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Friday, March 01, 2002

Dub Review - March 2002

Martin Campbell & Hi-Tech Roots Dynamics Rootsman


What reggae is missing these days is singers with distinctive voices of quality. This where Martin Campbell scores, if he had recorded in the seventies over a series of rhythms from the Upsetter or Pablo then by now his status would be legendary. So its unusual to report that here is a new album where a UK singer is the strongest factor rather than the playing or the versions. Essentially this is a sufferers album with the conscious lyrics largely covering struggles in the ghettos of West Kingston, "Just Another Day" comes with such a plaintive and wistful delivery that its difficult not to be drawn in. Three dub appear amongst the sixteen tracks but most the rhythms here are to be found on previous Hi-Tech Roots Dynamics albums "90 Degrees Dub", "New York Dub" and "Tokyo Dub".

Carlton and the Shoes Love Me Forever


Down at Studio One, either in Jamaica or Brooklyn, NY, Mr. Clement Dodd has no need to employ any expertise in marketing strategy. Every now again he will decide to reissue on CD one of his productions that, over time, have become enduring classics of Jamaican music - these may come with extra or extended tracks or they may not. In this case not. No matter, this is one of the guaranteed stone classic vocal albums underpinned by enduring rhythms that have been recycled countless times in acts of loving tribute and cynical plagiarism. Whilst the Soul Jazz and Heartbeat labels have done great recycling jobs on the label with their reissues and compilations, here's the real thing on its original home label.

Junior Delahaye Reggae


What once seemed ponderous, simplistic and outmoded returns as elemental, minimal and right on the button. The Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes' Bronx-based Wackies label has been logically/improbably adopted by Berlin's Rhythm & Sound for some vinyl reissues - not long after there seemed to be little interest in the imprint either from long time roots reggae fans or the nu breed of dub heads. This is a 1982 "showcase" album with three relatively extended tracks per side. Bullwackie's JA credentials kept his New York sound in synch with Kingston courtesy of visiting musicians such as Leroy Sibbles, Jerry Harris and Roland Alphonso, whose signature sax graces the otherwise workmanlike "All I Need Is Jah". The early eighties sound is closest though to the Black Ark from five years earlier, most evident on the openers of the respective sides "Love" and "Travelling Man", the former's skeletal structure and delivery is nearer to today's Berlin than anything coming out of Jamaica. And why the velvet voiced Mr.Delahaye is not feted as one of reggae's great singers remains a mystery.

Dub Funk Association Black City Dread


Although Dub Funk Association may sound like a loose collection of like minded musicians its basically Kelvin Richards who on this release puts together new tracks with tunes from "Sounds of the Heavyweight" and "Roots of Dub Funk", utilises an album title from a long lost deleted set, and restricts the length of the set to four tracks either side of this vinyl only piece. The result is his strongest offering to date. Apparently the inspiration come from a long lost dub album of mid-seventies vintage ("Contempo Jade" by Black Jade - does it exist?) found by Kelvin lying around in the post carnival detritus of one Notting Hill Bank Holiday, an album which from his description sounds like a template for much of today's nu dub. DFA have promised much in the past and this intelligently compiled set should form the template for the future.

Digital Dubzilla


Back in pre-d&b days rave DJs spun tunes at BPMs where drums tracks turned into skittering blurs and there was enough top on the mix to open cans. Although they checked for Tubby and Scientist at home they made the mistake of accessing their elder siblings rotting 70's jazz funk collections. And the disease of so-called intelligent drum and bass was born - any potential for development of the short-lived reggae/ragga inflected angle became as sidelined as the parent genres. With the notable exception of No U Turn and its darker spinoffs, its only over the past year or so that the tough tunes are back with the nu breakz merging d&b, electro and dub sciences, and there is none so tough and fierce as Digital. "Dubzilla" is his debut, following-up last year's "Warped" 12" and continues the drive to induce deep vein reactions with its awesomely physical basslines and ultraspeed torrid percussion breaks. Although titles like "Champion Bubbler", "Smokin' Dub" and "True Natty" have vocal samples that betray their origin the rhythm tracks are generations on. The usual path for d&b/breakz producers to burn out, move into soundtracks or introduce vocalists coinciding with a major deal, hopefully we can trace the trajectory of Digital into more creative dimensions.

Freedom Masses Freedominium


Freedom Masses Version of Peace


From the darkest valleys of South Lancashire, East of Manchester, come Freedom Masses a.k.a. Original Dub Advertiser, essentially one Professor P and the other Jahmi-X. Their "I Am What I Am" single, lifted from the poorly distributed set "Life A Ruff", was one of the strongest UK roots singles of the last few years. Wilfully confusing, these two albums are not companion vocal and dub sets but two separate products released with the space of three months! Nevertheless the two pieces continue the pace with a mix of well-worked modern roots and steppers but more interestingly some really spaced-out, chaotic dubs such as "Offbeat Dub" and "Satan Slaughter". Some tunes lifted off the albums onto sevens or twelves would probably have more impact in what is becoming something of a competitive market these days!

