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Friday, September 01, 2006

Dub Review - September 2006

The Aggrolites
The Aggrolites
As Funky Fire ignites with a shameless lick heist from Ride Your Pony and segues into Mr. Misery mirroring a mix of the Meters meet the Upsetters vintage 1969 it’s clear that these boys have made some deep investments in the roots of both reggae and soul. Some of the instrumentals here are so frighteningly authentic that searches through those old Lee Perry and Harry J albums are bound to ensue, witness Grave Digger starting with a threatening ‘hey gringo’ style intro or Death At Ten Paces where Dave Barker is expected to make a whopping interjection any second. The band owes their existence to Derrick Morgan when they came together around four years ago from a collective of Southern California reggae and ska musicians to support the singer on a scheduled, but unrealised, album. Signed to Hellcat, an Epitaph subsidiary, after a series of scorching performances the band have since provided a sterling backline to both Prince Buster and Joseph Hill of Culture. For those who miss that all too brief surge of excitement provided by the Specials, Madness et al in the early 80s.

Horace Andy
Natty Dread A Weh She Want
Horace Andy is one of the enduring success stories of reggae, having hit early with Studio One with a series of hits including immortal tunes like Skylarking and See A Man’s Face he graduated from Studio One to collaborate with a series of producers in turning out consistently high quality material, culminating with 1976’s In The Light for Everton da Silva with a correspondingly classic dub set – since reissued by Blood and Fire. Much later he scored with Wackies out of New York and was then championed in the 90s by Massive Attack who brought the singer into wider popularity. This set is a collection of his work with Tapper Zukie in the production seat and as such a preface of the dancehall inflected era that was to follow the golden age of roots in the late seventies. The title track, updating Alton Ellis’ Hurting Me rhythm, sold massive amounts on pre-release in the UK in 1979 before finally appearing on album in the following year – probably explained by the tune providing a neat bridge between roots and the lovers rock that then dominated the market in London. As is becoming customary on revive albums it’s the bonus cuts that will attract the collectors here with the addition of nine titles including six extended twelve inch dub mixes on four of which Tapper Zukie provides the accompanying toast; the key track is a Take Five version This Must Be Hell.

Dennis Bovell Presents The 4th Street Orchestra
Scientific, Higher Ranking Dubwise / Yuh Learn!
Dennis Bovell has been promising the reappearance of his back catalogue for some years now and at last it has arrived. Perhaps the key figure in the history of the UK reggae, Barbadian Bovell just loves dealing in contradictions creating some of the most fulfilling homegrown dub out of the Lovers Rock tunes either reviled or ignored by the roots fans of the late seventies and early eighties. This 2 on 1 selection features the third and fourth albums from the 4th Street Orchestra, some of the cuts here originally appeared on blank 7” singles pressed up in Ireland with a semi-shoddy finish to replicate a Jamaican product and shipped back into the UK and titled with felt tips to masquerade as the latest tough pre-release to be snapped up by the reggae cognoscenti. Check out the reversed phasing on Scientific (Hurting Dub) and its source Hurting Me (Give it Up) with Dennis is a falsetto Chi-Lites vocal style with girlie harmonies for a dangerous talent at work. Roots credentials are also in evidence with the producers biggest serious hit Rowing Down the River and some consciousness of the community’s concerns of the time on Grunwick Affair, a bad tempered strike from 1976/77 when Asian women workers from East Africa protested against working conditions and to win recognition for unionisation – a fight that failed and echoed through to what was to follow in the grim years of the Thatcher era.

Doctor Alimantado
House Of Singles
Best get right to it and state unequivocally that no better disc branded as ‘reggae revive’ will be released this year, many moons in gestation this is a collection of the good Doctor’s rarer Jamaican recordings dating from the mid-sixties through until the late seventies that have been sourced by a series of dedicated fans and collectors for the benefit of us all. Maccabee The Third is the first Rasta DJ chant and was cut with Scratch in 1969, Blessed Is That Land Called Africa is a toast on Junior Byles’ Place Called Africa also cut for Perry where Tado calls out the in praise of the imagined and yearned for homeland. Errol Thompson engineers the DJ cut to Hortense Ellis’ version of Piece Of My Heart retitled here as Chapter Of My Heart and in parts Tado seems to be prototyping a new DJ phlegm-rattling style; and Tubby is at the controls for One Trouble his DJ reading of the KC White version of First Cut Is The Deepest where Tado converts the wounds of love into a physical reality in a warning on the prevalent street warfare of the time. The most extreme cut here is Ride On Brother cut for producer Joe Gibbs on the Beat Down Babylon rhythm, with the reverb in red the sonics play on the edges of distortion with the spongey guitar riff embroidering the manic vocal throughout the track and the horns seemingly detached somewhere in the distance. And so it goes through to the last two extended Black Ark era Perry tracks, in association with Raphael Green Reggae Train and with Hugh Blackwood Reggae Music generated from Augustus Pablo’s monstrous Vibrate On. The twenty four page booklet is a model of reggae research produced by Dave Katz, and according to Tado in his final round-up section at no charge!

