CHAMPION DJ / KUNTE KINTE
CONGO NATTY RECORDINGS 12" VINYL
Rather than take the well worn path of becoming a mediocre and inevitably unsuccessful British hiphop artist in 1994 Rebel MC started the label 'Congo Natty', followed by its various affiliates, as an outlet for his new passion, jungle. The name 'Congo' was taken from the African drum sound and 'Natty' represented Rastafarianism. "Kunte Kinte" had an earlier origin derived from the film based on the Alex Hayley book ‘Roots’, with a soundtrack that influenced a roots instrumental and dub reputedly recorded by the little known Battersea group Black Volts, the track was rough mixed by Paul "Groucho" Smykle at London’s Island studios inspiring countless of versions. Although it was never released dubplates still manifest via eBay and specialist auction. On this version Rebel MC uses some slow deep wheezing horn samples and an Elder chant that must have a Count Ossie provenance as a cleansing intro to the drum and bass cataclysm to follow, complete with rapid syndrum set on stun this is as pure an exposition of UK Jungle ever committed to vinyl.
RALLY ROUND / DUBLIFTMENT / VERSIONS
OPERATION SOUND SYSTEM 10" VINYL
Operation Sound System started out in 1996 in the unlikely environment of Blackburn, North East Lancashire, as a pragmatic offshoot of live dub band Sasquash who consistently struggled to gig out in the North West and beyond. Blackburn was not really such an unlikely spot as many dub renegades had hidden out there in the past, not least the legendary Jukebox Johnson a.k.a. Roger Eagle, creative godfather of Blood & Fire records and an inspiration to the fervour that fuelled the reggae reissue industry. Nick Sasquash a.k.a. Dubite has also taken motivational approach to the promotion of reggae in the north and it’s a surprise its taken so long to issue a single, albeit with Daddy Teacha taking the lead role. Shame as the lead track here suffers from the vocals bubbling along occasionally flat and slightly under the mix, so it’s the tune on the flip ‘Dubliftment’ that better represents with the synth horns swathing the mix in true UK steppers fashion.
MARTINEZ feat. St.HILAIRE
CRUCIAL SOUNDS 12" VINYL
Crucial Sounds is apparently a subsidiary of Guidance Records out of Chicago, although nothing is known of Martinez this tune could easily have come out of Vienna or Berlin, though this may be the effect of the ex-Tikiman’s vocals. Perhaps less grainy that a Rhythm & Sound production with the b.p.m. stepped up, the sentiment of the lyric is purely respectful of and in tribute to the grandmother/grandchildren relationship, a subject that for some reason would seem difficult to explore outside of that reggae framework – ‘conscious reasoning’. The flip is an extended true dub with the swaying bass up in the mix and the introduction of Paul St.Hilaire’s indistinct murmurings rolling throughout the track.
CHIKAR STUDIO CD
Oki is the world’s most prominent performer of the Ainu Tonkori, a long, flat stringed instrument with an unfretted soundboard that produces mysterious overtones. The Ainu are an ethnic race, distinct from the Japanese, who inhabit areas and islands near Hokkaido. This set is compiled from remixed versions of tunes selected from previously released albums and was originally conceived as a special edition for a summer 2004 concert tour. Oki’s approach fuses reggae, africana and electronica with Ainu folk melodies. He is an active participant in the United Nations' Working Group on Indigenous Populations and on his last album collaborated with a native American flautist, an Australian Aboriginal band, a Taiwanese singer-songwriter, an East Timorese poet and a Siberian vocalist. His idea of dub as a ‘rebel music’ is refreshing: "…….makes thieves uncomfortable who steal our land and songs but makes our children happy". And ‘Ainu Dub’ is certainly like nothing you have heard before, the wistfully brittle sound of the Tonkori may suggest kora, sometimes qin or guitar but more often that not is an invention of its own, I’m currently on my way back to the website to search for the source (www.tonkori.com)
Focusing on Emanuel ‘Rico’ Rodriguez' work from the sixties and early seventies ‘Trombone Man’ features all the celebrated trombonist's major solo recordings of note from the period many culled from his albums ‘Blow Your horn’ and ‘Brixton Cat’, tracing his career from his competent but derivative Jamaican r’n’b, boogie and shuffle sides through to the earlier phase of his hard hitting reggae material, cut for producers such as Bunny Lee and Lloyd Campbell. This double CD may be more of an historical, albeit important, document in the annals and development of reggae rather than being enjoyed as a straight listen through. Any newcomers to Rico’s work are better directed to the awesome ‘Man from Wareika’ from 1976, the artist’s greatest achievement, or ‘That Man is Forward’ his ‘comeback’ album cut for 2-Tone.
