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L. Kelly (Cumbria UK)
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At Joe Gibbs
At Joe Gibbs
Price: £12.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We all got to be positive in this time...", 17 May 2011
This review is from: At Joe Gibbs (Audio CD)
Dennis Brown was Jamaica's most enduringly popular vocalist and his star at home shone far brighter than Bob Marley's or Gregory Isaacs' ever did. Overwhelmingly prolific, with over 75 albums bearing his name, Brown recorded his first music at the age of 10 and went on to achieve more in hist first 23 years than other performers managed in their entire careers. This 4-CD box set contains many examples of the amazing musical legacy he recorded for producer Joe Gibbs between the years 1973 and 1984.

Disc 1, 1978's "Visions Of Dennis Brown", stands as one of the vocalist's defining masterpieces; a well-dread rootsy collection with only 2 love songs (both covers). Delivered in the fast pace of the "rockers" reggae style, the tracks centre around Brown's powerful and magisterial vocal melodies woven in and around hardcore drum and bass "riddims". The beats are tricky and complex, restless and very changeable; and the heavy basslines are tuneful and spacious with lots of pauses and gaps. The harmonic instrumental textures are understated and subtle - epic horn riffs and sweeping keyboard flourishes that surface only momentarily throughout.
The mood of the album alternates between the bright and breezy (versions of The Heptones' "LOVE ME ALWAYS" and Eric Monty Morris' "SAY WHAT YOU SAY"; the strength through adversity themed "JAH CAN DO IT", and "STAY AT HOME", the tale of a wayward girl) and the dense and brooding. The dramatic "CONCRETE CASTLE KING" is a cover of a Dean Frazier track which has a powerful horn motif; "OH MOTHER" features delicate, rippling wah-wah guitar leads; whilst "MALCOLM X"s serious message is strengthened by the song's heavy, stepping beat and plaintive piano lines.
This album is full of profound Rastafarian anthems, and its complicated rhythms and melodies will dispel any notion you ever had about reggae "all sounding the same".

Disc 2:
1979's "Words Of Wisdom" is, by comparison with the previous album a much more commercial affair; an album which mixes heavy 'roots' militancy with a more polished and refined sense of melodic musicality. The instrumental harmonies are very overt here, leading the songs directly as opposed to the subtle backing they provided on "Visions". The production is fit to burst with this exquisite instrumentation - peals of brass; swathes of lush synthesizer and keyboard lines; and small but noticeable doses of digital drum fills. Brown's vocals match the brisk rhythmic pace - he never seems to draw breath (especially on "A TRUE"), every verse and key-change punctuated by howls of "ooh-yeah-now-now" or variations of such.
"SO JAH SAY", "WORDS OF WISDOM", "RASTA CHILDREN" and "BLACK LIBERATION" are the 'crucial' spiritual and cultural anthems on the disc; whilst fans of the more "sensitive" side of the singer will be enamoured with the versions of Alton Ellis' classic "AIN'T THAT LOVING YOU", Dennis Walks' "DRIFTER"; and new recordings of Brown's own "CASSANDRA" and "MONEY IN MY POCKET".
However, the most remarkably unique song on this collection is the very commercial "DON'T FEEL NO WAY" - a track with a rather tedious "music is the love of my life" lyric, which manages to sound like a combination of Bob Marley's "Exodus" and The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"!
"Words Of Wisdom" is a tremendous achievement which mixes tough reggae muscle with a 'crossover' rock dynamic without compromise.

