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Sunday, April 01, 2001

Dub Review - April 2001

Back to Base Heading for the Door

A Hull based reggae outfit joined this time out on album by Benjamin Zephaniah, following success of their previous joint work on a single. Lawrence Ray and Alan Rawe are richly talented musicians who somehow jointly conspire to make Back to Base sound like an eighties soul/reggae revival outfit, with rhythms and overlaid samples out of the Dub Syndicate textbook ("Crown Yourself King" captures Tubby's intro man Fuzzy Jones) and the usual overtly didactic lyrics from the UK's foremost "dub poet" designed to induce terminal guilt trips in those Polytechnic lecturers still hiding in the cultural backwoods. Shame, as these guys have a rich brew of ideas. Maybe if they can cut loose from the shackles of the genres they love then they can come up with something to bite on.

Dennis Brown Money in My Pocket - Anthology 1970 - 1995


There were plans afoot prior to the death of this most-loved of reggae singers to issue a major detailed retrospective, which would at least bear the stamp of quality if not width. The usual reggae-style money hassles put paid to that after Dennis' death. So, with the exception of Metro's recent "Crown Prince of Reggae" , this double CD from Trojan is what perspective we get. To do justice to a back catalogue that stretches back to Dennis' apprenticeship at Studio One as an eleven year-old through to his last best work - probably the sides cut by Sly & Robbie for Taxi, would take scholarship and dedication usually associated with Jah Barrow at Blood & Fire. Over this double CD set we have the some of the singer's finest work for Derek Harriott, Joe Gibbs, Lloyd "The Matador" Daley, Linval Thompson, Lloyd Charmers and, best of all, Niney the Observer, with whom he recorded three tunes all deriving their guitar intros from Al Green's "Love and Happiness". What would be wonderful is a dub set based on the all the versions to "Westbound Train", "Cassandra" and "No More Will I Roam" of which there are plenty.

Gregory Isaacs Mr.Isaacs


There was a time when it looked like Greg Isaacs had blown (sic) what was a successful career that stretched well beyond the Caribbean's horizon. The "Cool Ruler" made a recovery and is still to occupy the role of reggae don. Whereas his contemporary Dennis Brown was a natural singer, Greg was a crooner - he delivered a tune. This revival issue consists of the twelve tracks from one of his strongest roots sets, recorded at Channel One for producer Ossie Hibbert. The album appeared in the UK in 1977 - on the D.E.B. label, owned by Dennis Brown and Castro Brown (no relation). Both "Mr.Brown" and "Mr.Know It All" are extended into their glorious dub versions, whilst the former is reversioned as "War of the Stars" in the flip of the 12" mix. Perversely the strongest two tunes on this reissue are produced by the Observer. The singer's version of the rhythm perhaps best known as "Up Park Camp" - "Slavemaster", is followed by the Dillinger toast "Take a Dip" both contradicting

the subject matter in a defiantly exultant style.

Hi-Tech Roots Dynamics Better Must Come in Dub


New roots dub down to the bone in style. Martin Campbell is one of the UK's most highly regarded reggae artists and this eighteen track set derives from two vocal albums "Can Better Really Come" (questioning the faith of the Delroy Wilson classic "Better Must Come"?) and the earlier "Foundational Roots". Its pure sweet drum and bass in the great tradition of dub albums, without any pretension or unnecessary embellishment - saving for concise keyboard stabs and swirls, and the occasional guitar fill. Perhaps not an album to carry in an early voyage into the forest of dub, at least not without checking the vocal companions first.

Keith Hudson Pick A Dub


By the time this album came out in 1975, its producer Keith Hudson had already claimed a rightful place in the history of Jamaican music for his memorable work with the cream of the island's singers, DJs and musicians. But if he had only one tune to his name - U Roy's immortal "Dynamic Fashion Way" - then his name would still have been revered. "Pick A Dub" was one of the first complete dub albums to be released in Jamaica and it remains one of the best. Remarkably there's an absence of studio trickery evident and no horn section to be found. Instead the dubs rely on the space in the mix, the quality of the rhythms, the vocal interventions of Horace Andy, Hudson himself, and most notably on the title track which opens the set - Augustus Pablo's melodica at its best, stark, haunting and dramatic (there is a horribly rare Pablo cut to this rhythm entitled "Fat Baby" which to this date has not been reissued).

I Roy Touting I Self

HEARTBEAT 11661-7743-2

The notes to this disc contain a list of the producers I Roy worked with during his many years in the business - it's a long list. Remarkable then that the quality of the output from this most intelligent of DJs remained so consistently high. It seems to be taken for granted these days that the number one DJ spot is automatically assumed by the mighty U Roy. No matter what the people say my vote goes to I Roy. Compiled as a career showcase by the DJ shortly before his death and therefore serving as a fitting introduction to the work of the most cultured rapper of them all.

