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Thursday, February 01, 2001

Dub Review - February 2001

Roland Alphonso Something Special

HEARTBEAT 11661-7728-2

Studio One's boss Clement Dodd writes a short tribute to the late Roland Alphonso as a preface to this set's comprehensive notes, he recognises the saxophonist as "a foundation musician" - meaning without him the music would not have been the same. This twenty track collection covers the period from 1958 to 1968, a time when Roland, together with his other friends in the Skatalites, created a sound that still reverberates around the world today. Essential.

Cicadenegra Dubs


This Brazilian reggae outfit recruited a stellar line-up for remix duties, Sly & Robbie, Scratch, Mad Professor, Aswad and the late Augustus Pablo, however the relatively slim nature of the original material does not fare well across the choppy waters of the Atlantic. For committed internationalists only.

Goldmaster Allstars Influence of the Masters


Proving there is always room for a well-crafted and loving interpretation of a music genre that is supposedly dead and gone, Goldmaster Allstars have been a decade in developing this cool breeze of a sound. Basically a twelve track instrumental album with a couple of dubwise variations thrown in, a stylistic tribute to the musicians and mixers who have set Jamaican music apart from other genres. So a smattering of reggae knowledge helps locate the sources for "Come Rally", "Channel One Stepper", "Far East" and the rest. A class act.

King Tubby's Lost Treasures


Various/King Tubby/Aggrovators Creation Rebel & Dub


A mundane dread lay across my being as I approached "Lost Treasures", on first sight yet another set of refried dubs from the bottom of a long faded deal - even Tubby was at times unable to spark a leaden rhythm. But here the true vein is mined as the tracks are sourced from what sounds like master tapes used to cut dub plates for Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi Sound System. Most of the tunes run to four minutes plus giving more bounce to the ounce for the dance. The Cornell Campbell dubbed vocal sides stand resplendent here, especially the version of "I Shall be Released", "Cold Hearted Dub" is a fresh cut to the Jackie Mittoo classic "In Cold Blood" and therefore the set's rare groove, and the keyboard king guests on Sly Dunbar's urgent "Jumper's Dub" a rhythm which could stand revival in these speedier times. Unmissable for disciples of dub and the dubmaster.

The second Tubby release is an excellent value compilation of fifteen Striker Lee produced vocals with a second CD of the corresponding dub versions. With strong songs from stalwarts Andy, Clarke, Campbell, Thompson, the Paragons etc the album opens with the immortal "Rasta Don't Fear" from Derrick Morgan - a must for any Tubby collection.

Mad Professor Trix in the Mix


In my experience it has always been a mistake to write-off or ignore the work of Neal Fraser a.k.a. the Mad Professor because he will always return to deal a double blow to mind and body. On this new set the sound is brought to amazing levels of glistening separation in the mix, there must be new capital investment down at the Ariwa studios. The messages of black consciousness still remain as constant themes and, unusually, a couple of strong vocal tunes are included in the set. Scratch biographer Dave Katz provides informative and entertaining sleevenotes. Obviously spurred on by the recent tribute compilations on Poptones and Universal Egg, this is the Prof's best for some time.

Lee Perry & The Upsetters Revolution Dub


Lee Perry Jungle Lion


"Revolution Dub" is most certainly the most spooky of all the producer's albums. An early experiment in the Black Ark before the arrival of the full-blown efx stack of later in the decade, the rhythms are desperately slow and deliberate with as much space as Scratch ever created. Layered within the mix are disembodied vocals, captured grunts and moans, as in "Woman's Dub", or on "Doctor on the Go" up pops an inexplicable documentary style straight replay of samples from the "Doctor in the House" sitcom played through a semi-muted channel. Why is all this nonsense so compelling? First time on vinyl since its original appearance in the UK back in 1975 on Cactus.

"Jungle Lion" is another top value budget compilation which traces a twenty year path from 1968's "Tighten Up" from the Untouchables through to Watty Burnett's Black Ark classic "Open the Gate". The eighteen tracks also pick up Carlton & the Shoes elemental "Better Days", a favourite of the late Roger Eagle who did more than anyone to popularise the music of Scratch in the UK through the eighties. New fans of the Upsetter start here - then get lost amongst the rest!

