Ranking Dread’s rub-a-dub fiesta

RANKING DREADBadman deejay Ranking Dread’s debut album Girls Fiesta was reissued yesterday by Cherry Red’s subsidiary Hot Milk. It’s partly the deejay counterpart to Linval Thompson’s Love is the Question album released the same year, i.e. 1978.

Ranking Dread is a mythological character in the reggae industry and his story is a real wild one. He was probably born in 1955 and in his late teens he was involved in political activism for Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). He was soon involved in several incidents with the law and escaped from Kingston to London where he started a musical career.

This lead to the voicing of Girls Fiesta and three other albums followed – Kunta Kinte Roots, Lots of Loving and Ranking Dread in Dub. He also dropped a number of strong singles, the monotonous and suggestive Fattie Boom Boom – a version of Cornel Campbell’s Rope In – being the most successful.

Girls Fiesta collects ten tracks and is packed with tough and stripped down riddims executed by Sly & Robbie and others. The dubwise mixing by Sid Bucknor puts the emphasis on the drums and the bass and Ranking Dread rides the riddims with ease.

Unfortunately a life of crime seemed more lucrative for Ranking Dread and his musical output evaporated in the early 80s. He is rumoured to have run a criminal empire in the 80s and he lived in the U.S. and Canada for a while. He probably died in a Jamaican prison in 1996, but this is not confirmed.

Ranking Dread lived the life of a bonafide gangster and has been charged with murder, possession of illegal firearms, armed robbery and possession of drugs. A shame. Because he was a real talent in the studio and his relaxed, yet lively, style of deejaying has made him a musical giant.

The CD contains excellent liner notes by David Katz telling the story of Ranking Dread’s short musical career and criminal lifestyle.

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