One of my most anticipated albums in 2016 was former Aswad lead singer Brinsley Ford’s new album with Sly & Robbie. Unfortunately, it has been postponed until 2017, but the next best thing arrived the other day.
One Fine Dub is the dub counterpart to the yet to be released vocal version. This is an unorthodox and unusual approach, but very welcome.
The album is produced by Sly & Robbie along with Guillaume Bougard and mixed by Paul “Groucho” Smykle, a legendary engineer responsible for the innovative Dubrising released two years ago.
The set kicks off with the atmospheric Until Dub and the moody soundscape continues throughout the eight remaining cuts. Creation Dub, with its ethereal harmonica, is one fine example. One Fine Dub, with its militant drumming and apocalyptic synthesizers, is another.
This dub album certainly bodes well for the upcoming vocal version, a set that according to Guillaume Bougard needs to be hard and heavy with a Jamaican sound.
There are books about singers, groups, producers, music studios, music genres and technicians and engineers. But not much has over the years been written or published about the artists that are responsible for an integral part of the music business – the graphic designers.
The most well-known in reggae circuits is probably Tony McDermott who designed countless of classic sleeves for Greensleeves in the late 70s and early 80s. Then there is Neville Garrick who designed for Island Records, including immortal album jackets for Bob Marley and Ijahman Levi.
But there are of course others as well. And one of the most important is Wilfred Limonious, a Jamaican cartoonist that during the 80s became one of the key visual architects for dancehall album jackets and record-label logos. His outrageous humor and wit were perfect for this emerging new genre that challenged roots reggae with its more light-hearted and slacker sound and style.
His legacy has now been recorded in the massive and superb In Fine Style: The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious. With this enlightning retrospective Christopher Bateman and Al “Fingers” Newman consolidate Wilfred Limonious’ role as one of the founding fathers of dancehall art.
Wilfred Limonious’ style is unique and sheds light on the primary aesthetics of Jamaican dancehall culture from the 80s. And what sets him apart from several other graphic designers of that era is his raw, scribbled and often stereotyped characters and hilarious and patois-filled social commentaries that can often be found in speech bubbles.
But the book tells a story beyond his graphic work for music producers. It also showcases other illustrations as well as his comic strips for Jamaican national newspapers. It’s an extensive and thorough reflection of a visual mastermind that skillfully interpret a cultural movement.
UK label Maximum Sound – run by producer Frenchie – has recently dropped a new compilation featuring a hefty 19 cuts originally released between 2014 and 2016. And it’s a no fillers, only killers, kind of compilation with an impressive line-up, including veterans a newcomers like Ninjaman, Samory-I, Morgan Heritage and Tarrus Riley.
Maximum Sound 2016 collects five different riddims along with a single and a few remixes. Best of the bunch is – with fierce competition – Ras Demo’s tongue twisting Sekkle Up the Score on the Armour riddim. Please don’t try this one at the local karaoke night.
Other highlights include Christopher Martin’s sweet London Queen on the Blueberry Haze riddim, Samory-I’s passionate Ride On on the recently released Royal Step riddim and Masicka’s furious The Youths on Clash of the Titans riddim.
As usual when it comes to Maximum Sound – everything is produced with care and affection. Give it a listen.
Internationally renowned DJ, producer and remixer Jstar – hailing from London – has recently put out his debut album Stand To Order, a set following the compilation Licensed Plates, released three years ago.
Jstar is probably best-known for bold mash-ups and remixes, including a reggae version of Blackstreet’s global smash hit No Diggity. He has also collaborated with the likes of DJ Vadim, Major Lazer and Dub Pistols and has nowadays turned more and more to self-productions.
He has always stayed true to the reggae roots, but has never been afraid of breaking borders and experimenting with other bass-boosted sounds and genres.
This new set features a wealth of both well-known and lesser-known talents, including Brother Culture, Ranking Joe, Kinck, Blackout JA and Soom T. And they tackle Jstar’s forward-thinking beats and riddims delivering strong melodies and catchy hooks, as showcased particularly well on the infectious and bubbling title track with Soom T on the microphone, the silky My Truth and Jackie Verson & Spikey T’s pulsating Moving On.
Stand To Order also offers a slice of Cantonese reggae. MouseFX’s Baby Ya Fing is definitely something special.
Jstar’s productions have been praised, played and supported by the likes of David Rodigan and Huw Stephens. And when listening to this captivating and fascinating album it’s easy to understand why. Also – don’t forget to check its dub counterpart Dub To Order.
There are loads rare dub albums out there. Many were originally only pressed in a just a few hundred copies. One of those is Errol Brown’s Orthodox Dub. A set recorded and mixed at Treasure Isle studios in Kingston and released only in the U.S in the mid to late 70s.
