Tag Archives: Reggae reissues

The power of the rhythm showcased on Randy’s Dub

lp-clive-chin-presents-randy-s-dub-impact-all-starsLee Perry, King Tubby, Scientist and King Jammy are the producers and engineers most often associated with dub, but there are of course other musicians – sometimes overlooked in the course of reggae history – that helped to create, develop and vitalize the genre.

Clive Chin is one of those people. He is probably best known for producing Augustus Pablo’s immortal and much versioned Java as well as being the mastermind behind Java Java Java Java, one of the first dub albums ever released.

But he was also responsible for another legendary dub album – Randy’s Dub. It was originally released in 1975, but less than 200 copies were pressed. It was one of those holy grails until Blood & Fire reissued it in 1998 as Forward the Bass (Dub From Randy’s 1972-1975) with six bonus cuts.

The original version with ten tracks has now been reissued by the heroes over at France’s Onlyroots Records. This edition comes with its original cover sleeve and collects ten tracks produced Clive Chin and mixed by Karl Pitterson. The Wailers and Skin, Flesh & Bones Band are responsible for the rhythms and they are certainly in full swing on this set.

Randy’s Dub collects dub versions of a few instrumentals as well as vocal cuts by the likes of Carlos Malcolm, Sweeny and Winston Morris, who later renamed himself Tony Tuff. The set is rather conservatively mixed and Karl Pitterson hasn’t drenched the cuts with the usual dub wizardry using delay, reverb and sound effects.

The superb rhythms are stripped with added bass and occasional vocal snippets dropping in and out of the mix. Sometimes less is more.

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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.

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The five best reggae reissues in 2015 so far

The third list summarizing 2015 so far collects the five best reggae reissues and as usual reissue giants like Pressure Sounds and Digikiller are represented, but also Hot Milk.

The list below collects five essential items and the list could actually have been a bit longer since the year so far has been very strong when it comes to reissues. Just outside the top five comes albums from Tetrack and The Inturns. Included in the list are both single artist albums and compilations and it’s presented in no particular order.

If you’re curious about the albums – check out this Spotify playlist with four of the sets. Enjoy!

Best reissues 2

Artist – album title
Gladstone Anderson – Sings Songs for Today and Tomorrow
U.S. based label Digikiller has teamed up with France’s Only Roots for the reissue of pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson’s rare Sings Songs for Today and Tomorrow. But this album is more than that particular set since it comes with its almost dub counterpart Radical Dub Session by Roots Radics

Jimmy Riley – Live It to Know It
This album has everything a great reissue should have – excellent music, discomixes, devastating dub versions, good audio quality, scarce material and vivid liner notes. It collects nothing but the best and it captures Jimmy Riley at his finest.

Yabby You – Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You
Don’t think for a second that you can sleep on this epic collection of mystic, powerful and anti-establishment music where Yabby You and his friends chant down Babylon again and again and again.

Various – Strong Like Sampson: Linval Thompson Presents the 12” Mixes
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.

Mr. Spaulding – Twelve Tribe of Israel
I have listened to reggae for almost 20 years and I can’t say I have heard frequencies as low as these before. The bass line on cuts like Tell Me and Mankind are as deep as the Mariana Trench and custom-made for crashing down the walls of Babylon.

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The British Midlands showcased on new compilation

a1942333125_10The British Midlands is an area spanning central England and its largest city is Birmingham, a town that has produced several successful reggae bands, including Steel Pulse, Musical Youth and UB40.

Reggae Archive Records now aims to spotlight this area and its importance in reggae history. The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One is the first in a series of compilations that will showcase some of the unreleased, forgotten and barely known musical gems from the vibrant Midlands scene.

The set kicks off with Steel Pulse, a band that put Birmingham on the musical map. Their first release – the scarce Kibudu – Mansatta – Abuku – was originally released in 1976 and is a fine slice of raw UK roots and hints at what was about to come.

The other 14 tracks are in the same deep and spiritual vein. Musical Youth is best remembered for their successful and lightweight Pass the Dutchie, which was a top hit around the world. Political, included here, is something completely else. Fredrick Waite Sr, formerly with The Techniques, sings lead on this uncompromising roots effort from 1981.