Disc 3 is a very confusing collection of songs indeed. Though it shares a title and cover art with the 1984 album "Love's Gotta Hold On Me", it isn't really a proper re-release at all. The original LP featured six songs in extended 'discomix' style: 7-minute long tracks with the vocal version seguing seamlessly into its dub counterpart. This CD features only the vocal tracks, with no dubs, adding up to a paltry 22 minutes; whilst the remaining 13 songs are a random collection of album and single tracks recorded between 1977 and 1983.
The stylistic difference between "Love's Gotta Hold On Me" and the "Words Of Wisdom" album is vast. Five years on, Jamaican reggae music had evolved from the "roots" style into "dancehall", and this album is a prime example of that sound. The previous fast paces and densely-packed, multi-layered production techniques have been replaced by slow, metronomic thudding beats and minimal musical arrangements filled out by excessive digitized synthetic sounds - splashing bleeps, hand claps and 'whistling' keyboard riffs. Pleasingly, despite the "cheesy-grin" cover photo and album title, 4 of the 6 tracks are biting cultural commentaries informed by Brown's fervent Rastafarian faith; with the version of John Holt's "HOOLIGAN" being especially wonderful.
The bonus tracks here chart the evolution of reggae music into the dancehall style, but irritatingly aren't featured in chronological order so you don't really hear the progress! The tracks range from the tough 'rockers'-style "THREE MEALS A DAY", "MAN NEXT DOOR" and "RUNNING UP AND DOWN" from 1978/79; to the smooth and smoochy lover's grooves "COMING HOME TONIGHT" and "WHY BABY WHY". The sugary love songs don't sit well with me personally, though they are consummately well-written and performed; although the execrable disco-funk song "LOVE HAS FOUND ITS WAY" is just one step too far!

Disc 4, titled "Reflections", is a compilation which ties up all the loose ends of Dennis Brown's work with Joe Gibbs, and features their earliest recordings together from the early 70s. The disc opens with the original 1973 version of "MONEY IN MY POCKET", and it is immediately apparent that the yearning, wistful tone of the song is better suited to the slower pace of this version than the one on "Words Of Wisdom". The rest of the album consists of singles originally compiled on the "Best Of Dennis Brown Parts 1 & 2" LPs, and are mostly love and relationship songs sung over slow, skanking early reggae rhythms full of percussive guitar chops and shuffling organ patterns. Particularly fine are the tracks "PLAY GIRL", "WE WILL BE FREE" and "MY KIND". By track 14 the powerful 'rockers' reggae beat is introduced once more on a brilliantly energetic version of The Heptones' "EQUAL RIGHTS", and the apocalyptic and seldomly-heard "VINEYARD" and "STOP THE FUSSING AND FIGHTING" (on the Studio 1 "Real Rock" rhythm). Bafflingly the CD closes with another awful disco number, the abominable digital track "TELL ME YOU LOVE ME" - an incongruous ending to an otherwise exemplary collection of reggae brilliance.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 8, 2013 10:51 AM BST


Crisus Time (Extra Version)
Crisus Time (Extra Version)
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Live in love, and deal with meditation...", 14 May 2011
This CD reissue of I Roy's 1976 album "Crisus Time" is quite confusingly presented. The original artwork has been replaced by a lazy reproduction of the same photo from I Roy's "Musical Shark Attack"; but the most mystifying aspect is the inclusion of six bonus tracks that feature at the start of the disc. I'm used to bonus tracks tacked on to the end of albums, and in some cases peppered throughout the track listing; but at least these 'bonuses' tend to have some sort of relevant connection to the original material. The bonus tracks on this CD are not connected to the original album at all. Recorded at later dates by different producers - three tracks from 1977's "Heart Of A Lion", and three from the 1980 set "Whap'n Bap'n" - the tracks seem a little unnecessary and intrusive,especially at the start of the CD; and the lacklustre booklet notes make no effort to explain their inclusion here at all.

The remaining 12 tracks (numbers 7 to 18) make up the "Crisus Time" album; an exemplary collection of roots reggae which showcases the legendary Jamaican deejay (a vocal style which would be called rapping nowadays) at the height of his powers in 1976. I Roy masterfully combines fast and fluid chanted rhymes; jive talk; and powerful stream-of-consciousness reasoning in that wonderful husky howl of his, often punctuated with startling yelps. Though always informed by his devout Rastafarian faith, I-Roy's lyrics are pleasingly varied and contain lots of light-hearted, humorous touches amidst the typical "dread" proclamations of judgement.

Most of the lyrics on the album juxtapose the 'serious' subject matter with the whimsical. "MUSICAL INJECTION", a masterclass in 'scat' vocalizing of the "shoo-be-dooby" variety, also contains the "pound get a blow" slogan referencing the Jamaican currency changing from pound to dollar, and namechecks former US president Spiro Agnew. "CRISUS TIME" has I Roy (not for the first time, and certainly not the last) incorporating Mother Goose nursery rhymes - Little Bo Peep, Humpty Dumpty, Hickory Dickory Dock - into the lyrics; a move which actually seems to reinforce the track's message that despite the "crisis times", there's "no need in the world to worry". Even on I Roy's version of the normally fervent Rastafarian anthem "SATTA-AMASA-GANA", the deejay irreverently includes the funky Americanisms "dynamite", and "outta sight".

