I have to admit that I'd never heard of Dreadzone before the Cropredy Festival 2009* (which they were the highlight of). Nor was I likely to, as they are distinctively Reggae and I'm more of an Indie kid. However, I saw them live and was blown away - MC Spee was on top form (even though he was singing from a wheelchair for the whole performance!)
It is easy to see how an alternative band with a fairly moderate selection of tunes, have become good enough to open the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury (back in the early 90's) and be a favourite of John Peel - it is because they translate so well live!
And this CD succeeds where many live albums / DVDs fail: in its bottling the essence of their live shows. The playfulness of 'when I say Dread, you say Zone...' and the simple one word intro to Captain Dread ('Ahoy!!!') really comes across well on the CD as somehow unique to the band's ethos. Furthermore, the raw reggae beats and 'Old Skool bass lines' make you feel like stopping your car, getting out & starting a street party!
To add to this, I found something odd when I came to search up the tracks on my IPod - the regular tracks don't sound half as good in the studio. Songs like Little Britain & especially 'Captain Dread' sound too full of noises on the albums, which makes them perfect for the raw translation they get on stage. It's like that 'Bill Bailey U2 Malfunction' skit (where the amps go off and he turns out to be playing 'Jingle all the way'!) although this is the opposite - the sound is simpler, more potent & more catchy.
My one criticism of this album is that the tracks seem a fairly random bunch & there are a few that miss the mark or go on too long. As an error though, I feel it is minor since there is something in the music that manifests itself throughout the album, which can't quite be explained.
So, if you've seen these guys live and bought this CD spur-of-the-moment like I did, then you have started well. The only other thing to do is make sure you keep it secret. Don't get me wrong - Dreadzone were fully deserving of John Peel's acclamation, it's just that that is the very reason they are so special - as a sort of ariadnes thread for Leftfield etc that only a few privileged festival-goers know of. Rather like the psychology game the Cube (Cube: Keep the Secret) - once you know its secrets you should treasure them...
* - British Folk Festival 30 miles from Oxford and often named 'Fairport Convention' after the folk group who started it.