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Music Reviews

Aggrovators, The, Prophets, The – “King Tubby’s Prophecies of Dub” – [Pressure Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

First off, let’s get some stuff out of the way:

When? 1976.

Produced by? Yabby You (Vivian Jackson).

How much is an original pressing selling for? Currently $552.

The title? Well, there was a previous record called King Tubby’s Prophecy Of Dub. That was also produced by Yabby You, but is an entirely different record.

King Tubby? Well, the dub plates were done at King Tubby’s Waterhouse Studio, but the engineer was Tubby’s assistant Pat Kelly. So, Tubby gear, not Tubby as engineer. To add more confusion, many of these backing tracks actually belong to Bunny Lee.

How many fonts on the front cover? Four: Bottleneck, Compacta, Davida, and Ribbonette.

The Prophets? Actually, The Aggrovators did most of the original tracks.

The sound? Think Tubby, but not as much. Tubb. No, Tub. More atmospheric, less heavy-handed. Bass lines so buoyant that you could use them as a life raft. The ideal soundtrack for a perfect, sunny afternoon.

Bottom line? Oh, so recommended. I don’t have enough thumbs.

Fullwood, Phillip – “Words in Dub” – [Pressure Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

This is a reissue of the incredibly rare 1979 Phillip Fullwood record. Mr. Fullwood originally wrote, sang, and played percussion with Burning Spear in the 70s.

This is a collection of tracks that had been recorded at pickup sessions through the mid- to late 70s, with musicians like Sly and Robbie, Horsemouth Wallace, Azul Hunt, Family Man Barrett, and Bingy Bunny Lamont. Some of the rhythm tracks were self-produced and some were donated by friends. Phillip showed up with boxes of tapes under his arm to Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio one day to do the dubs, on a day when Scratch was “acting crazy,” so he sat down at the console and did all the dubs himself.

The tracks themselves are representative of the era, full of the warm analog sounds of the 70s, and as mixed on Scratch’s rig? Fantastic.

This is essential, and a great addition to anyone’s reggae library.

Bailey, Elroy – “Red Hot Dub” – [Burning Sounds]

Brian Damage   12/8/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Another smoker from 1979. This is the debut by Elroy Bailey, the bassist for the British outfit Black Slate.

Rather than loop some recycled rhythm tracks with echo, Mr. Bailey opts for a clean-cut late seventies dub sound played live. The result is a mellow, easygoing dub record that feels like a Sunday afternoon jam among friends. No personnel credits, but it feels like Sly Dunbar on the tubs.

Two thumbs way up for this one.

Osbourne, Johnny, and the Sensations – “Come Back Darling” – [Sunspot Records, Ltd.]

Brian Damage   11/18/2022   12-inch, Reggae

I’m surprised that this classic 1969 Reggae outing from Johnny Osbourne and the Sensations wasn’t already in our library, but I am delighted to be able to add it now.

Legendary producer Winston Riley had previously worked with Osbourne’s teenage band, the Wild Cats, then signed Johnny and the band (now named The Sensations) for his new ‘Techniques’ label. Riley and Osbourne contributed a half-dozen tunes each to the record, and brought in some smoking session musicians such as Johnny Organ to fill out the Sensations’ sound.

This has the classic Treasure Isle Studios tape-saturated sound of the era; the songs, regardless of lyrical content, wrap around you like a warm hug. Simply stated, it’s one of the definitive records of the ’69-’71 era.

Highly recommended.

Twinkle Brothers, The – “Dub Massacre Part 4” – [Twinkle]

Brian Damage   11/14/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Subtitled “The Killing Zone” – this record is a compilation of rhythm tracks from three Twinkle Brothers (Norman and Ralston Grant, and friends) records released in the late 80s. This particular record is from 1989.

The dub I grew up on as a teenager was Mikey Dread, King Tubby, Scientist, etc., so for me, the weirder and deeper the dub, the better. The Brothers’ previous Dub Massacre records rate very highly with me, so I had elevated expectations for Part 4.

This installment is not so much a dub massacre, as a dub skirmish. Or a dub trip to the emergency room for some stitches.

The Twinkle Brothers get it done, for the most part, but they have a pretty high bar to clear, and their heavy reliance on what was cutting-edge instrumentation in the 80s sounds a bit dated now. The keys are really front and center on these tracks, and the synths of that time don’t take the place of actual horns and organ, so as I’m listening, I’m hearing the missing pieces. And the studio experimentation doesn’t go nearly as far as their previous releases. Having said that, any Twinkle Brothers release is going to kick it over on most other dub records, so any criticism on my part is really the Brothers competing with themselves. Side Two is more successful than the first side to my ears. Your mileage may vary.

