, such as Culture, the Mighty Diamonds and the Wailing Souls, and there was nothing really to distinguish their sound from the crowd – especially as Ronnie Davis' vocal delivery was quite close to Joseph Hill's of Culture, but less impassioned and more lazy and loping. On this reissue the album can be better judged on its own merits as a fine collection of roots harmony tunes with exemplary band back-up and crisp mix from Sylvan Morris at Harry J's Studio. Although, the Itals'
third recording, "Rasta Philosophy," won a Grammy nomination in 1987 for best reggae album this is usually no recommendation so completists or connoisseurs need seek out the deleted "Early Recordings 1971 – 1979" album also on Nighthawk where "In Dis Ya Time" along with the great "Don't Wake the Lion" are to be located
GunJah / Foreign Familiar CD
Originally from Trinidad and now Brooklyn resident Juakali bounces around a triangle formed by reggae, dubstep and bhanga, moving between collaborations with UK acts Alpha & Omega and DJ Pinch and in the States, Dub Gabriel and Ras Mesinai (aka Badawi) but perhaps best known as MC with DJ Kush Arora for the 2007 album "From Brooklyn to SF". Whether Juakali's DJ style, like a lot of Jamaican dancehall DJs,
has problems in effectively breaking out of comfortable "guest" roles into more extended formats, more of a listen and less of a DJ tool, is a still open question after this E.P. Juakali doesn't quite escape from a "jump-up straightjacket" on the seven tracks here, the intriguing bubbling opening to "I Time" is soon overridden by chat and needs more play, despite the I Threes/Akabu style harmonies on "Run
Babylon" the minimally jabbed rhythm stays too sparse. Best track here, the title telegraphs it, is "Skank Ethics" where Juakali surprises with a singjay delivery before the track breaks down into a spoken word interlude before a fast chat enters. It's all conscious stuff here though, no rude boy business.
Lena & the Free Roots Orchestra
Mathias Deplanque loves voices, he has five on this, his third venture as Lena – from a William Faulkner character in his novel Light in August. On "Typewriter Ribbon" Black Sifichi eschews his normal sub-Burroughsian delivery for more of Chandleresque film-noir private dick talkover drawl, continued by Daniel Given for "Collision" on a flatly delivered narrative that intrigues but challenges analysis; but best title goes to "Caribou Veins" where Neil Carlill approaches the vocal like he's been requested to "not quite sing" but attempt an approximation of language. All this wreathed in the gorgeousness of Deplanque's by now signature sound, one minute digital gamelan breaks, "Cheval Vapeur", and the next clockwork glitch jazz, "Circonstances". It's a rich and demanding mix and a million miles away from the
vacuity of the globalised downbeat that seems to network hotels continents apart these days. It's a jazz thing of course and the fact that the mastering is courtesy of Moritz von Oswald must give some clue that it sounds as it should – deep, intricate and luscious.
Bo Marley & Disrupt
Bo Marley vs. Disrupt
At times on this album it's a little like digi reggae meets the cast of the Carry On series trapped inside a first generation space invaders game. That's a recommendation, reggae and dub don't usually come with a fun label but that's what makes the Jahtari boys, Rootah and Disrupt, so exceptional. One minute they are trading with vocal legends of old school reggae, the next they are issuing chasmic
re-expressions of dub filtered through thirty years of compressed influences and then still have time for out and out good time gigs with friends Bo Marley. This set is dredged out of the archives and structured like a perverse showcase with a short 'tracker' featuring the efx employed in the mixes, then the Bo Marley vocal and the
Disrupt dub; what with track titles "Roots im Dub", "Robotter" and "Der Tot ist Kein Problem" even deutsch prachkenntnisse as limited as my own gives adequate warning of what I am about to receive.
Aus Music CD
Perhaps better known as Fink via material on Ninja Tune Fin Greenall is cloaked in a dubster guise for Sideshow, although the opening tune on this set, "Television" featuring Cortney Tidewell on vocals, could easily throw the unsuspecting off track as it's a standard slice of modern euro pop. From there on in it's strictly dubwise with the following "Sequential Dub" a spacey haunted medium stepper and then
probably the album's pinnacle "If Alone" with Paul St. Hilaire (ex-Tikiman), best checked on the 12" remix by Appleblim and Komonasmuk with a bass line taking an "Echo Beach" melody the mix becomes reminiscent of Two in a Room's house miracle "Passing Thought" circa 1987 or the early entries into our consciousness of Kevin
"Reese" Saunderson on the extended mixes of Inner City – its that good. All recorded at the 7Dials Studio in Brighton the tracks are worked up live by Greenall's touring band referring to classic dubmasters for the template when applying his trademark Quadraverb GT and Boss SE50 fx units. The end results are clean and free dubs with
traceable provenance into musical history, for instance "French Model in Dub" is what it says it is, Kraftwerk's "The Model" relocated to Paris whilst "Bottletop Dub" with its unusual bass lead qualifies as an example of modern dub for dub's sake at its peak.
Echo Ranks / Dub Providers
Clean up your Act / Dub
Nuff Powa Digital 7" / mp3s
A shuffle back and forth to create the "new" Nuff Powa Digital series designed to host the Dub Providers' output that has the currently fashionable digital rhythm base. Shortie and Walker, aka Dub Providers, road tested this digital steppers rhythm for a while as the instrumental "Alchemy" keep it conscious and now finish the job by keeping faith with nu roots vocalist Echo Ranks for a single that sees
the outfit challenging for the major leagues of nu roots and dub, the flip has the rhythm stripped back to the bone with snatches of vocals flecked through the mix.
Linger you linger / Version
Pressure Sounds / Mego-Ann 7"
This revive release from the end of last year from Pressure Sounds sprung out of the eminent deejay's live appearances there last year, events rumoured to be sourcing a forthcoming live set. The self-produced "Linger You Linger" is a re-press of Daddy Hugh Roy's magnificent toast to an already wondrous Aquarius recording from
Dennis Brown, "Song my Mother Used to Sing", the dub on the flip comes from an album that competes for the title of first genuine dub album, Herman Chin-Loy's "Aquarius Dub" where the version assumes the title "Rest You Self" – voiced and mixed at Tubby's and filleted by J Dilla and Madlib for the tune "Heavy" on their Champion Sound switcharound showcase. A swirling organ, a swaying brass line and then U Roy
launches into one of his finest and most energetic toasts, beautifully repressed in heavy special card sleeve and 180g vinyl the original artwork of the deejay's Mego-Ann label is reproduced in the creation of a highly desirable product. A prime example of the continuing desirability of vinyl - essential.
Once Upon A Time at King Tubby's
Pressure Sounds CD
Choreographed just as precisely as any Sergio Leone spaghetti western confrontation the musical feuds between I Roy and Prince Jazzbo is these days understood as a device to "generate some life into the music business" as producer Bunny Lee now recalls. At the time it all seemed serious as sound systems vied on a weekly basis, with specials, deejay innovation, bigger wattage and its own brand of noisy, partisan
support. The feud captured here was not the first, which was between Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan, but it was the best, with some hilarious metaphors sparking equally witty rejoinders as when I Roy compared Jazzbo to a jukebox that he wouldn't put a dime in! Once Upon A Time at King Tubby's documents the battle of words from start to finish. The Aggrovators provide the rhythms and all but one of the
tracks on the set being voiced and mixed at King Tubby's Waterhousestudio with the exception of "Padlock", cut by I Roy at Channel One for JoJo Hookim.