CALL ME RAMBO/RAMBO GUN SALUTE
BASIC REPLAY/HEAVYWEIGHT BRHW003
The whirring rotor blades fading up into this slab of dangerous UK digi-dancehall were looped in 1986, a good five or six years before the drum & bass boys claimed as their own the samples from the soundtrack of 'Apocalypse Now'. Originally released on the Heavyweight label (an offshoot of the Heavyweight soundsystem, based in the Wood Green and Tottenham areas of north London), and featuring Chester Roots at the controls and his nephew Ackie at the microphone, the adoption of Sly Stallone's 'Rambo' as inspiration was always bound to be low on the PC scale to penetrate any crossover in the ever so strict mid-eighties.This is the second shot from Basic Channel's reggae resuscitation squad, and its as rough-arsed as they ever came with a 'Don't push me' vocal loop on top of a rhythm where its difficult to distinguish the drum from the bass so fat and dirty booms the sound. And the dubs get even dirtier, time to reintroduce the expression 'totally mashed'!
CHARLEY 'ESKIMO' FOX
NATTORIOUS - ALTER RHYTHM
ON U SOUND ONUCD0089
The debut album from veteran UK reggae keyboardist 'Eskimo' Fox has been genuinely been twenty years in the making shuttling between London and Jamaica. Best known as one of the original members of the so-called On U collective from the early eighties, and contributor to the sound of Creation Rebel, New Age Steppers and the original line-ups of both African Head Charge and Mark Stewarts's Maffia, at times Fox turns out to possess a sweet tenor but then switches to an almost-falsetto reminiscent at times of Junior Murvin or Congoman Cedric Myton. The sound though is not surprisingly much removed from mid-period Dub Syndicate with Skip 'Little Axe' McDonald sharing harmony duties with Ashanti Roy. The urgent opener 'Changes' is amongst the highlights along with a vintage instrumental, the wah-wah drenched 'Nuclear Zulu' and a tune with its title borrowed from old spar Fari's Studio One single 'Natty Farmyard'.
I ROY /GLEN BROWN / CHOSEN FEW
TOUGHER THAN TOUGH/DO YOUR THING VERSIONS
FLASH 10"VINYL FLASH EP
Surely the time will come when this column will be redubbed as 'Version'. From the Federal and Harry J studios then four versions to Isaacs Hayes soul dancefloor cruncher; the Chosen Few's take was featured on the excellent 'Funky Kingston' (TJDCD054) Trojan's recent assembly of reggae funk rerubs and that vocal groove is stretched out by the dub and on the flip DJ I Roy prefacing his inimitable riddim-skipping banter with: "This kinda got more hunch than a camel, so whether you wear doe-skin or camel, this is rougher than tough!", then straight into a shunting nyabinghi cut with Glen Brown's melodica piping the melody on top of a strident brass chorus and descending wah wah. Probably not many of these French 10" issues around so well worth searching out.
GO SEEK YOUR RIGHTS
Other Jamaican vocal groups may rightfully lay claim to titles laden with street cred, Abyssinians as the 'most righteous', Culture as the 'most militant' and so on, but the Diamonds surely delivered the sweetest, most heart-aching harmonies of all. This compilation captures them at their highest heights in the middle seventies with the majority of material produced by the Hookims at Channel One and under the patronage of Richard Branson's blossoming Virgin reggae imprint Frontline in the UK. The 'Right Time' album title track plus 'I Need a Roof' and 'Have Mercy' match and surpass anything produced at the time in Detroit or Philadelphia and all this album's tunes remain mysteriously missing from radio, no sufferers allowed near playlists! Catch other titles out in the series from U Roy, Culture and Tapper Zukie.
ATTACK OF THE 50FT MUTANT HI-FI
SOUND BOY 7"VINYL SB011
SOUND BOY 10" VINYL SB012
Possibly the last couple of releases on the On U subsidiary as another operation has claimed ownership of the Sound Boy name in perpetuity. Shara Nelson's first venture into recording was for Sherwood in 1982 with an early street soul rub 'Aiming at your Heart' on another the short lived imprint, the Mixout Entertainment Plate series, before she went on to rule the nation with Massive Attack. This new one takes her back to home ground on a shuddering low-beat rumbler with Shara in soulful jealous lover mood. Mutant Hi-Fi is On U studio engineer and programmer Nick Coplowe stepping up with what can only be described as dubbed out surf. What a pleasure it is to find a tune that fits so poorly into any category!
THE MESSAGE DUBWISE
PRINCE BUSTER MS7LP
Originally released in 1973 this legendary Buster dub set makes a welcome reappearance at last in a vinyl version that looks like the original cover with a slim Big Youth, before the red gold and green incisor implants, in militant pose in front of the Orange Street Record Shack. On the back, to the left of the legend "raw, pure, true, undiluted" is the crowned Buster alongside a rack displaying Mario Lanza, Pat Boone, Tom and Englebert. It's a treat before you get to the music, which is something of a mystery with no credits for production or music but is a high quality musicianly affair a la Impact AllStars or the Motion's Lloyd Brevett production of a Tubby mixed Skatalites. Total submission is achieved within the opening three tracks, 'Swing Low' is a dub to Big Youth's 'Revolution Rock' from the also reissued 'Chi Chi Run' album, 'Sata A Masa Gana' is a dub to Buster's take on the Abyssinians' classic and 'Java Plus' is a dub to 'Science' by Pablo Senor (aka Pablove Black), in turn his cut of Augustus Pablo's 'Java'. For fans of flutes in dub they are to be found here fluttering between drum and bass in rituals of mournful seduction.