Nevertheless, Dub Massacre Part 4 is a solid and essential release that belongs in any dub enthusiast’s collection.

Pay It All Back Volume 7 [coll] – [On-U Sound]

Mister S   8/3/2022   12-inch, Reggae

18 track showcase of Adrian Sherwood’s productions featuring unique mixes, deep cuts, and unreleased tracks from Roots Manuva, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Coldcut, Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band), Mark Stewart, Horace Andy and more. The 7th installment in the legendary On-U sampler series that first emerged in 1984. In the classic tradition of the series the tracks are stitched together with a number of special pirate radio style segue-ways, making for a unique journey through the modern world of On-U Sound! Double LP includes a fully illustrated and annotated On-U catalogue. Physical format is presented in a gorgeous color-printed kraft board sleeve.

Released March 29, 2019

Black Arkives [coll] – [Justice League]

Mister S   6/17/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Recorded at The Black Ark in Kingston, Jamaica and produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry in the period between 1973 and late 1975.

On The Black Arkives Lee “Scratch” Perry explores the possibilities of his equipment, trying to get the sounds in his head onto tape and ultimately emerge from our speakers. This period is thought to be some of his most personal creations. Sonic euphoria.

Studio One DJ Party [coll] – [Soul Jazz Records]

Mister S   6/13/2022   12-inch, Reggae

This double album gatefold is a great place to enter into the world of Dancehall DJ’s. Included in the gatefold sleeve are not left over roaches, seeds or shake but fantastic liner notes about the various founders of the genre for those seeking entry into a wonderful world of reggae music. Roll a spliff of less than quality ganja utilizing the gatefold, perfect for filtering away the seeds. Recline comfortable and take a listen both on your headphones and also your speaker system when you can play at maximum volume. Studio One is a classic provider of reggae of all genres, this in particular features some of the greats of Dancehall.

Clint Eastwood – “African Youth” – [Radiation Roots]

Mister S   6/4/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Do you like the dub? Do you like the reggae sound? Then you’ll dig this fantastic fantastic 12” vinyl by Clint Eastwood. On this album vocalist Clint Eastwood is backed by the Aggrovators (Sly and Robbie with Earl Smith on Guitar). Engineered by King Tubby. Produced and arranged by Bunny Lee. Listen on your speakers and also on your headphones so that you can discern the subtle nuance of sound. Take a taste. Enjoy an adult beverage. Roll and smoke. Eat and ingest or imbibe via the aural senses alone and you will be back for more.

Versa – “Seed” – [ZamZam Sounds]

rasbabo   4/27/2022   7-inch, Reggae

Another great release on Zam Zam. Instrumental spacy dub for top shelf enthusiasts. Side A- ‘Seed’ is a high-energy sativa-esque up-tempo 130 bpm four on the floor dub stepper, that dips and darts smoothly through time.

Side B- ‘Plant’ is an indica-induced dream-state meditation, running at half time of its counterpart. Plodding bass and hypnotizing melodica eerily gives a nod to Augustus Pablo, but this is music for this decade of dub, these times. Rough and gritty, raw and powerful. Photosynthesize your Dub.

King Jammy – “King Jammy Destroys the Virus with Dub” – [Greensleeves Records Ltd.]

rasbabo   4/26/2022   12-inch, Reggae

Basically the title says it all. From deep within the Laboratory of Dub, King Jammy and his assistants discovered that the virus is sensitive to heavy drums, bass, and echoing effects. The split screen artwork shows the evolution from the lab to the hi-tech dub roving assault vehicle that shoots laser beams of dub directly into the virus. Luckily for humankind, we have KJ on the scene.

Old school riddims ramped up and remixed for 2022. Heavy bass, sharp snares, rattling hi-hats, lots of cool FX, but never over-cooked. A verse or two of vocals are scattered in and out, but mostly instrumentals. The musicians aren’t listed, so we’ll have to dig deeper for that. I’m sure Fauci can’t dispute this, these dubs are just what the Doctor ordered.

Dub Now to Save Humanity.

Ras Babo

Bullwackies All Stars -Dub Unlimited – [BCP]

Thee Opinataur   12/31/2021   12-inch, Reggae

These dubs are from some of Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes’s earliest recording years at the original White Plains Road studio in NY. Most of them reworked singles from various labels with the core rhythm tracks straight from Jamaica. The sound quality on all of these is good, clean, solid sound. But I sense they may also have lost some of the original grittiness in the digital transfer. Good track diversity, with soothing, relaxed dubs and hypnotic rhythms to fat & funky chill-out beats. Two to four-minute dubs to mellow out and lay back to.

