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Saturday, December 01, 2001

Dub Review - December 2001

Trevor Byfield Burning Bush


I Stings They Never Love


The revival scene continues to maintain pace and one of the most promising of the newer imprints is London's Rootical Dubber which presses up both vintage and modern roots. The Trevor Byfield piece is a classy roots tune from 1979 - back when a burning bush was probably just a burning bush! The spongey steppers dub is a treat and serves as a reminder of how it should be done. The I Stings single is a longtime collectors roots classic from 1976 reissued at last. Backed by the Wailers Band and produced by Family Man, the I Stings work this rhythm with a vocal and a chanting version "Jah Jah Children Lives" with different dubs on the flips.

The Bug Seismic


Just to prove he can mutilate more than one genre Kevin Martin holidays from Techno Animal, and his other various incarnations, to play out with Daddy Freddy and Tikiman for two dubragga excursions. The furious style of Daddy Freddy, lately co-operating with the Rootsman, at last finds a match with Martin's crunching rhythm on the potentially dubious "Politicians and Paedophiles" were the lyrics decipherable! "Live and Learn" forces Tikiman to take a more urgent ride than on his Rhythm & Sound outings. These sides are an overdue venture into an area that has interested Martin for a while - perhaps a little leftfield for the traditionally conservative reggae audience, but a course worth maintaining on this evidence.

Augustus "Gussie" Clarke Black Foundation Dub


Gussie was a pioneer producer of the classic DJ style, producing Big Youth's "Screaming Target" and I Roy's "Presenting", since which time he has quietly established himself as one of Jamaica's most influential operators through his Music Works studio. This set is a vintage mid-seventies re-release from Gussie's Roots label with Tubby and assistant Philip Smart at the desk on a bunch of tunes originally voiced by Delroy, Dennis, Greg and other stars of the era. Consequently the running order of the tunes conforms with the best practice applied to compilations, mixing the familiar and unfamiliar. It's a sweet, clean sound the whole way through with plenty of brass in the mix. Amongst the three bonus tracks on the CD is an extended version of classic Augustus Pablo's "No Entry" which should guarantee sales from his massive fan base.

Henry & Louis Meet Blue & Red (in Kingston 20 JA) Time Will Tell


BSI get serious about roots reggae with this new release. Henry and Louis are Jack Lundy and Andy Scholes from Bristol, also from that city is Rob Smith, appearing as Blue and Red, and still operating in the Smith and Mighty production team and also in More Rockers. The story here is that three years ago Andy carried multi-track tapes of rhythms down to Jamaica in search of voicings and by luck met up with UB40's Pops Dawling who championed Andy's cause with the result that the tracks on this set were all mixed down courtesy of the band at their Orcabessa Studios, St.Ann's, JA. But it does not end there because this album turns out to be as close as we are going to get to a modern roots classic, with top vocals outtings from old time roots stars Johnny Clarke, Willie Williams and Tony Tuff and, remarkably, equal quality contributions from a number of a lesser known and newer artists, specifically Prince Green, Ghadian and Preddi. The set runs through in a mix and although there are no dub outings here the strength of the tunes gives a strong indication that a dub companion will soon be on its way.

Matumbi Empire Road - The Best of Matumbi

EMI 534 7412

This album was quietly ushered into the marketplace in late summer. Quite disgraceful really, as Matumbi were every bit as important a reggae band as Aswad, Steel Pulse and Misty in Roots - not that any of these have been overly garlanded for their contributions to the British music scene of the seventies. The band's main mover, Dennis "Blackbeard" Bovell, is also overdue his coronation as the rightful and original King of the U.K. Dubmasters as proprietor and selector of Sufferers Hi-Fi sound system and acting as scamlord for the 4th St. Orchestra as they "imported" pre-release singles from Jamaica that had actually been recorded in England. He went on to produce the Slits, the Pop Group, engineer some of Marvin Gaye's final tunes and latter has worked with both Linton Kwesi Johnson and African reggae giant Alpha Blondy. This compilation provides a really excellent overview of a band that peculiarly were considered a little too pop for most reggae fans in the seventies. If, on the surface, Aswad provided the roots, Steel Pulse the politics and Misty the righteousness, then Matumbi were unabashed purveyors of soulful pop reggae whose mantle was inherited by UB40. Four of the seventeen tunes are extended into their dub versions, including the wonderful "Point of View". Watch out in the next few months for overdue reissues of Bovell's earlier work, including critical early dub outings.

Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Dub Syndicate Time Boom X De Devil Dead

EMI 530 0282

Originally issued via On U Sound in 1986, EMI inexplicably snapped this up for release earlier the following year. Undoubtedly the best of Perry's post-Ark work, although the production, engineering and mix is all courtesy of Adrian Sherwood and Style Scott with Scratch acting as executive studion vibesmaster. Fitting for this set to find a home with the megacorp which had a subsidiary producing heat seeking guided missiles at the time. Perry rails against the global financial system, Reagan's Star Wars programme, the destruction of the environment and assorted other Babylonian crimes and plots. This is not very far away in content from Mark Stewart's "As The Veneer of Democracy Starts to Fade"! Included on the re-release are the four extra versions of "Jungle" which appeared on 7", 10" and 12" vinyl and all are now fairly rare; the tune is on that most enduring of On U rhythms "Ravi Shankar" and a persuasive reason for investing in this strangely unheralded reissue.

