Doctor Echo is Justin DeHart from Sacramento, California, originally drummer in live dub band The Defendants he’s been mixing dub for over ten years and now relocated to Los Angeles. This is the Doctor’s self-released second album recorded between 1997 and 2002 without the aid of sampling or sequencing. Having said that this is the kind of album where I approach the review with, to coin a phrase, mortal dread. Although each tune stands as well constructed and executed, listening through the whole fourteen tracks I was overcome midway by a boredom that begat a strange forgetfulness – how long to go, where had the tunes gone? Despite the involvement of guitar guru Tyler Pope of Outhud, !!!, LCD Sound System et al there was just nothing to grip here, and as for Nkosazana Divine’s spoken vocals nothing more than the embarrassing fifth-form whimsy. Perhaps a holiday on the East Coast is called for?
HEAVY HEAVY MONSTER DUB
ECHO BEACH CD
Dating back to 1988 Paul Zasky and Robbie Ost are part of the underground Austrian axis of dub that now circles Vienna’s Dub Club in times just as paranoid. Dubblestandart gorge on a living feast of rhythm pals for this ‘international dub stardom or bust’ album - Sly & Robbie, Keith le Blanc, Dreadzone, Manasseh, Mikey Dread, Dillinger and Mad Professor are just the names that come readily to mind. The title might be borrowed from Madness but the sound is more derivative of Dub Syndicate and the multiples of their UK progeny, with the emphasis on up-tempo steppers and one drops sprinkled with sampled vocals, vintage or contemporary. Any remix of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ can only be preferable to the original and this set works best past halfway when we get to le Blanc’s remix shot of ‘Terrarists and Inhalers’ and Camel’ vocals on "Watch the Future’ and by which time we have already met the incredibly monikered Sonic Colin! Like many other bands across Europe Dubblestandart have taken risks in attempting to raise awareness of and combat their own country’s high degree of racism, so some of the painfully earnest lyrics must be forgiven.
THE DUB TRIO
EXPLORING THE DANGERS OF
Catching the great Ernest Ranglin playing live a few times over the past few years has certainly been one of my reggae highlights, especially his improvisatory versioning of classic tunes from his ‘Below the Bassline’ album. I just wonder if the excellent Dub Trio took old Ernie as inspiration? They are Joe Tomino on drums and melodica, Stu Brooks on bass and keyboards and DP Holmes on guitar and keyboards. This acoustic-based live dub band out of New York City reminded me so much of the Necks in the Echo Chamber even before I notice the first track on their debut CD was entitled ‘Drive By Dub’. Before becoming Dub Trio the band played club gigs at the Knitting Factory, Tonic, NuBlu and elsewhere around the Tri-State area billed as a nameless band performing live dub, when people began referring to them as the "Dub Trio" the name just stuck. Prosaic but strangely apt for these three instrumentalists who record "live" dub in real-time, direct to tape with few overdubs fusing electronic, rock, and jazz techniques – in all languages this music simply rocks. The album is a mix of studio and live tracks – I assume they wanted to cement their live rep – and reveals an astonishing maturity belying their recent emergence, any doubters should start with ‘Awakening Dub’ made up from liberal quotes from classic JA tunes.
Basically this is a Sugar ‘Lincoln’ Minott Youthman Promotion production on behalf of Bullwackies with rhythm tracks laid at Channel One circa 1982 and voicing, overdubs and mixing back in the Bronx. The chat comes direct from the Yellowman & Lone Ranger school of military march style slowed down steppas – "Ribbitttt! Flash it! Do it! Mash it! Rock it! Style and Fashion!" best demonstrated by the outstandingly scatted ‘I Don’t Want to Wait’ which spookily just ends mid track as in ‘outtake’! ‘Hold On Pon The Woman’ laments the DJ’s woman defecting to the producer using Jah Bob’s ‘So Much Trouble in the World’ as springboard whilst ‘Informa’ is a do-over the said producers hit tune. Just what Jackie Mittoo could add to this who knows, not prime Wackies fare by any means but some folks just can’t resist this back in style eighties DJ ‘biddlybong’ stuff.
AQUARIUS ROCK - THE HIP REGGAE WORLD OF HERMAN CHIN-LOY
PRESSURE SOUNDS CD / DOUBLE LP
The Chinese first arrived in Jamaica in the early nineteenth century and quickly made their mark in the business world after their contractual release from indentured labour. A century later they were to make invaluable contributions to the development of Jamaica’s indigenous music scene, both creatively as musicians, DJs and producers and also as label and record shop owners. Their amazing story is yet to be told, but when it is pride of place will go to Herman Chin-Loy, the first to record the young Horace Swaby who he renamed Augustus Pablo and producer of the first dub album – ‘Aquarius Dub’. This excellent compilation of Herman’s early productions is centred around that album, recently seen around in vinyl reissue form, but it’s the other tracks here that make this release probably the strongest reggae reissue this year. Stylistically the sound is pre-roots with a strong soul influence along the lines of other recent reggaefunk sets, but there the similarities end as Herman takes a lot more liberties with the inputs as best evidenced by his own mystical DJ interjections on Pablo’s first tune ‘Iggy Iggy’, a version to The Heptones ‘Why Did You Leave’, reproduced in scat style on ‘Soul Vibration’. The ‘Augustus Pablo’ credited on ‘Snowball and Pudding’ is actually keyboardist Glen Adams, Herman had adapted the name as it sounded like a Spaghetti Western hero and later passed it on to the soon-to-be melodica king. Charlie Boy’s ‘Funky Strip’ has a Steve Wonderesque harp lead on top of a doped-up Ray Conniff vocal refrain, whilst ‘Roadrunner’ sounds like four Junior Walkers in a line and there’s a beautiful early Beres Hammond track ‘No More War’ with a wild dub totally out of synch with the rest of the set. Final tune is Pablo with ‘I Man’, a rhythm that eventually became ‘Cassava Piece’ before finally mutating into the almighty ‘King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown’.
