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.
Legendary Jamaican singer Kiddus I, who has a fascinating story, has worked with a number of different producers since he returned to the music scene about ten years ago. It started with Earl “Chinna” Smith and his Inna De Yard project and it has been followed by three studio albums – Green Fa Life, Topsy Turvy World and Take a Trip. All recorded together with European musicians.
Now Kiddus I has a new collaboration. This time with Japan’s Dub Store Records and ten piece outfit Reggaelation Independance.
Kiddus I meets Reggaelation Independance is an EP with five tracks – three vocal cut, one dub version and one instrumental. And all tracks have their own unique character and style. Flying at Knots – also released as single with a shorter version – is tough roots with prominent horns, Wake Up is a funky excursion and Future is a beautiful acoustic jam with nyabinghi drumming.
A delightful EP that shows several sides of this jazzy singer.
Japan’s Dub Store Records has recently reissued Courtney Melody’s album Ninga Mi Ninga, a 12 track album in showcase format where the vocal cuts are directly followed by their dub, or dubstrumental, counterpart.
This is late 80s digital business produced by the late top engineer King Tubby, who opened a new studio in 1985 and around the same time started three labels, of which Firehouse is probably best known.
Ninga Mi Ninga was originally issued on Firehouse and is heavyweight and sparse computerized dancehall. Courtney Melody was at the top of his game around this time and his youthful and enthusiastic style suits the dark and naked productions very well. The lethal title track and the powerful Unite are two prime examples.
Dub Store Records out Japan is one of the world’s premier reissue labels. They have focused largely on ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall and have over the years put out loads of non-commercial and long forgotten gems.
Labels they have worked with include Studio One, Jammy’s, Bunny Wailer’s Solomonic, Derrick Harriott’s Crystal, King Tubby’s Firehouse and many more.
Some of their gems are now available for free download over at Bandcamp. Dub Store has recently put out a brightly shining mini-compilation showcasing their activities. It’s a brief, yet very tasty, overview that leaves you thirsty for more.
Check it below and while you listen you can read this excellent interview with Naoki Lenaga, founder of Dub Store Records.