Version galore on massive Glen Brown reissue

unnamedReggae powerhouse VP Records’ subsidiary Greensleeves has reissued three superb compilations of cuts produced by Glen Brown, a singer, instrumentalist and producer that made some of the most uncompromising reggae music ever to be put on wax.

Glen Brown started as a harmony vocalist singing with Lloyd Robinson, Hopeton Lewis and Dave Barker, later of Dave and Ansell Collins fame, and recorded with several top producers in the late 60s, including Coxsone Dodd and Harry J.

In the early 70s he tried his hand at producing and he was – just like his peer Keithunnamed (1) Hudson – an innovative and idiosyncratic producer. He was a rebel, not afraid of cutting downright uncommercial music with false starts, vocal interjections and eerie sonic landscapes with earth-shattering bass lines and minor key melodies.

His productions were pressed in tiny quantities on a broad variety of labels and hard to come by back in the days. And these three reissues – originally put out in 1989 – were highly sought after since they collected rare recordings on Glen Brown’s Pantomine label by some of the finest Jamaican singers, deejays and instrumentalists, including performances by U Roy, I Roy, Prince Jazzbo, Big Youth and Tommy McCook. Featured are also Prince Hammer’s Daughter a Whole Lot of Sugar Down Deh, his first recording, and one of Gregory Isaacs’ earliest tracks – One One Coco.

unnamed (2)But Glen Brown wasn’t only a truly original producer, he was also ahead of his time when he recycled his riddims for various performers. These three compilations – Boat to Progress (vocal cuts), Check the Winner (instrumentals) and Dubble Attack (deejay outings) – contain largely interpretations of the same deadly riddims. All in all 46 killer tracks showcasing the essence of dread. For a dubwise shower of Glen Brown’s music seek out Blood & Fire’s Termination Dub.

2 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

Wicked combination of reggae and hip-hop on Randy Valentine’s Radio Music

0a0720b89cUK’s Randy Valentine is one of the best and hottest contemporary singers around and he has recently put out his fourth project – a blazing mixtape where he has voiced hip-hop beats from the 90s, including Dr Dre’s Xxplosive, Dead Prez’ Hip Hop and Puff Daddy’s Missing You.

Radio Music Raptape collects 19 tracks and is produced by Hemp Higher and Tek-9 Movement. It’s a continuous flow – flavoured with sonic effects – mixed by Straight Sound and presented by Walshy Fire, Bobby Konders, Seani B, Jugglerz, Ninja Crown and King Lagaze.

It also contains only exclusive material and features guest performances from Kabaka Pyramid, Gappy Ranks, Cali P and Big Bullz.

I’ve been a huge fan of Randy Valentine ever since he dropped his first mixtape Bring Back the Love, which has since then been followed by two excellent EPs – Still Pushing and Break the Chain.

Randy Valentine has a unique urgency and energy in his delivery and every word and syllable is sung with passion and love.

Check Radio Music Raptape below and download the full set here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

No signs of madness on new Lee Perry and Mad Professor album

mad-professor-the-robotiks-ft-lee-scratch-perry-black-ark-classics-in-dub-ariwa-lp-32458-p[ekm]300x299[ekm]Legendary production wizard Lee Perry’s vocals is certainly an acquired taste and I have always preferred him as a producer rather than a singer. And on the most recent Lee Perry album his vocals is fortunately only featured on only a handful of the 14 – eleven on the vinyl edition – tracks.

The album in question is Black Ark Classics in Dub, a set where Mad Professor and his band The Robotiks, which features Prince Fatty regular Horseman on drums, take on a number of classics rhythms originally recorded at Lee Perry’s infamous Black Ark studio.

The Robotiks have recorded new versions of a number of stellar riddims, including Party Time, Soul Fire, I’ve Got the Groove and Zion’s Blood. The riddims have been received the Mad Professor treatment and the set offers a cocktail of instrumentals and dubstrumentals sharing heavy and smattering percussion as a key ingredient.

There are no far-out dub excursions to be found here and there are no signs of madness. Mad Professor and Lee Perry have grown up. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing when the riddims are as powerful as these.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

Rare dub album part of crucial Burning Spear reissue

R-1350951-1211931142_jpegIn the 70s Bob Marley & The wailers took the world by storm and he rose to global stardom. Bob Marley became synonymous with reggae and no other reggae singer or reggae band have even come close to what he has achieved.

But back in the days when Bob Marley was on his way to conquering the charts, labels were keen to find other acts to follow in his footsteps. Several tried, but no one managed. One who tried was Burning Spear, who – just like Bob Marley – was signed to Island Records.

