About ten years ago Heartbeat issued a compilation with B-sides taken from Studio One singles. That compilation has been deleted for many years, but has now been reissued by Studio One and Yep Roc Records.
Version Dread comes with a hefty 18 B-sides of rare Studio One singles, and includes versions of classic cuts by the likes of Wailing Souls, Abyssinians and Burning Spear. Also included are two extended mixes – Never Give Version by Carlton and the Shoes and a rare mix of Ernest Ranglin’s Surfing. Neither of these songs were featured on the original LP.
These tracks are in some cases little more than glorious instrumentals of reggae staples and the music is presented with vocals dropping in and out of the mix. But the mixing engineers – label head Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and Sylvan Morris – have added none or very little effects. The music is what you get. Check excellent cuts like Please Be True Version, a cut of Alexander Henry’s original, or The Brentford Rockers’ version of Cornell Campbell’s Natty Don’t Go.
To call these cuts just versions doesn’t really give them credit for their greatness. These tracks are sublime and timeless instrumentals.
After eight years only releasing 7 inches Swiss roots label Darker Shades of Roots finally put out an album – Red Foot & The Shades’ Children’s Prayer. It was released during the first quarter this year and comes with 12 tracks with a highly individual and unique roots sound, a sound somewhat influenced by Augustus Pablo’s ethereal and mystic sonic landscapes.
Children’s Prayer includes dub poetry spoken by Red Foot, a vocal track featuring Ras Ico on lead and several melodica and organ led instrumentals.
And the standout cuts are the instrumentals, especially Ladder Builder, the hymn-like Cold Rain And Snow and Samson Ki Malaa Pe, an organ adaption of Pakistani singer and musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s song of the same name.
Children’s Prayer is a dreamy, emotional and soothing masterpiece recorded and mixed with analogue equipment and powered by devout musical and spiritual perspectives.
Up until the mid-70s supreme producer Clement ”Coxsone” Dodd had been ruling the Jamaican music scene for almost two decades and had only been challenged by Duke Reid. But the musical landscape was changing and he was increasingly challenged by producers like Bunny Lee, Joe Gibbs, Niney and a host of others.
And in the late 70s dancehall emerged and producers along with singers and deejays were increasingly starting to utilize and re-lick foundation riddims, especially from Studio One. Coxsone wanted, and needed, to be part of this new music and started to update his old riddims as well as creating new ones.
He continued to work with several veteran and returning artists like Alton Ellis, Horace Andy and Johnny Osbourne as well as turning to new and upcoming talents such as Lone Ranger, Sugar Minott and deejay duo Michigan & Smiley.
He updated his signature sound and managed to adapt new musical fashions and continued to stay relevant in the ever-changing Jamaican music industry. This is showcased on Soul Jazz Records’ latest Studio One compilation Studio One Supreme – Maximum 70s And 80s Early Dancehall Sounds, which comes with classics and lesser-known gems from some of Jamaica’s finest artists.
Standout cuts include Johnny Osbourne’s soulful album opener Keep That Light, Michigan & Smiley’s Compliment To Studio One, The Gladiators’ Happy Man and Lone Ranger’s Quarter Pound of Ishen, all presented in glorious discomix versions.
With the help of creative musical and technological developments of the 70s – syndrums, synthesizers, discomixes and more – Coxsone Dodd re-invented his organic sound for a new generation of reggae fans.
In 1976 Lee Perry dropped one of the best dub albums ever recorded – Super Ape. Now 41 years after its original release, and when Lee Perry is 81 years old, he has joined forces with New York City’s Subatomic Sound System to re-record the album using today’s technology.
It’s a bold move to try and improve a masterpiece, but the result is stunning. Super Ape Returns To Conquer is true to the original sound with its dense and steamy tropical sonic landscape. But at the same time it has more punch thanks to influences from electronic music, dubstep and hip-hop. It has superb horns and pounding percussion along with booming bass, blasting beats and blazing energy.
Lee Perry’s idiosyncratic vocals is present throughout the album, but a number of guest vocalists also turn up – Jahdan Blakkamoore, Screechy Dan and the late Ari-Up from punk rock band The Slits. Dub music has however never been about vocals. It’s about atmosphere and mixing and the ability to create something new by using something already recorded.
Or as Emch from Subatomic Sound System describes the recording process – “We didn’t create the album like it was being re-recorded today with current technology. We imagined we went back in a time machine to 1976 and brought Lee Perry the tools he needed to create an album he envisioned that would sound like it was 40 years in the future, so that today’s listeners can recognize that in 1976 it was in fact 40 years ahead of its time.”
A classic album for a new generation of dub fans.
French beatmakers and reggae-heads L’Entourloop is back with a brand-new set following their stunning debut album Chickens in Your Town released two years ago.
The overall recipe this time is the same – mixing reggae and dancehall with boom rap. They have cultivated a unique, bass-boosted and urban sound using musical textures from a broad variety of genres.
The intense and colorful sonic landscape on Le savoir faire is also spiced with drum & bass, 60s pop and swing jazz. Yes, you read it right. Swing. Check for example Boomblast, Soundbwoy and Mississippi Sleng.