As well as being an entertainer par excellence, I Roy is also brilliantly authoritative in the role of cultural historian ("AFRICAN TAK"); preacher ("EQUALITY AND JUSTICE"); and political commentator, with direct and incisive lyrics on topics like the Jamaican economic crisis which caused an island-wide food shortage: "tribulation come up on mankind, all different fashion/ even our food stuff is rationed" ("LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR").

The driving force behind these phenomenal lyrical performances are the musical rhythms being 'rapped' over. These are Bunny "Striker" Lee productions performed by The Aggrovators band - 'ruff' and 'tuff' reggae vibes that balance funky grooves with dramatic militancy; all deep and spacious bass lines and heavy 'stepping' drum-beats. The original rhythms (which include a lot of Johnny Clarke tracks from the "Rockers Time Now" LP) have been deconstructed "inna dub stylee" - possibly by King Tubby, but more likely at the hands of Prince Jammy; so there's lots of opportunities to bask in the surreal psychedelic glaze of swirling, echoing guitar cadences; fractal splashes of reverb and fragments of sung choruses floating ethereally through the mix.

I Roy during the 1970s was an unstoppable tour-de-force of style, wit and panache. Hearing him on top-quality roots-reggae rhythms is quite something to behold. This album is just such an experience. Jah bless.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 28, 2014 1:30 AM BST


Big Ship
Big Ship
Price: £9.67

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Big ship sailing on the ocean, we don't need no commotion...", 11 May 2011
This review is from: Big Ship (Audio CD)
Early dancehall classic; an exquisite musical masterclass blending warm, soulful melody with mesmerizing, deep reggae grooves. Freddie McGregor sings in a smooth yet powerful style with hints of a Dennis Brown influence; and with all the confidence of an already-established songwriter who's had popular hits in a decade-long career. McGregor favours a more populist, accessible approach to vocalizing, and uses much less Jamaican patois and 'slang' than his contemporaries (Don Carlos, Michael Prophet et al); and also divides his writing equally between spiritual/cultural "rootsy" material and love lyrics. Not that this thematic distinction makes any difference to the musical backings at all; indeed, conversely, some of the darkest and heaviest rhythms are on love songs rather than the expected "dread" ones.

The musical performances by the Roots Radics are prime examples of the revolutionary new reggae sound the band cultivated in the early eighties: sparse arrangements with full emphasis on the metronomic, stepping, swinging beats and the spacious, hypnotically dense and lyrical bass lines. Harmonic accompaniment is keep to a minimum; just the spiky, skanking guitar chops and some delicate piano riffs which surface momentarily, and sometimes lead the melody ("DON'T PLAY THE FOOL", "GET UNITED"). But the driving force is strictly drum and bass "riddims"; with the drumming drenched in dubby echo and reverb and each snare-shot crashing and resonating loudly through the mix.

The sublime quality of this album never dips, so everything here is a highlight; but I'm still more favourably biased towards the cultural tracks. The devout "PEACEFUL MAN" has strikingly resolute and direct lyrics: "woe be unto the one who troubles Jah plan/ Check yourself man, can't you understand - Jah Rastafari is the living one" (god); and is the song on which McGregor manages to make an entire (and brilliant) chorus out of the 'words' "woy-ee-woy-ee-yoy"! "ROOTS MAN SKANKING" has an interesting tightly-wound, off-beat rhythm that resolves itself in a series of drum taps; and lyrics which vividly portray events in the Jamaican dance halls: "pure rub-a-dub keep playing, dance hall ram and everywhere jam/ Everyone skanking, a-rocking and dipping". "BIG SHIP" itself is a wonderfully meditative, swaying groove that takes a metaphorical 'plain sailing on the sea of life' theme and combines it with some very literal nautical imagery: "the wind is blowing and the fishes keep moving/ Sit down, hold on tight, get ready 'cos we're sailing".