It cannot be long before it becomes our turn to put together a compilation for Trojan but in the meantime avoid trying to work of the logic of targeting this set at a demographic of punters who once turned out to see a Clash gig and just check the track listing. Barry ‘Scratchy’ Myers was the Clash’s DJ and one time resident jock at London’s Dingwalls venue and as such was plied with vinyl for selection or rejection. So this double CD set can be purely judged on the questions – ‘do I have these tunes and if not, do I need them?’ If you are a hopeless case then on vinyl will be the cure, otherwise its good to hear alternate vocals on the ‘Skylarking’ rhythm from Errol Dunkley and DJ Lizzy, the extended 12" version of Niney’s ‘Blood and Fire’, the harmonica version to the Tennors ‘Ride Your Donkey’ titled ‘Copy You Donkey’ and one of Scratch’s weirdest outings ‘Baffling Smoke Signal’. And that’s just the first disc highlights.
KING JAMMY IN ROOTS
Although Jammy was not the creator of the mighty ‘Sleng’ he still could be hailed or cursed as the father of the digital era through his championing of the monster casio riff that ruled the reggae world for months back in 1985. This selection predates his digi eminence to a time when ‘Prince’ Jammy was emerging from the tutelage of his master, King Tubby. Jammy’s forte was the nurturing of local talent and under his wing the fledgling Black Uhuru developed into a major force in reggae. This late roots pre-dancehall set captures the producer/engineer at his cultural height on a set of extended mixes and dubs that are stately and moodily restrained as befits the conscious content. Pick of the bunch are the two ‘Death in the Arena’ derivatives ‘Walk with Jah’ by the late Hugh Mundell and ‘Name of the Game’ by the unknown (at least to me!) Fantails, plus Mundell again on the ‘Queen of the Minstrels’ rhythm with ‘King of Israel’ followed by a dubstrumental by Pablo ‘King Pablo’. But all is eclipsed by the nine minute extended version of Lacksley Castell’s ‘What a Great Day’ where Jammy hits his funky heights on the dub with a filtered cymbal and swaying horns on rubbing percussion mix.
THE LOVERS ROCK STORY
Through the seventies Dennis Harris was the proprietor of some of the great independent reggae labels of the UK. His imprints included DIP, Lucky, Rama, Serious Business and cut into their grooves were some of the heaviest roots tunes being produced in Kingston, London and Birmingham. However Dennis really made his mark when he teamed up with John Kpiaye and Dennis Bovell to produce and market a truly unique Black British product – Lovers Rock. Although revisionists would like us to believe that the streets around London’s Ladbroke Grove were awash with Burning Spear and Aswad in 1977, Lovers complemented Rockers on the sound systems and the bass was just as heavy. Originating with Louisa Marks’ ‘Caught You In A Lie’ produced by Bovell for Lloydie Coxsone, this newly created genre found its true voice through acts like Cassandra and Brown Sugar, the latter featuring Caron Wheeler later of Soul2Soul fame. Unashamedly commercial in their approach their tunes were massive in North London but had little support on radio save for pirates, consequently great sides like Brown Sugar’s ‘I’m In Love With A Dreadlocks’, ‘Black Pride’ and their version of Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’ complete with horn section borrowed from Althea & Donna’s contemporary smash ‘Uptown Top Ranking’ were restricted to an audience that could really appreciate their value. A reappraisal is overdue and this great compilation is an essential addition to the history of black music in the UK.
ROOTS OF DUB FUNK 4 – RISE OF THE ECLECTIC DREAD
Over 500 tracks were submitted for consideration for inclusion in this latest chapter of Kelvin Richards excellent nu dub series and the sucker punch is applied right from the opener supplied by Steve Mosco as Jah Warrior and a track lifted from the Prince Alla’s "More Love" sessions mixed by Dougie Wardrop at Conscious Sounds studio with brass sounds by the Crispy Horns Section and in the mix is a genuine 25 year old analogue spring reverb. Most of what follows is mere validation of the part Kelvin Richards is playing in sustaining not only the UK but also the global dub scene. Standout tunes come from Prise d’Assaut (Paris), Social Living Sounds (Stockholm), Piano B (Italy & Martinque) and Kelvin himself as Dub Funk Association whilst Doctah X’s illbient excursion is plainly out of place
STUDIO ONE DISCO MIX
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS CD / DOUBLE LP
Its syndrums agogo on this early eighties discomix extravaganza as Soul Jazz really test out the nerve of those of have faithfully followed them though their extended Studio One retrospective series, but when the set opens with the intro "Bus’ it now star …!" followed by the dedicated Curtom stylings of Lloyd (Robinson) & Devon’s (Russell) ‘Push Push’ all resistance fails. Although it could be argued that the albums’ centrepieces, Willie Williams’ ‘Armagideon Time’ and the Ethiopian’s ‘Muddy Water’, have been aired many times the inclusion of a few rarities more than compensates. ‘A Night in Ethiopia’ is a Jackie Mittoo nyahbinghi laden take on the Satta theme, there’s a rare outing for Judah Eskender Tafari on the pulsating warning of ‘Rasta Tell You’ and its good to find Winston ‘Mr.Fixit’ Francis represented by his classic ‘Going to Zion’. Can’t afford to miss this one.