Capital Letters also show a different side of their musical spectrum. I Will Never showcase a darker side compared to their hit single Smoking My Ganja. It’s slow and dread celebrating their faith in Jah.

The Midlands Roots Explosion Volume One shines light on Birmingham and other cities that make up the Midlands as well as putting forward some of the lesser known acts that spent years performing and recording without achieving any level of success. The area was certainly a powerhouse of British reggae and this compilation includes many tracks worthy of far wider exposure.

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Killer new Bunny Lee compilation on Pressure Sounds

untitledThere’s a ton of Bunny Lee compilations out on the market and there are several new released each year, which makes it hard to know which ones to get and which ones to leave in the bin.

You can however always rely on UK reissue giant Pressure Sounds. Their latest album collects 18 tracks – 16 on the vinyl version – produced by Bunny Lee and comprises rare sides, one-off dubplate specials and alternate takes of classics. Several being previously unreleased and transferred from their original 10” acetates.

Most of the tracks on Next Cut are raw, especially the dubplates, and most of these unique mixes are heavy, sparse and militant. You can hear the mixing engineer try and test delay and echo effects on a classic like Blood Dunza from Johnny Clarke. This version also comes complete with vocal interjections from an unknown deejay, possibly U Brown according to the excellent and thorough liner notes.

Two of the brightest highlights are however carefully arranged horn instrumentals. Vin Gordon’s bright Enforcement is a true masterpiece and so is Tommy McCook’s Middle Eastern Death Trap. But let’s not forget Barry Biggs & Tommy McCook’s Taptone Special or Wayne Jarrett’s minimalistic masterpiece Satta Dread, both followed by a lethal dub version. Murder style!

But this compilation is more than music. It’s also kind of a historical document since it gives snapshots of the recording process. You can hear false starts, shouting and studio chatter. And all this paints a vivid picture of what was happening in the studio.

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Capital Letters’ raw Vinyard reissued

unnamedIn 2013 legendary UK reggae band Capital Letters got back together after an about 30 year long hiatus. They have since recorded a new album – Wolverhampton – released earlier this year. But their earlier material has also been reissued. Reality – an effort collecting 15 tracks originally recorded in 1985 – dropped in 2014 and their debut album Headline News has also been made available again.

Now it’s time for yet another reissue. Vinyard is Capital Letters’ second album and it was recorded and released in small quantities and with poor distribution in 1982. The new edition collects the original ten tracks along with unreleased material taken from the Headline News sessions and a few live studio recordings.

Capital Letters formed in 1972 and is probably best known for their raw and lyrically controversial single Smoking My Ganja and the band was among the first wave of talented reggae acts to emerge in the UK during the mid-to-late 70s. These bands absorbed the sounds of Jamaica and created their own take on reggae. Many of these acts strived for social change singing about the society around them, which was often marked by violence, racism and social inequality.

Vinyard is a prime example of UK roots with its many reality tales and Capital Letters deal with false politicians, unemployment and struggle set to tough drum and bass along with a pumping organ.

This album is rawer than its predecessor and it captures the sound of early UK roots nicely. The CD version comes with in-depth sleeve notes by renowned reggae writer John Masouri and you can read why Capital Letters have renamed Helsinki to Hell Sink I.

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Next cut on Pressure Sounds

Layout 1 (Page 1)In late June premier UK reissue label Pressure Sounds unleashes yet another compilation with Bunny Lee produced material.

This 19 track set (17 on the vinyl version) collects a mix of alternate takes on a number of well-known tracks along with dub plates and few “overlooked” gems. Artists represented on Next Cut are, among others, Johnny Clarke, Tommy McCook and Cornell Campbell.

A 10” with four previously unreleased dub versions, produced by Bunny Lee, will accompany the release.

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Tetrack’s beautiful Let’s Get Started reissued

sl-102451Jamaican vocal harmony group Tetrack is one of many outfits and artists that never really reached the success they rightfully deserved back in the days. At the time competition was fierce and many labels lacked financial funds for marketing.