Of course the album's 'emotional' side is consummately well-written too (if you like that sort of thing); full of all the romantic cliches you'd expect: heartache, 'getting serious' and schmaltzy devotional lyrics straight out of 50's and 60's doo-wop and soul - "you're like a cherry on the tree, I swear I'll pick you 'cos you're so sweet/ Sweet lady, you're my sugar baby...".
This is simply the finest crossover collection of roots reggae and lover's rock I've ever heard; with consistently "tuff" and brilliant rhythms, even despite the mushy lyrical sentimentality. Jah bless.


Shanty Town Determination
Shanty Town Determination

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Well dread...", 9 May 2011
Wade Brammer, aka Trinity, is a brilliant Jamaican deejay from the 1970's roots reggae era (and beyond). Probably best known for his ode to sartorial elegance "Three Piece Suit And Thing" (a song made even more popular by Althea and Donna's female-perspective version "Uptown Top Ranking"), Trinity is really at his best chanting culturally and spiritually; none more so than on this storming set, "Shanty Town Determination", recorded for Vivian "Yabby You" Jackson in 1976.

Trinity's style is comparable to Big Youth: the legendary deejay who had led the second generation of 'toasters' away from the "chatting along to the vocal-line" style of U Roy and Dennis Alcapone, and onto a more fluid, expressive style of 'chanting for Jah'. Trinity is also inextricably linked with Dillinger, not only because of their vocal similarities but because the two are good friends who hustled the studios and worked many times together. The truth is, Trinity is master of both his obvious influences' styles, with plenty of his own charisma shining through too; and Yabby You's powerful, histrionic rhythms suit him perfectly.

Opener "RASTA DETERMINATION" (a version of Wayne Wade's "Man Of The Living") is as heavy, deep and brooding as roots reggae ever got; dramatic peals of echoing horns which give way to a dense and pensive 'stepping' rhythm. Trinity 'chats' expertly throughout this (and every other track on the album) in a wide variety of styles: mixing rhyming chants, sing-song choruses, spoken stream-of-consciousness philosophical reasoning and a score of slurred "as-I-would-says".
There are many more dense and steamy roots reggae grooves throughout the album; "TRADITION" rocks an especially thick and hypnotic bass line; whilst "PROMISE IS A COMFORT TO A FOOL", and the devoutly Rastafarian "SAMSON THE STRONGEST MAN" both ride classic Yabby You rhythms: "Fire In A Kingston" and the percussion-addled dub to "Conquering Lion".
Other songs allow Trinity to stretch out and vary his deejay style somewhat. The Big Youth influence is overtly apparent on the drawling, almost-sung "HOLD THEM JAH"; and there's a nice proto-dancehall energy to the bouncing vocal patterns on the skanking "FIRE DOWN A TOWN" and "QUARTER POUND A ISHENS"; the latter a pro-ganja anthem full of coughing and audible draws of the sacramental herb.

In keeping with Blood & Fire's usual re-issue methods, there are five bonus tracks amended to the original album - songs that were recorded a couple of years later which are in a more energetic and strident "rockers" style. The rather daunting prospect of a 55-minute reggae-deejay album is alleviated by these bonus tracks - 6-minute long extended discomixes which blend Trinity's rhymes with experimental and meditative dub remixes and 2 exceptional vocal cuts: Michael Prophet's reworking of The Heptones' "FIGHT IT TO THE TOP", and the sublime group-vocal melodies in the Prophets' version of The Uniques' "BLESSED ARE THE MEEK".

Simply stunning collection of some of the heaviest rhythms to ever come out of Jamaica. "Well dread".


Pleasure Dub
Pleasure Dub
Price: £14.42

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Treasure Isle in dub..., 7 May 2011
This review is from: Pleasure Dub (Audio CD)
Vintage Jamaican 'rock steady' rhythms produced by Duke Reid circa 1966-68;dusted off and dubbed-up by his nephew Errol Brown sometime in the 70's. Reid's legacy in the Jamaican music industry is legendary: after waging an often violent turf war with Coxsone Dodd's Studio 1 label during the ska era, Reid's Treasure Isle studio emerged as the definitive 'hit-maker' during the island's 'rock steady' period - the direct musical precursor to reggae that favoured US soul inspired harmonies and melodies and majestic, laid-back beats.

