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L. Kelly (Cumbria UK)

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Deeper Roots
Deeper Roots
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £12.69

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Deliver the poor and needy...", 10 Dec 2012
This review is from: Deeper Roots (Audio CD)
Though sadly obscure and underexposed to the casual reggae fan, (having never benefited from a Trojan anthology or featured on ANY of their ubiquitous compilations), those of us who have already been entranced by the vocal and production work of Vivian "Yabby You" Jackson since hearing the astounding "Jesus Dread" collection on Blood & Fire will have been waiting excitedly for this one to drop since the release date was announced. Pressure Sounds' "Deeper Roots" features 19 vintage 70's roots and culture tracks that bear further testament to Yabby's astounding musical vision; an expression of profound spiritual faith set to some of the densest and heaviest reggae grooves ever recorded.

Almost as remarkable as the music itself is the exclusivity and rarity of the tracks contained within - I'm only familiar with 6 of these rhythms, and even then these are different versions. For example, both "LAZY MOOD" and "OPEN YOUR HEART" are new-to-me versions of "Conquering Lion"; "Lazy Mood" is an organ-led cut and "Open Your Heart" features horns and percolating percussion.
Even the version of "DELIVER ME FROM MY ENEMIES" contained here, a definitive roots anthem which has been released several times (and even featured in the popular film "Babylon") offers new revelations - Yabby's impassioned prayer in the last 30 seconds are louder and clearer in the mix than ever before. I've finally deciphered the entire thing after years of listening! "DELIVER ME" is followed directly by its dub version, the song I was most interested in hearing since I learned about this compilation. Blood & Fire released a dub version 6 years ago but it featured annoying and intrusive snippets of nursery-rhyme deejay chat. The dub version featured here is `the real deal': a fizzing, splashing echo-laden King Tubby reconstruction with acapella vocal excerpts and cut-up horn lines.

Speaking of dub, though the track listing reveals a huge bias towards `versions' (only 3 vocal cuts and 2 deejay ones compared to 14 dubs), the sequencing of the tracks provides a more varied listening experience than one might expect. The vocal songs are placed strategically throughout, creating a nice organic flow; whilst musically there is a big diversity of reggae styles, from joyous rocksteady skanks ("VALLEY OF JOEASAPHAT") and tough, heavy steppers ("DON'T TOUCH I DREAD") to thumping up-tempo rockers ("THANKS AND PRAISE"). Elsewhere the dub vibes don't take over so much so as to be too overwhelming; Tommy McCook and Don D Junior's saxophone and trombone work lend a cool jazz flavour to a number of the instrumentals, and the more `straight' dub tracks feature plenty of well-placed, tantalizing vocal fragments (although the
fact that there are dub tracks here without their vocal counterparts seems a little odd).

The sound quality is nice and clear and crisp throughout. A little "fuzzy" maybe at times, but given the age of some of the sources this is only to be expected. The booklet contains a passionately written and informative essay and plenty of nifty-looking pictures and artwork, including some religious art which mixes Christian and Rastafarian imagery further emphasizing Yabby You's Jesus Dread persona. This album will definitely win new converts to the Yabby You sound, while old fans will have much to rejoice in. Jah bless the Pressure Sounds label for bringing these wonderful obscurities to light once more.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 16, 2014 2:56 PM BST

Mr. Isaacs
Mr. Isaacs
Offered by Sons Of Pluto
Price: £26.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "Hey Mister Babylon, take the cuffs from off my hands...", 14 Dec 2011
This review is from: Mr. Isaacs (Audio CD)
Those searching for Gregory Isaacs "rootsiest" album will definitely find it here. Apparently, reading the liner notes, this was Blood & Fire's intention also. So whereas on Isaacs' previous LP "Extra Classic", the split was about half and half "ghetto commentaries" and "syrupy love songs", here it's more 3/4s in favour of the cultural material. That said, stylistically the music is interchangeable between the two subjects. The music on openers "Sacrifice" and "Storm" is breezy and cheery in a major-key, and sung in that smooth-but-yearning voice, so that if you weren't listening to lyrics like "I was given as a sacrifice / To build a black man's hell an' a white man's paradise", you might think this was a love-ballad!!

The exception to the rule is "Slavemaster" which is an overwhelmingly powerful, intense and weighty militant dread anthem. This song justifies purchase alone. Blood & Fire have chosen to put the deejay version of "Slavemaster" by Dillinger straight after the vocal, which seems intrusive right in the middle of the original LP.