Burning Spear started his career in the 60s; just as Bob Marley did. But his music was darker and rootsier from the beginning and Coxsone Dodd – who was the first to record Burning Spear – was at first reluctant to release the recordings due to its controversial messages and dread approach. Somehow, this draw the attention of Island Records who thought his music was for the masses.

Well, Burning Spear has recorded plenty of classics, but I think it’s fair to say that most of his albums and singles are far from commercial. His excellent 70s output for Island is slow, dark and dense and often lack hooks. His messages were regarded as revolutionary and Burning Spear often calls for repatriation and black consciousness set to a backdrop of smattering percussion, devastating bass lines and throbbing drums.

But Island believed in him and obviously still does since they only last year reissued his album Social Living, or Marcus Children as it was titled in Jamaica. This superb album is now expanded with another nine tracks when adding its rare dub counterpart Living Dub. And it’s the original version from 1978 and not the mixes from the early 90s that were put out on Heartbeat.

Social Living was Burning Spear’s second self-produced album and followed two albums each with Coxsone Dodd and Jack Ruby. It’s a coherent and accomplished set – and even more so with the added dubs – and presents Burning Spear at the peak of his career. It’s bold and edgy with plenty of spiritualty and references to the messages proclaimed by Marcus Garvey.

3 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

The roots of roots music on Tales of Mozambique

210395Just as many other music genres reggae has several sides; it can be insanely catchy and commercial on one hand, but also hard to grasp and uncommercial. Nyabinghi is often the latter and UK’s Soul Jazz Records has now reissued a landmark album in that genre.

Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s Tales of Mozambique – originally put out in 1975 – is a fascinating and spiritual journey and the follow-up to the outfit’s ground-breaking debut set Grounation.

The group was formed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970 and was a union of two existing ensembles – Count Ossie’s crew of drummers and horns man Cedric “Im” Brooks’ Mystics band. Both bandleaders are central characters in the development of Rastafarian roots music, especially Count Ossie who has become a mythical and iconic figure since his untimely death in 1976.

Tales of Mozambique is deeply rooted in rituals of traditional African drumming. It’s avant-garde, powerful and continues where Grounation left off. It has the same radical combination of nyabinghi rhythms, free jazz and chanting. It celebrates Afro-centric identity and traditions and tells the history of Mozambique and how it became colonized and its people enslaved.

The arrangements are loose with repetitive drumming and bass lines along with jazzy horns, reasoning and chanted group vocals.

The musicians behind this album had lots of integrity and courage because it’s experimental and revolutionary with a unique sound. Tales of Mozambique is a slice of hypnotic music history.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

Rare Culture album part of massive compilation

51hCDfKh9mL__SY300_Jamaican harmony trio Culture – with their uncompromising and charismatic lead sing Joseph Hill – was the epitome of dread in the mid-70s with Rastafarian themes and apocalyptic warnings of the world’s imminent demise. Their debut album was the acclaimed and prophetic Two Sevens Clash. That set along with its follow-up Baldhead Bridge were recorded with Joe Gibbs and his sidekick Errol T behind the mixing desk.

Culture soon moved on and initiated a successful and fruitful collaboration with Sonia Pottinger, one of Jamaica’s few female producers. Together they provided Richard Branson’s Virgin Front Line imprint with three super-solid roots classics – Harder Than the Rest, Cumbolo and International Herb. A fourth album was also recorded, but never released at the time.

That fourth album – unofficially at the time titled Black Rose – is now part of a massive Culture two disc reissue – Culture on the Front Line, which collects Culture’s complete recordings for Virgin. The marketing of this album is however not entirely true though, since it’s stated that Black Rose is previously unreleased. Thing is that seven of its eight tracks appeared on Heartbeat’s Trod On compilation released in 1993.

Culture on the Front Line collects a whopping 48 tracks and Black Rose is just as great as the other three sets recorded together with Sonia Pottinger. Culture is as revolutionary and radical as always. They warn against Babylonian living and cry for social change.

Culture has always relied quite a lot on the backing vocals courtesy of Albert “Ralph” Walker and Kenneth Dayes. Their chorale singing and striking harmonies are crucial to the songs. But they also add spirituality and a rural flavor and nearly all songs sound like they could have been performed in front of a bonfire late at night.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

Good vibrations with Jacko and Bambool

JackoWithBambool-JackoWithBambool-VisuelBDWant to hear U.S. pop singer Terence Trent D’Arby sing reggae and soul? Well, then you could head over to your nearest retailer or digital outlet and check Jacko with Bambool’s self-titled debut album, which was released in November last year.

Singer Jacko has a voice with a striking resemblance to Terence Trent D’Arby. They share a slightly raspy, delicate and nasal tone with a passion for the emotional. You could also hear influences from Michael Jackson in Jacko’s phrasing.

The album is in the intersection between reggae, funk and soul and comes complete with three dub versions, of which the dreamy Dub Food is pick of the bunch.