Pleasingly, this set of dub versions features tracks stripped almost entirely of the original vocals. I say 'pleasingly' because as much as I am enamoured of the wonderful music, the tendency at the time for placing mundane 'relationship' and 'love' lyrics on them is far less appealing. On "Pleasure Dub" the tremendous musical performances and songwriting skills of Tommy McCook and The Supersonics band is allowed the chance to shine brightly - sublime, swinging, skanking grooves led by melodic and lyrical bass riffs and bolstered by wonderful horn cadences and percussive guitar picking.

Errol Brown's dub techniques throughout are subtle but effective; rather than using the 'melodies dropped in and out' method most contemporary mixers were fond of, Brown leaves pretty much all of the instrumentation intact, and liberally seasons them with effects: 'splashing' echo applied to every third crashing drum beat and harmonic brass, piano and guitar lines dripping in ethereal 'gated reverb'. The most startling effects are used on the remaining fragments of vocal lines that surface momentarily: random syllables trapped in time and space echoing and swirling surreally through the mix.

Track highlights are plentiful, and the rhythms will be familiar to many - The Paragons' "Tide Is High" ("DUB WITH STRINGS"), Ken Parker's "I Can't Hide" ("MANY QUESTIONS"), Phyllis Dillon & Hopeton Lewis' "The Right Track" ("TRACKING DUB")...all proven, bona fide rock steady classics dubbed to perfection. "LIFT OFF" packs a beautiful flute riff and a cavernously deep, groovy bass line; and the phased, resonating horn intros to "BOND STREET ROCK" and "DREADS LEAVING BABYLON" have great impact. But all tracks pale alongside the grand, regal and melancholic minor-key swing of the beautifully plaintive "RIDE DE DUB". The CD issue of this album also features 6 bonus tracks amended to the original twelve; including the gritty funk of "SIDEWALK DOCTOR", and 2 nearly-identical dubs of John Holt's brilliant Arabian-flavoured "Ali Baba" rhythm.

Duke Reid was a strait-laced former policeman who had a vociferous anti-ganja stance and certainly wasn't very sympathetic to Rastafarianism; these recordings (and the earlier "Treasure Isle In Dub Vols 1 & 2" albums) however, offer the chance to hear some of the great man's finest productions infused with a profound and deep, otherworldly mysticism perfectly in tune with the best dub reggae of the age.


Slave Call
Slave Call
Offered by music_by_mail_uk
Price: £21.48

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Be wise in a dis ya time...", 5 May 2011
This review is from: Slave Call (Audio CD)
The Ethiopians were the first Jamaican group to bear an overtly rastafarian name, aligning themselves directly with the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie whom rastafarians worship as the incarnation of god. Though probably best remembered for trivial rocksteady tracks about trains ("Train To Skaville", "Engine 54", et al), The Ethiopians also wrote some stunning cultural and spiritual songs in the late sixties at a time when such themes were far from common in Jamaican music. This spiritual essence is brought directly to the fore on 'Slave Call'; the LP sole original member Leonard Dillon recorded for producer Winston "Niney" Holness in 1977. The album is a remarkable masterpiece - a sublime blend of different musical textures mixing exuberant gospel, soul and incisive reggae grooves; all deeply informed by Dillon's profound rastafarian beliefs.

Each track is built on a solid foundation of nyahbinghi beats - the ritual rhythms played in "dreadlocks' hill-camps" based on the traditional hand-drumming of the African Kumina religion. Opener "ETHIOPIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM" features little more than a minimal electric bass accompaniment alongside the hypnotic, meditational beats and chanted congregational chorus; but each successive track on the album has different layers of instrumentation added.

"SLAVE CALL" and "CULTURE" both have a languorous pastoral feel with bluesy wah-wah guitar licks mixed with plaintive, wistful trumpet lines. There is a strong "work song" element to "SLAVE CALL", which has a hot and hazy ambience that is highly evocative of a Jamaican plantation. The clash of American blues elements with African rhythms reinforces the feeling of displacement spoken about directly in the song's lyrics: "we were taken away by force/ scattered all around the Caribbean coast".
"NUH FOLLOW BABYLON" is in the same vein, featuring gospel piano and some very US-country influenced guitar parts sitting strangely alongside the rasta "judgement a come"-style lyrics. Much more traditionally Jamaican-sounding are "GUILTY CONSCIENCE", which has a seriously heavy bass groove and proverbial lyrics; "LOVE JAH" has rocksteady elements and wonderfully lyrical brass riffs; and "HURRY ON" rocks a fast pace with some very brisk skanking guitar chops.

