A new 15 track compilation from Dub Store Records spotlights one of the giants on the Jamaican music scene – Winston Riley. He’s probably best known for producing Sister Nancy’s groundbreaking single Bam Bam, originally released in the early 80s, or Dave and Ansell Collins’ funky Double Barrell, a cut that probed its way into the UK national pop charts in May, 1971.
But Winston Riley was active way before the 80s and he started in the music industry as a singer as early as 1962 when he formed The Techniques, one of Jamaica’s finest vocal groups. Two years later he and his group scored a hit song with the excellent Little Did You Know.
But when the rhythm changed from ska and rock steady to reggae Winston Riley turned to production and formed his own Techniques label, a label that put out a whole heap of quality releases, as showcased on the mighty fine compilation Winston Riley’s Rock Steady & Early Reggae 1968-1969 – The Techniques & Friends.
In Jamaica in the 60s vocal groups was the order of the day. And this becomes obvious when checking the track list of this album. Only one track is credited to a solo singer. Dave Barker in this case. But he’s featured on other cuts as well since he was also part of The Techniques ever-changing line-up, a line-up that over a few years also included talents such as Winston Riley, Slim Smith, Pat Kelly, Lloyd Parks and Bruce Ruffin. All of them continued to pursue successful solo careers as singers, producers and engineers.
The period covered on the compilation is one of the best in Jamaica’s musical history. It’s upbeat with beautiful singing and harmonizing. And the influence from U.S. soul is deep-rooted.
UK label Maximum Sound – run by producer Frenchie – has recently dropped a new compilation featuring a hefty 19 cuts originally released between 2014 and 2016. And it’s a no fillers, only killers, kind of compilation with an impressive line-up, including veterans a newcomers like Ninjaman, Samory-I, Morgan Heritage and Tarrus Riley.
Maximum Sound 2016 collects five different riddims along with a single and a few remixes. Best of the bunch is – with fierce competition – Ras Demo’s tongue twisting Sekkle Up the Score on the Armour riddim. Please don’t try this one at the local karaoke night.
Other highlights include Christopher Martin’s sweet London Queen on the Blueberry Haze riddim, Samory-I’s passionate Ride On on the recently released Royal Step riddim and Masicka’s furious The Youths on Clash of the Titans riddim.
As usual when it comes to Maximum Sound – everything is produced with care and affection. Give it a listen.
Reggae and dancehall powerhouse VP Records continue their Reggae Anthology series with an excellent overview of King Jammy and his productions.
King Jammy – initially Prince Jammy but crowned after a sound system dance in 1985 – is one of Jamaica’s most successful and influential producers and mixing engineers responsible for several game-changers, including Wayne Smith’s massive hit Under Me Sleng Teng, which has since its release in 1985 been versioned a thousand times.
The new compilation Roots, Reality and Sleng Teng collects both culture and entertainment and is a comprehensive collection covering King Jammy’s productions throughout the various styles and eras of reggae, including the biblical messages of dread 70s roots to boastful early dancehall and ragga.
Collected are several well-known cuts, for example Johnny Osbourne’s Water Pumping, Junior Reid’s Boom-Shack-a-Lack, Half Pint’s Money Man Skank, Chaka Demus’ Original Kuff and Pinchers’ Bandelero.
But there are also a number of rare items to found. Check for example the 12” mix of Black Uhuru’s Bad Girl with deejaying from Scorcher & Nicodemus or The Fantells’ – previously known as Beltones – eerie, yet beautiful, Where You Gonna Run. Several of these rare cuts are also available on the vinyl release of this crucial anthology.
The three discs – including the DVD documentary King at the Controls – shows King Jammy’s range and diversity as a producer as well as his unique talent for keeping up with the times and driving the music forward.
Five years ago Austria’s leading reggae and dancehall label Irievibrations Records dropped their first compilation – Still One Drop. It collected some of their finest work between 2003 and 2009, including Burro Banton’s superb up-tempo ska scorcher Run the Streets Red and Delus & Konshens’, aka Sojah, ganja anthem So High.
