Tag Archives: Reggae compilations

100% Dynamite is the bomb

unnamedI guess you’re getting old when labels start reissuing albums that you bought at their original release. For me Soul Jazz Records’ magnificent compilation 100% Dynamite is one such. It was released in 1998 and is now remastered, expanded and reissued.

This compilation is Soul Jazz Records’ best ever selling reggae release and it’s blazing hot with its tasty and eclectic mix of Jamaican music. It features ska, soul, funk, rocksteady and reggae.

The first edition of 100% Dynamite was soon followed by several new compilations in the same strong vein. Soul Jazz even headed over the Atlantic and launched two editions of 100% Dynamite NYC with reggae, hip-hop and dancehall.

Among the serious killer cuts are The Upsetters seriously funky Popcorn, Johnny Osbourne’s passionate We Need Love, Phyllis Dillon’s edgy version of Marlena Shaw’s Woman of the Ghetto, Cedric “Im” Brooks’ dread sax lead instrumental Give Rasta Glory, Lloyd Robinson’s massive Cuss Cuss and Sound Dimension’s haunting Drum Song with its seminal organ solo and melancholic horns.

These 19 tracks showcases a unique sound and 100% Dynamite is a cornerstone compilation with all killers, no fillers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

New compilation charts the links between Rastafari and reggae

Layout 1Rastafari – a religion or maybe more a way of living – emerged in Jamaica in the 30s, a time of political and social change. But the pivotal catalyst for the Rastafari movement was the crowning of a black king in 1930 – Haile Selassie I or Ras Tafari. Followers of the movement see him as Jah, an incarnation of God.

A new compilation from Soul Jazz Records charts the many links between reggae and Rastafari. The album, which carry a hefty 20 tracks, spans nearly 30 years of revolutionary and exceptional music influenced by mento, jazz, nyabinghi drumming, anti-colonialism, equal rights and worldwide love.

Rastafari – The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 is an in-depth look at reggae and Rastafari and includes righteous and conscious cuts from the likes of Counts Ossie, Johnny Clarke, Ras Michael, Rod Taylor and Mutabaruka.

According to the a press release from Soul Jazz, one of the earliest mentions of Ethiopia in Jamaican music can be found on mento singer Lord Lebby & The Jamaican Calypsonians’ 1955 recording Etheopia (included on the set), a cut where they sing about Ethiopianism, the political movement that calls for a return to Africa for black people.

But it was in the 1960s that Rastafarian music started to grow, particularly thanks to Count Ossie and his drummers. The visit of Haile Selassie to Kingston in 1966 was of course also instrumental and in the following decade Rastafarian reggae went global with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and a host of more underground artists and musicians. Rastafarianism was now synonymous with reggae. It was spiritual with a political and cultural context.

But most of the cuts on this set are not for the faint-hearted. Crowd-pleasers are few and far between. Several of the songs are percussion-driven instrumentals or instrumentals heavily influenced by avant-garde jazz. A bunch of the tracks also includes chanting rather than singing.

This compilation is however a solid overview of a groundbreaking genre that became a rebel sound.

1 Comment

Filed under Record reviews

Linval Thompson is strong like Samson

51pAoRZxnGL._SY300_So, it was a beautiful Saturday morning and I was having a coffee while writing a record review. When the piece was finished my hard-drive crashed. The story was written in Office Word and I didn’t save. Why? I don’t know. I should have. I know. But I didn’t. End of story.

So to make a long story short – here’s a brief and less informative review, but it will still hopefully whet the appetite for yet another solid scorcher from UK’s Hot Milk Records.

Jamaican singer-turned-producer Linval Thompson released his material via a variety of labels, but saved his hardest pieces for his own Strong Like Sampson label, an imprint active between 1979 and 1980.

And for the first time his productions on that particular label have been compiled and reissued. We are talking about 18 tracks on two discs. Nearly two hours of some of the most uncompromising early dancehall to be put on wax. The fearsome Roots Radics do not apologize for their sparse and heavy as lead riddims.

