Tag Archives: Pressure Sounds

Favorite reggae reissues 2012

The reissue business has just like the music industry in general had decreasing sales for years, even though collectors are probably more willing to pay for their titles compared to more casual consumers.

Despite the tough business climate there are a number of labels that have managed to keep their heads above water, with Pressure Sounds, SoulJazz and reggae giant VP’s subsidiary 17 North Parade being three of the prime examples. Surprisingly, new labels focusing on reissues have also seen the light of day, with Bristol Archive Records being one of the most successful.

Below is a list of my ten favorite reissues 2012. Most of them are released by the labels mentioned above and they collect both single artist albums and compilations. If you’re curious about the music you can check my Spotify playlist with five of the titles. Enjoy!

Niney – Deep Roots Observer Style
You can’t go wrong with four crucial Niney albums in one box set, and set which also includes Through the Fire I Come and Temptation, Botheration and Tribulation, two of the best conscious tunes ever released by The Heptones.

Barry Brown – Right Now
20 tracks of ruthless early Jamaican dancehall with several bonus dub cuts that really show the strength of each riddim.

Revelation Rockers – Jah Praises
Recorded in the UK more than 30 years ago, but didn’t see the day of light until the heroes at Bristol Archive Records dug it out and released it. Well worth the wait.

Various – Studio One Sound
You feel the warm and distinctive sound of the Brentford Road studio on this compilation, which also gives a good overview of Studio One’s extraordinary output with several rarities included.

Yabby You – Deeper Roots: Dub Plates & Rarities 1976-78
This is roots reggae in its purest sense and a testament of Yabby You’s golden period. It also reflects the core and the peak of profound Jamaican rasta music.

Various – Harmony, Melody & Style: Lovers Rock In The UK 1975-92
Maybe not be the definitive lovers rock compilation since smash hits such as Janet Kay’s Silly Games and Brown Sugar’s I’m in Love With a Dreadlocks are missing. But those tunes have been reissued to death, and it’s a clever choice to rather focus on a less obvious collection of tracks, tracks just as great, but less known to other than hardcore collectors.

Various – Bass Culture
An excellent eight disc overview in four volumes with both familiar hit songs and unknown rarities from the four main eras of Jamaican music.

VariousFreedom Sounds
This is not just another compilation to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence nor is it just another reggae compilation with the standard list of hits from the usual suspects. This is one of the best compilations in recent years and a well-representative overview of Jamaica’s gift to the world of music, a gift that has influenced generations of music makers around the world for more than five decades.

Phil Pratt – Listen To The Music: Caltone’s Jamaican 45’s 1966-69
Collects 21 rare tunes covering frantic ska, up-tempo early reggae and elegant, classy rocksteady. A few straight forward R&B and Sam Cooke influenced tunes from The Uniques are also included. The harmonies are excellent and so are the musicianship with outstanding lead guitar and shuffling organ work.

Fred Locks – Black Star Liner in Dub
This is the previously unreleased counterpart to Fred Locks’ landmark roots reggae album Black Star Liner. It includes, apart from ten sparse and raw vintage dub cuts, a melodica piece and a deejay cut of the title track by Pablove Black and Drummie and two versions, one of the title track, and one of Wolf Wolf.

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Pressure Sounds dig deep in Yabby You’s archives

604Deeper Roots: Dub Plates And Rarities 1976 – 1979 is a collection of tracks by the late producer and singer Yabby You and is the latest release on Pressure Sounds. As implied by the title, the 19 track album collects extremely rare singles, previously unknown mixes and dub plates only heard by loyal sound system followers.

Many of Yabby You’s greatest achievements were originally pressed in tiny numbers and reissue giants Blood & Fire’s compilation Jesus Dread was more than welcome when it was put out 15 years ago.