As per-their standard, Blood & Fire have also sought out contemporary bonus tracks, including a couple of extended songs with their prerequisite dubs.

Lost Album: Right Time Rockers
Lost Album: Right Time Rockers
Offered by Andthebeatgoeson
Price: £8.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Bury the razor...", 12 Dec 2011
Interesting collection of mid-70's reggae featuring legendary Jamaican deejay U Roy. Recorded exclusively as 'dubplates' for the obscure King Attorney Hi-Fi sound system rather than for public sale, these tracks transport you directly back to the sweltering and smoky haze of the dancehalls in which they were originally spun. Due to the insular nature of the material, which was recorded for a very specific homegrown audience, this doesn't have the same "mass appeal" attraction as other reggae records released in the seventies by labels like Island and Virgin for export to foreign countries. U Roy peppers every track with copious references and shout-outs to King Attorney Hi-Fi and other enigmatic figures like "Trevor in the control tower"; references which will resonate intensely with its intended homegrown audience, but mean very little to anyone else.

What stops this release from becoming just a historical curio or novelty is the sheer quality of the musical rhythms given to U Roy to toast over. Recorded by the Revolutionaries band at Channel One studio, these tracks showcase reggae as it entered its "rockers" phase: crisp, tightly-wound grooves with double-timed drum patterns and churning bass lines. 6 of the 12 tracks are dubs of songs from the well-known and celebrated Mighty Diamonds album "Right Time", and there are also updated versions of older rhythms like John Holt's "Ali Baba" ("BURY THE RAZOR") and Burning Spear's "Swell Headed" ("SWELL HEAD SKANK").

Over it all, "deejay daddy" U Roy chats charismatically in a slick patter, mixing jive phrases with devout Rastafarian sentiment; chanting along with the fragments of original vocal melody that float through the mix occasionally. U Roy's vocal approach is less rapid-fire than some of his deejay contemporaries, his more minimal approach allowing the rhythms to stretch and spread out and the mellow dub vibes to wash over you.

So yes, the repetitious King Attorney Hi-Fi phrases do start to sound like tedious promotional jingles after a while, but small matter - as an insight into the inner workings of seventies Jamaican sound system culture this is truly invaluable and its musical rhythms never less than brilliant. Jah bless.

Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.54

5.0 out of 5 stars "Let's love in love and I-nity...", 1 Aug 2011
This review is from: Gunman (Audio CD)
Producer Henry 'Junjo' Lawes' work with the Roots Radics band in the early 1980s pretty much essentially defines the dancehall reggae era. Blindly stick a pin in a list of Junjo/Radics recordings and you're guaranteed to turn up a classic of some sort, including this one - Michael Prophet's "Gunman" from 1981. Although first impressions suggest that this is a very obscure release, the music may be more familiar than you imagine - four of its tracks were remixed in a dub stylee on Scientist's legendary "Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires" LP, including one (for "LOVE AND UNITY") that notoriously found its way onto the violent video game 'Grand Theft Auto III'. Yes, this album contains some of the greatest reggae rhyhthms ever, mixed to perfection by Scientist with a particularly flawless bass sound (just check "TURN THEM ROUND").

Over these wonderful Radics 'riddims', Michael Prophet performs a very unique and enthusiastic vocal performance - singing in a long, drawn-out chanting syle; slurring notes and extending syllables beyond comprehension. His high, trembling vocal tones don't always stay in tune (especially on "YOUTHMAN"), but that's all just part of his particular, 'unique' charm. Lyrically the tracks are an evenly split mix of spiritual and cultural themes and love lyrics, though Prophet sounds more effective and inspired on the 'serious' songs; especially on "GUNMAN" (a number 1 dancehall smash in Jamaica and the UK on release), and "LOVE AND UNITY", with its distinctive "woy-ee-woy-oy" chorus. The love songs tend to be a little too 'soppy' for my taste - "UPSIDE DOWN", which adapts the Diana Ross track of the same name is especially cringeworthy - though fans of such sentiments will no doubt appreciate the break from the intense Rastafarian preaching and political commentaries.

The musical performances are consistently amazing: mesmerizing, throbbing grooves built around swinging bass lines and metronomic, thudding beats. Harmonic acompaniment is kept to a bare minimum beyond the core drum and bass essence: the occasional lilting guitar peal, plaintive piano line and bold, vibrant brass riffs; but Scientist's mixing is so busy with dub techniques that the FX themselves act as additional instruments - copious fizzing, splashing, swirling echoes of manipulated audio frequencies.

