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!
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.
After the Roots, Reality & Sleng Teng anthology and the Alborosie combination album Dub of Thrones come a new King Jammy album on reggae powerhouse VP. New Sounds of Freedom is a re-working of Black Uhuru’s seminal debut album Love Crisis aka Black Sounds of Freedom, a set produced by King Jammy and originally released in 1977 and reissued four years later.
This ten track set features an array of vintage and contemporary singers and deejays. It’s something like a crème de la crème. Alborosie, Dre Island, Chronixx, Tony Rebel, Bounty Killer, Gentleman, Kabaka Pyramid, U Roy, Shaggy, Beenie Man and Louie Culture all wanted to work with this game-changing producer, whose career spans something like a half-century.
The first single off the album – Chronixx’ version of I Love King Selassie – was actually released several years ago and was for a while only available on 7”. Not sure if an album was intended, but obviously King Jammy felt something special and recorded new vocals and new lyrics over the vintage riddims, often keeping parts of the original vocals from Michael Rose on the new cuts.
The original set is a timeless masterpiece and as noted in a review a few months ago it’s hard to mess with perfection. But even though none of the new versions outshine the originals, New Sounds of Freedom can hopefully help a new generation of reggae aficionados to discover a bona-fide classic.
On Mykal Rose’s second album this year – the first was the eclectic Sidewalk Steppa – he has again teamed up with engineer turned producer King Jammy. The duo worked together already in the 70s when King Jammy was one of King Tubby’s apprentices.
At the time he was still Prince Jammy and produced Black Uhuru’s, where Mykal Rose was lead singer, acclaimed debut album Love Crisis, later reissued as Black Sounds of Freedom with great effect.
In the mid-80s Mykal Rose left Black Uhuru to pursue a solo career and he has rather successful and prolific with several strong albums and hit songs. In recent years he has however recorded sparsely. Until 2016 when he suddenly dropped two albums.
And the best of those is Rasta State which is a throwback to the 90s with a number of well-known riddims utilized with great result. Highlights include the bouncy and electric Unity and the militant Reply From the Queen.
Mykal Rose is a crusader of Jah music and his haunting and passionate singing style has been widely copied over the years and he has influenced a great many singers. Expect quite a few stanahois and ding, ding, dongs.
Keith Hudson, aka The Dark Prince of Reggae, died in 1984 only 38 years old. He was a creative and innovative producer turned singer that worked with some of the biggest singers and deejays in the 60s and 70s, including Ken Boothe on Old Fashioned Way and Delroy Wilson on A Place in Africa.
He’s known for his moody, haunting rhythms and a vocal style that’s an acquired taste. That’s why I have always preferred his role as a producer than a singer. And that’s also why I had slightly low expectations on a new Keith Hudson album that surfaced out of the blue in early December.
The tracks on Tuff Gong Encounter were recorded around 1984 with Carlton Barrett and Aston “Family Man” Barrett, known as the Wailers’ riddim section, on drums and bass. These key musicians were joined by Junior Marvin on guitar and Tyrone Downie on keys, two players that have also worked extensively with Bob Marley.
The cuts were intended for an album that never saw the light of day. Until now. More than 30 years after the recordings took place. But the album is not full-blown vintage material. Prior to the release King Jammy finished off the existing mixes for the six vocal cuts and also mixed six woofer testing dub versions.
Tuff Gong Encounter is solid. It’s one of Keith Hudson’s most accessible albums and his singing is more on pitch than usual. The dub versions are nicely mixed with just a dash of effects. And Keith Hudson’s voice is almost completely removed from the dub versions; the bass, the drums, the guitar and the keys does most of the talking.
The album comes with fascinating and detailed sleeve notes courtesy of Vincent Ellis, who is currently writing a biography on Keith Hudson. Probably the final album from one of reggae’s most ingenious producers.
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.
Tonight the first episode of the the fifth season the popular HBO drama Game of Thrones will be aired in the U.S. And two days ago Alborosie and King Jammy’s new dub album Dub of Thrones was put out on CD and vinyl.
On this 13 track set – eleven on the LP – dreadlocked reggae rebel Alborosie clashes legendary game-changing producer King Jammy for an analogue dubwise extravaganza around the theme of Game of Thrones.
The duo takes turn on the mixing desk – Alborosie at his Shengen studio and King Jammy at his studio in the Waterhouse district in Kingston, Jamaica. Dub of Thrones is a classic clash album, where the fully armoured combatants clashes head to head on six tracks each.
The set collects head-nodding and speaker-shaking dubs of several familiar riddims, including Tongue Shall Tell and Hypocrites. It’s a mostly instrumental set and the only vocals to be heard is on the more contemporary-sounding Dub Cinderella – a version of Errol Dunkley’s Black Cinderella – on which Errol Dunkley himself along with Alborosie take turns on the microphone.
This monumental dubsummit comes complete withGame of Thrones-inspired iconic cartoon artwork courtesy of original Greensleeves Records‘ artist Tony McDermott, who has for close to four decades been depicting Jamaican music for Greensleeves Records.
Dub of Thrones is a historic pairing of two pivotal dub masters – one with more than 40 years of experience and one that has quickly made a name for himself as one of the key proponents of classic Jamaican roots reggae.
UK-based super producer Frenchie has teamed up with no other than the legendary King Jammy for a new scorching riddim titled Clash of the Titans, set for release on February 16.
This riddim is in the same blazing vein as the mighty Tin Mackerel riddim, released in 2013 with monster tunes like Konshens & Romain Virgo’s We No Worry Bout Them, Mr. Vegas & Natel & Major Mackerel’s Flash Up Unu Lighta and Tony Curtis’ Number One Sound.
Clash of the Titans is voiced by seven different artists – Ninjaman, Mr. Vegas, Ward 21, Major Mackerel, Shanty B, Vershon and Masicka – and comes with nine cuts, of which two are from Vershon and one is an instrumental.
More than a few sound bwoys were slayed by the Tin Mackerel riddim and with this one another dozen or two will face the same cruel fate.
On Pressure’s second album of 2014 – already announced in 2012 – he has teamed up with King Jammy’s son Baby G for its production. Onboard as producer is also another heavyweight – Damian Marley.
Africa Redemption is something else than The Sound, released in April this year. Where that set was mainly bright and smooth, Africa Redemption is in most cases darker, harder and more uncompromising. But on a Pressure album there’s also room for romance and some sweet balladeering.
The set comes with 17 tracks, of which two are interludes. The best tracks offer a tasty mix of introspective hip-hop, fierce dancehall and grim roots reggae. Lead I Home is a fine example, the Tarrus Riley and Damian Marley combination Mental Disturbance is another.
Other memorable moments include Freedom Fighters, with its delicious horns, and the intense Jah Mason combination My Herbs.
Africa Redemption is Pressure’s fifth album and it’s together with The Sound his finest work yet.
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.