All ye who enter here…this is a new and genre-crossing project from producer Kristian Sharpe and the Scribes’ Ill Literate who combine here to generate an ambitious and original 13 track collection. It’s hard to define musically: Kristian Sharpe draws from hip hop, rock, funk, soul, blues, electro and jazz, while Ill Literate contributes thoughtful and creative lyrics.
Che Lives is vital and upbeat rap-rock, with some surprisingly retro guitar interludes, and possibly the only lyrical references to New Labour and proletarians that we are likely to hear this year. Dead Angels is musically more firmly within hip-hop but with a gentle musical edge, quite far removed from aggressive rap. God Knows is another rock-rap outing, drenched in a sad feel and, like the album as a whole, exuding regret rather than anger. Mindfields is melodic, and curiously reminiscent of something a late 60s rock band might have contemplated. So Far trots along happily with a rhythm that’s hard to pin down, while Trapped Inside Escape is full-on hip-hop. As if that were not enough, Spaced Out Break Out introduces a jazz feel to proceedings.
This is quite a unique release: the quality of musical settings is rich and diverse; the words are political but overall quite low key and melancholy.
Earlier reviews of the Scribes can be found on reggaemusic.org.uk 3rd February and 14th December 2015, and 22nd October 2012
A Band On Hope: 13 track LP, released 15th September 2016 from iTunes, Amazon and other online retailers
On a brief tour of the UK before heading for America (North and South), Toots Hibbert, born in 1945, is still going strong and the audience (young and old, black and white) of course loved this set at the Newcastle Academy on September 9th 2016: a performance still vital after all these years. The nine-strong ensemble (ten if you count the very visible roadie) sounded as though they were enjoying it rather than going through the motions which must be a tempting option for bands of this vintage. Kicking off with Pressure Drop, Toots and the band took us through a variety of tracks including the hits that everyone wanted to hear: Louie Louie, Never Go Down, Sweet and Dandy, Funky Kingston (accelerating very briskly to its conclusion), Light Your Light, ending with a fine Monkey Man. Surprisingly a high-spot was the bass-driven rendition of Country Roads, demonstrating that John Denver songs can rock after all. The encore brought a reprise of Monkey Man before going into 54-46 Was My Number, finishing on a high with some crashing rock chords. The only downside to the evening was the venue: shifted (for ‘regeneration’ reasons?) from the Boiler Shop to the Academy, involving an unnecessary queue for tickets (again) and sadly illustrating that the latter venue’s poor sound system and dire-quality video screens can take the edge off a great performance. But that’s not the fault of Toots and the Maytals who gave it all they had.
Here comes the brand new release from London’s They Say Jump. Forming in 2010, and originally fronted by alternative soul singer Kwabs, the band now comprises Adrian Benn on vocals, Rhys Owen on saxophone, Ben Pearce on guitar, Sam Edgington on bass guitar, Luke Allwood on keys, Jackson Mathod on trumpet, and Mike Clowes on drums. This is the debut EP from a band who are known for their blend of reggae, ska and R and B rhythms. ‘Can’t Chase Me’ features Horseman and generates the kind of dancehall/grime sort of sound you might expect from his involvement, a fast-moving upbeat track to kick things off with a neat spoken close to the song. ‘Lift Your Mood’ is more like a soul song initially before going into a drums/bass interlude and then a return to the soulful mood with which it began. ‘Twilight’ (the previously released single) brings us back to firm reggae beats, slow and again soulful, before we encounter ‘Reggae Music’ which pretty much speaks for itself, melodic and instrumentally powerful with a dub interlude before speeding to its conclusion reminiscent of 2-Tone at its height. The EP ends with ‘Surrender’, a slow and thoughtful reggae song to start with before accelerating to a ska-based conclusion, a great little track. They Say Jump are launching their EP at Hoxton’s Bar and Kitchen on Monday 15th August and will no doubt be in evidence elsewhere as the EP takes off.
This excellent twenty-track compilation from Pressure Sounds features extended mixes and previously unreleased versions from reggae’s finest, complete with informative if idiosyncratic sleevenotes. All tracks are produced by Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and are reproduced here from the original vinyl records, featuring musicians including Carlton Barrett, Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett, Augustus Pablo, Tommy McCook and Vin Gordon. The album opens with Slim Smith’s ‘The Time Has Come’ in an unreleased version complete with false starts and an unadorned basic reggae rhythm. This is followed by an outstanding ‘Devil’s Brother in Law’ from I Roy and Augustus Pablo where I Roy declaims over the top of the source track, the Paragons ‘Left With a Broken Heart’. I Roy also brings us the fascinating unreleased ‘Noisy Place’ where he deejays his studio comments to King Tubby (‘Doctor Satan’) over a run-through of ‘Man Next Door’ (aka ‘Got to Get Away’), a track well-known from versions by Horace Andy (included here) and also by the Paragons, Dennis Brown or indeed Massive Attack.
Big Joe’s ‘Rasta Train’ is great deejaying with King Tubby at the mixing desk; Cornell Campbell contributes his sweet vocal sound to three unreleased tracks; King Tubby adds a quirky and infectious ‘Straight to the Copycat Head’ with basic fading in and out of instruments; and there’s a fine unsophisticated rhythm track behind Eric Donaldson’s ‘Cherry Oh Baby’ (followed here by I Roy’s ‘Festival Mash Up’ of the same track). ‘Riding for a Fall’ (familiar to many perhaps from John Holt’s vocal version) is featured here dominated by Vin Gordon’s instrumentation, leaving just traces of the vocal track. But it’s very difficult to pick out standout tracks given the consistent overall quality of the music here. It’s all good. An excellent album.
Bunny Lee and Friends: Tape Rolling! single CD/double vinyl, Pressure Sounds/Attack
Here’s a good dose of contemporary UK reggae from Tree House Fire with their new EP ‘Coming in Hot’. Influenced by the sounds of dub, reggae, ska and punk their sound is young and fresh, expanding from their origins in 2012 through the release of two albums (see reggaemusic.org.uk 4 August 2014) into a vibrant 5-piece band who have earned themselves quite a reputation. This new release kicks off with the gentle reggae rhythm and sparse instrumentation of ‘Major Rocket’, followed by the more upbeat sound of the title track. ‘What Matters Most’ is thoughtful melodic reggae, ’Stack It Up High’ has a relatively minimalist arrangement while ‘Hope’ is based on the contrasting rhythm of acoustic guitar. ‘Horizon Dub (Every Cloud)’ is a fine dub conclusion to the EP with a pleasing mix, led by its persistent bass. It seems like the band has evolved a mature sound that’s subtle and effective. Playing festivals in July, August and September there is a chance to hear them live as well as to enjoy this latest release.
Tree House Fire: Coming in Hot, release July 2016, CD and digital, Jamtown Recordings