The only track that doesn't fit here is the unnecessary reworking of "TRAIN TO SKAVILLE", which retains the "skaville" lyric instead of replacing it with "train To Zion" or "Ethiopia", or something more appropriate to the rest of the album's content. It's surprising that Dillon didn't change the lyric, especially when you consider that he amended the lyrics to his cover of the Beatles' "LET IT BE" to include the word "Rastafari".

Anyway...this album is a stunning piece of art that mixes western US melodic influences, traditional African sounds and reggae groove; in an unremittingly direct testimony of erudite Rastafarian philosophy. Jah bless.


A Ruffer Version: Johnny Clarke At King Tubby's 1974-78
A Ruffer Version: Johnny Clarke At King Tubby's 1974-78
Price: £5.99

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The good you do will follow you, and the bad you do, it will stay with you...", 30 April 2011
Johnny Clarke's work with producer Bunny Lee and the Aggrovators band dominated the Jamaican dancehalls and airwaves throughout 1974 and '75. Riding the vibrant new 'flying cymbals' reggae style that drummer Carlton "Santa" Davis developed, Clarke voiced dozen of songs for the producer in this period, and each one was a major hit. The best of these tracks feature on this compilation - a brilliant collection of 'strictly roots & culture' reggae music, presented in showcase fashion with mighty dub versions (mixed by King Tubby and Prince Jammy) following the vocal cuts.

The enduring Rastafarian anthem with the irresistible Egyptian-style bass line, "NONE SHALL ESCAPE THE JUDGEMENT" opens the CD; the first recording on which Santa used his patented 'sawing', disco-inspired 'flying' cymbal technique, and Jamaica's 'song of the year 1974'. The track's popularity led Clarke to record two more vocal versions on the same rhythm, "JOSHUAH'S WORDS" and "JAH JAH BLESS JOSHUAH"; which both detail specific political aspects of Michael Manley's PNP government: gun laws and democratic socialism.
The flying cymbals rhythm is also right at the heart of tracks like the joyously exuberant "MOVE OUT OF BABYLON RASTAMAN" (there is also a startling alternate cut on this rhythm, "COMMERCIAL LOCKS", on which Clarke and deejay Dillinger berate a host of Chinese and white "false rastas"); and the intense "DON'T TROUBLE TROUBLE" which has an Eastern, 'snake charming' horn motif and another Dillinger snipe in the intro, this time directed straight at Jacob Miller's head.
"DON'T TROUBLE TROUBLE"'s intense dub version, "A RUFFER VERSION" is riddled with machine gunfire, explosions and wailing siren sound effects, and this intensity spills over into "POOR MARCUS" - a tough, dark stomper with a densely heavy bassline which has another remarkable King Tubby dub remix full of whiplashing aural thunder.

By track 16, 1977's "JUST GIVE UP THE BADNESS", the reggae beat had changed once more - Sly Dunbar's experimental drum techniques at the Channel One studio had begat the "rockers" style, based on tricky time signatures and rapid tapping beats. "JUST GIVE UP THE BADNESS" features subtle examples of this new rhythmic trait - a tightly-wound, minimal groove with reverberating snare-shot punctuation. "PEACE AND LOVE IN THE GHETTO" however, is utterly revolutionized by the new style, its melodic shuffle riding a fast, double-timed pace. But the truly definitive songs here in the fast 'rockers' style are the powerful "BLOOD DUNZA", with dramatic lyrics about people who kill for money and a wonderful, lyrical trumpet line; and the apocalyptic, last-judgement themed "EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW" which features some nice sinewy wah-wah guitar licks.

"A Ruffer Version" is an exemplary snapshot of what is perhaps the greatest partnership in reggae music ever: Johnny Clarke's smooth, tuneful vocals on some of Bunny Lee's finest Aggrovators 'riddims', with wonderfully abstract and experimental dub versions by master mixers King Tubby and Prince Jammy. Potent and powerful. Jah bless.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 12, 2012 11:38 PM BST


Return of Sound System Scratch: More
Return of Sound System Scratch: More
Price: £13.24

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The groove to make you move...", 28 April 2011
Pressure Sounds' sequel to last year's "Sound System Scratch", this CD again features an exclusive tracklist, full of rare and previously unreleased Lee 'Scratch' Perry productions. The first "Sound System" compilation was a strictly dub reggae affair, which when coupled with the decidedly 'uncommercial' nature of the recordings (remember these were dubplates sold directly to sound systems to play in the dancehall and not meant for home stereos) led to a very lo-fi and poor sound quality. Pleasingly, this collection has a vastly improved sound quality and a more varied musical selection; mixing vocal cuts, dub cuts and instrumentals, as well as a wide range of different musical styles and textures.