And singers and deejays like Barrington Levy, Anthony Johnson, Rod Taylor, Sammy Dread and Papa Tullo take it directly from the grim streets of Kingston. Their lyrics are a reality check on police brutality and oppression.

All vocal cuts come with its dub or deejay version. And the material collected on Strong Like Sampson brims with dread echoes and streetwise energy.

2 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

A special tribute to Fattis Burrell

Living Heart Vol 1Three years have passed since Phillip ”Fattis” Burrell passed away at the age of 57. Via his progressive powerhouse Xterminator (initially Exterminator) he released some of the best reggae songs and albums of all time. Luciano’s Where There is Life and One Way Ticket are modern day classics, and so are Sizzla’s Bobo Ashanti and Mikey General’s Spiritual Revolution.

Phillip Burrell was among the first to put modern day chanters such as Sizzla and Turbulence on wax, but he also recorded already established artists like Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Cocoa Tea and Beres Hammond. And together with Richard “Bello” Bell and Bobby “Digital” Dixon he created a new version of reggae with one foot in the roots tradition and one foot in the dancehall. Militant, diverse and haunting, but also accessible and melodic.

Phillip Burrell’s son Kareem Burrell has followed in his father’s footsteps. He’s also a producer and regularly drops clever and interesting riddims via his own label XTM.Nation. But the latest release is a tribute album to his father. It marks the 25th anniversary of Xterminator and collects twelve tracks produced by himself and his father. It’s not a best of compilation, rather a set of tracks that are special to Kareem Burrell and his father.

The songs compiled are perhaps not the most well-known from Xterminator’s mighty music vault, and it for example includes Nadine Sutherland’s tribute to the late Garnett Silk, Buju Banton’s acoustic Oh My Father and Ini Kamoze’s We Pop it Off.

Most exciting are actually some of the cuts produced by Kareem Burrell, and especially the upbeat, joyous and uplifting soul/reggae scorcher Little Did They Know by Jesse Royal. Whenever I hear this tune I feel like jumping up and down, while shouting the sing-a-long friendly chorus.

Living Heart Vol. 1 is probably not the best Xterminator compilation out there, but it’s special since it showcases the talents of both father and son. If you need to quench your Xterminator thirst, check Armageddon Times Vol. 1 & 2 and Rough Inna Town – The X-Terminator Sound.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews

Mostly masterpieces on new David Rodigan compilation

Masterpiece-David-Rodigan-Moscd336At the age of twelve a young David Rodigan was struck by one of the most well-known guitar riffs in rock history – The Kinks’ You Really Got Me. About a year later he was struck again. But this time it was a new beat – ska and Millie Small’s My Boy Lollipop. This was something new and exciting and a beat that has stayed by his side for his entire musical career.

On the new compilation Masterpiece – a series from UK label Ministry of Sound – David Rodigan tells his own musical story via 54 tracks spread over three discs. It showcases his formative years in the 60s and what he thinks could be the future of reggae. In between the compilation is crowded with reggae classics.

But this is not just a reggae compilation, even though the majority of the cuts comes from Caribbean sources. The compilation starts off with the sounds of 60s British pop and American soul, and then passing through four decades of the evolution of Jamaican music in many of its guises – ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, dancehall and the new roots revival.

And when listening to the album it’s clear that David Rodigan’s music taste is mostly about beautiful melodies and well-crafted songs. No hard or provocative dancehall is included. No Bounty Killer, no Beenie Man and no Vybz Kartel. Just sweet sounds and positive messages from Alton Ellis, Etana, Cornell Campbell, Dennis Brown and Marcia Griffiths. Somewhat surprising.

But there’s more. No Gregory Isaacs, no Slim Smith and no Garnett Silk. Mr Rodigan is however excused since the selection is more or less flawless with personal favorites like Johnny Osbourne & The Sensations’ See and Blind, Ini Kamoze’s England Be Nice, Desmond Dekker’s Beautiful and Dangerous and The Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra & Bitty McLean’s Fu Man Chu.

I have also spotted a number of new nuggets – Liam Bailey’s When Will They Learn, Paul S.C.U.B.I Smith’s Word Smith and Raging Fyah’s Nah Look Back.

