French singjay Bazil released his debut album 2011 and put out his latest set East to the West earlier this year. This is an intense and eclectic affair showcasing musical influences from Europe, the U.S. and, of course, the Caribbean.
Bazil started recording at the age of 15 and is nowadays a seasoned performer and recording artist not shy to break musical boundaries.
East to the West is colorful and urban and stands firm in the reggae tradition, but it also incorporates hip-hop, tropical and electronica. Check for example the infectious Vision, the bouncy Love the Night, the fierce General or the summery Escape with a strong cross-over appeal.
This is an album for a late-night summer party.
Earlier this year Japan’s Dub Store Records reissued the rare Concrete Jungle Dub originally released in 1976 in tiny quantities. The set is produced by Winston Riley and superbly mixed by King Tubby and collects versions of rhythms issued via Riley’s Techniques label.
The selection is a strictly dubwise effort with no vocals. Although several rhythms can be identified, for example Stepping Stone Dub, a version of Johnny Osbourne’s cover of Delfonics’ Ready or Not, and Staga Dub, a version of the immortal Stalag 17 rhythm, probably best known through Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam or Tenor Saw’s Ring the Alarm.
The original album came in a white plain sleeve, but the reissue comes with a shot of Winston and brother Buster in a recording studio. A long-overdue reissue showcasing two of pivotal figures in the history of reggae and dub.
Big and bad Jamaican dancehall giant King Kong broke big in 1986 with the superb Red Rose combination Two Big Bull In A One Pen for King Tubby. It was followed by several strong singles and albums, including Trouble Again for King Jammy. But from the late 80s King Kong kept a low musical profile for about two decades.
In past years he has however been productive. In 2013 he dropped the album Ethiopian Dream and last year the showcase set In the Old Capital Vol. 1 was released. And a few months ago he put out Repatriation, an album produced by France’s Irie Ites.
Repatriation is pulsating dancehall with a contemporary twist and musicians include giants like Sly & Robbie, Russ D and Bongo Herman along with guest artists such as the gravel-voiced Burro Banton on the soon to be classic Old School.
Irie Ites’ productions are always well above par and Repatriation is no exception. Another killer album.
One of my most anticipated releases in recent years was put out in late May. I’m talking about Kabaka Pyramid’s debut album. He’s one of the strongest lyricists and performers of the younger generation of Jamaicans singers and deejays.
On Kontraband Damian Marley is heavily involved being executive producer. But a host of other notable performers also lend their talents to the set – Chronixx, Akon, Pressure Busspipe, Stonebwoy, Protoje, Damian Marley and Nattali Rize give several songs new dimensions.
Kontraband is hard-hitting and powerful roots reggae with strong influences from hip-hop. At times it’s reminiscent of Damian Marley’s and Nas’ collaborative effort Distant Relatives. Check the infectious title track with Damian Marley for example.
This album certainly lives up to high expectations with Kabaka Pyramid spitting cultural messages over tough beats. It’s potent, explosive and highly addictive.
Jamaican singer and producer Micah Shemaiah rose to prominence a few years ago after dropping excellent cuts like Reggae Rockit and Dread at the Control.
His debut album was the combination album Shalalak and it was followed by the superb Original Dread. In February this year his third album was put out.
Roots I Vision was recorded in Switzerland with Mathias Liengme and Nicolas Meury at the controls and it has a solid 80s vibe throughout, mainly due to the use of Simmons drums, which gives a nice early Black Uhuru feel to the sound.
This set is the strongest reggae album of 2018 so far, though in fierce competition with Hollie Cook’s Vessel of Love. Check the title track, Throw No Stone or the militant single Zion Trod to catch a feel of the album.
In November last year French band Danakil teamed up with Ondubground to re-record their album La Rue Raisonne. And the result is a powerful and modern album with a broad variety of artists lending their talents to the project.
This is forward-thinking bass music influenced by reggae, trap, hip-hop, dub, dubstep and electronica. Extraordinary cuts include Jamalski’s fast-chatting Tell Dem, the melancholic Dub of the Nation and the pulsating J’attends la nuit.
This album explores new musical horizons and might not please the usual Danakil crowd. This one is aimed at sound systems worldwide.
Jamaican deejay and producer Prince Hammer is behind the superb singer and deejay showcase Africa Iron Gate Showcase, originally released in 1982 and reissued by Dub Store Records a few months ago.
This is a crucial album that has been unavailable for a criminally long time. Roots Radics provide the sparse and heavyweight rhythms and talented deejays like Trinity, Lee Can Cliff and Prince Hammer chat powerful words and lyrics.
And as usual with Dub Store Records – the sonic quality is excellent. Highly recommended.
During the late 80s and throughout the 90s Bobby “Digital” Dixon produced a truckload of superb singles and albums, of which several are today hailed as some of the greatest reggae and dancehall ever released.
Bobby Digital grew up in the 70s listening to roots acts such as Black Uhuru and Wailing Souls and his journey in the music industry began when he from an early age attended sound system dances. He was an apprentice of King Jammy and he later branched out on his own creating a musical revolution that took Jamaica by storm.
He started out producing lethal dancehall and later helped the roots reggae resurgence in Jamaica with artists such as Garnett Silk, Jahmali, Sizzla, Capleton and Buju Banton.
And VP Records has through its subsidiary 17 North Parade now released two compilations dedicated to Bobby Digital’s productions. The first anthology X-tra Wicked covers his dancehall catalog, while the second anthology, Serious Times, showcases his rootsy side. These two albums cover a neat 80 tracks, including many classics, for example Shabba Ranks’ Peenie Peenie, Mad Cobra’s Tek Him, Morgan Heritage’s Don’t Haffi Dread and Buju Banton’s Til I’m Laid To Rest.
This double anthology showcases a musical genius and a game-changing producer. Now I’m waiting for an anthology dedicated to the works of Richard “Bello” Bell, another producer responsible for some of the greatest reggae released in the 90s.
Following the compilation Oneness Records – Ten Years comes a dub album dedicated to the recordings coming from Oneness Records. Oneness in Dub is mixed by producer and engineer Umberto Echo and he tackles great tracks from a wide range of artists, including Mark Wonder, Junior Kelly, Sara Lugo, Luciano and Morgan Heritage.
These dubs pay much respect to the original recordings, which are sweet and melodic. And the dubs are mixed in the same style. Nothing on this fine set is hard or rough. It’s a dub album for the beach rather than the dancehall. There are exceptions though. As always. Morgan Heritage’s Modern Man is one such, Ras Muhamad’s Leluhur Dub is another.
Best of the bunch is however the meditative Energy Dub, originally recorded by Runkus and featured on his superb EP Move In.
A solid dub album from one of Europe’s greatest engineers and from one of Europe’s best labels.
Singer and guitar player G.T. Moore has been in the reggae business since the early 70s when he formed his band G.T. Moore & The Reggae Guitars. He has recently discovered a bunch of tracks he recorded in 1980 at Harry J in Kingston, Jamaica, while working with Lee “Scratch” Perry. These cuts have now been released on the excellent album The Harry J Sessions.
The set collects eight tracks – four vocals and four dub versions. Only one of these – the superb album opener Utopia – has been previously released. All tracks have now been given a mixing treatment courtesy of Dougie Wardrop from Conscious Sounds.
All recordings carry a meditative vibe and the horns on Utopia and its dub version Reformation Dub are spellbinding to say the least. Jerusalem, and its dub counterpart Temple Mount Dub, comes with a mesmerizing guitar and an ethereal melodica.
The bass lines on Harry J Sessions are lethal and especially the one carried out on Turn the Wheel Dub. This one gives a new meaning to the word hypnotic.