Successful producer, engineer and label owner Prince Jammy, later King Jammy, has recently earned himself two collector’s box sets on reggae powerhouse VP Records. One of them – Rootsman Vibrations at King Jammy’s – was reviewed by Reggaemani only a week ago.
The second set is titled Vocal Superstars at King Jammy’s. And the title doesn’t lie. The four album box set collects one album each from Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy and Sugar Minott. These are some of Jamaica’s most gifted and celebrated singers, and unfortunately Horace Andy is the only one still alive.
This set isn’t as cohesive as Rootsman Vibrations. Or it has one main oddity – Sugar Minott’s Bitter Sweet. A great album in every aspect, but it’s an organic roots album with live instrumentation put out in 1979. The other three albums – Dennis Brown’s History aka The Exit, Gregory Isaacs’ Come Along and Horace Andy’s Haul and Jack-Up – were originally released in the mid to late 80s and have a completely different sound – sparse, computerized and digital with drum machines and synths.
All albums bear King Jammy’s signature sweet reggae sound and even though none of them are regarded as a classic these days, they still sound strong and the box set showcases the shift from analogue reggae to digital dancehall.
In 1985 vocalist Wayne Smith and producer Prince Jammy revolutionized reggae music with Under Me Sleng Teng, the first fully computerized riddim. From then on nothing was to be the same on the Jamaican music scene.
The genre digital reggae is usually referring to reggae produced in the mid 80’s to the early 90’s, and this genre has had much exposure during the last couple of years. Several great, and often obscure, titles have been reissued by labels such as Dub Store Records and DigiKiller. You have to have a heavy wallet if you want the original 7” instead.
Luckily enough there are a number of producers, musicians and artists that have been inspired by digital reggae and produce their own material with a contemporary touch, often with devastating bass lines.
One such outfit is Scotland’s Mungo’s Hi Fi, a soundsystem that now follow up on their 2008 album Soundsystem Champions with Forward Ever.
On this 16 track set they have invited 14 guest vocalists – mainly from Europe – to showcase their skills on dub-infused bass heavy riddims. Sometimes in a ska style, such as the versatile Soom T’s jazzy Bad Bad Boy, or the dubstep wobbling Dem No Like It where Omar Perry handles the microphone.
Forward Ever also includes classic riddims. The Sugar Minott dubplate Scrubadub Style is based on his tune Dancehall Style and revitalizes the Heavenless riddim.
Mr. Williamz rides another relick. This one is the Diseases riddim. He chats on technology improvements and how it has affected the music business.
With this fascinating and forward-thinking set Mungo’s Hi Fi shows how digital reggae sounds in the 21st century.
Forward Ever is available as CD, 2xLP and digital download.
Unfortunately I don’t know much about the Spanish reggae scene apart from my encounters with producer and musician Roberto Sánchez. His productions together with Earl Zero and Alpheus are essential in any record collection.
But now my horizon is widened, since another Spanish producer has come forward. Ambassah has collected 17 tunes recorded between 2005 and 2011 on Rub A Dub Showcase Part II, a compilation where Robero Sánchez turns up as co-producer, engineer and musician. Nine of these tracks have previously been released on Pirate’s Choice Recordings as 10”. The other eight are actually unreleased until now.
Rub A Dub Showcase Part II carry some deep early 80’s dancehall grooves and the eight different riddims – of which two are relicks – are built on live instrumentation. Vocalists include singers such as Alpheus, Horace Martin and the Godfather of Dancehall himself – the late Sugar Minott. All three makes impressive efforts.
But the real masterpiece is Breeze and Trees’ – DJ’s Ranking Forrest and Jah Breeze – Two the Hard Way (Extended), where the DJ duo goes Michigan & Smiley over the skanking Monday Sounds riddim with its lethal horns riff.
Apart from vocals there is a lot of dub going on here as well. Nine of the 17 cuts are dub versions with a rich texture and three are extended versions with a similar sound.
Rub A Dub Showcase Part II is an exciting and accomplished set that builds on the best from early Jamaican dancehall.
The late Lincoln ”Sugar” Minott is a pivotal figure in the history of Jamaican music.
He started his career as one third of vocal harmony group the African Brothers in the mid 70’s.
