While this year`s Chocolate Milk & Brandy round-up spotlit largely long-players, when it came to 2021`s reggae releases, it was definitely all about the 7s.
Jackie Bernard – Roots Music – Cucoon
Sweet Mid-70s anthem, where both vocal and version are characterized by this twisted horn, almost kind of kazoo hook. The dub is super nicely stripped back, leaving plenty of space for delay and reverb virtuosity from whoever`s manning the board.
Errol Dunkley – Love Brother Love Sister – Amalgamated Records
Jaunty, uplifting, Joe Gibbs produced rocksteady from 1968. Legendary band-leader and guitarist, Lynn Taitt, and his Jets, provide the backing, while Errol gets the whole room to sing along.
Alton Ellis – You Made Me So Happy – Duke Records
A Duke Reid, Treasure Isle reissue, from 1970, that teams the King Of Rocksteady with Tommy McCook & The Supersonics. Proper loved-up, hug, smile, good vibes inducing balearic backroom reggae for all the former suedeheads on E now sporting ponytails and ponchos.
The Far East – NYC Dream – Names You Can Trust
A Japan-only 45 from the Brooklyn-band. If you like Mike Fabulous and Lord Echo then you should be bang into this. Without a doubt the poppiest piece on this list. A superior lightweight skank.
Fitzroy Henry – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Rockers Records
A UK tune, produced in 1976 by Mike Dorane – of the Disco Dub Band – this is yet another recommendation from the mighty Tom Dubwise – someone who can always be relied upon for a left of centre selection. His Instagram tips are forever dragging me out of my Babylon burning, strictly roots, bunker. This is a love song, given a slightly darker, dread edge, by the spooky organ and Keith Hudson-esque vocal. The version is surprisingly musical, adding great guitar and keys.
I Roy – Get Up Stand Up – Old Hard Bread
I`m not sure when Dennis Bovell originally produced this I Roy tune, but here he’s remixed and re-dubbed it – at Mad Professor`s ARIWA studio – for Italian label Old Hard Bread. Very much the sort of rebel-rousing stuff that got me through 2020 and 2021. The imprint is one to watch as they keep sneaking out limited runs of highly sought after early 90s Wau! Mr Modo gear.
Jah Clive – Rambo – Rambo International
Heavy tune from 1984, bursting with bass, and positive vibes. Big thank you to the super selectors at Sounds Of The Universe.
Earth & Stone – Devil Must Have Made You – Well Charge
First time on a 7 for this Babyon-baiting Jah Shaka favourite, lifted from the classic 1979 LP, Kool Roots. Channel Ones Jo Jo Hookim in the producer’s chair, Robbie Shakespeare`s bad bass line ruling the dub.
Elijah Minnelli – Slats – Breadminster County Council
The mysterious Mr. Minnelli continuing to combine cumbia and dub in a characteristically cute, off-beat fashion. Keep `em coming.
Winston Reedy – Those Days – Horus Records
Totally authentic new tune – which I`ll confess, I thought was old – with a nostalgic lyric – voiced in Tottenham – that harks after less desperate, dangerous days, and really rocks on the dub – Ras Anthem Dubwise. Organ swirls, haunted horns, and great guitar, dodging the drum detonations.
Tony Tuff – Jah Works – Jah Shaka Music
A Mafia & Fluxy production. Again I thought this was an archival find, but I’ve got nothing to back that up. Tony preaching his teachings at a militant tempo, with the dub pushing a hypnotic clip-clopping galloping percussive pattern to the fore.
Lucy Vandy – Rejoice – Partial
A top track taken from the mid-90s Riz All Stars` showcase Who Gave The Permission? Riz being Nick Manasseh and Gil Cang, who`s now one of the Tuff Scout crew. I`m pretty sure that I originally picked up a copy from Streatham`s Inner Rhythm, who were great at stocking UK reggae and dub, alongside the house, hip hop, and Black Cock bootlegs. Partial have pressed Lucy onto a 45 – celebrating sisters, with drums and a rhythm not a million miles away from St. Etienne`s Only Love Can Break Your Heart.