The Unforgettables' "TIME", Jimmy Riley's "DARKNESS IN THE CITY" and "REVELATION TIME" by Leo Graham are all tremendous vocal songs on skanking early-reggae rhythms; driven by keyboard shuffles and with drum and bass grooves so spacious they threaten to fall apart at any minute. Riley's track is especially potent - his impassioned vocals juxtapose with the bright and breezy musical melody as he recounts tales of murder and violence in Jamaica's city streets.
Scratch's own tracks "ENTER THE UPSETTER" and "KISS ME MIX" show his deep appreciation for US R&B, and rock deep funk grooves with slinky wah-wah guitar and powerful horn riffs. Further American influences abound on Candy Mackenzie's "LONG ENOUGH", a cover of Jeff Barry's "Walkin' In The Sun", which mixes beautiful soul and country(!) elements with the deep dubby rhythms; and Junior Murvin's stunning version of the Impressions "GET READY" which has bubbling hand drum percussion throughout.

Scratch's famously abstract and creative dub engineering skills are in fine style throughout the disc. The fast-paced "STRONG DRINK" (the melodica-led version of Junior Murvin's "False Teaching") and "I'VE GOT THE DUB" are saturated in ethereal echo and reverb effects, whilst psychedelic fragments of melody float spectrally throughout the mix.
The deepest, dreadest and most broodingly hypnotic grooves are on the two dubs of Bob Marley tracks "NATURAL DUB" ("Natural Mystic") and "MR. DUBZ" ("Rainbow Country"), which feature the tinny drum-machine beat Perry was fond of and amazing horn lines that echo and morph celestially; and The Upsetters' instrumental "DEEP AND DEADLY" which packs the heaviest bass line of the entire compilation; horn lines full of Eastern promise and an unbelievable sonic-boom at 2mins 28!

This collection masterfully blends all the elements of Lee Perry's multi-faceted musical personality - the melodic and tasteful; the excessive and outrageous; the traditional and experimental...All executed perfectly in songs and production techniques that constantly amaze and surprise. Yet another profound experience in the company of Scratch and friends; and yet another chance to celebrate and, well, 'obsess' over the most uniquely creative musical visionary of the last 75 years.
Jah bless.


Kingston Allstars Meet Downtown at King Tubbys 1972 - 1975
Kingston Allstars Meet Downtown at King Tubbys 1972 - 1975
Price: £14.88

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Leggo violence and trod with I...", 27 April 2011
A remarkable collection of rare and unheard roots and dancehall reggae from the seventies and early eighties. Unfortunately the CD booklet contains lots of false information which gives the release a certain 'dubious' quality. I mean, to falsely credit all of the songs as Bunny Lee productions really doesn't help a Jamaican music scene already messed-up by rip-offs and copyright issues that have left many talented musicians and performers unpaid and obscure. The compilation also falsely credits and mistitles the opening track "GOING". No, this is not a Freddie McKay song, it is "Nobody Knows", a very rare 1974 single credited to Ken McKay (no relation) and released on Lee 'Scratch' Perry's Black Art Records. Also false is the statement in the title that these recordings are from 1972 to 1975 - there are some very obviously eighties tracks included...