Since that album the label has put out a number of highly acclaimed albums and singles. Both Luciano’s Rub a Dub Market and Anthony B’s Freedom Fighter have been hailed as some of their best work in recent years. And one of Konshens’ latest singles – My Journey – certainly promises well for his announced upcoming second album.
Solid Foundation is the second compilation from Irievibrations and it showcases some of their best tunes over the past five years. The musical spectrum is broad and its title is a telling one. You have the usual well-produced European one drop, like Luciano’s Rub a Dub Market or Denham Smith’s Ordinary Man, but also bouncy and grim dancehall, as on Anthony B & Konshens’ Beat Dem Bad.
It also collects one or two surprises. Particularly Junior Kelly’s Mile in My Shoes, which is a certified northern soul stomper. Had no idea Junior Kelly would fit on a furious 60s soul beat. But he definitely does.
Irievibrations has been dropping solid music for about ten years and put out over 80 releases from local and international artists. This compilation shows their trademark and genuine sound and I’m looking forward to at least ten more years.
Reggae powerhouse VP Records follows up on their Jammys From the Roots compilation released four years ago.
More Jammys From the Roots is a confusing title, since it hints that it’s a roots reggae compilation. But it’s not. This new edition takes on where the firstleft off – in the mid 80s when computerized reggae was the order of the day and when Wayne Smith’s game changing Under Me Sleng Teng was on everyone’s lips.
This 32 track set spotlights King Jammy’s mid to late 80s productions and includes lots of fine riddims, both vintage and fresh ones, for example Stalag, Real Rock, Run Down the World and Satta Massagana.
Featured vocalists include both legends and forgotten ones ranging from Junior Murvin, Dennis Brown, Johnny Osbourne and Sugar Minott to King Everald, Super Black and Prince Junior.
Several tracks on these two discs are made available for the first time on CD and digital download. A delight since many of the tunes are heavily sough-after today, and digital reggae on vinyl from this period also fetch ridiculously high prices on eBay and other outlets.
King Jammy managed to revolutionize the sound of reggae in the 80s and if you already have compilations like King at the Controls or the eight disc set Selector’s Choice Vol. 1-4 you’ll know this. But if not, More Jammys From the Roots is a proper introduction to early digital reggae King Jammy style.
It’s not often contemporary reggae albums gets reissued, but reggae powerhouse VP/Greensleeves have recently re-released Alborosie & Specialist’s duets album, a 24 track set originally issued in 2010 in a limited edition.
The album is produced by Alborosie and his collaborator Clifton “Specialist” Dillion, the renowned producer and manager behind 90s dancehall stars like Patra, Shabba Ranks and Mad Cobra.
Alborosie rose to prominence in 2007 with his Kingston Town, later followed by a string of hits, including Herbalist and Rastafari Anthem. He’s probably the most successful European reggae artist ever, and for a number of years he has been a Jamaican citizen living in Kingston, Jamaica.
This singer, songwriter, mixing engineer, producer and multi-instrumentalist is well-respected within the reggae community, as shown on this duets album. Plenty of reggae stars take turns on the microphone with Alborosie – Mykal Rose, Sizzla, David Hinds from Steel Pulse, Luciano, Ranking Joe, Jah Cure, Etana, Lady Ann and Busy Signal can be heard on this excellent album.
The material on this double disc was recorded between 2008 and 2010, and several of the cuts have been hard to find. But luckily this sizzling and highlight-packed album has now been made available again with more aggressive distribution.
A new flagship compilation from UK-based producer Frenchie and his Maximum Sound label collects a whopping 18 tracks across six different riddims released over the past 18 months or so along with two exclusive bonus cuts – one from rising star Masicka and one from incarcerated dancehall don Vybz Kartel.
And a bunch of veteran and rising vocalists take turns on the microphone. Included are Maximum Sound regulars like Luciano, Tarrus Riley, Anthony B and Mr. Vegas, but also several up and coming talents, for example Loyal Flames, Jesse Royal, Randy Valentine, Dre Island and Exco Levi. As usual when dealing with tunes coming from the mighty Maximum Sound all singers are on top of their game.
Konshens and Romain Virgo are inspired on the up-tempo We No Worry Bout’ Them, and so is Randy Valentine on his smooth Victory and Loyal Flames on his dread Go Hard.
