Tag Archives: Reggae reissues

Sceptre’s long lost debut has stood the test of time

SCEPTRE PackshotIn retrospect it’s interesting to note which albums that broke big and which didn’t. It often has to do with financing; distribution and marketing. Or maybe the circumstances surrounding the release weren’t right. Or the market wasn’t ready for the sound. Or the sound was regarded as outdated at the time.

The latter may have been at least one of the problems why Sceptre’s debut Essence of Redemption Ina Dif’rent Styley didn’t break at the time of its release. The interest for deep roots reggae in the mid-80s wasn’t huge. Dancehall and slick lovers rock ruled the scene at the time.

Fortunately the reggae champions over at Reggae Archive Records have a mission to reissue long lost UK roots dating from the late 70s to the mid-80s. And they have now dusted off this gem.

Sceptre was founded in 1981 in Birmingham and dropped Essence of Redemption Ina Dif’rent Styley in 1984. It’s a strong set with six out of ten tracks being essential early UK roots. Get up And Go is more on a funky tip, while the three remaining cuts lean more toward lovers rock with Jean McLean singing lead vocals.

It’s certainly a versatile set that has stood the test of time.

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Bunny Lee’s early reggae period showcased on new compilation

Layout 1 (Page 8)What if I’d tell you there’s a new Bunny Lee compilation out. You would probably say something like “Whaaat, hasn’t his stuff been recycled enough already!?”. That’s a fair point.

But, what if I’d tell you that this new compilation titled Full Up is actually different than most recently released albums bearing Bunny Lee’s name and credentials.

Bunny Lee has been in the music business since the 60s and his productions has been compiled many, many times before. Sometimes the same tunes as always but with a new packaging. And that’s no surprise since he has for many years now been one of the cornerstones of Jamaican reggae business.

On the Pressure Sounds’ 85th release they have collected a set of tunes that reflect Bunny Lee’s post rocksteady productions and pre roots era. The four years from 1968 to 1972 were productive and fruitful and consolidated his reputation as one of Jamaica’s premier producers.

Full Up offers a fine selection of  swinging instrumentals mixed with some early vocal productions and a few overlooked vocal gems from singers, deejays soloists and bands like Bunny Lee All Stars, Dave Barker, Delroy Wilson, Tommy McCook, Joe White, Stranger Cole, U Roy, Pat Kelly and The Hippy Boys. And several of the cuts come in different shapes and colours, something that give the album a nice bit of variety.

Bunny Lee is a musical hitmaker from Jamaica and on this album he showcases 21 tracks, of which many are taken from the original master tapes, so the audio quality is solid throughout. Included is also excellent liner notes from Diggory Kendrick describing Bunny Lee and his modus operandi.

Today when the reissue market is flooded with mysterious reissues, often of material from Lee Perry and Bunny Lee, it’s easy to dismiss them. But don’t make that mistake with Full Up. This album is excellent all the way. As always with Pressure Sounds one might add.

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Finally Handsworth Explosion Vol. 1 gets reissued

RARC015V Packshot NEW Hnadsworth OneFor this year’s Record Store Day, Reggae Archive Records released a limited edition vinyl version of Black Symbol Present Handsworth Explosion Vol. 2. Now, ahead of the release of a CD combining both volumes, they have put out Black Symbol Present Handsworth Explosion Vol. 1, and once again it’s available in its original format – vinyl.

And just as with the second volume, the original of this release suffered from limited distribution and the original release sold in scarce numbers. Today it’s heavily sought after and fetches around £100 on the collectors market.

For this ten track compilation Black Symbol provided four other Handsworth (an area in Birminghm) based bands the opportunity to record their songs in a proper and well-equipped studio and then gave them a platform with this album, and each band get two cuts to showcase their talents.

The sound is rough and sparse and most tracks are underpinned by heavyweight backing tracks. Sceptre’s Ancestors Calling is one of the brightest moments with its refreshing female lead – alternating singing and deejaying – and deep bass line.

Then you have Truth & Rights, a crew that doesn’t sound British at all. Their New Language is a fine slice of early Jamaican dancehall in classic Henry “Junjo” Lawes style, and Saddest Moment, is a bit similar to Wayne Smith’s Prince Jammy-produced Time is a Moment in Space.

Also included is Burning Spear-influenced reggae, as on Black Symbol’s Spiritual Reggae, and the smoother sound of Gerald Love, who offers a slightly more polished approach and a more commercial feel.

This is classic roots demonstrating the quality of what Birmingham had to offer the reggae scene in the early 80s. Unfortunately it was overlooked at the time, and this is a well-deserved and long overdue reissue.

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Underrated Heptones album reissued

The Heptones - Good Life - artworkVocal harmony trio The Heptones and their front man and lead singer/bass maestro Leroy Sibbles are an integral part of reggae history with countless of immortal songs and albums under their belt. Some of their best known material was recorded for producer Coxsone Dodd in the mid to late 60s and in the mid to late 70s for producer Lee Perry.

In the late 70s Leroy Sibbles quit the band and moved to Canada. He was replaced by Naggo Morris, who sings lead on the recently reissued album Good Life, a set I have always regarded as underrated.

It was produced Joseph Hoo Kim and recorded at Channel One with The Revolutionaries providing the rock-hard riddims. It features several tunes with beautiful vocal harmonizing – Every Day Every Night, Black Man Memory, Can’t Hide From Jah and Repatriation is a Must. The set also features a well-crafted version of Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic.

Good Life was The Heptones’ eleventh album and it definitely stands up to par with classics such as Party Time and Night Food. It’s now available on vinyl, CD and digital download.

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Prince Hammer’s militant World War Dub

world-war-dub-part-1Jamaican deejay and producer Prince Hammer’s hard to find late 70s dub album World War Dub Part. 1 has recently been reissued by UK’s Horus Records.

Prince Hammer started as a deejay only in his teens and when he was barely 20 his Maurice ”Blacka” Wellington-produced set Bible was put out by Virgin Records in the UK. Prince Hammer soon also turned towards production, and he is himself responsible for World War Dub Part. 1, a ten track album originally released by Hit Run – a forerunner to Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound – in 1979.

World War Dub was recorded at Channel One and mixed at King Tubby’s and is just as militant as the album title suggests. Tracks like Mussolini, Hitler, D. Day Dub and Churchill are heavy like a tank and ruthless like a a kamikaze pilot.

The tracks on this raw dub album were in all but one case taken from the original mastertape, and the audio quality is excellent throughout. It comes with original artwork and sleevenotes, notes that are more extensive on the CD issue.

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Finally a Freddie McKay album reissue

freddy-mckay-tribal-inna-yard-iroko-lp-22727-pA while ago I called for a reissue program of the late Jamaican singer Freddie McKay’s output. And the Almighty heard my plea. Or, maybe not the Lord, but French producer Hervé Brizec from Iroko Records.

His label recently put out Freddie McKay’s last album Tribal Inna Yard, produced by Linval Thompson and originally released in 1983.

Freddie McKay’s heartfelt, soulful voice has a bittersweet tone, which gives his material a sincere quality, regardless of cultural or more lovers oriented lyrics.

Linval Thompson usually employed Roots Radics for cutting his relentless and rolling riddims, and Tribal Inna Yard is no exception. Recorded at Channel One it also has that bright, almost metallic, sound. Barrington Levy fans will recognize Youths of Today as a version of his A Yah We Deh.

Tribal Inna Yard comes with new artwork and is currently vinyl only. And since this album is the only available Freddie McKay set it will probably soon vanish from your reggae retailer.

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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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