Freddie McGregor
Bobby Babylon
By the time Bobby Babylon was first released back in 1980 Freddie McGregor was already an old hand, debuting with the Clarendonians back in the 60s, working as session harmony journeyman and recording a batch of singles for Clement Dodd at Studio One through the 70s. This, his debut, remains his finest album being a collection of some of the best sides he cut at Brentford Road but the attraction comes with the eight bonus cuts never before released on CD. Highlights amongst those are When I’m Ready on John Holt’s 1970 hit A Love I Can Feel extended into dub before Lone Ranger enters with a DJ version Jaclyn in an early dancehall stylee with x amount of ‘bimmmms’, roightttts! and oinks!, the twelve inch discomix version of Come Now Sister utilising the Heptones’ classic Get In The Groove rhythm, the original single version of I’m A Revolutionist recorded as I Man A Rasta and best of all an unreleased spaced out version of Rastaman Camp, deeply meditative in feel not unlike a Yabby You production.

Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell
Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell
How refreshing that Uncle Bill has a proper job for a change instead of the usual extended jam into infinity ground-out format or the irresistible but irretrievably dismal remix projects he get sucked into. Roots Tonic is the backing band for Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu; this kind of sub-subculture could probably only exist in New York City. Laswell produced Matisyahu’s Billboard top five album “Youth” and seduced the band back to his Orange Studios for this dub workout which finds him on top form on the desk as the discipline induced by a tight working band gives him plenty of opportunity to refresh his blunted mixing skills. Although this album is referred to by the producer as a “futurist space/dub transmission” there’s a sense, to borrow and bend Bambaataa’s title, that’s its more a mission in search of the perfect rhythm upon which Laswell is engaged. It’s a relief to discover that the tunes here are laced with a lyricism usually absent from his work, as on the awkwardly titled “Employees Must Now Wash You Hands” where Josh Werner’s plangent Rhodes (?) weaves between Jonah David’s furious percussion layers or the Perryesque opener “Road to Axum” that has Aaron Dugan’s bathetic guitar line convincing us there’s a lost and lonely vocal missing in space. Laswell’s method adopted for this album strips twenty five years from his musical age and put me in mind of some of those witty but controlled dubs provided by Errol Thompson for Joe Gibbs.

Various Artists
Adventures In Dub: Essential Bassline Business
The best introductions to dub over the last few years have usually been provided by exiled reggae scribe Ian McCann, coming in from the cold on the odd occasion to compile well crafted sets from the vaults. This set of forty dub across two discs are sourced from Trojan copyrights with each track receiving a succinctly spot on commentary from the compiler. No matter how well you think you know the work of these producers and engineers – Tubby, Scratch, Keith Hudson, Pablo, it’s always a pleasure to be surprised by tracks that have either been lost in the rush to recyle or simply forgotten over time. Examples here include Jah version a Tubby mix of Johnny Clarke’s None Shall Escape The Judgement (ripped off by Jonathan Richman for his chart hit Egyptian Reggae) but with DJ Dillinger playing the role of dub DJ, Ronnie Davis’ Power Of Love on of those unusual tracks with the vocal delivered over a dub mix – the actual dub to the tune is on the second disc, and a beautifully eerie dubstrumental from Augustus Pablo and Keith Hudson Kiss 14 a version of the perennial Wire top dub tune Satan Side.

White Mice
Tallawah / Version
There’s a set of four White Mice 7" singles repressed by Rhythm & Sound’s Basic Replay utilising the original artwork of his brother Blemo’s Intellitec imprint, out of Miami, in addition to Tallawah (Jamaican slang for tough, stubborn or not to be underestimated) there’s It's A Shame, Try A Thing and Youths Of Today. All are accompanied by their dub versions on the flips. Born in 1970, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Allan Crichton aka White Mice maybe best known in the UK through the patronage of Augustus Pablo on a UK tour – this was after recording at King Jammy’s and Channel One studios, with Junior ‘Jux’ Delgado at the controls – a regular 80s spar of the late melodica king. His DJ skills were honed on three sound systems - Sugar Minott’s Youthman Promotion, Jammy’s Hi Power, and his hometown Ticka Muzik. All the tunes are dense early digidubs with the bass as pure vibration contrasting with White Mice’s cartoon style high pitched toothless vocals, one of those peculiar one-offs that reggae regularly produces a la Eek-a-Mouse and Snagga Puss.