EARL 'CHINNA' SMITH
NATURE SOUNDS CD
A dub version of ‘Check it’, 1983’s debut album from the iriginal hardcore dub poet Mutabaruka is at last ’given an outing by producer, label owner and reggae’s most cultural modern guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith. Such was the impact of Muta on hard hitting poems such as ‘Witeman Country’, ‘De System’ and "Everytime a ear de soun’ " that it was inevitable the music would take a supporting role but with great session musicians Augustus Pablo, Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, Carlton Barrett, Dean Fraser, Bobby Ellis, Nambo Robinson and Earl 'Wire' Lindo a revisit of these great rhythms is overdue. Recorded and mixed at Kingston’s Tuff Gong Studios through the early eighties the sound mix is sparkling as to be expected from the great Errol Brown.
AT STUDIO ONE
SOUL JAZZ RECORDS CD/2Xlp
A timely opportunity to reappraise Lincoln ‘Sugar’ Minott’s largely underestimated contribution to the history of reggae and development of ‘rhythm’. Coming to Brentford Road as part of the African Brothers the young singer was slotting in all to comfortably as studio all-rounder before he applied his talents to re-working the old, classic Studio One rhythms to produce new homemade versions for Clement Dodd – a trick already pulled by the likes of Joe Gibbs and the Hookims at Channel One. His ‘Live Loving’ and ‘Showcase’ sets for the label provided a foundation for an international career but to his credit the singer remained focussed on nurturing talent with Kingston’s ghettos and maintaining his roots base. Anyone who has become familiar with the excellent Soul Jazz Studio One series will be thrilled by the parade of great versions reeled out by one reggae’s greatest vocalists at his peak.
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.
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.
SS ICK OH NI
METEOSOUND 12" VINYL
Perversely the Berlin-based Yum Yum Club MC drops his debut as a producer in instrumental fashion, perhaps a bid to break out of his previously self-imposed breakbeat shackles. As home of the nu electrodub skool the Meteosound label is the place to be for these five disparate tracks, veering from the seemingly straight relaxed batacuda loop of the title that gradually gives way to the muted slow motion strings of a Bernard Hermann score and a lazy sleaze style Miles horn figure into the naggingly insistent guitar frills of ‘Overdose Soul’ that could be a revisit of Money Mark’s doodles of five years ago. The flip hits even more spots as the b.p.m. rate fires up on a ‘Samba in the Jungle’ only to descend back into more familiar Berlin territory with ‘Dubber’, a nasty little slow skank that’s tempted into a jungle pace with rapid guitar chops before settling back into a brisker glide through to the fade. The EP title remains a mystery.
DUB FIRE PARTS 1 & 2
LUSH 7" VINYL
The Lush label, based in Gothenberg, must have the patronage of an enlightened patron of dub to continue supporting UK roots acts, previously issuing singles on the likes of Hughie Izachaar, TenaStelin and Alpha & Omega Leicester-based Stevie Vibronics arrived on the UK dub scene in awe of the Aba-Shanti Sound System and was then supported by the Zion Train boys. Last year’s ‘Dubliftment 2004’ was one of the top nu roots efforts of the year and this single continues the theme. As might be expected the first half of ‘Dub Fire’ is a straight read-through of the theme, but part two totally mashes the place with a fat synth ruling the rhythm to exhaustion. It’s got to be good to pick up these small-run singles in support of a truly independent-minded label.