Now the baton is handed over to Pressure Sounds and they dig deeper in his vaults of highly spiritual and eerie archives and have found tracks that celebrate his unique partnership with legendary mixing engineer King Tubby alongside obscurities such as Lazy Mood, an organ cut of the classic Conquering Lion, Barrington Spence’s Don’t Touch I Dread, Smith & The Prophets’ Valley of Joeasaphat and Don D Junior’s trombone led instrumental Milk Lane Rock.

Yabby You was a sufferer growing up in poverty and this is reflected in much of his music. He’s roots reggae in its purest sense and this testament of his golden period reflects the core and the peak of profound Jamaican rasta music.

Deeper Roots is available on vinyl, CD and digital download.


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Unreleased material on new Lee Perry compilation

Sound wizard Lee ”Scratch” Perry have had some busy days recently with new recordings with The Orb and ERM and also two newly issued compilations focusing on the 70’s and early 80’s – one on Trojan collecting some wicked 12” mixes and one of Pressure Sounds with hard to find singles and dubplates.

The Sound Doctor: Lee Perry And The Sufferers’ – Black Ark Singles And Dub Plates 1972-1978 is the seventh Lee Perry compilation on Pressure Sounds and actually the second in 2012. It collects some really rare and obscure material and also a real treat – a previously unreleased track by the great Junior Byles, a track that rates as high as his other Lee Perry produced material.

According to the liner notes by Lee Perry aficionado Jeremy Collingwood Scratch was working on an album with Junior Byles in the 70’s, but the project fell apart due to Junior Byles’ mental health.

The backbone of the set is Lee Perry’s cuts with Kingston’s rasta singers, ranging from Pat “Jah Lion” Francis, to the unknown Jah T via a bunch of familiar singers and groups, including U Roy, The Ethiopians and Dillinger.

The title gives the impression the all tracks were recorded at the legendary Black Ark studio, but some of the material was rather recorded at Dynamics and Randy’s and doesn’t have the esoteric and swirling sound Lee Perry created at his own premises.

Despite some audio quality disappointments this is a great set and it’s certainly impressive that Pressure Sounds still manage to dig out previously unreleased material and not recycle the same stuff over and over.

The Sound Doctor: Lee Perry And The Sufferers’ – Black Ark Singles And Dub Plates 1972-1978 is now available on CD, LP and digital download.

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Dennis Bovell gives his vintage catalogue a dubwise treatment

The latest album release on the Pressure Sounds label is not the ordinary reissue. On Mek it Run UK musician, producer, arranger, singer and sound engineer Dennis Bovell has selected rare vintage titles from his archive for a brand new dubwise treatment. Put it simply – it’s new mixes of vintage tracks.

Dennis Bovell is perhaps the most interesting and versatile reggae musician from the UK ever. He has worked with lovers rock, heavy roots, dub, soul, punk and even produced an album with legendary Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti.

Mek it Run contains 16 cuts originally recorded in the 70’s and early 80’s with renowned musicians Drummie Zeb, Tony Gad, Jah Bunny and John Kpiaye. The new mixes were done over at Mad Professor’s studio because, as it is stated in the CD booklet with words by Steve Barker, “he knew the Professor had every gadget under the sun” and he also wanted to use “a whole range of outboard gear from old analogue to the latest digital sets.”

The imaginative mixes feels and sounds like they were done in the 70’s, and 14 of the tracks contain little or no vocals. The other two are I Roy vocal tracks, of which one – Burden – is a version of the gospel standard Down by the Riverside. Of course the album also features its dub companion Cross to Bear.

Dennis Bovell’s and I Roy’s relation started in the late 70’s when the deejay visited UK and toured with Matumbi, Dennis Bovell’s band at the time. Together they recorded the early reggae/rap album Whap’n Bap’n for Virgin, and Mek it Run collects the dub version of the title track titled Dub d’Cap’n.

Mek it Run contains lots of effects, sampled sounds and a beautiful sonic landscape and presents Dennis Bovell right up there with his Jamaican contemporaries such as King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Errol Thompson.