To create the album they have invited more than 15 different vocalists, including Blackout JA, Skarra Mucci, Troy Berkley, Marina P, Soom T, Ras Demo and Tippa Irie. And these are some epic performances. Listen to Soom T’s fierce delivery on Fonk Monk, N’Zeng’s blazing horn on the title track or Ruffian Rugged’s tongue twisting techniques on Le tour the force, a cut where four different vocalists trade verses over a bouncy beat filled with sound system sonic gimmicks.
With Le savoir faire L’Entourloop has created a playful and clever album taking the very best from reggae, dancehall and hip-hop. A bona-fide head-nodder with absolutely zero dull moments.
Jamaican singjay Ras Zacharri, who is the nephew of Buju Banton, returns with a brand new album five years after its predecessor Rootstep.
On Love Over Hate Ras Zacharri join forces with French band My Name Is Band, aka MNIB, and together they have crafted an excellent modern roots album with live instrumentation and versions of classic riddims.
The set was recorded between Jamaica and France and has taken about four years to complete. But it was well worth the wait.
Ras Zacharri dropped his first single in 2000 as DJ Bogle in reference to his given name Bogle Broadie. The single didn’t make much impact and some years after he was picked up by Nick Manasseh and his Roots Garden Records. He had changed his name to Ras Zacharri and together they recorded four lethal cuts and Ras Zacharri was featured on Roots Garden Showcase Part 2.
Around the same time he also recorded for Shem Ha Boreh Records, and that label is also responsible for this new album, which is his best to date. Standout cuts include album opener Look What A Gwann, recorded over a version of the mighty Cuss Cuss riddim, the urgent Protect the Children, recorded over a version of the classic Swing Easy riddim, and the Horace Andy combination One by One.
Best of the bunch is however the bright and uplifting Life together with its breezy dub counterpart. It’s a repeat button moment. Ras Zacharri’s warm and raspy voice suits these elegant, and sometimes militant, riddims and arrangements very well.
Veteran UK producer and dub mixologist Mad Professor has teamed up with Jah9 to add a dubby to her latest album 9. In The Midst Of The Storm was originally released for Record Store Day in April, but is now widely available, which is very welcome, since this album is exceptional.
9 was one of the best sets released last year and its dub counterpart is just as great. Mad Professor has deconstructed the songs and puts focus on various musical elements, drums and bass of course, but also percussion, horns and guitar.
It’s a free-spirited album where Mad Professor has been let loose on his mixing desk. The result is hypnotic and dreamy and challenges the listener. Check for example the sparse I Aware Dub with its ferocious, yet bright, flute dropping in and out of the mix or the psychedelic Dub Prevail with is militant percussion.
Mad Professor manages to put another dimension to the original album and together with Jah9 he pushes musical boundaries for a spiritual sonic journey.
If Zion I Kings’ debut dub album Dub in Style was a melodious and graceful affair the second one Dub in Zion is something different. It’s more of everything. And heavier, darker and more experimental than its predecessor.
Zion I Kings’ bass player and producer Jah David is responsible for most of the mixing, even though fellow musicians Tippy I and Moon Bain lend their talents to the project as well. Together they have utilized plenty of effects and cutting-edge dub wizardry.
Dub in Zion collects ten tracks, of which the majority are unreleased rhythm tracks. And one would really like to have vocals put on several of them in the future. Many are eerie and grim – almost nightmarish – with a heavy dose of anxiety and wicked energy.
Standout cuts include the dreamy Humble Thyself Dub with its characteristic bass line, Incient Knowledge Dub with its lingering melody and Iritikal Repatriation Dub with its smattering percussion.
Dub in Zion is far from as immediate as Dub in Style. It’s a certified grower and needs a couple of spins until it can be fully appreciated. But don’t worry – it’s totally worth the effort.
On French singjay and producer Biga Ranx’ fourth album 1988 he continues in the same vein as its predecessor Nightbird, released two years go.
It’s an electrofied effort heavily influenced by aesthetics from the 80s. It’s not reggae in its ordinary shapes and colors. It’s rather ambient and introspective electronica drawing influences from the Caribbean.
It’s a dreamy, scenic and futuristic affair with blunted beats and an ethereal sonic landscape. A soundtrack for a lazy and rainy Sunday afternoon – pretty far from sandy beaches, colorful drinks and swaying palms.
King Jammy hasn’t really flooded the market with new productions in the past 15 years or so. It’s only until quite recently he has put out something of a steady stream of productions. Not that odd maybe since he turns 70 in October.
Two years ago he dropped a combination dub album with Alborosie, but previous to that effort he hasn’t released much under his own name. It was probably the Dry & Heavy combination In the Jaws of the Tiger from 2000.
Anyhow, he has picked up speed in the past year. Last year he released New Sounds of Freedom, a set where he reworked Black Uhuru’s Black Sounds of Freedom with a new generation of artists. And just a few weeks ago King Jammy put out Waterhouse Dub via Greensleeves.
On Waterhouse Dub this veteran dub champion tackles – together with his sons Jam Two, John John and Baby G – classics from his vaults of productions from the late 70s and early 80s. It’s a strong selection of rhythms delivered with boosted bass lines, vocal interjections and introductions, sonic effects and a heavy dose of delay and reverb.
From Waterhouse to the world – long live the King!