French singjay Jr Yellam has grown up. A few years ago he dropped Jr and now he has put out his second album The Musical Train, a set preceded by the EP Get On Board, which was released about a year ago and featured the massive Rub a Dub Anthem on Irie Ites’ Diamonds riddim.
The Musical Train is not eclectic, but slightly diverse with influences from soul, hip-hop and blues. The majority of the cuts are however strictly late 70s and early 80s rub a dub with the mighty Roots Radics providing the lethal riddims. France’s Irie Ites are behind the controls together with London-based mixing engineer Calvin “So So” Francis.
Many of these early dancehall anthems are bona-fide scorchers benefitting from the rock-solid backing and the dense sonic landscape that has been carefully created.
The Trinity and U Brown combination Try is pure fire and so is the infectious album opener Galong, which was also released as a single about two years ago. Heaven’s Door is a sentimental story and something of a tribute to the late ace drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott, who was an integral part of Roots Radics. He was found dead – probably murdered – at his home the day after Yellam returned to France.
Yellam has matured musically and stylistically and to further grow he needs to work on his English and improve pronunciation.
Iconic reggae label Greensleeves – nowdays owned by VP Records – was key in putting dub on the musical map through releasing a number of classic albums. The ones mixed by mixing engineer extraordinaire Scientist have never been officially reissued before. I guess it has had something to do with copyright laws, or the lack of it in Jamaica in the early days of reggae and dancehall.
The label has now however managed to come around these issues by not crediting Scientist as the artist. Instead the albums are centred on the producers – Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Linval Thompson. Very clever.
The albums finally reissued are based on recordings that heralded the hit making start for Henry Lawes and the Roots Radics, a band often described as the main architects behind dancehall, a genre that represented a shift and big leap forward for reggae. Many of these dangerous recordings also marked the start for several long and successful careers. Barrington Levy is one the artists that started his career together with Henry Lawes and the Roots Radics.
And two of the dub albums are almost solely based on two of his sets – Englishman and Robin Hood. These two albums form the foundation for Big Showdown – where Scientist goes head to head with Prince Jammy – and Heavyweight Dub Champion. The other three sets – The Evil Course of the Vampires, Wins the World Cup and Space Invaders – have riddims taken from a large number of different artists.
But these five reissues offer more than just dub. Each album include the vocal counteractions on a different disc. It’s the first time the sets are presented in this fashion. Again, very clever.
These eye-catching comic book style albums are some of the best dub sets ever put out and they marked a change history of dub. The riddims provided by the Roots Radics are some of the rawest and heaviest ever to be put on wax. Scientist demolishes the riddims and then he builds them up piece by piece creating a completely new sonic landscape with emphasis on bass and drums.
These selections are crucial to say the least. Roots Radics riddims produced by Henry Lawes and Linval Thompson recorded at Channel One and then mixed by Scientist at King Tubby’s. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Acclaimed U.S. production trio Zion I Kings is behind several of the finest reggae releases in recent years, including beautiful sets by Jahdan Blakkamoore, Lloyd Brown and Pressure.
Now comes the first album under their own name. Dub in Style is a tribute to the late drummer extraordinaire Lincoln “Style” Scott, who started playing drums in the early 70s and went on to record for many of Jamaica’s top producers as part of the Roots Radics band. He and Roots Radics are closely associated with rub-a-dub, a sound that defined the early dancehall era and together they recorded some of the deadliest riddims and records of all time.
Bassist Jah David, keyboard player Tippy I and guitarist Moon Bain are collectively known as Zion I Kings and for each production they work with a number of different musicians. In 2014 they had the opportunity to work with Style Scott and all riddims on Dub in Style were tracked in one day at the Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, Jamaica. The tracks recorded that day appear on releases from Midnite, Akae Beka, Pressure, Ziggi Recado, Jahdan Blakkamoore and Glen Washington.
And a number of those cuts – plus a few others – have now been given an excellent dub treatment by Digital Ancient and Jah David. They use some of the key dub ingredients, but they also focus on the strength of the rhythms and the real heroes on Dub in Style are the instruments, which are given plenty of space to shine.
Highlights include the playful Spare Change Dub with its beautiful horns and rolling bass line, the sombre Snow Hill Dub with vocals courtesy of pop/folk singer Sara Azriel and the militant Cold War Dub with its lingering Spanish guitar and fanfare like horns.
Dub in Style is melodious and graceful dub of the highest calibre.
Kenyatta “Jr Culture” Hill rose to prominence in 2006 when his legendary father Joseph Hill – formerly lead singer in vocal trio Culture – died while on tour in Europe. Kenyatta Hill was travelling along and stepped up from behind the mixing desk and completed the tour. About a year later he dropped his emotional debut single Daddy, recorded together with a rooster of top Jamaican musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Dean Fraser.
The single was also featured on his debut album Pass the Torch, released the same year. It was in 2011 followed by the live tribute set Live On: A Tribute to Culture.
Three years have passed and Kenyatta Hill has recently put out his third album, a set on which he has certainly refined his song writing and singing skills. It’s a mature set where Kenyatta Hill almost sounds like a reincarnated version of his father with a dash of Burning Spear. His raspy tone is rural, passionate and intense.
Riddim of Life collects ten tracks, of which six are vocals and six are dub versions. It’s mainly produced by Greek-American singer and song writer Christos DC and recorded together with members from the legendary Roots Radics and U.S. reggae band The Archives.
It’s a strong set and offers some brimstone and fire riddims and emotive pleas to Jah. Listen to the peaceful Jah is My Friend or the darker and more intense Afrikan and Pressue Drop.
Kenyatta Hill keeps his father’s legacy alive and waves the red, gold and green banner high and proud.
The late dancehall singer Barry Brown had a short but prolific career, and was at his best in the latter half of the 70’s and the first part of the 80’s with tracks such as No Wicked Shall Enter, Lead Us Jah Jah and Far East, probably his most well-known tune.
Greensleeves has recently reissued one of his more unknown albums – Right Now. It was produced by Jah Screw, backed by Roots Radics and We the People Band and originally released in 1984. The backing and the riddims are sparse and crisp yet vividly powerful with the bass and the drums being in the front on each cut.
Barry Brown’s youthful and heartfelt voice flows nicely over several well-seasoned riddims, including Shank I Sheck, Cuss Cuss and Drum Song.
Right Now is available on CD and on digital platforms and includes a string of bonus material – Tristan Palma’s Nuh Shot Nuh Fire, as twinned with Barry Brown’s Jukes And Watch on the original Greensleeves 12”, dub versions of each Barry Brown vocal and Mafia, a wicked take on the Rockfort Rock riddim and described as a sound system favorite in the press material.
The 20 tracks are ruthless early Jamaican dancehall and the bonus dub cuts really show the strength of each riddim.