From Japan’s eminent Dub Store Records comes another epic rocksteady compilation and yet again it shines light on Jamaica’s Federal Records and producer Ken Khouri.
Merritone Rock Steady 2: This Music Got Soul 1966-1967 collects a hefty 21 cuts including novelties such as The Federal All Stars’ Merritone False Starts 2 and a rehearsal version of Lynn Taitt & The Jets’ version of the Batman theme.
But the real gems on this superb and sweet set are the vocal groups and their beautiful, yet sometimes a little rough around the edges, three-part harmonizing. Check for example The Tartans’ catchy Rolling Rolling, with its intense keys, or The Zodiacs’ Walk On By, with its lingering guitar and strong chorus.
60 minutes of early rocksteady. It’s the birth of reggae music.
Following two lengthy EPs – Heavy This Year in 2013 and Diskodub in 2014 – come Taiwan MC’s debut album Cool & Deadly, an eleven track set produced by Chinese Man Records flirting with reggae, dancehall, dubstep, ska and, in particular, hip-hop.
The first five cuts are superb and Taiwan MC, together with a number of collaborators, spit lyrics over fierce hip-hop-fused reggae beats. The infectious Your Lovin’ – featuring the honey-voiced Anouk Aita – and the tongue twisting Dem a Wonder are particularly tasty.
From there on the album gets more diverse with Taiwan MC exploring other styles with great result. Bubblin’, also with Anouk Raita on vocals, comes with nice tempo-changes, Wobble Ballad kicks in a brutally wobbling bass line complemented by blazing horns and a lonesome trumpet, and the bouncy and Major Lazer-influenced Catalina, the first single off the album. This cut could put any dancefloor on fire.
Entertaining, creative and innovative. This album never gets boring or dull.
Yabby You’s dub album Beware has been unavailable for about 25 years, but has thanks to Pressure Sounds been restored and reissued complete with no less than six superb bonus cuts.
Beware – which collects version sides from various singles – was originally released in 1978 and reissued in 1981 and 1991. The new version is greatly expanded with two fascinating and previously unreleased dubplate cuts, one is the eerie Conquering Lion, which is even more dread in its dubplate disguise, and the other one God is Watching You. This version is haunting with deep harmonies and nyabinghi drumming.
Other stellar cuts include Tommy McCook’s beautiful Sensimena and the powerful Peace with its smattering percussion, relentless bass line and bright saxophone.
King Tubby and Prince Jammy handled mixing duties and as expected it’s clever and innovative spotlighting the bass and drums, yet highlighting other prominent instruments, such as horns and keys.
A key dub album that still sounds powerful.
On Anthony Red Rose’s debut solo album Red Rose Will Make You Dance he teamed up with legendary engineer-turned-producer King Tubby. This set was originally released in 1986 and collects ten early computerized cuts, tracks recorded at the dawn of the digital era, a time when King Jammy sat comfortably on the throne thanks to his game-changing Under Me Sleng Teng.
But King Tubby came right back at him with the insanely lethal Tempo, a cut that also has been versioned and re-licked time after time after time. This scorcher is included on Red Rose Will Make You Dance and is by itself a reason to invest in an album that was something of a blueprint for King Tubby’s Firehouse style.
French singjay Jr Yellam has grown up. A few years ago he dropped Jr and now he has put out his second album The Musical Train, a set preceded by the EP Get On Board, which was released about a year ago and featured the massive Rub a Dub Anthem on Irie Ites’ Diamonds riddim.
The Musical Train is not eclectic, but slightly diverse with influences from soul, hip-hop and blues. The majority of the cuts are however strictly late 70s and early 80s rub a dub with the mighty Roots Radics providing the lethal riddims. France’s Irie Ites are behind the controls together with London-based mixing engineer Calvin “So So” Francis.
Many of these early dancehall anthems are bona-fide scorchers benefitting from the rock-solid backing and the dense sonic landscape that has been carefully created.
The Trinity and U Brown combination Try is pure fire and so is the infectious album opener Galong, which was also released as a single about two years ago. Heaven’s Door is a sentimental story and something of a tribute to the late ace drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott, who was an integral part of Roots Radics. He was found dead – probably murdered – at his home the day after Yellam returned to France.
Yellam has matured musically and stylistically and to further grow he needs to work on his English and improve pronunciation.
In 2014 Jah9 introduced new vibes to the contemporary Jamaican reggae scene. Her widely acclaimed debut album New Name was produced by Rory Gilligan from Stone Love and she was a fresh voice with an unusual sounding album. It was jazzy, soulful and slightly psychedelic with free-spirited consciousness.