Originally released in 1976 on his Senrab label (Barnes spelled backward) Re-released in 2006 by Berlin duo Moritz Von Oswald & Mark Ernestus via Basic Channel.
Barnes was a protege of Prince Buster while in Jamaica and played his engineering roots at Treasure Isle studios before moving to New York. Wackies was one of the first Reggae labels based in the US and is still going strong today.- Thee Opinataur

Watch How The People Dancing [coll] – Unity Sounds from the London Dancehall 1986-1989 [Honest Jon Records]

Thee Opinataur   9/22/2021   12-inch, Reggae

These singles and instrumentals show no-name locals rocking mics over the toy-store electro-beats that marked reggae’s transition into modern-day digital dancehall. 

Presented as a next-generation companion to London Is The Place For Me: the mood is more defiant — a Jamaican secession from London — with themes of inner-city sufferation running alongside hymns to the dancehall & herb. Spot-on mastering from Moritz von Oswald. 

Tunes you would expect at the closing hours of the afterparty of a Jamaican dancehall mix. 

In the ’80s, when reggae was changing from roots to dancehall, the Unity sound system was already a big player in London. And when the digital sound started, they were inspired to start making their own tunes, instead of simply playing others. Using a Casio and a four-track cassette recorder, they laid down the rhythm tracks, then went into a real studio to add vocals and overdubs. On the majority of the vocal cuts, an instrumental “version” is appended (just as it would have played on a sound system). The result is true street-level British reggae from the dawn of the digital era, and all surprisingly good, given that none of the people involved were musicians — they all worked for Unity Sound, except for some of the singers. – Thee Opinataur

Perry, Lee ‘Scratch’ – Black Ark Classic Songs- [Ariwa]

Thee Opinataur   9/22/2021   12-inch, Reggae

Released in 2016 to commemorate Lee’s 80th birthday

Here we see yet another great collaboration with Lee Perry and Mad Professor giving us some classic Perry cuts a dub over. Cuts are re-recorded, re-vamped, and refreshed Lee has some fun with ‘No More Roast Fish’,  a play on his classic ‘Roast Fish and Cornbread’. Doctor Shit‘ sees Lee re-visit an old Ska classic ‘Doctor Dick!’

Many believe his Black Ark years were Lee’s peak period of creativity, and this album is a great representation with a fresh 21st-century facelift making it all brand new again. 

Amazing career, amazing life until the very end, RIP Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 1936- 2021. 

 Thee Opinataur

Marley, Bob and The Wailers – "Burnin' (Deluxe Edition)" – [Island]

Hemroid The Leader   7/13/2021   CD, Reggae

2004 2CD set. CD1 the classic basic common groundation reggae thing that everyone knows so well from hotboxing again&again in high school parking lots.
CD2 previously unreleased live show. Roadblock thing. One of Tosh’s last shows as a Wailer. Bunny stayed in Jamaica & did not go to England. Skeletal. Melody Maker 12/1/73 called the gig an “instant classic,” that the Wailers had “rightness to the music that flows intuitively from them.” Lively Up Yourself runs over 13m. No More Trouble favors Tosh vocal in the arrangement.

Cliff, Jimmy – "KCRW Session, The" – [Universal Music Enterprises]

aarbor   1/27/2021   12-inch, Reggae

Born James Chambers, he started writing songs in grade school and became Jimmy Cliff at the age of 14 when he started playing professionally. This is a session recorded and broadcast live at KCRW on June 28, 2012 – one of his last recordings (he’s now 72). It’s just Jimmy and his guitar, it seems more folk or calypso than reggae. AArbor

Toots and The Maytals – "True Love" – [V2]

aarbor   12/30/2020   CD, Reggae

From 2004, this is Toots and the Maytals along with some other well-known musicians, mostly playing Maytals hits. Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Terry Hall, Bootsy Collins, Bunny Wailer, Keith Richards and others are featured on different tracks. Enjoy! AArbor

Molenga, Seke & Kawongolo, Kalo – “Seke Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo” – [Antarctica Starts Here]

cinder   12/2/2020   12-inch, Reggae

Two young Africans, Molenga Mosukola (Seke) and Kawongolo Kimwanga (Kalo), were musicians from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then (1970s) known as the Republic of Zaire, were brought to Jamaica by a Frenchwoman named Nadette Duget, an executive at CBS France. Both men were vocalists, played guitar, and percussion. Duget had intended for the recording of this album to take place at Byron Lee’s Dynamic Sounds studio, but it ended up at Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Black Ark. Perry of course loved them, and later said ‘I know they were sent from Africa, because Africa wanted to make that heart connection in the Ark Studio. So African have to appear in the Ark Of The Covenant to manifest the African drum.’ This 6 songs release is full of fantastic, upbeat reggae, dub and African music. It really gives you that warm sunshine summer vibe. Killer! 

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