UP ON THE DOWNS
GRAND CENTRAL RECORDS GCCD/LP123
If proof were ever needed that the major music corporations A&R departments were staffed largely by dimwits it would be the fact that they unable to harness the talents of Rob Smith who once again demonstrates that his creativity cannot be bound by a single genre and that the application of a strict drum and bass regime is at the heart of great dance music. This is his debut album under his own name after years of outings under the Smith & Mighty and More Rockers banners and although the sounds can be traced right back to his old time Bristol days, the production is both sparkling and deep with a mix of vocals and toasts from Kelz, Ghadian, Hazel Jayne and Alice Perrera. But the set is really dominated by the instrumental versions 'Rock Dope Stupid', 'Tru Rub' and 'Reverie' - can that really be a Joy Division guitar sample in there?
JAH LOVE ROCKERS: REVOLUTIONARY SOUNDS FROM THE ROCKERS AND STEPPERS ERA 1975-1980
TROJAN TJDDD143 2XC
The fascists in the reggae collecting brotherhood, I know of no sisters involved, may bitch about Trojan's selections, business ethics or strategy, but its true that many of the compilations the company are marketing these contain tunes to die for - the original versions of which would cost twice the price or more of the reissue sets where they can now be easily found. Productions are split between Observer, Bunny Lee and Tapper Zukie and it's the former who would come out on top if this were a clash, winning by the presence of the simply awesome 'Satta' version from the underrated Leroy Smart 'Jah Is My Light' followed on discomix by version 'Wicked Eat Dirt' with the mighty I Roy at the heights in a lazily righteous toast punctuated by exhortations of repentance plus the ultra-heavy 'Sufferation' - one of the most depressing reggae tunes ever cut and by now nearing strictly anthropological status.
ROCKA SHACKA VOL.7 JAMAICA UNDERGROUND DOWNBEAT SELECTION
DRUM & BASS RECORDS UPCH1280
Another Studio One selection, but of a deeper order, this time from a Japanese series of which around ten titles have appeared to date with a number covering Prince Buster output. Japanese collectors have long been notorious for their voracious mining of the ska, and latterly roots reggae, vaults; perhaps only a matter of time then before the high-end soul/r'n'b/blues based P-Vine label was mirrored by an imprint with a Jamaican focus. The fifteen tracks on this Druweed compiled set transgress the borders of superfunk on a bunch of outrageously skanking tunes that otherwise would never have seen the light of day, witness the Rhythm Rebel's 'Tom Tom' featuring either Ernest Ranglin or his frightening clone on chunky picking, when a yakkety honking sax meets plangent wah wahs on the Sound Dimension's 'LeArab' and the Mittoo nugget from nowhere 'What That'. All this is surreally balanced by Dennis Alcapone's DJ take on 'Age of Aquarius' from the hippy musical 'Hair' and the version of George Harrison's biggest solo hit, here titled 'My Sweet Organ'! At last I can genuinely urge, miss this at your peril!
STUDIO ONE SKA
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS SJRLP/CD85
Soul Jazz continues their rampage through the megastores with this new selection in its exemplary genre-based Studio One series. Although for many reggae fans ska has always been 'there', it looks like a resurgence may be on the way with the recent support from Warners for the great Justin Yap recordings, a forthcoming Gaz Mayall selection from Trojan and the deluge from Japan's Island supported Drum & Bass label. The clanking barroom piano of Jackie Mittoo leads on 'El Bang Bang', also available with Tommy McCook's 'Sampson' on the preview 10" vinyl piece. Although there are a clutch of peerless tracks from the Skatalites and their individual members, it's the ska versions of tunes better known in their reggae versions that provide the pull, Ken Boothe and Stranger Cole's 'Artibella', the Wailer's 'Put it On' and most of all the truly legendary Joe Higgs with 'Song My Enemies Sing' - where is the reissue of his 'Life Of Contradiction' album?
CITY LINE W-0041LP/CD
Since its original release in 1977, Creation Dub has been on the most wanted list amongst reggae collectors - perhaps more for its scarcity than quality. After a slow start though he album really picks up and East Africa Dub uses Ken Boothe's classic Say You for innspiration. The record inaugurated Wackies' fruitful London connection and the second-pressing carried a nostalgic distribution credit for the long-gone Maroons Tunes shop, run by label champion Rae Cheddie. The core musicians here are Allah, regulars arranger supreme Clive Hunt and Jerry Harris (aka Hittler on the original sleeve) and the funkiest of Bullwackies' session drummers Jah Scotty. Included are dubs of rhythms voiced for Wackies by the Chosen Brothers, Joe Auxumite and K.C.White, alongside versions of Horace Andy's Mammy Blue, Bo Kirkland's soul classic I Want To Get Next To You, and best of all Sel Wheeler's horns version on the rhythm of the Harry Mudie classic Leaving Rome.