All of this, and I haven't even mentioned the bonus tracks, which actually make up half of the CD's total running time. These are 5 extended 7-minute tracks (with dub sections) which range from the sublime - "BOOM HIM UP NOW", a tightly-wound stepping groove with remarkable anti-Pope lyrics - to the ridiculous - "HERE COMES THE BRIDE", which really is a version of "Here Comes The Bride"! Collected together with the original "Gunman" LP, this CD features all of the material Michael Prophet recorded with 'Junjo', and represents the best work of his career.
Jah bless the Prophet.

Sound of Channel1
Sound of Channel1
Price: £16.76

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Babylon a turn dem back...", 31 July 2011
This review is from: Sound of Channel1 (Audio CD)
An always interesting and sometimes brilliant 2CD compilation of obscure reggae singles from 1973-1981, presented in showcase style with each track followed directly by its dub remix.

Although not assembled chronologically, this release showcases reggae music's development through it's various stylistic developments: early skanking shuffles (Larry Marshall's "NANNY GOAT", Prince Pompidou's "70 TIMES 7"); grooving 'steppers' (Calvin Stuart's "BABYLON A TURN DEM BACK"); fast paced 'rockers' (Desmond Irie's "DUB ONE") and the mesmerizing, slow throb of early dancehall (Delroy Wilson's "STOP LOOK WHAT YOU'RE DOIN'" and "YOU HAVE MY HEART"). The vocal styles match this musical variety, ranging from Delroy Wilson's impassioned soulful crooning to Badoo's gritty 'singjay' tones and everywhere in between, and the track's lyrics are split evenly between spiritual and cultural and love and relationship themes.

Every song here is a highlight depending on what 'kind' of track your looking for, though I'm more favourably partial to the dread, 'rootsy' material. Particularly impressive are: Jim Brown's amazing devotional rub-a-dub toast "DANCEHALL VIBES"; Calvin Stuart's "THE ALPHABET SONG" - a Rastafarian A to Z which assigns a biblical reference to each letter; and Badoo's "DIPLOMATIC LINK" which has a unique journalistic lyric detailing Jamaica's broken political link with Cuba in 1981.

The dub mixes by King Tubby are uniformly superlative and a perfect testament to the man's legendary status. He masterfully deconstructs the original songs and applies copious reverb, delay and echo that fizz, splash and swirl through the mix while random snatches of vocal fade in and out. Of course the great thing about this being a showcase is even if you're not that enamoured by the vocal track, you know there's an awesome dub remix just around the corner!

This is a truly fantastic and diverse compilation: the liner notes are interesting, the sound quality is perfect (all of the tracks are mastered from original master tapes except the last 2) and the tracklisting features material obscure enough to please the reggae collector but accessible enough for the casual fan also. Highly recommended. Jah bless.

Trojan Presents: Dancehall
Trojan Presents: Dancehall

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "World a reggae music on yah...", 24 July 2011
Trojan's latest dancehall reggae collection fully embraces the era's sound in all of it's hypnotic, throbbing glory; and successfully represents certain stylistic traits whilst blatantly ignoring others (not a single rub-a-dub deejay track?!).

The focus here is on the more 'commercial' elements of dancehall - the brightest and breeziest rhythms, soulful vocal melodies and "cheesy" love and relationship themed lyrics - thus strengthening the theory that with dancehall, reggae music completely cast aside all of the hardship, drama and tribulation of the 'roots' period for cheerier and more flippant concerns: namely dancing, girls and material wealth. Of course, such assumptions never tell the full story - spiritual and cultural themes did prevail throughout the era, and producers like Don Mais and Henry 'Junjo' Lawes produced deep and heavy rhythms with not an iota of commercial motivation.

Though first impressions suggest that this set is completely focussed lyrically on trivial 'boy-girl' affairs, there are actually a fair amount of more 'serious' topics covered also - Black Uhuru's "SENSIMELIA", Israel Vibration's "WHY YOU SO CRAVEN", Anthony Johnson's "GUN SHOT" and Triston Palmer's "PEACE AND LOVE IN THE GHETTO" are the most striking cultural commentaries here; though the absence of Rastafarian themes is felt strongly and the overall balance is still in favour of the love songs.