Jah Warrior Presents 3 the Roots Way


Issuing invitations to three of Jamaica's old school DJs to attend his studio for the purpose of voicing rhythms of his own creation is an unmistakable sign of maturity from Steve Mosco a.k.a. Jah Warrior. Also on duty are the Crispy Horns, to add those achingly sweet brass choruses they have made their signature, and Dougie Wardrop applying his mind and fingers to the mixing board. Ranking Joe, U Brown and Trinity are all back in full flow these days, all having been found chatting "on the wire" with the Blood & Fire Sound System. This set was recorded back in 1999 at London's Conscious Sounds studio, the lyrical concerns can be listed as tribulation, jubilation or herb. However it's the style that counts and after all these years here's a lesson in how to do it.

King Tubby King Dub - Homage to the Dub Ruler


King Tubby & The Aggrovators Foundation of Dub


OK! It is now time to declare an amnesty on all record companies who have any designs on the ever expanding virtual catalogue of the man known as King Tubby, rivalled only by The Upsetter for ubiquity! At least neither quantity nor quality control responsibility can be assigned to the late dubmaster as this would be stretching contractual commitments a little too far - even for reggae. Two new sets to consider then, both sourced from the doyen of Jamaican entrepreneurs Bunny Lee, a man who makes more deals than a Las Vegas croupier. The Nascente compilation is the one to go for. The 20 track selection is varied with rarer cuts mixed amongst favourites and the sleevenotes are well crafted, especially useful is the tune by tune section which references the original versions. Bunny Lee himself M.C.'s the intro to "King Tubby the Dub Ruler" - the rare groove of the set based on Clarence Reid's r'n'b hit "Nobody But You, Babe". But as more and more CD decks work their way into the standard DJ kit, cuts like the proto-techno wipe-out of "Dub From the Roots" and the thunderous "Executioner Dub" will be shuddering the dancefloor.

What "Foundation of Dub" lacks in style is more than compensated for in the sheer volume of tracks - 28 in all split between two CDs. In the early seventies Jamaican producers were initially loathe to issue dub album because they believed the public would bored even before the vinyl was flipped. So it's a smart piece of programming that places the killer tracks of this set amongst the opening sections of each disc. Nevertheless it is Tubby all the way, even though many of the tracks are to be found on other collections under different titles - an old dub reggae wheeze, but it still works!

10ft Ganja Plant Hillside Airstrip


There's a b road span of reggae style music evident in the States. One end of the spectrum is occupied by a sub-genre that could be described as "festival" which is what it sounds like - jolly, even though the subject matter could be mental or physical subjugation. The other end of the spectrum is inhabited by the brood of dub-infected slave units praying for the return of 80's On U Sound. These guys tend to the former and come on like a communion with Jah Bob via ouija board. Great name though - implies a sense of humour.

Various Dub/Original Bass Culture


The splendid art work, featuring a vintage shot of Count Shelly Sounds prepared for the dance, matches the excellent selection on this shamelessly marketed dub primer - obviously deriving its title from Lloyd Bradley's well-received book "Bass Culture". Pity there's no vinyl pressing - but this is a CD only budget imprint. Mixes from Tubby, Jammy, Perry, the Observer and an uncredited upstart Sherwood (Far I's "Foundation Stepper") make up the fifteen track selection. Highlight is the awesomely cavernous "Nyambie Dub", the version to Debra Keese and the 5 Black's "Travelling" which captures Scratch in full-blown hardcore righteous rasta mode in his peak Black Ark days.

Various Maxfield Avenue Breakdown: Dubs and Instrumentals 1974 - 79


Following up "Well Charged" and "When the Dances Were Changing" Pressure Sounds continue their love affair with the output of the Hookim Brother's legendary Channel One label and this time its dubwize and instrumental all the way. In the early seventies the Maxfield Avenue studio was kitted out with the latest gear from the States. The result was a sound both crisp and deep that revolutionised the way reggae was heard. Here we have the proof. Twenty tracks crafted and mixed by engineers Ernest Hookim and his assistant Barnabas, from the Sly Dunbar-driven rhythm machine known as the Revolutionaries, or sometimes in typical JA-style - the Revolutionaires! There was a time when selections like this only appeared on cassette tape to be circulated amongst the initiated, classics mixed with the odd tougher or rarer tune. There's the totally deranged version of Dillinger's "Natty A General" where the main dubbed effect is a manic car horn through to the absolute joy of the horns dub to Freddie McKay and Orville Samuels "Dance Dis Ya Festival", picking up the Wailers' "Jailhouse" rhythm, The Diamonds "Right Time" , The Meditations "Woman is Like a Shadow" plus others all of equal pedigree.

Various Rastafari


Trojan's previous efforts in their now voluminous "Box Set" series have concentrated on the sub-divisions with Jamaican music - ska, rock steady, DJs, dub, rare groove etc. The label's marketing department undergo some kind of evolutionary leap as they bravely introduce a socio-religious construct to disrupt the continuity of their previous reasoning. At least there are no exotic snaps of hill-bound rasta men going for the Guiness Book of Records entry for the massiveness of their chalice. Three CDs then, the first dealing with social commentary, the second covers living of the spiritual life and the last introduces the inevitability of the judgement which is to come. Undoubtedly many of the individual tracks in this collection stand as dedicated roots music of the highest quality, mostly produced at Channel One in the late seventies through to the early eighties, however there's only so much righteousness to be taken at one sitting.