On her new album 9 – the follow-up to New Name – she has collaborated with a bunch of new names. She is however the main producer of this thought-provoking set, but with help from Andrew Campbell, Bregt “Puraman” De Boever, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Akae Beka aka Vaughn Benjamin, Tippy I from I Grade Records and Zion I Kings and Franklyn Irving.
9 mm Vol. 2: Pre-Album Groundings was a mixtape that preceded 9. It was a blazing set that boded very well for the full-length. And 9 actually fulfills high expectations. 9 is the natural follow-up to New Name. Jah9 has carefully crafted this hypnotic and challenging album – check the nine-minute-long spiritual journey In the Spirit – and it balances consciousness and intellect with peace, love and unity.
With this album Jah9 continues to push musical and lyrical boundaries and it will be a journey to follow her future career.
Highly popular French band Dub Inc. is the epitome of an independent band. They produce their own albums and they record their own material at their own studio.
On their recently released sixth studio album So What they continue in the same vein as before. Two vocalists trading places in front of the microphone singing socio-political lyrics in at least three different languages over explosive beats and rhythms.
So What is jam-packed with energy and it is no wonder why Dub Inc. is described as a superb live act. Their fusion of rock and roots reggae sounds custom-made for major festivals and larger arenas.
On So What their take on reggae is fused with Latin, the title track, Middle Eastern influences, Maché bécif, dancehall, Fêlés, and hip-hop, the Naâman combination Don’t Be A Victim.
Best of the bunch is however the pounding No Matter Where You Come From with its bulldozing bass line and blazing horn blasts.
Their career is now spanning almost two decades and with So What they show no signs of slowing down.
Ska, rocksteady and reggae have since their earliest days been heavily influenced by U.S. R&B, jazz, soul and funk, which has been showcased on several albums and compilations over the years.
And a fresh set from Japan’s Dub Store Records spotlights these influences again. On Reggae, Funk & Soul 1969-1975 20 gems produced by singer-turned-producer Derrick Harriott are highlighted. It’s a tasty mix of originals and cover versions, both instrumental and vocal cuts played and sung by some of Jamaica’s finest talents, including I Roy, Karl Bryan, Junior Murvin as well as Derrick Harriott himself along with his house band The Crystalites.
Derrick Harriott interprets both the music of American black consciousness as well as romance and affairs of the hearts. There’s also room for a few novelty tunes inspired by spaghetti westerns and composers like Sergio Leone.
It’s a diverse and sophisticated collection with superb cuts like Chosen Few’s version of Billy Paul’s Am I Black Enough For You, Bongo Herman’s Hail I, Crystal Generation’s funky, and slightly psychedelic, Hell Below, and The Kingstonians’ beautiful Right From Wrong, the only cut that’s previously unreleased.
File next to superb compilations like Darker Than Blue: Soul From Jamdown 1973-1980 and Studio One Soul 1 & 2.
In early 2017 legendary Jamaican roots singer Pablo Moses is expected to drop his first new studio album in seven years. And to increase interest in this singer a new best of album has recently been put out.
The Revolutionary Years 1975-1983 includes three cuts each from Pablo Moses’ first four albums Revolutionary Dream (1975), A Song (1980), Pave the Way (1981) and In the Future (1983). The first two albums are bona-fide masterpieces, but the quality drops slightly from there on.
Pablo Moses has a unique voice. It’s peaceful, high and cool and clashes nicely with his revolutionary and conscious words. The production on his first three albums were handled by Geoffrey Chung and his style is – much like Pablo Moses singing – slick and cool as ice.
There is hardly a dull moment on this disc. Yet I wonder why hit songs like I Man a Grasshopper and We Should Be in Angola – taken from his debut album – are not included. An oddity like the title track from In the Future could also have been left out.
But a cut like the militant Ready, Aim, Fire, or beautiful songs like Sister and A Song, certainly make up for those minor flaws. Get ready to (re)-discover Pablo Moses.
Forward-thinking Scottish outfit Mungo’s Hi Fi has put out their first compilation featuring some of the key musicians and producers that have influenced them. And it’s a bass heavy bunch of people working out of Europe.
Puffer’s Choice comes with material that has previously appeared on singles along with in-demand dubplates played in dances and a few brand new cuts.
Prince Fatty kicks things off with a chilling and atmospheric version of Kraftwerk’s The Model – with an uncredited vocalist sounding a lot like Hollie Cook – and from then and there it’s a ground-shaking journey with wobbling bass lines, smattering drums and lethal chatting from Danny T, Parly B, Solo Banton, Daddy Freddy, Macka B and Mr. Williamz along with a few more.
A flavorful compilation for those aiming to annoy neighbors.