Another bias is revealed in the tracklisting with the glut of Sly & Robbie productions featured. Through the new link established with Island Records, Trojan have access to more of these recordings than ever before, and almost half of the 40 tracks here are Sly & Robbie productions - lush, multi-layered arrangements which, driven by Sly Dunbar's passion for technology, are filled with synthesized nuances: copious bleeps, bloops, whistles and hand-claps. However, the sheer amount of this material in comparison with the production work of others (only 3 by 'Junjo'?!) results in a rather narrow and singular representation of the era.

Despite my cynical misgivings this IS an impressive collection full of uniformly excellent music that showcases the early 'dancehall' sound (ie. pre-digital) perfectly - tracks built upon mesmerizing and cavernously deep bass lines and slow, metronomic drum beats; recorded in glossy, crystal-clear audio quality that makes every musical splash and crash ring out profoundly. The list of artists featured reads like an all-star cast and the sublime vocal styles range from The Tamlins' and Third World's blissful group harmonies to Madoo and Triston Palmer's gritty and unique "singjay" chanting. The track listing avoids too many obvious choices and the inclusion of the rarely heard "BLOOD STAIN" by Peter Broggs is a real treat; as are the 2 extended tracks from Ini Kamoze's classic debut LP, including "WORLD A MUSIC" - which was famously heard sampled in recent times on Damian Marley's "Welcome To Jamrock".

"Trojan Presents Dancehall" works very well as an entry-level introduction to the era, and should be seen as just that rather than any kind of definitive retrospective. Dancehall reggae is a many branched thing, and once this collection has whet your appetite check Greensleeves records' impressive roster and the production work of Junjo Lawes and Linval Thompson for further insight into its rich musical tapestry. Jah bless.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2011 8:41 PM BST

Rub a Dub Soldiers
Rub a Dub Soldiers
Price: £17.36

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Strictly reggae music...", 22 July 2011
This review is from: Rub a Dub Soldiers (Audio CD)
Superlative collection of rub-a-dub reggae that showcases the fast and fluid deejay style that rose to prominence in the dancehall era (1980-83) and was a direct influence on US rap.

The majority of these tracks are produced by Linval Thompson and Henry "Junjo" Lawes, performed by the Roots Radics band and mixed "in a dub stylee" by Scientist - a truly magical formula that was responsible for some of the finest rhythms in reggae history. With an emphasis on minimal arrangements that are built upon cavernously deep and spacious bass lines and slow, thudding, metronomic beats, these tracks pack a potent, mesmerizing groove that alternates between the bright and breezy and the dense and hypnotic. The deejays (some well-known, such as Yellowman and Brigadier Jerry; and some not-so: Lui Lepke and Billy Boyo) weave catchy rhyming patterns over the deep, throbbing grooves with an exuberant and energetic fervour.
Though some of the deejays featured are infamous for their sexually explicit "slack" lyrics, this compilation thankfully steers clear of such salacious topics; favouring instead political, cultural and spiritual themes with the occasional flicker of chest-beating braggadacio.

The album's subtitle: "rare and heavyweight rub-a-dub deejay tracks" is certainly no misnomer; the tracklist is comprised of material culled from obscure twelve-inches and old Greensleeves LP's such as Ranking Joe's "Saturday Night Jamdown Style" and Nicodemus & Toyan's "DJ Clash", all making their first appearance on CD.

This album is a truly essential document, well archived and lovingly preserved: "rub-a-dub fi mek the dancehall ram, na true!". Jah bless.

Beats Of The Heart - Roots, Rock And Reggae [DVD]
Beats Of The Heart - Roots, Rock And Reggae [DVD]
Dvd ~ The Abyssinians

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Play on Mister Music, play on...", 10 July 2011
Amazing documentary filmed in Jamaica, 1977 that vividly brings to life every story and anecdote you've ever heard or read about roots reggae music. Whilst it is only an hour long and the pacing is quite frantic with none of the performances featured in their entirety, this matters little when you consider the wealth of impressive footage that is contained.

What it all amounts to is a truly illuminating and insightful account of practically every facet of the Jamaican music scene - the auditions held in producer Jack Ruby's back yard; Lee "Scratch" Perry recording and mixing in his legendary Black Ark studio; a hymnal rendition of "Satta Massa Gana" sung by a congregation in church; Ras Michael and The Sons of Negus playing ceremonial nyahbinghi percussion in the Jamaican hills; Jacob Miller swinging in a hammock whilst writing the lyrics to "Forward Ever" with the rest of the Inner Circle band, are just a few of the incredible highlights.

