KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Ellis, Alton – “Mr. Soul of Jamaica” – [Treasure Isle Records]

humana   1/30/2009   12-inch, Reggae

This is an uptempo album that is viewed as being definitive of rocksteady, a dance style that preceded reggae. Tommy McCook and the Supersonics back the pleasing voice of Ellis on these songs, whose tempos are slower and more relaxed than ska. Check out the cover of ???You Make Me Happy???. ???Willow Tree??? is sweetly melancholy, although the riddim can???t help but make you smile anyway. All tracks are enjoyable, but I???ve starred my favorites. Ellis??? influence on the trajectory of dancehall, reggae, and hip hop is significant, albeit little-known.

Clarke, Jonnie – “Dread Natty Congo ” – [Dynamic Sounds Recording]

humana   1/16/2009   12-inch, Reggae

Dancehall vocalist: The clear, youthful voice of Jonnie Clarke is the standout instrument in these tracks whose subject is primarily romance with a bit of moralizing sprinkled in (B3). ???Remember Me??? (B4) was later sung by Diana Ross & the Supremes. There???s an upbeat, dancey party vibe going on throughout this album, produced by Bunny Lee and featuring Augustus Pablo on organ. The Aggrovators are mentioned on the back cover as well. I???ve starred my favorites.

King Tubby…At The Controls Various Artists [coll] – [Trojan Records]

humana   11/4/2008   CD, Reggae

Released in 1999, this collection is meant to honor the 10th anniversary of King Tubby???s death by gathering 22 of his classic tracks from Trojan???s catalogue. The Aggrovators, Augustas Pablo, the Observers, Soul Syndicate, among others are featured here. The upbeat dub and reggae of the Jamaican master reverberate through every track. Read the liner notes for further information. Picks: 5, 7, 8, 12, 19, 21.

Perry, Lee “Scratch” – “Scratch Came, Scratch Saw, Scratch Conquered ” – [Megawave Records]

humana   10/16/2008   CD, Reggae

Reggae: Just as the first track suggests (???Having a Party???), the mood on this CD from legendary Lee ???Scratch??? Perry is upbeat and festive. The 72-year-old musician is joined by Keith Richards on electric guitar for Tracks 2 and 11, and by George Clinton on Track 8 for a total funk-out. Track 7 has bagpipes, and other tracks are spiced up by horns and temple bells. FCC: 12, 13. PGM: Tracks end as early as :05. Track times listed on insert. Favorites circled on back cover.

King Kong Compilation, The [coll] – [Mango / Island Records]

ArtCrimes   4/29/2008   12-inch, Reggae

A 1981 Mango LP with selections from Leslie Kong’s Beverly’s label, produced in Jamaica from the late 60s up until 1971, when Kong died of heart failure (some say due to a curse placed by Peter Tosh over some bad business with Kong early in the Wailer’s career). These are tracks from the dawn of reggae (“Israelites” being among the first US/UK reggae hits), with little of the Rasta ethics that we would be hearing later, although there’s some talk of social movements. Mostly, driving beats are the business of the day here, with less of the overt American R&B influence heard in the earlier Rock Steady style. Some of these tracks have been over-anthologized (the 2 Desmond Decker tracks, The Melodians’ “Rivers of Babylon”) but there are enough less-heard hits here like The Maytals’ “Peeping Tom” and Ken Boothe’s “Freedom Street” to justify this addition to KFJC’s bulging reggae stacks. And a couple of tracks were issued for the first time on this collection, including an instrumental from session pianist Ansell Collins, best known in the US for his 1971 hit “Double Barrel” when he was part of the duo, Dave & Ansell Collins.

Mawamba Dub – “(Warrior) ” – [Badda Music]

Hunter Gatherer   10/3/2007   12-inch, Reggae

This is a re-release of a 1978 collection of ???version??? or dub B-sides from the London label D Roy, founded by Delroy Witter. Only 1,000 were pressed, making it a highly sought after album. But fortunately for eBay-challenged, last November it was re-released by Badda Music. (The even rarer part 2 was re-released 2/07.)

The music, recorded and mixed in London with some players from Jamaica like Sly Dunbar, sounds more phlange-y and less stripped down than the deep Jamaican dub sounds but just as rich. Put it on and enjoy.

Prince Jammy – “Uhuru In Dub ” – [Csa Records]

Hunter Gatherer   10/3/2007   12-inch, Reggae

Prince Jammy ??? a.k.a. King Jammy, a.k.a Lloyd James ??? presents this dub version of Black Uhuru???s 1977 album Love Crisis (which is not in the KFJC library). This release is from 1982.

The rhythm section of Sly and Robbie and the big, echo-y, clear production of Prince Jammy are the main features of the album. The tracks were recorded at Channel One Studio and remixed at the studio of his Prince Jammy???s mentor, King Tubby. All tracks are instrumental.

King Jammy – “Dub Explosion ” – [Jamaican Recordings]

Hunter Gatherer   10/3/2007   12-inch, Reggae

Twelve pristine dub recordings produced by the legendary King Jammy between the mid-70???s and the early-80???s, before his promotion from Prince and before the Dancehall 80s. The tracks are mostly instrumental, stripped down to the core, and driven by Robbie Shakespeare???s excellent bass work. A1 and B6 are Jackie Mittoo tracks.

