UK bass music specialist King Yoof has dropped his debut album Homage to the King, a set that has been in the making for years, but never intended for actual release. When recording and producing other bands and artists King Yoof shelved samples and some of those centerpieces have now been reworked and given the dub treatment.
King Yoof grew up in Lewisham, UK, where he from an early age delved into sound system culture. The local sound was Saxon and this album is a tribute to sound system culture and dub masters like King Tubby and King Jammy. The latter’s immortal hit Sleng Teng even receives a version titled King Sleng, a cut that lies close to the original.
Apart from a vocal track with Earl 16 and MC Spee this is a strictly instrumental set where the bass and the drums and getting the full exposure. The vibrant bass lines and pounding drums are complemented by a haunting melodica – courtesy of I-Lodica – on Rum on Ice and a funky sax – played by Raggs – on Barter Town and A New Dawn A New Dub.
King Yoof has previously tampered with several bass heavy genres, especially jungle and dubstep. But Homage To the King is dubby and heavy sound system oriented reggae with a clean production.
In the first months of 2013 Jamaican roots veteran Earl 16 and UK producer and mixing engineer Nick Manasseh dropped the excellent showcase album Walls of the City. And the album came with a promise – more is soon to come from the duo.
That soon is now. Gold Dust is a fresh new album from this singer/producer collaboration that has been on and off for more than 20 years, ever since when Nick Manasseh was part of Riz Records.
Gold Dust takes on where Walls of the City left off. It’s a smooth, warm and organic set far from the hard UK steppers that Nick Manasseh produced in the late 80s. It collects several re-cuts and versions along with new material. All beautifully crafted with Earl 16’s delicate and dreamy vocals floating on top of the sometimes partly acoustic backing.
Gold Dust is the first single artist full-length album on Brighton’s Roots Garden Records, a label known for its quality rather than quality. It’s however Earl 16’s second album this year, and it follows the more vintage-sounding Natty Farming. Two outstanding reggae albums, but with completely different styles. Earl 16 has been in the business for 40 years, but still shines.
You have to be impressed by Spanish producer, mixing engineer and musician Roberto Sánchez. A few weeks ago he and Alpheus dropped a sweet and soulful rocksteady album. Now, he’s responsible for another set, but in a completely different vein.
Earl 16’s Natty Farming is rub-a-dub old school style. Properly old school since the relentless drum patters are laid by Style Scott of Roots Radics fame and originally recorded at Channel One in Kingston.
Just as several other notable album releases from Roberto Sánchez and his A-Lone Productions, Natty Farming is a showcase set with six vocals and their six dubs. Three songs are originals and three are cover versions.
Natty Farming is organic and analogue. It’s warm and Earl 16’s pleading voice floats over the throbbing and syncopated riddims with elegance.
I have yet to hear a below par album or tune from Roberto Sánchez and his crew.
A new release from Nick Manasseh is always exciting and highly welcome. He’s one of the most consistent UK producers and now he has worked with Jamaican veteran roots singer Earl 16 on the showcase album Walls of the City. The first in what seems to be a series.
The set collects eight newly recorded tracks that balance live instrumentation and computer generated sounds. Four cuts are vocals and they’re directly followed by an inspired dub version. It includes a new version of the duos 90s classic Zion City, here titled Zion Holy City. It’s a completely new version, and even better than the original.
Walls of the City is excellent throughout, especially the title track with its deep and growling bass line and the uplifting Ease Up with its bright horns. Two very different tracks, but equally tasty.
Hopefully another set is due soon, but until then this album will be getting a lot of spins. Available now on LP and digital platforms.
About a month ago I had the opportunity to interview Earl Sixteen on his upcoming album Fittest of the Fittest. That effort is hopefully just as good as the Mikey Dread-produced album Reggae Sound, an album originally put out in 1981.
This long lost gem has now been reissued. And the label has put eight bonus dub cuts on the CD version, which is a real delight since the mixing – courtesy of Mervyn Williams, Mikey Dread and Scientist – is wicked and wild.
Earl Sixteen has recorded since the mid 70’s and he has worked with some of the greatest Jamaican producers, ranging from Joe Gibbs and Lee Perry to Coxsone Dodd and Augustus Pablo.
But this album showcases Earl Sixteen and Mikey Dread in their prime. The riddims are rougher than rough and the sound quality is excellent, most likely because the repress is made from the original master tapes.
The original ten tracks made this a great record and with the additional eight tracks it should belong in every record collection. Early dancehall doesn’t get any better than this original reggae sounds.