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Another set of vintage rarities on Pressure Sounds

UK reissue label Pressure Sounds has started the year in an old school vintage reggae style. First it was a compilation with early reggae scorchers produced by Lee Perry. Now the label has reissued a second collection of tunes from Blondel Keith Calneck, aka Ken Lack, and his group of labels, including Shock, Jontom and Caltone.

Listen to the Music: Caltone’s Jamaican 45’s 1966-69 collects 21 tunes covering frantic ska, up-tempo early reggae and elegant, classy rocksteady. A few straight forward R&B and Sam Cooke influenced tunes from The Uniques are also included.

Ken Lack was a business man with a keen interest in music and is not one of the more well-known producers in the history of reggae music, but thanks to the Pressure Sounds compilation Safe Travel – released in 2005 – he has received some very well-deserved attention.

Bunny Lee and Phil Pratt handled most of the hands-on production on his recordings with input from Trinibagoan guitarist Lynn Taitt, saxophonist Tommy McCook and trumpeter Johnny Moore.

One of the better known singles from the Ken Lack camp is The Heptones’ Gunmen Coming to Town, a tune that borrows its melody from the William Tell Overture.

Ken Lack worked extensively with Tommy McCook, and his saxophone is present on many of the tunes. And the horn arrangements are classy and tasteful throughout the compilation.

Standouts among the vocals cuts are The Claredonians’ – with the extraordinary talent of Peter Austin taking lead – I’m Sorry, Devon & The Tartans’ Making Love and Alva Lewis & Lynn Taitt’s Return Home. The harmonies are excellent and so are the musicianship with outstanding lead guitar and shuffling organ work.

Listen to the Music is currently available on CD, double LP and digital download and includes excellent liner notes courtesy of Pressure Sounds’ founder and director Pete Holdsworth.

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Perry’s pre-Ark period covered in fine style

Producer Lee Perry is probably best known for his work with Bob Marley and for his swirling productions recorded at his own Black Ark studio in the mid to late 70’s.

But Lee Perry was a strong force in reggae music already in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This is the period when he dropped his UK top 5 Return of Django and the raving organ dominated scorcher Live Injection. And this is also the period when he together with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer created classics such as Small Axe, Duppy Conqueror and Sun is Shining.

UK’s finest reissue label Pressure Sounds has dedicated their sixth Lee Perry compilation to this period, and High Plains Drifter – Jamaican 45’s 1968-73 collects 20 obscure and overlooked tunes from his early years as a producer, vocalist and musician. During these five years Lee Perry founded his own Upsetter imprint, toured Europe and released a weighty 280 plus singles and more than 20 albums.

This charming and diverse compilation includes up-tempo instrumentals, jiving deejay chatter, roots vocals and soulful singing. And the sound is a long way from what was created at Black Ark some years later.

Highlights include The Ethiopians rootsy Awake, The Upsetters hip saxophone driven Val Blows In and The Silvertones He Don’t Love You with some fine, yet a little rough, harmonizing.

High Plains Drifter drops on February 14th on CD and double vinyl LP with limited edition artwork. And Pressure Sounds has as usual given the details an extra effort. The sound quality is surprisingly good and the liner notes from Lee Perry aficionado Jeremy Collingwood are well-written and informative.


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Dial s for success

Reissue label Pressure Sounds is back with a third release of material produced by vocalist turned producer Phil Pratt – one of many unsung heroes in the world of reggae music. His credits are almost immaculate with some scorching tunes from the top singers and deejays of the 60’s and 70’s, including Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, Ken Boothe, Big Youth and U-Roy.

The release this is the much sought after dub album Dial M for Murder in Dub Style, a set named after the Alfred Hitchcock movie Dial M for Murder starring Ray Milland. It is a crisp and organic, sometimes restrained, production mixed by Bunny Tom Tom aka Crucial Bunny.