Iration Steppas Jungle Jungle / Jungle Dub


Dennis Rootical and Mark Iration know better than to wait for a knock on the door and start up their own Leeds based imprint, out of their High Rise studio, with three 7" singles. "Jungle Jungle" features vocals from UK roots stalwart Tena Stelin but it's the version which goes beyond the routine conscious lyric in an extra-steppers style with EFX pouring out of the mix. Tena Stelin also fronts the strangely titled "War inna Babylon" (TSR001) which is another piece stronger on the flip where the rhythm is boosted by Bunnington Judah and Spear on bongos. The third single, the equally preposterously titled "One Drop" (TSR003) from Leicester's Vibronics, is more technoid in its pretensions with a minimal descending bass pattern laying the bed for a battery of keyboard generated bleeps and blips - Iration Steppa's remix on the version cranks up the pace and fills the space with even more sonic devices. Do not enter elevators playing this kind of music.

Bob Marley & the Wailers Exodus (Deluxe Edition)

TUFF GONG 314 586 408-2

"Exodus" follows "Catch A Fire" in the overdue reupholstering of Jah Bob's work with Island. This album provided the international breakthrough for the reggae's only superstar and his remoulded Wailers and, whereas "Catch A Fire" was accompanied by a mono Jamaican version, this set comes with a CD full of rare and unreleased cuts including five from the electrifying gig at London's Rainbow Theatre in the June of 1977. Four tracks are sourced from a late Perry collaboration, two visits to the "Punky Reggae Party" and lovely vocal and dub versions of Curtis Mayfield's "Keep On Moving" - muted in comparison with the wild mixes which originally appeared on an Upsetter 12" and were reissued in Part Three of the JAD label retrospective last year. The versions of "Waiting In Vain", "Exodus" and "Jamming" will satisfy Marley fans and reggae buffs alike. Let's hope this series continues in style.

Observer Headshot


The subtitle "reggae instrumentals, dubs and other oddities" undersells this magnificent collection by some way. The production work of Winston "Niney" Holness a.k.a. The Observer, after the label he launched in 1970, has been collected in the past most notably on the Heartbeat, Trojan and lately Blood & Fire imprints, but those sets have largely concentrated on vocalist and DJs. Here the overdue emphasis is on rhythm with Errol Thompson at the controls. There's a full stock of dubs to Dennis Brown tunes with the most creative being "Come Dub", a version of "Here I Come Again" where the drum track run through tape echo and doubled in tempo, and the rarest being "Bottlehead in Fine Style" dubbing the singers' "Live After You". Niney had caught Willie Mitchell's band in their tour of the Caribbean when they supported Al Green, and the guitar work of Teenie Hodges left such an impression that many of his trademark licks used on Reverend Al's hits were transplanted onto Observer rhythms. Bands at work here included horn greats Bobby Ellis on "Here I Come" and Tommy McCook on "One Train Load of Collie" - the chugging dub to "Westbound Train". The "oddity" on this set is probably a dub of "Wolf and Leopards" here titled "Nosey Joe Version", a likely reference to rival producer Joe Gibbs, where Bongo Herman stutters a skit with Faye Bennett in the style of blackface minstrel Emmett Miller from the twenties! This is straight from Hearbeat's top drawer and there can be no greater recommendation, but to exit this review with zero gripes is unacceptable - so why no "Zinc Fence", the majestic dub to Cornell Campbell's "I Heart Is Clean"?

Sandoz Sandoz In Dub - Chant To Jah


Interest in Cabaret Voltaire ms is at a twenty year high as Virgin release both a "Best of" compilation and a box set retrospective, also cropping up on the excellent Soul Jazz post-punk dance set "In The Beginning There Was Rhythm". Sandoz is the solo persona of Richard H. Kirk from the Cabs who has been a longtime devotee of dub and its variations, indeed 1987's "CODE" album was produced by Adrian Sherwood albeit inna machine funk stylee. Kirk has revealed himself as Sandoz previously, initially on Warp's Artificial Intelligence series and then on a Touch album. This set is perhaps the most dancefloor friendly of the sequence moving immediately through roots/steppers through to ragga and d&b influences whilst maintaining a signature sound and using a collection of samples fresh to these jaded ears. Although there are a number of artists working in this kind of dub dance field there are few who are able to demonstrate such love and understanding of the music, and as satisfying results, as Kirk.

The Skatalites/King Tubby The Legendary Skatalites In Dub


This is the album was reviewed last September's column, in its vinyl only form as "Herb Dub - Collie Dub", when the conclusion was "essential". Now, with the addition of seven contemporary tracks on this CD only release I suppose the evidence points to compulsory. In 1975 Lloyd Brevett, stand-up bass player of the original Skatalites, reunited the remaining core members of that legendary band for these sessions whose output has given us this album which now can stand alongside the finest of King Tubby's work and art. The extra tracks are picked up from some previous 10" release on Motion and include "Candlelight Dub" an alternate nyabinghi version to the earlier "Whispering Dub", "Sealing Dub" an intense percussion workout on the also present "Fugitive Dub". Specific mention must be made of the exceptional playing from the great Ernest Ranglin on guitar, though the whole ensemble is free, fluid and totally jazzed-up. Tubby must have love doing this one!