Hot Milk Records has done the world a great favour by reissuing one of the hardest and most uncompromising reggae albums ever released. Mr. Spaulding recorded his only album Twelve Tribe of Israel at the age of 19 and it was released in scarce quantities in 1983.
This album is a unique take on reggae with an almost ridiculous emphasis on drum and bass with just a hint of guitar and organ. It’s sparse and naked with Mr. Spaulding’s youthful crying on top of deep early dancehall riddims.
But deep doesn’t half describe these riddims. I have listened to reggae for almost 20 years and I can’t say I have heard frequencies as low as these before. The bass line on cuts like Tell Me and Mankind are as deep as the Mariana Trench and custom-made for crashing down the walls of Babylon.
This set is however more than just the original album. This is anthology style and the two disc set covers Mr. Spaulding’s career from the early 80s up until the early 90s. It comes with a hefty 33 tracks and it’s a veritable version extravaganza with its many dub versions, instrumentals and 12” mixes.
This is the first time any material from this unknown singer has been reissued and the album covers almost everything the man recorded. And this album is not a crowd-pleaser in any way.
Swedish record collector and selector Joakim Kalcidis – who lent his unplayed version of the original album for this reissue – told me that he had played this album for a friend replying that it didn’t sound finished. It was just drum and bass. Well, it is. And that’s the beauty of it.