This obscure and killer set has now been reissued by Dub Store Records. Errol Brown was resident engineer at Treasure Isle at the time when BB Seaton recorded the original vocal versions and then Errol Brown dubbed them with perfection.
This is not dubs of smooth rocksteady. These are tough roots scorchers dubbed with brimstone and fire mashing down the walls of Babylon. Not what one would expect from Errol Brown at Treasure Isle.
From Japan’s eminent Dub Store Records comes another epic rocksteady compilation and yet again it shines light on Jamaica’s Federal Records and producer Ken Khouri.
Merritone Rock Steady 2: This Music Got Soul 1966-1967 collects a hefty 21 cuts including novelties such as The Federal All Stars’ Merritone False Starts 2 and a rehearsal version of Lynn Taitt & The Jets’ version of the Batman theme.
But the real gems on this superb and sweet set are the vocal groups and their beautiful, yet sometimes a little rough around the edges, three-part harmonizing. Check for example The Tartans’ catchy Rolling Rolling, with its intense keys, or The Zodiacs’ Walk On By, with its lingering guitar and strong chorus.
60 minutes of early rocksteady. It’s the birth of reggae music.
Following two lengthy EPs – Heavy This Year in 2013 and Diskodub in 2014 – come Taiwan MC’s debut album Cool & Deadly, an eleven track set produced by Chinese Man Records flirting with reggae, dancehall, dubstep, ska and, in particular, hip-hop.
The first five cuts are superb and Taiwan MC, together with a number of collaborators, spit lyrics over fierce hip-hop-fused reggae beats. The infectious Your Lovin’ – featuring the honey-voiced Anouk Aita – and the tongue twisting Dem a Wonder are particularly tasty.
From there on the album gets more diverse with Taiwan MC exploring other styles with great result. Bubblin’, also with Anouk Raita on vocals, comes with nice tempo-changes, Wobble Ballad kicks in a brutally wobbling bass line complemented by blazing horns and a lonesome trumpet, and the bouncy and Major Lazer-influenced Catalina, the first single off the album. This cut could put any dancefloor on fire.
Entertaining, creative and innovative. This album never gets boring or dull.
Yabby You’s dub album Beware has been unavailable for about 25 years, but has thanks to Pressure Sounds been restored and reissued complete with no less than six superb bonus cuts.
Beware – which collects version sides from various singles – was originally released in 1978 and reissued in 1981 and 1991. The new version is greatly expanded with two fascinating and previously unreleased dubplate cuts, one is the eerie Conquering Lion, which is even more dread in its dubplate disguise, and the other one God is Watching You. This version is haunting with deep harmonies and nyabinghi drumming.
Other stellar cuts include Tommy McCook’s beautiful Sensimena and the powerful Peace with its smattering percussion, relentless bass line and bright saxophone.
King Tubby and Prince Jammy handled mixing duties and as expected it’s clever and innovative spotlighting the bass and drums, yet highlighting other prominent instruments, such as horns and keys.
A key dub album that still sounds powerful.
On Anthony Red Rose’s debut solo album Red Rose Will Make You Dance he teamed up with legendary engineer-turned-producer King Tubby. This set was originally released in 1986 and collects ten early computerized cuts, tracks recorded at the dawn of the digital era, a time when King Jammy sat comfortably on the throne thanks to his game-changing Under Me Sleng Teng.
But King Tubby came right back at him with the insanely lethal Tempo, a cut that also has been versioned and re-licked time after time after time. This scorcher is included on Red Rose Will Make You Dance and is by itself a reason to invest in an album that was something of a blueprint for King Tubby’s Firehouse style.
French singjay Jr Yellam has grown up. A few years ago he dropped Jr and now he has put out his second album The Musical Train, a set preceded by the EP Get On Board, which was released about a year ago and featured the massive Rub a Dub Anthem on Irie Ites’ Diamonds riddim.
The Musical Train is not eclectic, but slightly diverse with influences from soul, hip-hop and blues. The majority of the cuts are however strictly late 70s and early 80s rub a dub with the mighty Roots Radics providing the lethal riddims. France’s Irie Ites are behind the controls together with London-based mixing engineer Calvin “So So” Francis.
Many of these early dancehall anthems are bona-fide scorchers benefitting from the rock-solid backing and the dense sonic landscape that has been carefully created.
The Trinity and U Brown combination Try is pure fire and so is the infectious album opener Galong, which was also released as a single about two years ago. Heaven’s Door is a sentimental story and something of a tribute to the late ace drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott, who was an integral part of Roots Radics. He was found dead – probably murdered – at his home the day after Yellam returned to France.
Yellam has matured musically and stylistically and to further grow he needs to work on his English and improve pronunciation.