Category Archives: Reviews

Linval Thompson shows who’s the boss

Linval-Boss-Mans-DubSinger turned producer Linval Thompson is primarily known for songs such as the highly popular Don’t Cut Off Your Dreadlocks and the anti-police anthem Six Babylon. Apart from voicing his own productions he has also been the mastermind behind strong dub albums like Negrea Love Dub and Outlaw Dub, issued in 1978 and 1979 respectively.

But he was also the driving force behind another strong dub effort, a white label set released around 1979/1980 only as a test pressing. This impossibly rare and highly sought after album has now been made commercially available under the title Boss Man’s Dub – The Lost 1979 Dub Album.

It collects eleven Linval Thompson productions, of which ten are dub versions and one is an instrumental. The original versions were sung by Linval Thompson himself along with Michael Black, Anthony Johnson, Sammy Dread and the vastly underrated and under recorded Freddy McKay.

The album was probably recorded at Channel One with the Revolutionaries as backing band. Who the mixing engineer was and where it was mixed remains uncertain, but he or she seems to have been inspired, because the dubs are well-crafted, spine-chilling and carries a swing. Some cuts are scraped down to their bare essentials, while others still remain decorated with horns, distant guitars and echoing vocal snippets.

David Katz – known for biographies of Lee Perry and Jimmy Cliff – is responsible for the excellent and thorough liner notes telling the story of Linval Thompson and the album itself. It’s a compelling read fitting nicely with this rough and tough dub album.

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A sound system friendly album from Errol Bellot

0001429483_10Yet another long-lost reggae treasure has been dug out by the heroes at Reggae Archive/Bristol Archive Records. This time it’s a lost album from Errol Bellot, sometimes described as one of the best kept secrets on the UK reggae scene with a career spanning some 30 years.

The story starts when the label had an idea of compiling a best of package, but discovered an entire unreleased album Errol Bellot had recorded in collaboration with Jah Bunny from Matumbi and Ras Elroy from Black Slate in the 80s.

They were given full access to the session tapes recorded between 1983 and 1985 and selected 15 vocals, dubs and extended discomixes to which Errol Bellot’s first self-production, The Wicked Them, which is sequenced together with its previously unreleased dub version, and Rootsman, originally released on a scarce 10” in 2006, were added.

The bulk of the tracks on Youthman – The Lost Album have the raw and untamed feel of dubplate mixes with heavy emphasis on the bass line giving the speakers a real Usain Bolt like workout pushing the woofers to the very limit.

A majority of the tunes were recorded on four track and the audio quality is sometimes below par. And same goes for parts of Errol Bellot’s Michael Prophet-influenced singing, which is at times terribly off-key. But most of the material is strong and leans heavily towards conscious and serious roots, with bright gems such as the aforementioned The Wicked Them and the bouncy Rockers.

It’s a mystery why this album was not originally issued in the mid 80s when it was recorded. Maybe it didn’t fit in at the time or maybe it was simply about financing. Good thing is that it has now finally seen the light of day.

Available now on nine track LP or 17 track CD and digital download.

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A prophetical message from the late Matthew McAnuff

1372315112_455667In August last year singer Matthew McAnuff was stabbed to death in Jamaica in what has been described as a small dispute. But apparently the argue went the wrong way and Matthew died. He was only 27 years old, just like many other tragic deaths in the music business – Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jacob Miller, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and many more.

He had only released a handful of singles, among them the excellent digital scorcher If You Want War and the nyabinghi flavored Be Careful. But he had also managed to record material for a full album, and album that is now posthumously put out on Chapter Two Records, formerly known as Makasound.

Matthew McAnuff came from a musical family. His father is Winston McAnuff and his brother, Rashaun “Kush” McAnuff, is a driving force in The Uprising Roots Band. And his father has produced most of the album, which also includes talents such as Style Scott and Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace on drums, Dwight Pickney on guitar and Cedric Myton of The Congos on backing vocals.

Be Careful is a logical choice for an album title and the set collects 13 tracks, of which only two have been previously released. Roots reggae is the formula and a cover version of Hugh Mundell’s ethereal Book of Life is included.

Hugh Mundell and Matthew McAnuff have more in common than a tune. They both had youthful and vibrant voices and both died young. Far too young. They were promising talents with prophetical messages of peace, love and unity. Something much needed in world of segregation, war and antagonism.

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Everton Chambers’ 80s sounding debut album

everton-digiGlobalization is amazing. 80s digital dancehall cult singer Everton Chambers has just released his debut album. On the Swedish underground label Fast Forward Sound, a label that has only released one production prior to Everton Chambers’ brand new twelve track set.

Walk in Peace was recorded in Stockholm, Sweden, with production by Fast Forward Sound, Viktorious and One Away Studios. Apparently Everton Chambers spent about a month on one of the producers’ couch while recording the album.

