Heavy-duty dub fire. Culled from versions produced for the Freedom Sounds label between 1976-1979, Freedom Sounds In Dub serves up some of the most righteous riddims Soul Syndicate ever laid down, all prepared á la dub by none other than his highness, King Tubby.
Like many reggae classics, there’s some digging to do when looking into the history of “Rise Up.” The track originated as a riddim for roots legend Max Romeo on the Barnes-produced I Love My Music in 1982. However, a keen producer’s instinct told Barnes he had a burner on his hands, and he overhauled the mix. Stripping away Romeo’s original vocal entirely, leaving only the relentless rhythm track and mantra-like chorus.
Ital and vital. Produced by Joe Gibbs and engineered by Errol Thompson, Prince Far I, aka the Voice Of Thunder, dropped this slab of essential roots reggae in 1976. His grizzled ropeadope delivery scorching the LP’s ten tracks, Far I’s epic toasting (or chanting, as he preferred) is on full display riding a wave of rumbling bass, subtle dub effects, percussion and organ.
Anchored by an incendiary score by Dennis Bovell, 1980’s Babylon is an essential watch for those interested in the diasporic tendrils of Jamaican roots reggae as witnessed in the UK during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Come for the sound system, stay for the story.
We caught up with legendary producer Adrian Sherwood on the heels of his latest effort behind the boards: Horace Andy’s new album, Midnight Scorchers.
“I’m just very, very proud of it. We didn’t rush it. We spent two years making it. We started it before lockdown. And we kept improving it, so I was sending Horace back and forth to Jamaica. Let’s do this better. Let’s do this again.”
A year after Lee Perry’s passing, King Scratch: Musical Masterpieces from the Upsetter Ark-ive gathers 40 top-shelf Upsetter productions that serve as an ideal introduction to Perry’s sublimely bizarre oeuvre for the uninitiated, or an immaculately curated retrospective for the already enlightened.
Culled from Black Solidarity Presents String Up the Sound System, a compilation of tracks released by the Jamaican based Black Solidarity reggae label, Eddie Constantine’s “Strawberry” is a booming, dancehall rendition of Miriam Makeba’s “Love Tastes Like Strawberries,” a sneaking cut of spiritual soul from her 1962 lp, The Many Voices of Miriam Makeba.
It doesn’t get any realer (or un-realer) than this. Promised Land Sounds finds Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus levitating somewhere between a Grounation drum ceremony and an acid test. It’s a hypnotic, disorienting, and deeply dubbed out live set that’s every bit the spiritual successor to Ras Michael’s dread opus, Peace and Love—Wadadasow, or the Lee Perry produced Love Thy Neighbour.
Released in 1978, Prince Far I’s Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter 1 is a pivotal album at the juncture of Jamaican and British dub—a nexus of dub’s origins and everything the music would evolve into. It’s a dank and earthy affair full of Flabba Holt’s & Sly Dunbar’s driving, deep-nodding basslines that still pack enough power to rattle the foundations of Babylon.
From the archives of Micron Music, Every Mouth Must Be Fed: 1973-1976. Originally released via Pressure Sounds in the spring of 2008, a CD copy of this twenty track compilation soundtracked the majority of that summer, and, due to a recent cop of the vinyl version, it appears to be doing the same some 14 years later. A toppermost three year overview of the Kingston, Jamaica based label, the roots collection highlights selects from the likes of Joe Higgs, U Roy, I Roy, Tommy McCook, Junior Byles, King Tubby and others, featuring an effortless array of early reggae and dub.
…it’s “Silent Force” that rises out of the album like a thick encroaching mist. It’s a massive groove that wouldn’t be out of place on an Africa 70 record, displaying the full strength of Brooks’ tenor sax and the supple interplay of his ensemble as they funk hard over an insistent undercurrent of nyabinghi drums. With Brooks’ tenor backed by Jamaican session luminaries like Ernest Ranglin, Harold Butler, Boris Gardiner, and Tony Allen, “Silent Force” is an otherworldly melding of roots reggae, spiritual jazz, and African polyrhythms that transcends the narrow confines of genre. This is fusion music in the truest sense.
Founded in the Bronx by Jamaican expat Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes in 1976, Wackie’s take on dub and reggae was nothing if not distinctive. Idiosyncratic by nature, and textually lo-fi by necessity, this unique mojo long served as the label’s de facto sonic aesthetic.
Released in 1981, the hour-long documentary, Bullwackie In New York, provides a priceless snapshot of the independent label and the culture surrounding it.
All mouths will be fed. Twenty years ago next month saw the release of Laika Come Home, a complete and total transfiguration of Gorillaz s/t debut as remixed in dub. Spacemonkeyz (dj Darren Galea) is the controller, and the results are nothing short of sublime. At times haunting, at times ethereal, the dozen tracks absolutely float featuring limber contributions from the likes of U Brown, Tina Weymouth and Terry Hall. Not unlike Bill Laswell’s ambient-dub interpretation of the Bob Marley catalog, Laika is the rare instance of a remix album feeling as essential as the core material its culled from.
Bill Laswell’s 1997 remix collection of the Bob Marley catalog. At eleven tracks, the set deftly works a seam that feels at once familiar yet pleasantly discordant. As an ambient exploration of dub, traces of Marley’s original compositions float in and out, at times cresting, though more often submerged in atmosphere. As Laswell’s paints the walls with sound, melodies appear and disappear. Spacious, impressionistic and meditative, Dreams proves the exception to the rule of the remix album—no small feat for a cottage industry with a history of sideways results.
By chance I met Ras Tayo at Deadly Dragon Sound a decade ago. He invited me to bring some tunes out to The Den in Brooklyn, and soon I began spinning with a serious group of selectors every Sunday night. All the DJs had their big tunes and favorites that I’d look forward to hearing. These songs are ones they played often.