Check out the liner notes by Jah Floyd for more detail. Mr. Jammy himself selected these tracks.

[coll] Strictly the Best 34 [VP Records]

Mr. Lucky   10/3/2006   CD, Reggae

The latest installment of VP Records’ long running collection of reggae hits finds the Island in the roots mood. While in the Dance roots and dancehall share equal billing, STB 34’s selection includes maily Roots and Lover’s Rock songs from a range of artists old and new. It kicks off with a couple of slower, one drop riddims that were this years biggest tunes: Jah Cure’s “True Reflections” (contemplating his prison experience) and newcomer Gyptian’s “Serious Times”. Richie Spice’s laid back affirmation of upright ghetto youths “Righteous Youths” picks up the pace, alongside Jr. Kelly’s rocker “Recieve” (Tsahai Riddim). I Wayne and Anthony Cruz represent for the dancehall style with “Don’t Worry” (on the Wait in Vain Riddim) and “Inna Dance” (Real Rock Return Riddim). There are also a number of veteran artists like Marcia and Beres teaming up on the bouncy “Focusing Time”, Freddie MacGregor on “Lock it Down” (Love Me Forever Riddim), and Norris Man on “Home and Away”. But the real killer on this collection is young gun Roger Robin who comes out of nowhere with the throwback hit “Take It Slow”. Up to di time! -Mr. Lucky

Lutan Fyah “Time & Place” [Lustre Kings Productions] (33 rpm)

Mr. Lucky   9/6/2006   12-inch, Reggae

There has been a huge surge in the popularity of New Roots reggae, presumably a backlash to the slack and often violent lyrics that were so prevelent in Dancehall reggae in the 90’s. A number of artists have melded the teachings of Rastafari together with the singjay style, the result of which is a movement of music that tries to reach back to the sounds of the Rasta artists of before. Lutan Fyah is one of the new school of roots singjays who has made a name for himself in the past few years. His style is definitely more singsongy than others, although he has the ability to call on his more raw voice if the need arises. Rasta living, Babylonian oppression, life in the ghetto, love, and praise of the Queens of the Earth are all themes here. Musically, the album’s riddims are comprised of original compositions which is somewhat unique in a genre which constantly borrows and reuses elements of itself. Check out “She’s like the Rainbow” which contains an excerpt of Neruda’s “Cien Sonetos de Amor”. -Mr. Lucky

Spice, Richie “Marijuana” [Jah Warrior] (33 rpm)

Mr. Lucky   9/6/2006   Reggae

This is a fun pair of remixes that are sure to make your playlist a bit more Irie! Richie Spice had a huge past 2 years in reggae music, propelling him from relative obscurity to the head of the New Roots class. One of his bigger songs was his ode to that sweet herb “Marijuana”, which was originally voiced on the I Swear Riddim. Jah Warrior Shelter HiFi has released this 7 Inch where they couple Spice’s accapella with 2 big riddims: The Jamrock Riddim (on which Damian Marley scored a monster hit), and a mid 90’s mix of the Sleng Teng Riddim (Wayne Smith’s ’83 tune). Enjoy! – A Mr. Lucky Donation

This World / Pretty Looks [coll] – [Wackie’s]

Thurston Hunger   7/2/2006   12-inch, Reggae

Bullwackie squeezes the soul on LeRoy Sibbles’ “This World”,
a tight little cornet intro, later trumpet and flute add a
sort of In Like Flint swagger, and Sibbles vocals scorch
with determination through the pain. He’s calling for action
and compassion, and he’s staking the endgame on the groove.
Fortunately, the simple bassline here is the sort of two-note
wonder that can indeed stave off catastrophe. Rock steadiest.
Ah then here come’s the dub, washing up at your feet at
first…guitar scrapeed with little abalone shells. And
yeah, why not a flute solo for coda/solace. The pain is gone,
but the bass line is going to live on. And on. And onward.

“This World” is sooooo good, I almost forget there is another
side to this. On the flip, it’s more of a rub-a-dub: a little
robot shuffle drum, R&B honey drip vox, a downright doo-woppy
cushion, and then we get the rasta regaling. S’alright if
you’re in love and stuff, me…I’m still savoring the pain of
“This World.” Soul-shakingly solid. -Thurston Hunger

Version City Rockers – “Darker Roots ” – [Antifaz]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

At first glance, you might think this is just another compilation of classic reggae tracks. But look closer, because it’s actually a brand-new album featuring vocal contributions from reggae legends like Glen Brown, Sugar Minott, Sister Nancy, Yabby You, and others. Recorded at Version City studios in New Jersey between 2001-2003, DARKER ROOTS features the NYC-based Version City Rockers band in collaboration with several of their musical idols and is guaranteed to keep that classic 1970’s roots vibe alive in the oh-five. Personal favorites include Ranking Joe bongdiddling his way through ‘Africa,? Little John’s heartfelt musical psalm, ‘Give Jah All the Praise,? and Congo Ashanti Roy’s meditation on the horrors of 9/11 in ‘Why Dem a Galong So.’ Melancholy yet uplifting, this is a real roots revival.