Creole – Fishers Of Men / Walls Of Jericho – ChinaFrica
Off-shoot of Brooklyn based label, Digikiller – also home to Deeper Knowledge Records – with the prize of previously unreleased mid-late-70s Jo Jo Hookim / Channel One produced cuts from the collective responsible for the classic Jah Creation. A track perhaps perhaps better known in its highly sought after instrumental version, Shaka The Great. Fishers Of Men comes as an extended discomix, while the dub of Walls Of Jericho is off the hook.
Junior Delgado – Don’t Trouble Trouble – Dub Plate
Dynamite dubplate mixes of a huge `80s tune – instantly recognizable not only by Delgado`s gruff vocal delivery – warning against the rich man and the corruption that comes with too much cash – but also the riff on Ennio Morricone`s famous The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly whistle.
X-O-Dus – English Black Boys – Factory Benelux
A Manchester-based band, who released one, solitary Dennis Bovell-produced single, on Factory, in 1980 – the excellent, extended English Black Boys / See Them A Come. Reading the sleeve notes, the collaboration appears to have been strained, dragging on and drawn out, ending with X-O-Dus unhappy with Bovell`s dubbier approach – effectively stalling the project. Ten years ago, LTM unearthed a whole album`s worth of shelved material, with the group themselves at the controls, which they released on CD. This year, Benelux released a180g pressing. Society is a standout piece of UK SUS law dread.
Reggae Africa (Roots & Culture 1972 – 1988) – Africa Seven
A collection of early reggae from Africa, with each find more than a little bit “eccentric”, and all the more indispensable for it. Personally, from the nine tracks on offer there are at least three wonderful winners. Georges Happi`s Hello Friends is more slowly skanking rock. If I didn’t know it was from Africa, I`d have it pegged as a piece of balearic Euro pop. Punctuated by this kind of timbale rattle fill, George’s vocal way way out there, but definitely heartfelt. It’ll have you making up your own lyrics as you go. Pasteur Lappe`s Babette d`O sounds just like a `70s Lee Perry Black Ark production. Bouncy with “bounced down” ghostly percussion, it`s a ringer for some of Scratch`s more whacked out work – such as the terrific tracks he taped with Seskain Molenga and Kalo Kawongolo – and topped by a damn fine fuzz guitar solo. Christy Eissen`s I`ll Be Your Man is the well-known cut, that I guess most people shelled out for. A ballad that blurs the border between country and reggae – all melancholy and minor keyed. It`s one of those special songs that’s so unique that once you’ve heard it, it`s impossible to shake or forget. Listening to it again this morning I’m pitching it somewhere between Dennis Wilson, or Donnie Fritts, and William Onyeabor and the Lijadu Sisters, Kehinde and Taiwo.
Please note that this rewind is really a “Part 2”. I covered my favourites from the first half of the year back in August – slick sides by Blue & Red, Wes Brooks, Fish, Goat & Suffurah, Jeduthum, Nazamba & Telly, The Pearls, Richie Phoe, Ras Addis, Ras Midas, Vibronics & M. Parvez…
Creole – Walls Of Jericho (Dub)
I Roy – Get Up Stand Up
Jah Clive – Rambo
Junior Delgado – Don’t Trouble Trouble
Tony Tuff – Jah Works
Lucy Vandy – Rejoice
Jackie Bernard – Roots Music
X O Dus – Society
Winston Reedy – Those Days
Earth & Stone – Devil Must Have Made You
Quantic – All I Do (dub)
Fiztroy Henry – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Pasteur Lappe – Babette d`O
Georges Happi – Hello Friends
Alton Ellis – You Made Me So Happy
Errol Dunkley – Love Brother Love Sister
Christy Eissen – I`ll Be Your Man
Elijah Minnelli – Slats
Far East – NYC Dream