A summer (end of summer? hoping for an Indian one here) selection of some of the reggae releases and reissues that I’ve been into so far this year – not including the sides that I’ve already covered from folks such as Grantie Asher, Chieko Beauty, Derrick Cross, Kapena Mokaio, Reggae Disco Rockers, and The Rootsman.
Assab / If That Was You / Tipsy Sound Records
Superb piece of squelchy bass-ed heartbreak, originally released in 1987. Imagine if the Taxi Gang programmed their machines to remake The Police’s The Bed`s Too Big Without You. The wronged young lady gets a tad operatic in places.
Blue & Red / Rastafari Way / 2Kings
A brilliant Bristol business produced by 2Kings co-founder Andy Scholes, and remixed by the legendary Rob Smith – this features the late, great, Mikey Dread, detailing his commitment to his faith.
Dennis Bovell & Marie Pierre – Can`t Go Through & Groovin / P-Vine
Two licks of the sugary lovers rock lollipop produced by Dennis Blackbeard Bovell. Groovin` is a shiny, suitably summery cover of The Young Rascals `60s RnB staple, while the Bovell original, Can`t Go Through, dates from 1979. The version here though, I think, is a remake – since its sounds a little more digital, and there`s a short, but cheesy, rap section. The excessively saccharine edges of these catchy pop confections are countered, cancelled, however, by Marie`s pitch perfect pipes.
Wes Brooks / Lay Down Your Arms / Ata
This was originally released in 1977, but recently got a small repress. While it had been famously covered by Mark Stewart – in a fairly unrecognizable fashion – it was new to me. I hadn’t been knocked this sideways by a reggae vocal since Pressure Sounds reissued Joe Higgs` There`s A Reward For Me, in 2017. Moving slow, steady, on a melancholy psyche organ melody, Wes here delivers a tired, weary, but still fighting shout out to those who refuse to accept defeat. It`s in songs such as this one that I seek solace, and find strength in, when I’m sad, blue, or beaten down. A big thank you! to Tom Dubwise for the heads up.
Fish, Goat & Suffurah / Warm The Nation / Partial
Righteous reissue label Partial shine their spotlight on Anthony Cummins, Adam Holden, and Mark Evans. The London trio released their Warm The Nation, a hymn to Selassie, built with Jah Shaka in mind, in 1993, on their own imprint, Sound N Pressure. Previously the subject of a great retrospective on Reggae Archive, also watch out for a Partial repress of their ace Against The Tide E.P. – which contains the classic School Of Fish Dub.
Maya Hatch & Robert Dubwise Browne / Love Has Found Its Way / Vortex
A gentle Japanese rejig of Dennis Brown`s much-loved 1982 hit (a Danny Rampling / Shoom favourite). The label recently released a second 45 containing 2 new mixes that focus on the cool and breezy jazzy guitar.
Lloyd Hemmings / Work To Do / Jamwax
One of a few fruits of Jamwax`s collaboration with the estate of highly respected Jamaican label owner, Harry “J” Johnson – he of Liquidator fame – and in this case licensed from producer, Wayne Armond, of The Chalice Band. Originally issued on Sunset Records in 1985, this 45 finds Lloyd Hemmings taking his homeland to task for the “wicked and wild” wrecking of its paradise. Aiming to tackle trouble on the ghetto frontline to a bright, bouncy, beat.
Jeduthum / When You Gonna Stop / Roots Recycler
Jeduthum is an alias of London band, Black Slate. Like their big 1982 hit, Sticks Man, this incredible, impassioned plea – dating from 1978 – is a similar call for unity, and an end to violence.
Nazamba & Telly / Do Me Right / Dubquake
French sound system O.B.F – Original Bass Foundation – team up with sweet singer, Telly, and “dub” poet Nazamba. I’ve got a lot of time for the latter`s gruff Prince Far I-like tones. His previous single with O.B.F., The Hills, is a bit of an anthem.
The Pearls / No Follow Bad Company / Isle Of Jura
Third and final installment from a collaboration between Australia`s Isle Of Jura and Jamaican vocal duo, The Pearls. This piece of sagely parental advice being previously released on Greedy Puppy in 1980.
Richie Phoe / Baby I Love You So / Balanced Records
Brighton-based producer, Richie Phoe, enlists the assistance of West London`s Kassia Zermon for a cool, cool, cover of the Jacob Miller / Augustus Pablo stone cold classic, Baby, I Love You So. Her cute Holly Cook-esque croon curling around Phoe`s vibraphone starlight patterns, while Leroy Horns` smoky after-hours sax serenade dominates the dub. A track synonymous with the magic of the late, great, King Tubby, Colourbox`s mid-80s take is one of my all time favourite tunes. There can never be enough version of this one.
Ras Addis / Divide & Rule / Dubatriation
Ras Addis rallies with Lyon`s Ishiban for Dijon-based soundsystem, Dubatrition. Addis` polemic calling out all politicians – making it clear that the only difference between Cameron and Blair is the public school that they went to and who tailored the suit they wear. “Politics is not the answer, as they’re only for themselves.”
Ras Midas / Rain & Fire / Let The People Go / Roots Vibration
Big, big, double-header from Belgium’s Roots Vibration and Ras Midas. I purchased a copy, primarily, because Rain & Fire – originally released on Harry J`s Jaywax, and then UK label, Warrior, in `79 – was play-listed by Andrew Weatherall on Kiss FM, while “Giving It Up” back in `93 / `94. That track having a very Bob Marley / Wailers vibe in its production, lead and backing vocals.
However here that’s flipped by Let The People Go. Again, another Harry J production, this time dating from 1980, which I hadn’t heard before. Like most of the stuff that I’ve selected it rails against Babylon, those who promote fear, hatred, and division, for personal “power” and often monetary gain (How much money is enough?). I guess in the 20 months and counting of pandemic, these tunes have all felt particularly prescient.*
Vibronics & M. Parvez – Healing Of The Nation (Bim One Mixes) / Dub Junction
UK veterans of Hull’s Dub Club and Three Crowns Soundsystem recruit Masakazu e-mura and Ichitaro Ohara aka DJ 1TA-RAW of Tokyo`s Bim One Productions to remix their latest release, a rallying call for “Herbsmen all across the nation” “to gather medication”. The Japanese duo`s super sparse soundscape borrows from Sheffield bleep and rattles nyahbingi rhythms around the cavernous space carved by its bottomless bass.
*Class, gender, race, religion, pro-vax, anti-vax, why are we always pushed to take sides? Personally I don’t need any more division**. No us and them, just us, and that’s the message the bulk of this music intends to send.
**I’m well aware that up in the mountains I could be losing the plot, but there might be no alternative – at least for a moment – but to paraphrase Dr. Leary, and “Tune out, turn off, drop out.” I mean I`ve got my mum and dad back in the UK driven mental by deliberately distracting disinformation, the mass media manipulation of the general population. Bombarded 24 / 7 by TV, talk radio, tabloid headlines, internet feeds. Trapped in their homes – in fear and isolation – with this constant flow of contradictory confusion. An inescapable deluge of data – that without context, a control – means nothing – barked at them by newscasters and “pop” agitators with no scientific or medical handle. Meaningless stats on international case numbers, mutation rates, variants, CRISPR conspiracies, which in turn are barked back at me, babel as gospel, as if they’ve a chair at MIT. Everyone`s an expert. My old man was a Co-Op sparks.