Gladly several albums that were overlooked at the time of release have been reissued at one time or another. And now France’s Only Roots has the done right thing by releasing Tetrack’s debut album Let’s Get Started, a set produced by the legendary Augustus Pablo and originally issued in 1980 on the Message label.

Tetrack was a trio consisting of childhood friends Dave Harvey, Paul Mangaroo and Carlton Hines, Carlton Hines also being gifted songwriter for other artists, including Gregory Isaacs, John Holt and Dennis Brown.

They started singing together in the early 70s and were introduced to Augustus Pablo a few years later. And their album together is superb roots with close harmonizing. Just listen to the beautiful and melancholic Look Within Yourself.

For me dread and ethereal rhythms produced by Augustus Pablo paired with sweet harmonies are a perfect match. And Let’s Get Started is one of the many overlooked and unknown classics in the history of reggae.

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Well-deserved and long-overdue reissue of rare Gladstone Anderson album

2xlp-gladstone-anderson-the-roots-radics-sings-songs-for-today-tomorrow-radical-dub-sessionFollowing monumental reissues from Pressure Sounds – the beautiful Live it To Know It from Jimmy Riley – and Shanachie – the haunting Dread Prophecy from Yabby You – comes another set that is wicked than wicked.

U.S. based Digikiller has teamed up with France’s Only Roots for the reissue of pianist Gladstone “Gladdy” Anderson’s rare Sings Songs for Today and Tomorrow. But this album is more than that particular set since it comes with its almost dub counterpart Radical Dub Session by Roots Radics.

Gladstone Anderson has been in the music business since the birth of reggae and he has played on several immortal reggae albums, including several scorchers with Roots Radics. He started as one part of vocal duo Stranger [Cole] & Gladdy, but from the 70s and onwards he mainly worked behind the scenes as pianist and arranger for various producers.

Sings Songs for Today and Tomorrow and Radical Dub Session were originally released in the early 80s on the Jahmani and Solid Groove labels respectively and didn’t make much noise at the time. Both sets are however fantastic and Gladstone Anderson has a velvety voice clashing the brimstone and fire riddims laid down by Roots Radics powered by Style Scott on drums and Errol “Flabba” Holt on bass. The dub album comes with deadly mixes provided by Channel One regulars Barnabas and Maxie.

The album comes in a beautiful 2LP gatefold sleeve with both sets complete with their original sleeves. And it’s obviously a work of love provided by two of the best reissue labels today.

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Stellar compilation presents Jimmy Riley at his best

366If you are in a hurry and need to know about Jimmy Riley’s Live It To Know It, five words – get it, it is essential. I you want the story you can continue.

Jimmy Riley – father of acclaimed contemporary reggae singer Tarrus Riley – started his career in the mid-60 as part of rocksteady vocal harmony group The Sensations, an outfit that also included sublime falsetto singer Cornel Campbell. After a while he left that group and formed The Uniques with another renowned falsetto singer – Slim Smith.

After several hit singles with The Uniques, including My Conversation, one of the best rocksteady cuts ever recorded, he went solo and started recording with the likes of Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and Sly & Robbie, with whom he recorded easy-skanking solo hits like Love and Devotion and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, a song that topped reggae charts in 1983.

On UK reissue label Pressure Sounds’ 87th release they have focused on Jimmy Riley, but not his most well-known cuts. No, Live It To Know It collects self-produced material recorded approximately between 1975 and 1984. And this is message music. It’s roots music with sparse arrangements and minor chords, and Jimmy Riley sings about immigration, poverty, struggles, equality and justice.

Live It To Know It contains 17 songs and is long overdue. Jimmy Riley is one of many often overlooked Jamaican singers. He has a stellar tenor voice with a bit of grittiness to it. It’s emotive, pleading and heartfelt. He’s a bona-fide soul singer.

This album has everything a great reissue should have – excellent music, discomixes, devastating dub versions, good audio quality, scarce material and vivid liner notes. It collects nothing but the best and it captures Jimmy Riley at his finest.

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