The set has dramatic strings (City so Shitty and African Beat) and Latin percussion (What They Do) on the one hand and deep bass lines (Sea is Empty) and gospel (Friendship) on the other. Very catchy and refreshingly different from many other releases.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

Unreleased dub versions on Third World reissue

00123be2_mediumJamaican roots reggae band Third World dropped their self-titled landmark debut album in 1976. This astonishing set hasn’t been reissued for 23 years, but it’s now readily available again.

But this new version is more than just the original album since it adds another eight tracks, including four unreleased dub versions, two alternate cuts and two vocals, of which one is their debut single Don’t Cry On the Railroad Track, previously only available on the original 7” from 1975.

Third World’s debut fuses roots reggae with funk, soul, gospel and rock. They have often been labelled as sell-outs and too commercial. Sure, they came to be something of a crossover act because of their monster version of the O’Jays’ Now That We’ve Found Love, which had a catchy disco groove.

But their debut is far from polished and slick. Even more so with the gritty and dread bonus cuts. And on this album they successfully cover rootsy staples like The Abyssinians’ beautiful Satta A Masagana and Burning Spear’s dry Slavery Days. Pretty far from disco decadence.

The album is infectious, but it’s not necessarily a crowd-pleaser. Third World is jam-oriented and several songs are five or six minutes long with many solos and long intros. The songs have a nice depth and the arrangements are rich and clever.

The gems on this set – apart from the original cuts – are the uplifting and soulful Rainbow Love, also recorded by BB Seaton in the 70s, and the dub versions, especially the eerie versions of Satta A Masagana, Sun Don’t Shine and Freedom Song. They are absolutely crucial and showcases the ground-shaking bass lines when deconstructing the intriguing rhythms.

After this album Third World went on to become a successful reggae band touring the globe with singer Bunny Rugs, who replaced original vocalist Milton Hamilton. Their two follow-up albums are slightly more commercial, especially Journey to Addis, but also well-worth investigating.

3 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

Traditional roots on Black Roots’ Son of Man

dd94b1d78a5f43c96285dfd7840faa33UK reggae band Black Roots – one of my favourites alongside Aswad and Black Symbol – reunited in 2012 and the same year they dropped their first album in 20 years – the solid On the Ground. Since then they have been more productive – at least recording-wise – than probably ever before. On the Ground was followed by the heavyweight On the Ground in Dub and the solid Ghetto Feel.

Now it’s time for another full-length set. Son of Man is their second album on French label Soulbeats and it is slightly less militant than its predecessor Ghetto Feel.

Black Roots continues to tread the same path. They still carry potent messages and rely on tight backing vocals and sublime horns. Listen to the beautiful One Ebony Girl with its jazz horns and swinging chorus or the uplifting One Thing with its barbershop shu-bi-doops.

The lead vocals isn’t always pitch perfect, but with its straight-forward sound and infectious melodies Son of Man is still a satisfactory effort.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

Sly & Robbie meet The Paragons in dub

81yanrP5-0L._SL1500_Island Records did something strange last year. They reissued the album Sly & Robbie Meet The Paragons adding another ten tracks, of which nine are previously unreleased dub versions. But on the album sleeve they don’t mention anything about these added tracks. It looks like the original set from 1981.

They should of course have marketed this treasure chest much harder. I mean unreleased dub mixes of Sly & Robbie rhythms mixed by Steven Stanley in the early 80s. That’s pure dynamite. The dub album could easily have been a single album. Or better – a double vinyl album with one vocal set and one dub counterpart. Unfortunately Island didn’t do it that way. They released a CD and digital version with the added tracks while the vinyl only comes with the ten original cuts.

Flaws aside, this is a superb album remastered to perfection. When it was originally released in 1981 it marked the reunion of one of Jamaica’s premier vocal groups and harmony trios. They were led by the late John Holt, who is the essence of smoothness, and on this set they teamed up with Sly & Robbie to re-record some of their greatest tracks in an early dancehall fashion. Included are melancholic and uplifting masterpieces like On the Beach, My Best Girl, Riding On a High and Windy Day, Man Next Door and The Tide is High, which was successfully covered by both Blondie and Atomic Kitten.

Every track on this set is excellent and same goes for the dub versions, which showcases both Steven Stanley’s mixing skills and the strength of Sly & Robbie’s rhythms. Cuts like Riding the Rhythm, with its haunting bass line, Wear Out the Dub, with its picking guitar and hint of vocals, and Indiana James, with its eerie synths, are pure genius. Indiana James is actually the only dub version that has been previously available. It was featured on Sly & Robbie’s Raiders of the Lost Dub released in the early 80s.

2 Comments

Filed under Record reviews