After the release of Capital Letters’ seminal Wolverhampton – their first album in 30 years – comes its dub companion Wolverhampton in Dub, a 17 track set – including three alternate versions – mixed by Dave “Oldwah” Sandford.
Wolverhampton received several positive reviews and Dave Sandford got a free card when mixing this new album, so the set comes with extra everything and he doesn’t pull any breaks when it comes to adding audio effects and sonic wizardry.
And dub is a great genre for such sonic adventures since there are no rules, no norms and no manuals. When Dave Sandford strips the song and handles the mixing desk details get major exposure and minor elements suddenly play a key part.
However, Wolverhampton in Dub is not an experimental dub album. It has the usual deep and heavy bass and drums along with several secondary instruments playing an integral part of the music. The keys on Wolf are one example, and the bass on Roots Music sounds like it has been in and out of the tumble dryer.
With its 17 cuts Wolverhampton in Dub provides you with a truckload of dub for your money.
In 2013 legendary UK reggae band Capital Letters got back together after an about 30 year long hiatus. They have since recorded a new album – Wolverhampton – released earlier this year. But their earlier material has also been reissued. Reality – an effort collecting 15 tracks originally recorded in 1985 – dropped in 2014 and their debut album Headline News has also been made available again.
Now it’s time for yet another reissue. Vinyard is Capital Letters’ second album and it was recorded and released in small quantities and with poor distribution in 1982. The new edition collects the original ten tracks along with unreleased material taken from the Headline News sessions and a few live studio recordings.
Capital Letters formed in 1972 and is probably best known for their raw and lyrically controversial single Smoking My Ganja and the band was among the first wave of talented reggae acts to emerge in the UK during the mid-to-late 70s. These bands absorbed the sounds of Jamaica and created their own take on reggae. Many of these acts strived for social change singing about the society around them, which was often marked by violence, racism and social inequality.
Vinyard is a prime example of UK roots with its many reality tales and Capital Letters deal with false politicians, unemployment and struggle set to tough drum and bass along with a pumping organ.
This album is rawer than its predecessor and it captures the sound of early UK roots nicely. The CD version comes with in-depth sleeve notes by renowned reggae writer John Masouri and you can read why Capital Letters have renamed Helsinki to Hell Sink I.
UK’s Reggae Archive Records has done it once again – released a previously unissued album of a band among the many unsung heroes of reggae music. Last year they dropped Capital Letters‘ Reality and now they have released a “new” album from Black Symbol, a set that collects singles, compilation cuts from the two volumes of Handsworth Explosion and unreleased material from the early 80s. This is an album that does their music justice and place them among other reggae greats from the UK.
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to this self-titled set is whether this is Burning Spear or not. Vocalist and founding member Fatman, who is just like Burning Spear from St Ann’s in Jamaica, has a similar vocal style and the music itself is just as haunting, political and spiritual as the material The Spear turned out in the 70s.
This is roots reggae at its best and Black Symbol doesn’t sound like any other reggae band from the UK. They were darker, slower and more uncompromising always being conscious and cultural often with religious and radical themes.
The CD version comes with 16 tracks, of which four are versions, while the double vinyl collects twelve tracks. Both do however contain sleeve notes based on interviews with original band members Fatman, Blobbo and Rhino plus archive photos provided by bandleader Fatman.
Black Symbol didn’t put out much under their own name back in the days, but they did much for the local reggae scene in Birmingham because of the two self-financed volumes of Handsworth Explosion. Hopefully this solid collection of confident and faithful roots will provide them with new fans and followers from the UK and beyond.
UK reggae legends Capital Letters reformed in 2013 and it hasn’t taken them much long to get back in the business and they have already announced a number of live dates in 2015.
Last year Reggae Archive Records released a set titled Reality, an effort collecting 15 tracks originally recorded in 1985, but not out until last year. And now they have a brand new set on Reggae Archive Records’ sister label Sugar Shack Records to share with their audiences around the world.
Wolverhampton is the first all new Capital Letters album in 30 years. It has been preceded by the rootsy single Wolf, which was – just like all other cuts – recorded together with former Taxi Gang and Maytals keyboard player Noel Browne. He has previously worked with artists like Luciano, Freddie McGregor, The Wailing Souls and Papa San.
This set is mainly roots themed and it kicks off in fine style with no less than three hard hitting roots gems in a row. But even though Wolverhampton revolves around politics and conscious messages the music is often upbeat with memorable melodies. Capital Letters also manage to throw in a number of more heartfelt tunes. The title track is one such and Jamaica and Movie Star are two others.
A number of UK reggae bands from the 70s and 80s have recently reformed and most of them have presented solid sets after leaving the music industry for many, many years. Wolverhampton is one such effort and it doesn’t sound like Capital Letters have been away for 30 years.
A while back the crew at UK’s Reggae Archive Records headed from Bristol to Wolverhampton to meet Capital Letters’ bass player JB. When they headed south again they brought with them tapes and a scrapbook with photos and press clippings from Capital Letters’ short career in the late 70s and early 80s.
Capital Letters only released one album – the acclaimed Headline News in 1979. They also dropped a number of successful singles, and they’re probably best known for the marijuana anthem Smoking My Ganja.
Could the treasure found in JB’s house be a second album from Capital Letters? Yes, but the original tapes were unusable. But that didn’t stop Reggae Archive Records. Instead of shelving the tapes they gave the unmixed recordings to producer and mixing engineer Dave “Oldwah” Sandford.
Reality is the result. It’s a brand new, yet vintage, 14 track Capital Letters album from 1985, the year when everything was recorded. Five of the tracks are the band’s original 1985 mixes, one track is a live recording and the other eight are newly mixed from the original session tapes.
Among the 14 tracks are several dub versions and another mix to their hit song Smoking My Ganja. The album is mostly up-tempo in a punchy, almost ska-driven, style. Check the skanking This is Club Dance or Cocaine.
It also no less than four versions of the title track – the original vocal and the original dub as well as Sandford’s vocals and dub.
Not as great as the band’s rootsier debut album, but it’s nonetheless nice to hear previously unreleased vintage British reggae.