Rhythm & Sound with Tikiman Jah Rule/Jah Version


Rhythm & Sound Trace/Imprint


In desirable dark blue transparent tie-dye pattern vinyl is how this ten inch single arrives, making the object as enticing as the sounds cut within its grooves. Tikiman relaxes way back into an acute angle to the brooding, deeply textured rhythm as a lyrical guitar further distinguishes this tune from their previous outings. Watch out for a soon come CD collating all the ten inch singles thus far. Meanwhile, on 12" vinyl, and for those who prefer their dubwize selection unencumbered by the frailty of the human voice, an idea which I personally find peculiar, two slabs of teknodub to challenge the most serious of sub-base hi-fi systems. "Trace" is recognisable as a tune with strained and twisted melodies scudding along in the mix like so much flotsam whereas "Imprint" is impenetrably dense, so much so that the choice of r.p.m. is redundant. However I would not wager this is as far as it will go.

The Small Axe People Original Version


The Silicon Teens reborn in Kingston! Almost inevitably the term minimalist applied to dub reggae will mean deep cut bass that resonates the body until the brain submits, whereas on "Original Version" it's the bedroom style minimalism that characterised the early eighties UK electronic bands. Little to no reverb and an uncluttered mix of what sounds like Casio style kit of an early vintage. Its an oddly compelling outcome for this brainchild of Ray Hurford, editor, owner and writer of Small Axe, the reggaezine that's become an institution over the years. The first cut - "Reality Check" - is a variation on Lou Rawls "Lean On Me" whereas the following "Washington Garden" clearly takes inspiration from Lynford Anderson's tune "Pop a Top", and so it goes on - a wealth of ideas contained purely by the means of expression.

T.O.K. Keep It Blazing


Ward 21 Never Bow


A couple of years ago Jeremy Harding threatened to carry all before him with the awesome "Playground" rhythm. That was then, the "Liquid" rhythm is now. With over twelve cuts on seven inch vinyl all on the producer's own 2 Hard label its turning out to be another monster with the versions from T.O.K. and Elephant Man ("Log On") proving tuffest. Still in Kingston, King Jammy seems to be grooming the boys from Ward 21 for a Stateside invasion. Certainly their debut album "Mentally Disturbed" puts them in a league of their own. Strictly for dancehall consumption a clutch of singles preceded the album, and "Never Bow" is the most remarkable with the mad boys issuing a cultural chant on top of a modern one drop style. If the twenty track album of full on breakdown beats and rapid chat is too much then check out the singles.

Various Dread Meets Punk Rockers Uptown


Carrying the sub-title "The Soundtrack to London's Legendary Roxy Club - December '76 April '77 Selected by DJ Don Letts" a patina of anthropological authenticity is sought by this carefully crafted artefact. And there's no argument with the tracklisting as it segues through sampled stings and jingles of the yesteryears in tribute, with roots rebellion staples such as Tappa Zukie's M.P.L.A. and Culture's "Two Sevens Clash" sharing the deck with cuts of unimpeachable righteousness like Tubby's discomix of Sylford Walker's "Deuteronomy" and U Brown's extended "Train to Zion". The whole hog would be totally roasted with scratch and sniff Roxy dancefloor sleeve, but that would demand vacuum shrinkwrap to avoid immediate punter alienation. Memories are made of this.

Various A Dubber's Guide


An attempt to provide the definitive snapshot of contemporary UK dub, this set showcases many of the scene's best artists old and new and the notes provide contact details and recommended releases to enable the user to delve as deep as they wish into home-grown roots and dub culture. Featured are 14 specially recorded cuts including dubplate exclusives from some of the most innovative and best respected artists, showcasing the diverse spectrum of sounds and styles of UK roots and dub that have re-emerged over the last few years. Tracks from dub pioneers the Disciples, the Bush Chemists and Jah Warrior stand alongside newer artists like Etherealites and Mungo's Hi-Fi. Top quality contributions also come from this column's No.1 acts the Love Grocer and Goldmaster All Stars. The best place to start exploring UK roots.

Various The Front Line

VIRGIN 7243 810678

Amongst the harder core of reggae fans a myth grew up over time that the Virgin Front Line catalogue somehow contained output of a lesser quality from the Jamaican stars of the era, even though I Roy, U Roy, Greg Isaacs, The Might Diamonds and the Gladiators were on the roster. Up to now this impression has been perpetuated by the lack of care and investment that Virgin, or whoever owns that imprint these days, is prepared to put into the recycling of this particular wedge of their back catalogue. Although the reissue of the individual albums in the series have been welcome, they arrived back without any bells, whistles, notes, extra tracks - even the artwork looked like photocopies of the originals! Just like those old Flash Gordon movies where in the last episode we were convinced that our hero had dropped in to the ravine, we thought it a lost cause. But, just in time for Christmas, here comes the four CD box set with integral fifty-page colour booklet authored by Michael DeKoningh - who knows a thing or two about this music. Each CD covers a different theme - Roots & Reality, Love & Harmony, Dangerous DJs and Dub Encounters - eighty-six tracks in all. Although the image of the bloody hand grasping the barbed wire may have dated the immediacy of this music has not.