Thumping and bouncy mid 80s and early 90s sounding riddims lay the foundation for Everton Chambers’ passionate, gospel-flavored, singing style, often reminiscent of the late and great Garnett Silk.

And it actually sounds like a vintage album recorded by using only a Casio keyboard and a Commodore 64. The riddims are simple yet effective and tuff and Everton Chambers’ voice doesn’t have much backing vocals, which adds to the no-frills feeling. The only track that has something resembling to a grand chorus is the dark and roaring They Can’t Run, one of a majority of cultural numbers.

Walk in Peace is available on digital platforms and as a limited to 500 edition LP.

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Foundation rub-a-dub from LA’s Dub Club

foundation-come-again-1A while ago I wrote about two exciting dub releases from LA’s Dub Club, aka producers Tom Chasteen and Tippa Lee. The vocal counterpart has just hit the shelves and it’s even better than the initially released dub albums.

Foundation Come Again collects 20 tracks voiced by 21 Jamaican sound system legends and one newcomer, Natty King. The album is solely based on relicks of a number of immortal and scorching riddims, including gems such as Heavenless and Drum Song, both originally recorded at Studio One in the 60s, and versioned abundantly in the days of early dancehall, when some of the icons on this album had their heydays.

But it’s not only the music that gets a relick, some of the artists reuses lyrics originally sung in the 70s and 80s. Lone Ranger, for example, uses some of the lyrics from his Sat Upon the Rock, and Welton Irie, checks lyrics from his dark and grim Jah Come.

The musicians – especially the riddim section – involved in this project take a relentless taking-no-prisoners-approach to executing the pulsating and thumping riddims into deadly sonic punches. And there are so many highlights on this album I really don’t know where to begin or to end.

You have the ghostly chanting from Dillinger on Around the World, Little Harry’s fiercely aggressive Revolution or Brigadier Jerry & Ranking Joe’s hypnotic head-nodder Meditation Trance. Then there’s 17 other almost equally as great tracks by icons such as Big Youth, Trinity, Jim Brown, the late Ranking Trevor and the sadly under-recorded Tullo T.

Foundation Come Again is definately not your ordinary album of relicks. This one is something else.

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Alborosie makes music with a message

3803683Here’s yet another rave review. This time’s it’s the multi-talented Italian turned Jamaican reggae artist Alborosie’s latest 16 track set Sound the System, on which he plays almost every instrument himself. He’s a do it yourself kind of guy that also writes most of his own material and produces himself.

Vocal duties are however shared with a number of other artists, including Ky-Mani Marley on a remake of Bob Marley’s Zion Train, Italian reggae star Nina Zilli on the jazzy ska flavored Goodbye, sweet singing Kemar on the beautiful There is a Place, Nature on the catchy Warrior and veteran vocal harmony trio The Abyssinians on Give Thanks, a track on which they provide harmonies sang in Amharic, the sacred language of Ethiopia.

Sound the System is Puppa Rosie’s fifth album and has a classic, yet contemporary, sound heavily influenced by early 80’s dancehall in a Sly & Robbie style and fashion. He uses live instruments and analogue recording techniques to achieve his vintage sound which carry plenty of references to eras when Bob Marley, Yellowman, Burning Spear and Barrington Levy ruled the charts.

Alborosie is a virtual virtuoso at writing bubbling and boisterous riddims, catchy melodies and hooks and righteous and rebellious lyrics, but without being preachy or moralizing. His more humorous side can be heard in soundsystem anthems and burial tunes like Who Run the Dance, Shut U Mouth and Rock the Dancehall.

Sound the System is a diverse and passionate reggae cocktail by an artist that knows how to create hit songs with a message.

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Dub Clash more than a tribute set

”He’s immensely talented”. These words are from legendary selector and radio DJ David Rodigan when he described the Italian stallion Alberto D’Ascola aka Alborosie aka Puppa Albo. The parmiggiano lover out of Sicily, now living in Jamaica.

I concur with David Rodigan, especially after listening to Alborosie’s new set Dub Clash, an album where he shows a new side of himself.

This is a unique dub album on several levels. First, it’s been recorded and mixed in Kingston. Not usual for a dub album today. Second, Alborosie has produced and mixed it as well as playing drums, bass, keyboards, guitar and percussion on it. Third, it’s been made with original organic vintage effects, creating an old school feeling without losing its contemporary vibe.

The album includes Alborosie tunes together with riddims I don’t recall him voicing, for example Full Up, Baltimore and Queen of the Minstrel.

There are several Alborosie numbers included, for example versions of No Cocaine, Kingston Town and Global War. However, I miss dubwise excursions of Waan the Herb, Herbalist and Rastafari Anthem.

