Soundclashes are a vital part of reggae culture and soundmen around the world always aim to stay ahead of competition by having the toughest dubplates where the artists spits insults and boasts the sound they are singing and chatting for.
On the by Japan’s Dub Store Records’ recently reissued Soundclash Dubplate Style Vol. 1 & 2 this culture and style is highlighted through ten cuts complemented by their dubstrumental version.
The set is produced by the late engineer-turned-producer King Tubby and was originally released in the late 80s. It’s a solid collection of digital soundboy tunes showcasing the essence of reggae and dancehall culture with each track being introduced by hypeman Fuzzy Jones.
Johnny Osbourne delivers the blazing and pulsating Line Up. It’s by far the strongest cut on the album where Johnny Osbourne fuses tough boastful lyrics with a catchy melody. The grim Die Yu Die from Michael Bitas is another gem which will make competition run.
Reggae history right here.
In 2011 premier Japanese reissue label Dub Store released the excellent compilation King Jammy’s Dancehall 1: Digital Revolution 1985-1989. At the time it was only released on CD and now six years later it was put out on LP. But that’s not all. Dub Store has also issued part 2, 3 and 4. Together these collects a whopping 80 tracks – 20 on each volume. If you also count the dub versions that comes with part 1 it adds up to a hefty 95 cuts of digital niceness.
King Jammy was with his Sleng Teng riddim almost solely responsible for the digital revolution in Jamaican music and he and his Jammys label dominated the dancehall scene between 1985 and 1989. During this period he released a vast number of singles, many of which included on these excellent compilations.
All four compilations have a similar digital sound, but lyrically they differ for each volume. Part 2 is more rootsy with killers cuts like Cornell Campbell’s Nothing Come Easy, Dennis Brown’s History and Wailing Souls’ Move on.
Part 3 offers soundboy burials with lethal tracks such as Robert Lee’s Come On, Tonto Irie’s Ram Up Every Corner and Johnny Osbourne’s Chain Robbery.
Part 4 is focused around closed curtains, satin sheets and affairs of the hearts with bouncy cuts like Home T’s If the Rockers Don’t Groove You, Super Black’s One Time Girlfriend and, of course, Gregory Isaacs’ Steal a Little Love.
These compilations showcase dancehall history and is a sound addition to any record collection.
There are loads rare dub albums out there. Many were originally only pressed in a just a few hundred copies. One of those is Errol Brown’s Orthodox Dub. A set recorded and mixed at Treasure Isle studios in Kingston and released only in the U.S in the mid to late 70s.
This obscure and killer set has now been reissued by Dub Store Records. Errol Brown was resident engineer at Treasure Isle at the time when BB Seaton recorded the original vocal versions and then Errol Brown dubbed them with perfection.
This is not dubs of smooth rocksteady. These are tough roots scorchers dubbed with brimstone and fire mashing down the walls of Babylon. Not what one would expect from Errol Brown at Treasure Isle.
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.
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.
Following two epic rocksteady compilations showcasing Derrick Harriott comes a set spotlighting a somewhat lesser known producer – Ken Khouri and his Federal Records.
Ken Khouri was a talented entrepreneur and started in the music business in the mid-50s. He opened the first record manufacturing plant in Jamaica and his studio helped to create ska, rocksteady and reggae.
Ken Khouri is not as well-known as some of his peers – including Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid – but his output was superb as showcased on Merritone Rock Steady 1: Shanty Town Curfew 1966-1967, a set collecting a hefty 21 tracks ranging from frenzied ska to the softer rocksteady.
It features a selection of vocal cuts and instrumentals and some are probably well-known, but most are – at least to this writer – new. And as usual with Japan’s Dub Store Records the audio quality is superb and most of the tracks are sourced from their master tape.
Highlights include two scorching cuts from The Tartans – Dance All Night and What Can I Do. The tracks are quite similar with a frenetic piano setting the tone. When this quartet split up three of the singers – Prince Lincoln Thompson, Cedric Myton and Devon Russell – would pursue international careers as both solo artists and as part of The Royal Rasses and The Congos.
The extensive liner notes feature extracts from extensive interviews with Paul Khouri whose knowledgeable recollections of working with Federal Records, not only as a producer but as an engineer and musician, are enlightening and educational.
The second volume of this superb compilation is released on October 28.
A while ago Japan’s Dub Store Records reissued Two Big Bull In A One Pen, a devastating King Kong and Red Rose combination set produced by King Tubby and originally released via his Firehouse imprint in the mid-80s.
