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Music Reviews

Prince Far I – “Bedward the Flying Preacher ” – [Sound Boy]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

Originally released in 1983 on the album STAGGERING HEIGHTS by Singers & Players, this Adrian Sherwood/On-U Sound production still packs a punch 20 years later. Prince Far I, aka the “Voice of Thunder,” narrates the tale of Alexander Bedward, a turn-of-the-century Baptist preacher and founder of Bedwardism, one of the precursors to the Rastafari faith. It seems poor ol’ Bedward thought he could ascend to heaven by jumping off of a building. Unfortunately, he only flew in one direction, and that was down. Backing up Far I’s tale are members of the On-U house band circa 1983: Eek-a-Roo on drums, Lizard on bass, Crucial Tony on guitar, Flash on saxophone, and Bubblers on piano. The spatial separation and dynamics of the mix are practically jaw-dropping…but that was standard operating procedure for On-U back in the day. The B-side features a previously-unreleased (and somewhat milder) dub version of the track. Released on the Sound Boy label, a new spinoff from On-U Sound which promises a full slate of new and classic releases in vinyl format. Plenty more to come!

Perry, Lee – “Kung Fu Meets the Dragon ” – [Justice League]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

More evidence of the otherworldly genius of Rainford Hugh Perry, captured in his prime at Black Ark Studios circa 1975. This dub “concept album” is based around instrumental tracks that were, for the most part, recorded specifically for this release, a musical tribute to the kung fu flicks of the 70’s. Joining The Upsetter’s band on this experryment is the melodica master Augustus Pablo. Weaving in and out of almost every track are the martial arts musings and mumblings of Scratch himself, carried to extremes on the wacked-out “Flames of the Dragon.” “Black Belt Jones” adds some whistling accompaniment to Scratch’s moaning and groaning, and “Skango” is perhaps the most melodic offering here, a swinging instrumental featuring the horn section of Bobby Ellis and Dirty Harry. It’s all good.

Organized Kryme – “Vibe, Volume 1 ” – [1ST-STEP Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Johnny Osbourne has one of those classic reggae voices, and what a pleasure it is to hear him singing again with newcomers Organized Kryme. The format is roots reggae and dub, with four Osbourne vocals and their respective dubs alongside six other originals. The band is tight, the sound is modern but not overproduced, and the end result gives one hope that roots reggae has more of a future than just archival reissues.

King Tubby & Friends – “Dub Like Dirt ” – [Blood and Fire]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

If the band Simply Red has made any significant contribution to music, then surely it’s through creating and financing the reggae reissue label Blood and Fire. Their 26th release returns once again to King Tubby’s studio, circa the mid-70’s, for some crucial roots dub. Featured here are dubs of vocal tracks from Horace Andy, Johnny Clarke, Cornell Campbell, and others, expertly mixed by King Tubby, Prince Jammy, and Prince Phillip Smart. This is classic dub: vocals drop in and out, special effects come crashing in out of nowhere, and drumbeats go ricocheting off into the stratosphere. The detailed liner notes give you all the information you need to create a mega- mix from various versions of these riddims. Dub go crazy!

I-Roy – “Welding ” – [Disco Rockers]

Rococo   7/5/2005   7-inch, Reggae

More classic reggae on 7-inch. This mega-hit from 1975 starts off with deejay toaster I-Roy being woken from his sound slumber by a young girl in need of some “welding.” I don’t think I need to tell you where he keeps his tool. Recorded by Jo Jo Hookim at his Channel One studios, this record practically defined the Channel One sound and spawned scores of imitations. On the B-side you get the instrumental version, sans I-Roy but highlighting the crack rhythm section of Sly & Robbie. Five stars.

Dub Funk Association, the – “Sounds of the Heavyweight ” – [Tanty Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Even though this group of dubsters uses the “F” word in their name, this is some of the rootsiest dub I’ve heard in the 90’s, in direct lineage from King Tubby, Lee Perry, and the like. (A notable exception is Track 6, an exercise in restrained junglism.) The Dub Funk Association is actually one man, Kelvin Richards, and however many friends he can pull into the studio on a given day. For this particular release, his fifth full-length album, he gets some help from Russell Brown (The Disciples) and Part 2 (UK hip-hopper), among others. Deep, throbbing bass… echoey drums…snatches of vocals and horn stabs…you know what to expect. Heavyweight sounds, indeed.