Dub Clash is dedicated to King Tubby, referred to as Alborosie’s teacher. But this is not merely a tribute set. Alborosie has managed to push the buttons and turn the wheels creating a style for himself that we hopefully haven’t heard the last of.

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Josey Wales is awarded Reggae Legend

Josey Wales – the main rival to Yellowman in the early 80’s – has been awarded a Reggae Legends box set, courtesy of Greensleeves records. This includes four albums – The Outlaw Josey Wales (1983), No Way Better Than Yard (1983), Two Giants Clash (1984) and Undercover Lover (1985).

All albums are nice efforts, but my particular favourites are No Way Better Than Yard, produced by Michael “Pep” Chin, and Undercover Lover, produced by George Phang. These two sets differ a lot from each other though. The first has a more roots oriented vibe, while the latter has pulsating, early digital riddims courtesy of the Taxi Gang.

Two Giants Clash is famous for its great art work by Tony McDermott and because it was a clash between the most acclaimed deejays in the early 80’s. The production is credited to Henry “Junjo” Lawes and is backed by tough riddims from his usual suspects – Roots Radics.

In my opinion, Yellowman won the clash, but Josey Wales proved to be the more consistent of the two and remained popular throughout the 80’s, partly due to his work with King Jammy.

This box set is sold a at bargain price and is easily worth the money. But, as with the Johnny Osbourne box set, it lacks information. No sleeve notes, just credits. It’s a pity for all of us that really thirst for information.

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Too much sugar in Duane Stephenson’s soup

Three years ago Duane Stephenson scored a hit with the beautiful August Town, taken from his solo debut From August Town.

His debut was a 15 track blend of romance and culture on one drop and acoustic riddims. In my view a weak album that didn’t match the quality of his hit song.

Now Duane Stephenson is at it again and his sophomore album Black Gold hit the streets some weeks ago.

Black Gold is made after the same recipe as From August Town – primarily smooth one drop riddims and acoustic ballads. The production is mainly done by Dean Fraser and Duane Stephenson himself. However, two tunes are credited to Christopher Birchill and one to Kemar “Flava” McGregor.

Stay At Home is a combination with Queen Ifrica on the Movie Star riddim. Her energy blends very well with Duane Stephenson’s sincere and intimate singing. Soon as We Rise is also a combination, this time with Garnett Silk’s successor Ras Shiloh. This one is on Kemar “Flava” McGregor’s Classic riddim, a silky riddim with nice horn arrangements.

But Black Gold consists of too many soft ballads. Sure there are some great pop hooks, but also too many pompous arrangements and save the world lyrics.

Duane Stephenson wrote music for Luciano’s edgy United States of Africa, released earlier this year. It shows that Duane Stephenson certainly is able to write music that appeal to listeners that don’t sit around the campfire or hold ligthers in the air at concerts. He should have saved some of Luciano’s tunes for himself. Because this album lacks both edge and energy.

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Absolutely essential from The Uniques

The late and great Keith ”Slim” Smith is one of the many great voices in reggae music and his delicate falsetto was heavily inspired by early American soul and artists such as Curtis Mayfield. Slim Smith recorded several magic tunes up until his way too early death in 1973, only 25 years old.

Slim Smith was a key figure in vocal harmony groups The Techniques and later on in The Uniques, a group that’s been responsible for timeless classic such as My Conversation and People Rock Steady. A part from Slim Smith, the group consisted of Lloyd Charmers and Jimmy Riley, two singers that would later on find fame as solo vocalists and producers.

Several compilations have been dedicated to both Slim Smith himself and to The Uniques. And one would think that yet another would be a waste of both time and money. I beg to differ.

On October 17, Pressure Sounds drops Absolutely Rock Steady, a compilation dedicated to the works of The Uniques.

This is not the first compilation of material from The Uniques on Pressure Sounds. About ten years ago the label issued Watch This Sound.

You might think that many of the tunes appear on both albums, but Pete Holdsworth – project co-ordinator and founder of Pressure Sounds – has managed to find a new set of songs. The duplicates are set to a minimum.

Bunny Lee is the main producer on both albums and many of the tracks on Absolutely Rock Steady have been re-issued during the years, for example on two compilations from Trojan. But that doesn’t really matter.

These tunes have been chosen with great love and devotion. Included are both popular songs alongside some of their less well known ones. And there aren’t hardly any fillers, just great tunes, such as the beautiful Blinded By Love and the much versioned Let Me Go Girl. The compilation also include its answer tune, I’ll Let You Go (Let Me Go Boy) by Dawn Penn.

And – as usual with Pressure Sounds – the packaging is well above par with great sleeve notes and some nice footage.

If you already own several compilations with material from Slim Smith and The Uniques, then this compilation might be superfluous. But if you don’t, Absolutely Rock Steady is a great addition to the record collection. It’s timeless music for fans of soul, pop and reggae.

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