And now comes the reissue of its dub counterpart – Two Big Bull In A One Pen Dubwise. It has previously been available on digital platforms, but is now also widely available on both CD and vinyl.
This is early digital dancehall dubs of the highest caliber where King Tubby’s two young protégés Peego and Fatman turn knob, push buttons and blow fuses. They have deconstructed this classic album into a digital scorcher with no sign of neither Red Rose or King Kong. It’s completely free from vocal snippets.
Instead the musicians are highlighted. Especially the superb guitar work. Listen to the superb deconstructions of Riddle Me This, Don’t Touch Me Choo Choo and Monkey Sample. Excellent stuff.
After reissuing the epic Derrick Harriott’s Rocksteady Party Japan’s Dub Store Records returns with a compilation collecting both stone-cold classics and rare collector’s items from Derrick Harriott’s vaults.
Derrick Harriott Rocksteady 1966-1969 showcases masterpieces such as Derrick Harriott’s own Do I Worry, Keith & Tex’ Stop That Train and Tonight alongside beautiful instrumentals like Ike Bennett & The Crystalites’ Illya Kuryankin and Bobby Ellis’ Step Softly. The selection also features three obscure cuts from Junior Soul, who would later score a hit with Police & Thieves as Junior Murvin.
Derrick Harriott is one of the forerunners in Jamaican music and started his career as a singer in the late 50s and would soon find fame as part of the Jiving Juniors. Later he turned to production and his recordings have always been crisp and elegant.
This stellar compilation collects timeless, melodious and stylish rocksteady produced by one of Jamaica’s many musical giants.
The Wailers is mainly synonymous with Bob Marley since he used the name for his backing band, but initially it was a trio comprising founding members Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh are by far the most widely known and their musical legacy have been collected and reissued countless of times in an almost endless stream of different packaging. With Bunny Wailer however there’s a slightly different story.
He has always seemed if not shy, but reluctant to the spotlight. His music has done most of the talking so to say. But an important part of his musical legacy has been hard – and expensive – to find. His major label releases – including his classic and complex debut album Blackheart Man – have been rather easy to lay hands on, but his singles on his own imprint Solomonic didn’t have proper distribution and were mostly released only in Jamaica.
They are every bit as great as the Blackheart Man album and has now been collected on two soon to be classic compilations titled Tread Along 1969-1976 and Rise & Shine 1977-1986. Both are put out by Dub Store Records, a label that started working with Bunny Wailer – the last surviving member of The Wailers – in 2010. They have prior to these two beautiful sets reissued a selection of his earliest recordings for the Solomonic label. Now they have taken another step forward together putting out these timeless and often political, educational and spiritual recordings.
The albums together collect a hefty 29 cuts with a large number of masterpieces included, and when listening to both sets after one another one can follow how Bunny Wailer developed both his song writing and vocal style. It’s a fascinating, laidback journey where Bunny Wailer fights against Babylonian wrongdoings with music and lyrics as his weapons.
The Wailers importance in reggae and popular music can’t be overstated and if Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were roaring advocates for unity, equality and the legislation of marijuana – maybe Peter more than Bob though – Bunny Wailer has always been quietly ferocious with apocalyptic messages and a mystical and transcendental sonic landscape. And many of these marvellous songs – classics, long lost gems, dub versions and instrumentals – are now finally readily available.
The latest release in Dub Store Records’ unusually jam-packed release schedule is an unorthodox and fascinating one. A Psalm of Praises To the Most High by Sons of Negus Churchical Host is a collection of singles released between 1967 and 1972.
The outfit was led by Ras Michael – who in the mid-70s scored a hit with the enchanting None A Jah Jah Children – and this devout Rastafarian started playing at occasional recording sessions at Studio One in the mid-60s. But he didn’t want money for his work – he requested studio time. And these cuts are the outcome of those sessions.
Ras Michael has to date put out around 20 albums and he has never followed fashion. He has always gone his own way. And that is definitely showcased on this album, which collects highly unconventional music, recorded at a time when beautiful rocksteady ruled Jamaican charts.
This is far from rocksteady or even roots reggae. It’s not the psychedelic nyabinghi that was featured on Ras Michael’s debut album Peace & Love, which was credited to Dadawah, or the more traditional and more melodious Rastafari.
The 15 tracks collected here are devotional Rastafarian hymns recorded mostly without amplifiers. Praises to the most high never before released outside Jamaica. Highlights include album opener Run Come Rally, with its haunting female backing vocals, and the organ led instrumental Zion We Want To Go.
This album sheds light on the music and the people that laid the foundation for roots reggae.