Dr. Alimantado – “Kings Bread ” – [I.S.D.A.]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

Jamaican deejay Dr. Alimantado is primarily known for his deejay toasting and for his Lee Perry-inspired dub productions from the mid- 70’s. Unfortunately, this 1979 album features neither. (Check out BEST DRESSED CHICKEN IN TOWN for the “classic” Dr. Alimantado sound.) What this album does feature, however, is some fine roots reggae vocals by the good doctor, along with instrumental accompaniment from some of Jamaica’s finest, including members of the Revolutionaries, Roots Radics, etc. Until the next Pressure Sounds or Blood & Fire reissue, this’ll do just fine.

Brooks, Cedric ‘im’ – “United Africa ” – [Aquarius Recording Co.]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

There just aren’t enough records like this one: spiritual, uplifting jazz with Jamaican and African roots. Sax player Brooks was a crucial component of Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One sound, as well as Count Ossie’s Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. It’s the latter that provides the most influence here, as Brooks gathers an extraordinary group of singers and players, including Earnest Ranglin and Dean Fraser, to record a profoundly beautiful set of vocal hymns and instrumentals. Recorded in the late 70’s, it’s just one more reminder of the incredible musical magic that blossomed in Jamaica during the decade.

Boothe, Ken – “A Man and His Hits ” – [Heartbeat]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Ken Boothe is not just one of the greatest reggae singers, but one of the greatest soul singers ever recorded. His career spans almost the entire history of reggae music, from the latter days of ska to a 1996 dancehall hit with deejay Shaggy. This collection is not a career retrospective, though, but rather a reissue of some of his best work for Studio One in the 1960’s. Primarily comprised of ska and rocksteady hits, this collection highlights, in no uncertain terms, the huge debt that Jamaican music owes to American R&B. ESSENTIAL!!!

Good Old Days Of, the [coll] – [Jet Star]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

Growing up in the 70’s, I was pretty sure that the decade sucked. But apparently I wasn’t listening to the right music. Here we have a dozen alternating tracks from two great 70’s Jamaican deejays, Dennis Alcapone & Jah Lloyd. Toasting over classic dub tracks recorded at Randy’s, Harry J’s, Channel One, and the infamous Black Ark, Alcapone and Lloyd rap about Jah, smoking herb, rude boys…you know, the usual stuff. Oh yeah, and there s one track all about Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. (Go figure.) I’m not sure I like the deejay battle approach to the sequencing; I’d have preferred one whole side of Alcapone, followed by a side of Lloyd. But whichever way you sequence it, these are some classic tracks.

Congos – “Give Them the Rights ” – [Young Tree Records]

Hunter Gatherer   4/23/2005   CD, Reggae

This is the first release of new material by The Congos in seven years. Over three years in the making, it features eleven songs written by leader and lead singer Cedric Myton. Most songs are co-written with wife Yvonne.

The Cognos are best known for their release Heart Of The Cognos, produced by Lee Perry (which we have in Reggae on vinyl). The thoroughly modern sound engineering is the only giveaway that this was recorded so recently. It sounds like a classic forgotten reggae classic with Mr. Myton’s distinctive falsetto singing.

There are many guest musicians on this release, most notably Sly and Robbie. The topics of the songs range from protest (2: Give Them The Rights) to praise to Jah Rastafari (9: Praise H.I.M.) to acid character studies of the obnoxious and showy rich (8: Mr. Shark).

–Hunter Gatherer

Jazz Jamaica “Double Barrel” [Hannibal]

jack soil   3/6/2005   CD, Format, Reggae

Stretchin it wayyyy out, it’s Jazz Jamaica, the London, England based band, producing
fine jazz/ska renditions of both classic jazz/easy listening and ska tunes. Includes
a brilliant foot-tapping rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By”. This band pays
serious tribute to artists of the likes of Don Drummond, Winston Riley, Charlie Parker
and more. Classics such as the unforgettable Monkey Man are amazing. Toy with
the theme from Exodus, possibly pass on “The Grapevine”. All songs are instrumental
(except for minor exclamations during the first track) and lengthy enough to bead
up a bit o’ perspiration. Re-sole those dancing shoes, Jazz Jamaica now has a home
high atop black mountain.

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