AGGROVATORS MEETS THE REVOLUTIONERS
AT CHANNEL 1 STUDIOS
The Revolutioners are, of course, the Revolutionaries with the added existential complication that they are also the same band as the Aggrovators! Maybe the distinction is that whilst recording at Channel One studios for the Hookim brothers they were the house band, many of the same musicians formed the Professionals when recording for producer Joe Gibbs and then mutated into the Aggrovators for Bunny Lee or the Black Disciples for Jack Ruby. In whatever disguise this loose collective of musicians ruled Kingston studios for the main part of the seventies and when working for Bunny 'Striker' Lee usually laid down tracks at Channel One which were then mixed down at King Tubby's. Here it's the master himself who lays his hands on what is a largely a collection of solid horns dubstrumentals led by Tommy McCook, Bobby Ellis, Roland Alphonso & Co, in other words – guys who knew their chops to the extent that they saw no disgrace in following a tough take on Leroy Smart's Mister Smart rhythm with a tootling interpretation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's It Might As Well Be Spring.
BLACK SOUNDS OF FREEDOM
A serious omission from last year's column was this re-issue of Black Uhuru's first album, and perhaps their finest roots effort before their sound became more palatable to an international audience, or to put it more succinctly the taste of the a 'west coast' market. Originally out in 1977 as Love Crisis on Jammy's own label in Jamaica and in the U.K. on Count Shelley's Third World the set was eventually remixed for reissue in 1981 with the beats picked up from one drop rhythms to a steppers with the modicification of Sly Dunbar's drum tracks and additional overlays. Recorded at Harry J's studio by Sylvan Morris and mixed down by Prince Jammy at King Tubby's, the original tracks are here again on the second half of the disc with the then youthman Michael Rose, replacing the departed Don Carlos, at his freshest on I Love King Selassie, Satan Army Band and, at the time, a magnificently unexpected version of Jah Bob's Natural Mystic. Added to this package are three contemporary toasts from Kingston 11 DJ U Black, King Of All Time, Crocodile Style and Love You Girl on the rhythms of I Love King Selassie, Hard Ground and Sorry For The M.
D ROY / BADDA MUSIC LP
One of the best pieces of reggae news last year was the resurgence of Delroy Witter's D Roy imprint via Badda Music, along with Dennis Brown DEB catalogue; one of the key movers in Lovers Rock, Witter was also the owner of Harlesden's Success Sound System in North West London and went on to co-produce Black Uhuru's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" album. This set was recorded in 1978 between Jamaica and UK with only a thousand vinyls pressed and no subsequent re-issue its been on the revival hit list for the longest time. Mawamba Dub, meaning strength of the warrior, is the first album re-issue from D-Roy's vaults, to be followed by even rarer Mawamba Dub Part 2. Although the presence of Sly Dunbar on drums, Lloyd Parkes on bass, Ansel Collins on piano and Alton Ellis on dubbed out vocals anoint this album with the Kingston pedigree deemed essential at the time, it's the Aswad rhythm section of bassie George Oban, drummer Angus Gaye and Brinsley Ford on rhythm guitar that balance out the set with the pure vintage Lovers sound that dominated London at the end of the seventies and early eighties. So pure roots tracks such as Jalani Dub (Mighty) and Wake Up Dub can be found alongside the sweeter, but equally bass-deep, lovers tunes like Femi Dub (Love Me) and Zeburi Dub (Strong). But the real story of this set is the mix engineers - Dennis Bovell, Echo and Patches - using the old Gooseberry Studios in London to embellish the rhythms in the style of the day.
MEI TEI SHÓ
DANCE & REFLEXION
JARRING EFFECTS CD/DVD
The term mei tei shó describes the trance-like state induced by an excessive intake of rice wine, an apt description then for a band who dealt out afro-rocking, jazzed up, Balkan beat dub. Since recording this live album the original band has split and its fitting that the Danse & Reflexion gig was their last as their music is clearly best fitted to the live atmosphere of the festival event rather than the studio. All the tunes eschew the four to the floor easy dance shots for the polyrhythms that underpin Jean Gomis' coughing vocal styles delivered in the language of his Senegalese ancestors – Manjak and Wolof. The didacticism of the political and cultural stances on display here recall the shriller elements of eighties agit-prop, maybe the time is right in France. Most the tracks here are live re-interpretations of tunes from the band's previous album Lo Ba, extended into improvised grooves in response to audience reaction and the DVD is a straight document of the gig – perhaps best enjoyed by those who were there.
LIGHT IN THE ATTIC CD/2xLP
Recorded in 1971 in Toronto and described as Studio One veteran Jackie Mittoo's 'deep, warm hello kiss' to his adopted nation of Canada, this album frees the keyboard king from the chains of his earlier session work to range across multiple styles, from soul and funk, to r'n'b and gospel, out and out jazzers back to coolest rocksteady. As might be expected there are times here when the jollification levels reach danger point, but it's worth it for the cuts where Jackie hits the button, as on Grand Funk with an opening guitar that could be Tom Verlaine kidnapped before easing into a Santana-esque chuggling latino groove. But longtime fans of the artist's lean, muscular no nonsense work at Studio One should be prepared this is a much more lush and orchestrated affair with unashamed strings and harpsichords in the mix. Included in the package is an extensive essay from the Jamaica to Toronto series producer, DJ and Canadian music historian Kevin Howes (aka Sipreano), capturing images and memories from a long forgotten musical time and space; Wishbone is the fourth in the series, we eagerly await the Noel Ellis set, son of Alton.