The group split up after a few years and Sugar Minott went solo and started a new career at Studio One, where he became a pioneer in versioning the label’s riddims, originally recorded in the 60’s and early 70’s. His recordings resulted in the two masterpieces Live Loving and Showcase and earned him the title Godfather of Dancehall.
But Sugar didn’t stay at Studio One. He left and started a long and fruitful career as a producer, singer, songwriter, sound system operator and label owner responsible for finding talents such as the late singers Tenor Saw and Garnett Silk.
Sugar Minott’s career spans over more than three decades and he has an enormous amount of albums and productions behind him.
Now reggae giant VP Records’ subsidiary 17 North Parade has given it a try to portray him on the three disc compilation Hard Time Pressure. It collects 36 tracks from almost ten different albums from the late 70’s to mid 80’s and also includes a DVD of Sugar Minott live at Japansplash in 1986.
The majority of the album is made up of self-productions that have Sugar Minott’s emotional and honied voice flowing smoothly over laid-back roots riddims.
But producers such as George Phang and Sly & Robbie also turns up on dancefloor fillers Buy off the Bar, Devil’s Pickney and Rub a Dub Sound.
Included are also some rarer tunes. One of those is the weird Christmas Time with its off-key children choir. It should have been left in the drawer.
It’s also a bit unfortunate that it doesn’t include any material from his sojourn at Studio One.
Despite one or two shortcomings Hard Time Pressure is an excellent introduction to one of Jamaica’s greatest and most important artists. But to get a more comprehensive picture of this maestro I suggest that you also get yourself a copy of the album Sugar Minott at Studio One.
Heartical is originally a French sound that started in 1999, and has since played all over the globe. They have clashed against, and juggled with, some of the biggest sounds in Europe and Jamaica, including Killamanjaro from Jamaica, Massive B from the U.S. and Supersonic from Germany.
In 2001 the crew launched their label aimed at releasing old school roots music. To date over 50 titles have been released on vinyl and digital download.
As a ten year celebration Heartical is now set to put out its first official compilation featuring an impressive line of artists. Most of them reggae legends like Johnny Osbourne, Little Roy and the late Sugar Minott and Alton Ellis, who sings Peaceful Valley over the Ministerio del Dub riddim, which must have been one of his last recordings.
Heartical Story compiles 20 tunes – 17 vocals and three instrumentals – built on eight riddims from BDF (Basque Dub Foundation). Most riddims are relicks of classics such as Derrick Harriott’s pulsating Tonight, Glen Brown’s haunting Slaving and Studio One’s Far East or the rolling Real Rock.
The compilation is a minor chord celebration in a foundation style. This is roots music as it was meant to be. Just listen to Lone Ranger in Original Style. It’s the chatting Ranger with his ribbiting and oinking against the riddim led by an apocalyptic organ.
Now available as digital download and on CD on June 6th.
Heartical Story shows that none of these foundational artists have lost their flow. They sound just as fresh in the 2000’s as they did in the 70’s and 80’s.
Last year dancehall pioneer Lincoln ”Sugar” Minott sadly passed away only 54 years old. Now has his longtime friend Beth Lesser put out a book on him and his work. She got to know Sugar Minott in the 80’s and she and her husband married at dance arranged by his sound system and label Youth Promotion
Beth Lesser has previously written the acclaimed books King Jammy’s and Dance Hall: The Rise and Fall of Dance Hall Culture. She is also a photographer and several of her photos have been used for numerous albums and books.
The Legend of Sugar Minott & Youth Promotion is essential reading for any reggae fan. It is 212 pages and costs around £10.
Sugar Minott, one of the dancehall pioneers, passed away yesterday at the away of 54 due to long-term illness, reports several internet sources.
Sugar Minott started his career in the mid 70’s as a member of the African Brothers and was a prolific singer, songwriter, producer, label owner and sound system operator.
He started his solo career at Studio One in the late 70’s where he started to record over the original cuts of some of the rhythms that were recorded in the 60’s. This proved to be the basis for the dancehall style.
Through his labels Black Roots and Youth Promotion he was a great promoter of young talents. He was early to record artists such as Junior Reid and Tenor Saw.
From the 70’s and onward, Sugar Minott continued to record. I believe some of his earliest records are the best, among them Black Roots, Live Loving and Ghetto-Ology. Recently he did nice combinations with NiyoRah and Hollow Point. Sugar Minott managed to record more than 60 albums during the years.