It was recorded at Channel One around 1979/1980 with Sly and Robbie providing the riddims with a little help from Rad Brian on guitar, Bobby Kalphat & Ansell Collins on keyboards and piano and Tommy McCook & Herman Marquis on horns. A qualified cast of instrumentalists used regularly by Phil Pratt.

Dial M for Murder in Dub Style dropped in 1980 towards the end of the period when dub had become popular around the world. The ten original tracks are featured on the LP with four bonus tracks on the CD and mp3 versions. The mixes are clean and neat with sometimes little or no effects used. Some tunes are almost instrumentals with the bass knob turned to the max.

Included are some top vocals that turn up from time to time. Ken Booth could be heard on Who Gets Your Dub, a version of Who Gets Your Love and the title track is a cut of The Blackstones’ Come and Dance from their Insight album put out in 1979. This is a stellar version with magnificent percussion and beautiful horns.

As always with Pressure Sounds, the packaging is flawless with the original sleeve and artwork for the cover and Steve Barker handles the sleeve notes.

Pressure Sounds is doing their fair share to shed light on Phil Pratt’s treasure chest of material and this release will further ensure his rightful place in reggae history.

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Message Music an acquired taste

Last Friday I read a short article in a Swedish daily about the new Augustus Pablo compilation out on Pressure Sounds. The piece was written by Andres Lokko, a well-known Swedish music journalist, usually writing about obscure pop and dance music. If he writes about Augustus Pablo you know that he was an important and influential musician vital not only to the reggae scene.

Message Music collects 16 dubs and instrumentals produced by Augustus Pablo spanning roughly from the mid 80’s to the early 90’s. The tunes are rootsy and partly digital, partly with live instrumentation.

This is the third compilation dedicated to Augustus Pablo out on Pressure Sounds. And it’s the least accessible yet. It’s ethereal, meditative and unique as label manager Pete Holdsworth put it in the booklet.

Several riddims are familiar. The reworkings offered are harsh and potent. Ammagiddeon Dub on Jackie Mittoo’s Drum Song is one example, the stripped version of Java another.

This brilliant album sheds light on a previously somewhat neglected period of Augustus Pablo’s career. There hasn’t been anyone like him in reggae music since he passed in 1999. It was too early as this album clearly shows. But his music lives on thanks to great labels such as Pressure Sounds.

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Pressure Sounds drops Augustus Pablo releases

Pressure Sounds has just announced a bunch of new releases from the late and great melodica virtuoso Augustus Pablo. The new releases are focusing on his digital era and spans from 1986 to 1994.

Augustus Pablo is not necessarily associated with digital output, and most of his most acclaimed material was produced during the 70’s. However, the four CD compilation Mystic World of Augustus Pablo: The Rockers Story contains one disc with a bunch of great digital tunes in a fine Augustus Pablo style.

First up from Pressure Sounds is the 45s Credential Instrumental, A Java Version and Armagiddeon (Drum Sound). All three complete with a version and available in late June.

The singles will luckily enough be followed by Pressure Sounds’ third Augustus Pablo installment titled Message Music. This one is supposed to hit the streets in July.

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Adrian Sherwood’s recipe for success

UK dub pioneer Adrian Sherwood has this year managed to run his label On-U Sound for 30 years. His curiosity and eclectic taste for music has made him a producer and remixer in demand, and he has worked with reggae artists and world famous rock acts such as Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails. Reggaemani has got his recipe for success.

Adrian Sherwood has been in the music business since the mid 70’s. He was involved in the formation of the Carib Gems label in 1975, when he only 17 years old. Two years later Adrian and his friend Dr. Pablo started Hitrun, a label that put out his first own production Dub From Creation by Creation Rebel. Both labels released some heavy Prince Far I albums, among them Cry Tuff Dub Encounter I and Psalms Far I.