Suns of Arqa Muslimgauze - The Suns of Arqa Mixes


Or, Swinton versus Ashton-under-Lyne - the clash of the boys connected by the M60 orbital, one obsessed by universal tragedy of Palestine and the other absorbed and attracted by the drones of the Indian sub-continent. The story goes that Michael Wadada met Bryn Jones only one time. Bryn had been aware of the Suns of Arqa since their late seventies collaboration with a punk Sherwood on the now classic early ethno-beat road map that was "Revenge of the Mozabites". Michael sent Bryn the tapes and got the remixes back within the week! Here they are edited down to enter the ever expanding Muslimgauze canon, and it’s a perfect place to start for both artists. Eighteen crisp tracks on a single album is an achievement to which neither has laid claim in the past.

Ernest Ranglin Modern Answers to Old Problems


The release of this album late last year will have bypassed most reggae fans as not only does it lay clearly outside the genre but it received very little coverage at all. This is not dub but it is music created by a master of both reggae and jazz, joined by Tony Allen - drummer for the late Femi Kuti, Sylvia Tella - queen of UK Lovers Rock, sax boys Courtney Pine and Denys Baptiste, and a complete Senegalese rhythm section. This is the album Ernest wanted to make, no further recommendation required.

Jack Ruby Presents the Black Foundation


King Tubby/Errol Thompson The Black Foundation in Dub


Just as it seems the quality end of the reggae revival market is to be dominated by UK imprints Blood & Fire and Pressure Sounds, Chris Wilson's Heartbeat label spanks those upstarts with many stripes by the issue of these two stone classics. The late Jack Ruby is perhaps best known for his production, some would say financing, of Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey" album and its immediate follow-ups, all of which rode the crest of reggae's late seventies golden wave. Ruby's domestic Jamaican outlets were the Fox and Wolf imprints which hosted some of the toughest rhythms and most militant vocal outpourings of the era, few of which found homes outside Kingston with the notable exception of the Clappers set-up in Brooklyn. Here we have a peerless compilation which captures Ruby's output at its most vital, featuring an unreleased extended version of Big Youth's coruscating toast to Spear's "Marcus Garvey", plus vocal contributions from Winston Rodney himself, The Heptones, Justin Hinds (that most underexposed and underrated of all of the great Jamaican artists), the Gaylads and the Eagles. But the prize within is an unreleased clutch of instrumentals from Ruby's house band, the Black Disciples, amongst which is an eight minute take on the Studio One rhythm "Rockfort Rock", here retitled "Free Rhodesia". Ruby introduces the band one by one starting with sticksman Horsemouth and concluding with a stellar horns line-up which bursts triumphantly into the brass chorus - now definitely one of reggae's finest moments. Needless to say the dub companion, although not matching the vocal set rack by track, is indispensible.

Various Future World Funk


The album's title says it all in true marketing style for, of course, there's little to no funk in there at all! However there is an dizzying array of beats and rhythms to guide a dancing fool worldwide. The reason for its mention in this column is the inclusion of two promising twenty first century dub tracks. Firstly from Germany's Stereodeluxe (www.stereodeluxe.com) organisation come the dreadfully (sic) named Boozoo Bajou and then from Japan the even more embarassingly saddled Rhubadub! Both tracks possess enough ideas and energy for even the most po-faced dub fan to concentrate on the music.

Vibronics Dub Italizer


Sound System favourites The Vibronics provide what is probably today's heaviest UK dub sound around - on record at least. After producing exclusive dubplates for many of the acts on the current sound system circuit, including Jah Shaka, Leicester's Stevie Vibronics was signed up by the Zion Train boys to deliver this tough debut set which will not disappoint all the compulsive head nodders out there. Me, I prefer this heavyweight material cut on 12" vinyl and worked out live by Mr.Selector and his DJ.

The Wailers Heritage of Dub

M10 M761

Some two years after the untimely death of her husband and reggae's guiding light Rita Marley took the dubious decision to front The Wailers with ex-Uniques vocalist Jimmy Riley. Great a vocalist though Jimmy undoubtedly is, this was mission impossible. Surprising now to see this unheralded set of seemingly fresh 1992 rhythms being issued via this French outlet. Apparently based on Marley/Wailers tunes that my cloth ears are unable toidentify, the mutations turn out to have a very contemporary feel untainted by the more sterile tendencies of digitalism. Worth an investment by any modern dub DJ if only for the superfast rockers-style "Dub Smudge".