Anyway, despite my quibbles, this compilation does actually contain some very fine examples of quality, vintage reggae.
There are three astounding vocal tracks on some of Augustus Pablo's deepest and dubbiest productions: the previously unreleased "CHILDREN" by Horace Andy (on Pablo's dramatic "Far East" rhythm), Linval Thompson's "DI WICKED DEM" (utilizing "Rockers Dub") and Lacksley Castell's "SOME GOOD" (a version of a song originally released as "Earth, Wind & Fire" by Paul Blackman) are all saturated in scattered echo and reverb effects, while cascading ripples of spectral melody ethereally drop in and out of the mix.
Just as profoundly, Yabby You chants a scathing "slavery" commentary on his self-produced "STAND UP AND FIGHT" (previously released in 1976 as "Black Man's Land"), which has some very mystical and evocative flute lines.
The tracks which ARE actually produced by Bunny Lee include 2 by Johnny Clarke - the mellow, swinging groove of "NO LICK NO CUP", and the tightly-wound 'stepper' "LEGGO VIOLENCE", with it's 'sawing' cymbals, heavy bass line and repeated, rhythmic vocal. Also featured is Linval Thompson's "TROUBLE" (usually known as "Don't Trouble Trouble") which has some fiery 'Eastern-style' horn motifs.

The dense, entrancing rhythmic pulse of the early-eighties "dancehall" reggae style is represented in fine style by Cornell Campbell and Wayne Jarrett. Campbell's "HEAR ME NOW STAR" is an irrepressibly groovy celebration of 'sound system' culture sung over a thuddingly funky version of Bob Marley's "Natty Dread". Campbell also warns against wayward girls on his track "YOUR COMPANY", which updates the Soul Vendor's 1967 rhythm "Swing Easy"; whilst Wayne Jarrett, who bears an uncanny vocal resemblance to Horace Andy, sings fire-and-brimstone prophecy on the heavy and hypnotic "JUDGEMENT TIME".

This CD is an excellent collection that showcases the 'roots & culture' era of Jamaican reggae music in tremendous fashion. Despite its poor booklet and lack of any authentic recording information, the quality of the music shines through beautifully. Jah bless.
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Joker Smoker
Joker Smoker
Price: £10.08

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let's live good with one another...", 25 April 2011
This review is from: Joker Smoker (Audio CD)
Early eighties dancehall reggae classic with rhythms by the mighty Roots Radics band and deep and dubby production by Jah Thomas. This re-release comes in a cardboard digipak (without booklet), and features four bonus tracks.

The most well-known track on the album is "JOKER SMOKER" itself, which has been anthologized on numerous Greensleeves compilations over the years. Thankfully, the lyrical theme of the track is less a generic 'pro-ganja' one, and more an incisive protest against people who beg from others - the "joker smokers" themselves who "beg sensimillia, rizla and lighters" from our reluctant narrator. Musically the track has a thick and profuse production packed with various instrumentation alongside the slow, stepping swing of the beat: guitar solos; subtle piano; springy, cascading echo effects and epic horn riffs that mimic the vocal line.
This 'mimicking' horn technique also features on "PEACE AND LOVE IN THE GHETTO" - a joyously exuberant groove in a major key; whilst "BABYLON" (a version of the Heptones' "Mama Let Me Go") has the guitar and bass lines mirroring the vocal melody, and some almost-comic trombone and trumpet bursts.

The rest of the tracks on the album have more of a downbeat, brooding quality focussed on the sparse and densely hypnotic drum and bass grooves which are rendered colossal and booming by the clear, precise production. The exposed, bare rhythms are bolstered by some exceptional dub mixing by engineer Soljie: bursts of spectral, fractured melody passed through high-pass filters; and there are some interesting percussive devices. "INNOCENT MAN" has a strange grinding, metallic chime and sinewy guitar lines; and "GIVE ME YOUR LOVE" features the bizarre, "laughing" sound of the cuica friction drum.

Melodically, the tracks on the album ring out in a pleasingly familiar way: "GOT TO PRAISE JAH JAH" adapts the Mighty Diamonds classic "Pass The Kouchie", and "GHETTO KING" seems to borrow from Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire"! Palma's vocals alternate between long, drawn-out passionate chants and bouncy, energetic deejay-style rhythm; and lyrically he mixes yearning relationship themes and 'rootical' cultural and spiritual philosophies.

The four bonus tracks amended to the original ten-track album are also exemplary, including "TIME SO HARD", possibly Palma's finest work which rides a version of the immortal dancehall favourite "Letter From Zion" riddim; and the extended 12-inch version of "JOKER SMOKER" which includes a tremendous dub section saturated in splashy reverb and echo-laden horns.
This album deserves to ascend out of obscurity and reach the masses beyond the reggae cognoscenti; it is a shining example of just how good eighties dancehall reggae could be. Jah bless.


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