Masterpiece is a document of David Rodigan’s journey as an individual and a club and radio DJ. For more than 30 years many have listened and learnt from him. This compilation is a great way to do just that.

2 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

Riz Records rises again

RIZ BLUE CD ViewCan’t say I knew much about 90s UK label Riz Records until I received a press release from Reggae Archive Records telling the world that they would issue a compilation covering that particular label. I was intrigued since most of the label’s output was produced by studio wizards Nick Manasseh and Gil Cang. Both are still active in the industry but via new labels – Roots Garden and Tuff Scout.

Riz Records was active in the 90s and the productions follow in the footsteps of tough UK digi dubbers like Jah Shaka, Alpha & Omega and Iration Steppas. The sounds coming from Riz were however a bit different. Not as in your face and more ethereal and meditative. More roots, less digital dub.

Rise Up! – The Riz Records Story collects 15 tunes – of which two are previously unreleased – and the selection is flawless with foundation Jamaican artists like Johnny Osbourne, Willie Williams and Earl 16 along with local UK acts such as Danny Red and Bob Skeng.

Among the many highlights are Johnny Osbourne’s haunting Rise Up, Orville Smith’s dark Builder’s Temple and Willie Williams dreamy Saints, a seven minute long tune perfect after a day’s hard work.

All cuts are taken from the original master tapes and the audio quality is impeccable. Not that common when it comes to reissues. Well done.

1 Comment

Filed under Record reviews

Oneness Records showcase talent on new compilation

CS2381278-02A-BIGGermany’s Oneness Records showcase their work on the fresh compilation One Love One Heart Oneness, a set featuring 20 artists murdering 15 bouncy riddims.

Loads of talent is one of the main ingredients, beautiful melodies is another. The well-crafted riddims are built with live instrumentation, including bright horns on a number of cuts.

Highlights include an angry Buju Banton on a clever relick of Inner Circle’s Bad Boys, Naptali & Arofat’s elegant Jail Song and Sara Lugo & Kabaka Pyramid’s version of The Paragons’ Riding on a High and Windy Day.

One Love One Heart Oneness is evidence of a strong and thriving European reggae scene.

1 Comment

Filed under Record reviews

The smooth sounds of Penthouse

VPPH1968_Penthouse-Studio-25th-Anniversary_Album-CoverTo commemorate 25 years since the founding of Penthouse recording studio, VP Records and producer Donovan Germain – founder and owner of Penthouse Records and Penthouse studio – have collaborated on a new release titled Penthouse Records 25 Years  – The Journey Continues.

 It holds almost three hours of music and comes with three discs, of which one is a one hour and 45 minute DVD featuring many of the key players in Jamaican music, including original Penthouse crew members Tony Rebel, Richie Stephens, Wayne Wonder, Marcia Griffiths, Beres Hammond and, of course, Donovan Germain himself.

Donovan Germain has been in the music industry for well over three decades. Some of his earliest productions are rootsy albums from Cultural Roots and The Mighty Diamonds. These sets were however put out before he founded Penthouse Records and thus not included on this compilation. A bit unfortunate, since the material is strong and has a different vibe compared to the music issued on Penthouse Records.

Penthouse Records and Penthouse studio have over the years produced several smash hits, especially during the late 80s and 1990s, and both the label and the studio have continued to churn out chart-topping anthems in recent years.

The album highlights essential hits and fresh tracks from Penthouse Records’ current roster of artists as well as two unreleased cuts from the late Garnett Silk – My Favorite Song and a remix of Everything I Got

The sounds on this hefty compilation are usually smooth, melodic and easy-going and ranges from dancehall and lovers rock to one drop with a rootsy flavor. It can be upbeat and energetic, but never aggressive and hostile. Donovan Germain certainly has a way with melodies.

There are plenty of favorites, and a few a little less attractive cuts, particurlarly those with a tad too much honey.

I immediately fell in love with Chaka Demus’ Chaka On the Move, where dancehall meets gospel. Love Mi Haffi Get from Beres Hammond, El Shaddai by the criminally under-recorded Jahmali and Brickwall from Richie Stephens and Dennis Brown are also solid to say the least.