Roots of Dub Funk 3 [coll] – [Tanty Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Come again mi selectah! Kelvin Richard presents chapter 3 in the ongoing compilation series “inspired by” the work of his own recording alias, the Dub Funk Association. Don’t expect to find much funk in this set, but rest assured there is plenty of dub and rootical riddims. Highlights include: some extremely tweaked production from the UK’s Alpha & Omega on “Jerusalem”; the legendary Prince Alla vocalizing over Jah Warrior’s “Our Father Dub” (check the Dixieland-style horn solo!); Mr. Dub Funk Association himself setting the standard with his own contribution, “Babylon Kingdom”; Zion Train’s DJ Perch giving the people what they want on “Edutainment Dub”; and finally, some squelchy electronidub from the Vibronics on “Natty Riddim”. Twelve exclusive dub plates in all, enough to hold you over until the arrival of chapter 4.

Phil Pratt Thing [coll] – [Pressure Sounds]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

You may not be familiar with the name of Phil Pratt, but you will certainly be familiar with some of the reggae artists he produced: Ken Boothe, Big Youth, The Heptones, and Dennis Brown, just to name a few. This latest Pressure Sounds compilation rounds up some of the best work from Pratt, a publicity-shy producer who never really got the attention he deserved. Several of the tracks on this excellent retrospective are multiple variations on the same riddim. For example, Al Campbell’s soulful vocal on “Going the Wrong Way” is followed by the “Discomix” dub version, then a DJ toast over the tune by Big Youth. For “Talk About Love” Pat Kelly & Dillinger team up on the SAME version and the results are exhilarating… easily worth the price of the album. Pratt’s story is the typical one of record company ripoffs. He left the music business in the late 80’s and today runs a cafe in London. What a shame.

Feel Like Jumping [coll] – [Heartbeat]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Another remarkable collection from the vaults of Sir Coxsone Dodd, FEEL LIKE JUMPING documents the often-neglected contributions made by women to the Studio One sound. Highlights include: the classic title track from Marcia Griffiths, which also formed the basis of Toots & the Maytals’ “54-46 Was My Number;” Dawn Penn’s original version of “No No No;” a new, extended remix of Norma Fraser’s “First Cut is the Deepest;” and Jerry Jones’ soulful reggae rendition of Les McCann & Eddie Harris’ “Compared to What.”

Channel One – “Maxfield Avenue Breakdown ” – [Pressure Sounds]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Following on from previous compilations (WELL CHARGED and WHEN THE DANCES WERE CHANGING), this is the third in a Pressure Sounds trilogy documenting the output of Ernest and Jo Jo Hookim’s Channel One label. This time the focus is on dub versions and instrumental b-sides from the mid-to-late 70’s. Made specifically for the sound system market and with a band featuring the bedrock rhythm section of Sly & Robbie, these tracks were enormously successful in their day. Dillinger’s “Natty A General” gets a wacked-out treatment with honking car horns, and Leroy’s Smart’s “Ballistic Affair” dub retains all the charm of the original vocal version. I’m sure you’ll find your own favorites here as well.

Build the Ark [coll] – [Trojan Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

Here’s the third in Trojan’s series of triple-LP box sets documenting Lee Perry productions from the oh-so-crucial 70’s. This box focuses on singles, alternating the vocal A-sides with the instrumental/dub versions. My advice is to head straight for Side Four, which features superb vocal contributions from The Meditations, The Congos, and Junior Murvin. But if it’s truly wacked-out dub you’re looking for, better check Junior Dread’s “A Wah Dat/Dub Dat” on Side Two. Even a genius like Lee Perry, however, can’t redeem Sharon Isaacs’ cover of perhaps the most heinous song ever written, “Feelings” (Woah woah woah…) Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wailer, Bunny – “Dubd’sco Volumes 1 & 2 ” – [Ras Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

After leaving The Wailers in the mid-70’s, Bunny Wailer started his own record label and released his first and best solo album, BLACKHEART MAN. This was followed a few years later by BUNNY WAILER SINGS THE WAILERS, a very successful tribute album featuring the rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. DUBD’SCO features the dub versions of both classic albums. Whereas many dub records only feature snippets of the original vocals or none at all, these tracks retain enough to make them recognizable to almost everyone, even those with only a passing interest in reggae. The overall vibe is upbeat and Bunny’s dub production skills are surprisingly strong; every track is a winner.

Smith, Slim/Aggrovator [coll] – [Abraham Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

The history of reggae music was written on 7″ singles and here’s another slab of musical history courtesy of Slim Smith & The Aggrovators. Smith was one of the leading rocksteady vocalists, a one-time member of vocal harmony group The Techniques and later his own group, The Uniques. “My Conversation” is one of his most famous records and was recorded with The Uniques, although the record label gives credit to him alone. It’s a superlative rocksteady track, with sweet falsetto vocals that owe much to 60’s American soul groups like The Impressions or Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. On the B-side you have an instrumental version from The Aggrovators, slightly dubbed out but not as radical as the dubs King Tubby would start turning out a few years later.

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