But you really can’t go wrong with any of the tracks on this compilation. It captures the essence of the contemporary reggae and dancehall scene with a little something for everyone, whether you are a roots aficionado, a dancehall connoisseur, a rocksteady enthusiast or just want to have a little bit of fun on the dance floor.
A few years ago I cried on Twitter about the need for a thorough Augustus “Gussie” Clarke anthology, and maybe someone heard my plea, because reggae powerhouse VP’s vintage imprint 17 North Parade can proudly present Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks.
This double disc features the original eleven track album of the same name complemented by no less than 29 more songs, including unreleased material from the same period, i.e. mid 70s. The set collects instrumentals, dub versions and vocal cuts from a plethora of talented singers and deejays, for example Leroy Sibbles, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy, Jacob Miller, Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, I Roy and Mikey Dread.
Augustus Clarke was born in 1954 and was only in his late teens when he started in the music industry. He was only 19 years old when he cut the original and exceptional debut albums Screaming Target (Big Youth) and Presenting I Roy (I Roy). He was one of the first so called rebel producers and has always managed to break new ground – check the use of violin on I Roy’s classical Black Man Time or Simplicity People’s K.G.’s Halfway Tree – and stay one step ahead of the current scene.
The sounds collected on these two discs are at times uplifting and joyous, but also haunting, ethereal and eerie. Augustus Clarke certainly had a great ear for arrangements and moods.
He has had an extremely successful career and today he’s one of the biggest music publishers in Jamaica, working largely behind the scenes. And Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks only tells one side of his career. In the 80s he scored a massive hit with Mighty Diamonds’ Pass the Kouchie and re-invented reggae with Gregory Isaacs’ monster smash Rumours. But that’s two other stories, and hopefully two more anthologies.
Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks is available as double disc CD (with excellent liner notes by Harry Wise), single LP and digital download.
SoulJazz – a premier reissue label from the UK – have for the past ten years or so put out about 30 albums focusing on one of Jamaica’s most well-known and influential producers – Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and his various labels.
The latest instalment – Studio One Dancehall – Sir Coxsone in the Dance: The Foundation Sound – is SoulJazz’ first reissue from the mighty vaults of Coxsone Dodd to focus solely on dancehall.
When dancehall started to emerge at the dawn of the 70s Coxsone Dodd noticed that several of the young and upcoming producers had their artists performing over re-played classic Studio One riddims. Naturally he also wanted a piece of the pie and brought forward emerging artists to record over his own riddims. The success was instant with acclaimed albums and singles from Freddie McGregor, Johnny Osbourne, Lone Ranger and Sugar Minott, just to name a few.
And this new compilation focuses on that period, a period when Coxsone had singers and deejays riding classic Studio One riddims originally recorded in the 60s. It explores dancehall from a Studio One perspective, which is something rather different from, say, Junjo Lawes slick and polished productions.
Studio One Dancehall has the usual full, warm and organic sound, and it’s far from polished. It’s rough and raw, but at the same time innovative and creative. Lots of rare cuts, some in their extended version, are included – Green Tea & Chassy’s Getto Girl, Field Marshall Haye’s Roots and Herb Style, DJ Dawn & The Ranking Queens’ Peace Truce Thing and Brentford Disco Set’s Rebel Disco, are a few that at least I haven’t come across before.
This is yet another successful release from the SoulJazz camp and it comes as CD, digital download and triple LP.
A new compilation from reggae powerhouse VP Records celebrates the kinship and inspiration that Africa has given reggae music.
Some of the industry’s greatest voices and biggest artists pay tribute on Reggae Loves Africa, a twelve track collection including classic cuts with themes of liberation and repatriation sung by the likes of Buju Banton, Warrior King, Queen Ifrica, Luciano, Freddie McGregor, Beres Hammond, Dennis Brown and Tarrus Riley.
Reggae Loves Africa presents Africa’s history and its modern day struggles. It’s conscious reggae with messages of upliftment and hope. It drops in the UK on July 14 and the rest of Europe on July 20, not including France though, where fans have to wait until August 25.