But do not forget the more contemporary crop of artists included on the set. Queen Ifria’s Lioness on the Rise, Busy Signal’s Comfort Zone and D Major’s Real Know Real are all standout cuts. So is Dean Fraser’s charming sax version of Buju Banton’s sweet Untold Stories. He’s certainly not new in the game though.

Donovan Germain has played an instrumental part in developing the careers of several world-renowned reggae stars, including Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder, Cutty Ranks and Beres Hammond and in more recent times Romain Virgo and Queen Ifrica.

His feel for quality and talent is admirable and being able to stay on top of the game for more than three decades is certainly a huge achievement.

1 Comment

Filed under Record reviews

Eek-A-Mouse’s long career showcased on new compilation

Eek-A-Mouse - Eek-ology - Reggae Anthology - ArtworkIt could be easy to dismiss Eek-A-Mouse as a novelty act with his gimmicky biddie biddie bong bong dengen beng sprinkled all over most of his hits. But when listening to the 33 track anthology Eek-Ology it’s obvious that the nasal Mouse is immensely talented and versatile with his tongue twisting delivery and reality checking lyrics.

Eek-A-Mouse emerged on the scene in 1974 with an extremely rare 7” that included the brimstone and fire roots outings Creation and My Father’s Land. These two were followed by another dreader than dread tune – No Wicked Can’t Reign, where the plaintive Mouse sounds much like Pablo Moses.

He dismissed his style as ordinary and wanted something unique. And it’s now that he invents what today is referred to as singjaying, a combination of singing and deejaying.

The first to record the new and improved Eek-A-Mouse was The Mighty Two, aka Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson. The tracks were however never released in 1980 when they were recorded. Instead they were put out after Eek-A-Mouse’s breakthrough hit Wa-Do-Dem had dropped a few years later.

Eek-Ology carries a thoughtful selection of dancehall hits driven by sparse and heavier than lead riddims provided the almighty Roots Radics as well as rare nuggets from his extensive catalogue. It comes roughly chronological and spans from his earliest recordings in the mid-70s to material recorded for UK reggae veteran Blacka Dread in the late 90s and early 00s.

The two dics – three if you count the DVD with a live performance in 1982 – showcase a unique talent with good humour and an inimitable flow. Eek-A-Mouse took the ribbiting, boinking and oinking to a completely new level and on his way he dropped a number of classics, and all of them are included on this set.

Eek-Ology comes with excellent liner notes from Harry Wise and the Mouse himself comments several tracks.

1 Comment

Filed under Record reviews

Timeless classics on new Mighty Diamonds compilation

m434mmD8_K968w80STAIMfgThree part harmony group The Mighty Diamonds is one of major cornerstones of the roots reggae movement. They are unique in being able to stay together for more than 40 years, with an equal amount of albums under their belt.

During their long career they worked with virtually every notable Jamaican record producer and on a new three disc compilation – two CD and one DVD – showcasing their impressive career, no less than 13 producers are credited, including the Diamonds themselves along with Bunny Lee, Augustus “Gussie” Clarke, Joe Gibbs, Donovan Germain, Augustus Pablo and, of course, Joseph Hoo Kim, for whom they recorded some of their biggest hits, including Right Time, Shame and Pride and Have Mercy. All taken from their rightly celebrated 1976 debut album Right Time aka I Need A Roof.

Pass the Knowledge is a remarkable 39-track selection showcasing some of the group’s most essential hits plus five previously unreleased dubplate exclusives. Included are also a number of more unknown gems, such as a swirling version of The 5th Dimension’s Let the Sunshine In, the relentless Gates of Zion and the pulsating Morgan the Pirate.

Vocal harmony groups have always been an integral part of reggae music, especially in the 60s and 70s. And this set shows that Jamaican musicians managed to take influences from Motown and the Philadelphia sound and make something truly unique. This is timeless, smooth and suffering harmonizing set to a banging reggae back drop.

Leave a comment

Filed under Record reviews