Then, in 1981, he formed On-Sound, a label that has been widely known for its versatile and creative releases. The labels first records were from the likes of the late Prince Far I (again), Creation Rebel and the late Bim Sherman, a singer that made some of his finest recordings with Adrian Sherwood.

Adrian Sherwood has produced creative reggae for over 30 years.

When I reach Adrian to talk about On-U Sound’s 30th anniversary he is in his studio in London working with Congo Natty, a well known jungle producer and former MC. They are currently working on a new tune by Lee Perry that will out on the compilation Modern Sounds in Dub later this year.

Time flies
When I ask him how it feels to run a label for more than three decades he seems surprised that it has been that long.
“It is flamboyant and weird. It is a blur. Time has just flown by. I am proud that we are still here putting out good music,” he says on the phone, and continues:
“When I listen back, some of the albums sound old, but many are not as dated. I am proud of the many collaborations, like Mark Stewart and Lee Perry. I have done lots of collaborations,” he laughs.

Tough to run a label
Running a label is not a cake walk today. Several reggae labels have gone bankrupt in the last years and French Makasound is sadly the latest addition.
“Running a label is thankless. I mean, you cannot win. You have to maintain visibility and do the best you can,” he believes, and gives some examples of why it is so hard today:
“There are not many record shops around anymore, which does not make it easier. Few today actually sell physical records.”
Don’t rely on hit songs
Adrian believes that the success behind On-U Sound is that the label is small, has dedicated followers and has not been relying on hit songs.
“As a label it can be tough to grow too big. You still have to maintain the overheads and afford to keep the people”, he says, and continues:
“Labels that are doing well do not rely on hit records. Just look at Rough Trade and Island. They had to sell to stay in business. You have to follow your vision and have courage.”

You probably have to have a little bit of luck to. Adrian says that On-u Sound was not created by design.
“My main love is Jamaican music and I do this because I want to do it. I want to work in the area of sound. I love sound. My kids listen to music on their phones. I mean, sometimes you wonder why bother?” he says in a serious tone, and continues:
“I make music for myself. I do my version of the music that I am a fan of.”
Be a specialist
Apart from Carib Gems, Hitrun and On-U Sound, Adrian has also started labels 4 D Rhythms and Pressure Sounds. The former is nowadays run by Pete Holdsworth and releases a number of reissues every year.
“Pressure Sounds is not doing lots of stuff, but they have low overheads. It is basically only Pete. You have to be a specialist. That is the way of surviving.”
When I ask Adrian whether it is more difficult today than in the 80’s to run a label, he gets surprised.
“Are you joking?” he says, and continues:
“It is almost impossible. Today it has to be part of something bigger, like merchandise, clothing and stuff. You have to be insane to start a label today. Just look at the business model. No one would start a label today,” he concludes.
Even though it is tough running a label, On-U Sound has four new albums and 12 reissues coming out this year. The first one – Voodoo of the Godsent from African Head Charge – was put out in March.

Best sounds from the UK 
Today Adrian concentrates on On-U Sound. He says that he rather makes his own music. He listens to a lot of reggae and believes that the best sounds today come from the UK, like jungle or dubstep, or from Italy and Germany, that are also doing well.
He, like many others, thinks that Jamaica has lost the leading role in reggae. However, he seems confident that the tide will turn.
“I think it will come back to Jamaica. But now it is an end of an era,” he says, and continues:
“Jamaica is great. It is such a vital place. They can sing about everyday life, like social problems or killing a chicken. But there is no food to be eaten, because no one is buying the tunes. To make money you have to be able to play your own music, like when you are out DJ:ing. Like in the old sound system days.”

Find young talents
His recipe to continue his own success is finding young talents to work with and train them.
“You have to find the right young people. They are like a good wine and mature with time.”
Hopefully these new talents can be as fortunate and successful as Adrian.
“I think my music is refreshing and original. It is creative and challenging. It is fucking brilliant,” he says, and concludes:
“I am a lucky person and have had great experiences.”

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