THE ESSENTIAL AUGUSTUS PABLO
Without descent into litigation limbo this is as fine a collection of Augustus Pablo's work as you might find in the megastores, collecting some of his most significant solo pieces, his own productions of key artists for his own labels and contributions to the work of other producers. Amongst the latter Bells of Death transforms Derrick Harriott's The Loser achingly wistful melodica instrumental prefaced by a lunatic western meets kung fu intro, on Fat Baby Pablo meets Big Youth and Keith Hudson for a wildly flowing version of the epochal S90 Skank sans motorcycle revving intro, Vibrate On is the dream combination of Perry not only meeting the melodica king in the Black Ark but also dubbing a mad cow in the mix and on I Am Alright Pablo toots through Greg Isaacs tear inducing version of Loving Pauper cut for Gussie Clarke. Book-ended by versions of East of the River Nile, the first cut for Herman Chin-Loy in 1971 and the closer when Pablo was at this peak in 1975, many of his signature pieces are here, mainly melodica instrumentals but with a dub feel on the mix. Also featuring the late vocal stars Junior Delgado, Hugh Mundell, Tetrack and with many of the mixes from King Tubby this is 1970s roots reggae at its highest level.
UNIVERSAL EGG CD
Late last year Zagreb based RDK, aka Radikal Dub Kollektiv, released their debut 10 inch single A Brighter Future with remixes from Abassi All Stars and their own RDK Soundsystem. Playing live in a UK style nu roots and dub style the band has a natural inlcination to fall within the orbit of the Zion Train crew, especially as Cod, Perch, Tench & Co seem to base operations in Europe these days. The band was formed in 2002 and, following a d.i.y. punk ethos, attempted an amalgam of dub, reggae, ska, punkrock and trance/ambient sounds for their first recordings. The material on 'Bass Matters' is more focussed on producing an uptempo dub feel that should support their integration into the growing pan-European live reggae scene. Gyakuzuki is an enormous pounding bass heavy steppers monster with the interjections of an ersatz Scratch; this thudderation continues unabated, despite tantalisingly selected sampled intros, and its a non-stop stepping feast all within a 10 bpm range but punctuated with synth horns. The style is of an early developing On U Sound satellite to whose fanbase this set should appeal – perhaps Revolutionary Dub
Warriors are the nearest comparison.
DANCE ON THE CORNER
Jah Thomas' real name is Nkrumah, his brother was named Kenyatta, prior to the wave of black consciousness in Jamaica it may have been a little like the effect of 'a boy named Sue' and a probably factor in the development of verbal facilities that enabled his future career as DJ. His first self-produced hit, Cricket Lovely Cricket, taking its title from the lyric Lord Beginner's 1950 Victory Calypso, is chanted on the Uniques' My Conversation rhythm; as is the opener Praise God cashing in on that first hit and a rhythm that just would not die. As artist and producer Jah Thomas provided the link between the last wave of roots DJs who picked up their style from the likes of Dillinger and Clint Eastwood and the eventual new wave of DJs who he supported on his own Midnight Rock imprint, so called after his first hot tune for the GG label. The title track here is a version of Real Rock, Trackas-Trackas is based on Sugar Minott's Studio One hit Vanity and the remaining tracks, all from Roots Radics and Scientists, remain open for documentation.
STRAIGHT OUTTA BRITAIN
Mark Hull aka YT (as in 'Whitey) is a singjay from Ipswich, East Anglia, an unlikely homebase for the delivery roots reality tunes. Putting aside any well-founded prejudice about adoption of the JA vocal style, YT is the genuine thing and it's a longtime since the UK had a whiteboy reggae DJ with the guts to chat, maybe back in the day of Donovan's Pon Mi Target the soundboy tune cut way back for Exterminator. His rework here of Baby Cham's Ghetto Story as – England Story shouts out to undisputed radio reggae don Mr. Rodigan and identifies a lineage back to Saxon, Coxsone and Unity Sounds and the clashes across major cities in the UK plus the documentary Wicked Act dedicated to the 'working class' victims of the 7/7 bombings, both boast a proud non-sectarian Britishness that most would feel self-conscious in claiming. As winner of the Urban Music Awards best reggae artist from 2006 YT's success should not be misinterpreted as a comment on the state of UK reggae, still separating the more showbiz and underground (as in nu roots and dub) factions, as the album can stand proud in both camps. Longtime teams up YT with Luciano for a classic combination roots track, in contrast Surround You is a ruff jump-up dancer with dubbed horns under the fast chat then back to Real Girl ('nah Barbie like …') a hopelessly idealistic young man's dream on the Abyssinians Declaration of Rights rhythm.