Tag Archives: Lost reggae albums

A forgotten gem by Willie Williams and Yabby You

5433897Another long lost gem has been made available. Unification: From Channel One to King Tubby’s is the title of a set by Willie Williams produced together with legendary producer Yabby You, who is responsible of some of the most haunting roots reggae ever released.

Willie Williams is probably best known for his Armigideon Time, produced by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd in the early 80s. Apart from that tune Willie Williams is usually under the radar for most listeners, even though he has put several strong albums, including his debut set Messenger Man.

Unification is a hard and relentless set and contains several songs that has already been available but spread out on several different compilations over the years. And according to a recent interview with Willie Williams several of these releases are pirated, so it’s nice to have a proper album with timeless roots reggae.

The set was recorded in 1979; a chaotic time in Jamaica, when a general election was just around the corner. And this is reflected in the music – provided by an all-star cast led by Sly & Robbie of The Revolutionaries – and the thoughtful lyrics. It’s consciousness from start to finish with songs like Free Dem, Righteousness, Unification and Rally.

Willie Williams has a laid-back singing style similar to Don Carlos, and sometimes it’s hard to separate them. It’s almost half-spoken at times and very meditative, which clashes with the rock-hard bass lines.

The sound quality is well-above par compared to other releases of long forgotten albums, and it’s not every year you get to hear a previously unreleased Yabby You production, so head over to your nearest retailer and give it a listen. Satisfaction (most likely) guaranteed.

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Linval Thompson shows who’s the boss

Linval-Boss-Mans-DubSinger turned producer Linval Thompson is primarily known for songs such as the highly popular Don’t Cut Off Your Dreadlocks and the anti-police anthem Six Babylon. Apart from voicing his own productions he has also been the mastermind behind strong dub albums like Negrea Love Dub and Outlaw Dub, issued in 1978 and 1979 respectively.

But he was also the driving force behind another strong dub effort, a white label set released around 1979/1980 only as a test pressing. This impossibly rare and highly sought after album has now been made commercially available under the title Boss Man’s Dub – The Lost 1979 Dub Album.

It collects eleven Linval Thompson productions, of which ten are dub versions and one is an instrumental. The original versions were sung by Linval Thompson himself along with Michael Black, Anthony Johnson, Sammy Dread and the vastly underrated and under recorded Freddy McKay.

The album was probably recorded at Channel One with the Revolutionaries as backing band. Who the mixing engineer was and where it was mixed remains uncertain, but he or she seems to have been inspired, because the dubs are well-crafted, spine-chilling and carries a swing. Some cuts are scraped down to their bare essentials, while others still remain decorated with horns, distant guitars and echoing vocal snippets.

David Katz – known for biographies of Lee Perry and Jimmy Cliff – is responsible for the excellent and thorough liner notes telling the story of Linval Thompson and the album itself. It’s a compelling read fitting nicely with this rough and tough dub album.

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A sound system friendly album from Errol Bellot

0001429483_10Yet another long-lost reggae treasure has been dug out by the heroes at Reggae Archive/Bristol Archive Records. This time it’s a lost album from Errol Bellot, sometimes described as one of the best kept secrets on the UK reggae scene with a career spanning some 30 years.

The story starts when the label had an idea of compiling a best of package, but discovered an entire unreleased album Errol Bellot had recorded in collaboration with Jah Bunny from Matumbi and Ras Elroy from Black Slate in the 80s.

They were given full access to the session tapes recorded between 1983 and 1985 and selected 15 vocals, dubs and extended discomixes to which Errol Bellot’s first self-production, The Wicked Them, which is sequenced together with its previously unreleased dub version, and Rootsman, originally released on a scarce 10” in 2006, were added.

The bulk of the tracks on Youthman – The Lost Album have the raw and untamed feel of dubplate mixes with heavy emphasis on the bass line giving the speakers a real Usain Bolt like workout pushing the woofers to the very limit.

A majority of the tunes were recorded on four track and the audio quality is sometimes below par. And same goes for parts of Errol Bellot’s Michael Prophet-influenced singing, which is at times terribly off-key. But most of the material is strong and leans heavily towards conscious and serious roots, with bright gems such as the aforementioned The Wicked Them and the bouncy Rockers.

It’s a mystery why this album was not originally issued in the mid 80s when it was recorded. Maybe it didn’t fit in at the time or maybe it was simply about financing. Good thing is that it has now finally seen the light of day.

Available now on nine track LP or 17 track CD and digital download.

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Bunny Marrett’s organic fusion of reggae and jazz

Singer and musician Bunny Marrett was born in Jamaica in 1941, but moved to the UK in his teens. He learned to play piano with ska pioneer Laurel Aitken and dropped his first and only single in 1981. He penned songs for Bristol buddies Black Roots in the 80’s and recorded an album in 1986, an album released three weeks ago by Bristol Archive Records.

Bunny Marrett has one foot in reggae and the other in jazz and blues. The result is an eclectic mix of rugged bass lines played on acoustic bass and a breezy back beat. The sound is organic and folksy and it’s certainly his own.

I’m Free holds eight tracks – six on the LP – of which are three/two are dub versions. Bunny Marrett’s non-melodic singing takes a while to get used to, and the backing actually shines brighter than the vocals, something that’s apparent in the dub cuts.

This is an unusual album, and an album that needs a few listens to get acquired to. A grower if you will.

Currently available on LP, CD and digital download.

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Dan Ratchet shines in a conscious style

UK vocalist Dan Ratchet’s debut album now sees release on Bristol Archive Records after 26 years.

The release has been preceded by the strong 12” Ekome is Unity/Afrikana Policies, also included on the album.

Jah Poor People collects 16 tunes in a showcase style, i.e. each vocal is followed by its dub counterpart. The recordings were conducted in both Kingston and in London in 1985 and 1986 with production helmed by Dan Ratchet’s cousin Simbarashe Tongogara and mixing by Steven Stanley.

A number of well-renowned musicians hosted the sessions, including Earl “Chinna” Smith, Sly Dunbar and members of Aswad and Misty in Roots.

The album is semi-computerized with bouncy syndrums and a hint of Augustus “Gussie” Clarke’s powerful style. It ranges from the political themes of title track Jah Poor People and Afrikana Policies to expressions of love with tunes such as Sweet Rosie and Girl You Want My Love.

The conscious cuts, which make up about half of the album, are by far the strongest. The lovers oriented material somewhat lowers the overall score. But this is nonetheless an interesting set, especially the first three tracks.

Jah Poor People hits the streets on July 16 as CD and digital download.

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