Pleasingly, though the film's main focus is on music and musicians, it also doesn't shy away from documenting the social, political and cultural issues at the heart of Jamaican life and indeed, roots music itself; stark footage of the impoverished ghettoes and tempestuous scenes of civil unrest on the city streets make for uneasy but historically essential viewing.

This DVD also contains the absolute "bonus of bonuses" in its special features section: the full six-minute audio version of the song seen recorded by Lee Scratch Perry in the film, "Mr Music"; a track which was improvised especially for the documentary, never released and one which has intrigued reggae fans and Perry obsessives for years. Worth the price alone for this...Jah bless.

Ah Who Seh? Go Deh! / Leggo! Ah-Fi-We-Dis
Ah Who Seh? Go Deh! / Leggo! Ah-Fi-We-Dis
Price: £8.62

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Zion, is the place we want to go...", 7 July 2011
Two 70's reggae albums masterminded by legendary UK producer/musician Dennis Bovell and the Matumbi band. Recorded with the sound systems and dancehalls in mind, these are seriously deep and heavy grooves which consciously replicate an authentic Jamaican sound; one much rawer than the multi-layered, melodic sensibilities purveyed by UK reggae acts like Matumbi and Aswad. The mostly dub and instrumental tracks (only five of the twenty have vocals) are in the intense "rockers" reggae style: hypnotically spacious bass lines and skanking guitar chops mixed with fast and tricky militant drum patterns. Soaked in fizzing, rippling dub effects, the rhythms are as 'dread' as anything to come out of 70's Jamaica; though Bovell's natural melodic inclinations add a fresh dimension in the sweeping organ refrains and jazzy brass arrangements that surface occasionally ("OUT-A-ORDER"s guitar refrain even veers closely to a 'lounge' sound!)

Interestingly, the "Who Seh? Go Deh!" LP (first 10 songs) has a unique tracklisting for a reggae album, with different versions of the same rhythm "scattered around" rather than following on from each other directly. This re-assertion of musical "themes" and "motifs" brings a pleasing sense of familiarity, which is further enhanced by the reworkings of classic reggae tracks featured: "RUN DEM OUT" utilizes the Royals' "Pick Up The Pieces", "SING-A-MAN", The Kingstonians' "Singerman" and "WELLS STREET SKANK" Junior Delgado's "TITION".

Yes, the recording quality is a bit "gritty" and the mix is pushed to near-distorted levels; but play this CD through big speakers as loudly as possible and feel yourself almost transported back in time to a smokey 70's blues dance. Jah bless.

Long Life
Long Life
Price: £8.40

5.0 out of 5 stars "Rastafari call you...", 29 Jun 2011
This review is from: Long Life (Audio CD)
Though all of Prince Far I's albums are deeply informed by his fervent Rastafarian faith; none are quite as single-mindedly devout and militant as this one, "Long Life" from 1978. Over some deep, broody and sometimes familiar rhythms ("RIGHT WAY" and "FARMYARD" are both reworkings of classic Studio 1 rhythms: "Rockfort Rock" and "Mean Girl") Far I chants and sermonizes powerfully; reciting from the Bible, praising Jah and extolling the virtues of universal peace and love in that inimitable booming, gravelly voice of his.

Deviating from his usual half-spoken 'preacher' delivery, "Long Life" actually features the deejay 'singing' in places (especially on "SO LONG"): a semi-melodic drawl that is unique to say the least! Elsewhere, "FARMYARD" has more of a traditional reggae deejay approach as Far I 'rides the rhythm' with energetic, bouncy rhyming patterns.

The musical tone is deep and hypnotic throughout, driven by mesmerizing, 'stepping' drum and bass grooves. Swirling fragments of spectral melody float in and out of the mix, alongside bubbling hand drum percussion; whilst Bobby Kalphat's melodica playing adds extra harmonic texture as he blows mystical Eastern-style melodies on the distinctive instrument made famous by Augustus Pablo.

This album may be short - 32 minutes long and with no bonus tracks; but it's potent power is felt intensely. Another flawless Prince Far I collection to rank alongside "Message From The King" and "Health And Strength". Jah bless.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2013 5:30 PM BST

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