Big and bad Jamaican dancehall giant King Kong broke big in 1986 with the superb Red Rose combination Two Big Bull In A One Pen for King Tubby. It was followed by several strong singles and albums, including Trouble Again for King Jammy. But from the late 80s King Kong kept a low musical profile for about two decades.
In past years he has however been productive. In 2013 he dropped the album Ethiopian Dream and last year the showcase set In the Old Capital Vol. 1 was released. And a few months ago he put out Repatriation, an album produced by France’s Irie Ites.
Repatriation is pulsating dancehall with a contemporary twist and musicians include giants like Sly & Robbie, Russ D and Bongo Herman along with guest artists such as the gravel-voiced Burro Banton on the soon to be classic Old School.
Irie Ites’ productions are always well above par and Repatriation is no exception. Another killer album.
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.
Japan’s Dub Store Records has recently initiated a reissue program covering the late and great producer and mix master extraordinaire King Tubby. Part of that program is a scorching digital set – Red Rose & King Kong’s Two Big Bull in a One Pen, originally released on King Tubby’s Firehouse label in 1986.
This was at the dawn of King Tubby’s production days and at the time he had just dropped Anthony Red Rose’s monumental Sleng Teng killer Tempo. And on Two Big Bull in a One Pen he pairs Red Rose with the similarly-voiced King Kong. The two were among the brightest shining stars of the early digital era and on the album they go head to head on a few cuts, including the anthemic title track. The album is actually worth getting just because of that particular song. It’s deadly.
The original copy of this album is hard to come by and fetches prices around $50. But thanks to Dub Store this essential set is readily available to all. For the full King Tubby experience – pair it with its dub counterpart Two Big Bull in a One Pen Dubwise.
On dancehall veteran King Kong’s latest album Ethiopian Dream he tries his best to be a soul singer on a number of tracks, for example album opener Give It Up and the title track. Unfortunately that doesn’t work out particularly well and ruins the chest pounding riddims.
King Kong rose to prominence in the mid 80s with excellent cuts like Mash It Up Already and the gospel-like Emanuel Road for the newly crowned King Jammy and the driving Anthony Red Rose duet Two Big Bull Inna One Pen for the late King Tubby.
King Kong and his contemporaries Nitty Gritty and Tenor Saw had an odd singing style – nasal, monotonous and almost non-melodic. And that style still fits him well as shown on this album. On Serious his nasal self rides a distant version of the lethal Tempo riddim and on Rasta Live On his singing is nicely nonchalant, which also fits his voice.
Ethiopian Dream could have been a strong album if just King Kong had stuck to his strengths.