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
From the German label Philophon comes this new single ‘Get Away’ by reggae performer Y-Bayani and his Band of Enlightenment, Reason and Love. With his song ‘Asembi Ara Amba’, Y-Bayani has already featured on the respected debut album ‘Invisible Joy’ by the Polyversal Souls and this led to his first release under his own name. ‘Get Away’ is a light and up-tempo reggae song, backed-up on this single by the slower and more deliberate ‘Obar No Ni’. Both tracks were produced by Max Weissenfeldt and Stibbo Spitzmüller at Berlin’s Joy Sound Studios. This is the sound of Ghanian reggae music and is well worth a listen.
Y-Bayani: ‘Get Away’, single release July 2016, on Philophon (7” and digital)
The late 70s/early 80s Birmingham band The Beat are well-remembered for a string of high-rhythm and bass-driven songs, including chart singles like ‘Too Nice to Talk To’ and ‘Mirror in the Bathroom’ as well as for a political edge that was a million miles away from the narcissistic posing of other 80’s bands. Their memorable extension of Prince Buster’s ‘Whine and Grine’ to become ‘Stand Down Margaret’ remains very powerful, the dub of which is as good a testament to Thatcher as you are ever likely to hear. The Beat went their separate ways, partly forming the rhythm section of Fine Young Cannibals, and more recently the original vocalist Dave Wakeling led his version of the Beat and continued to perform.
Now we have a brand new album from The Beat ‘featuring Ranking Roger’, with the eponymous original band member plus his son Matthew Murphy (Ranking Junior), drummers Oscar Harrison of Ocean Colour Scene and Fuzz Townshend of Pop Will Eat Itself, Chiko Hamilton on sax, bass guitar Andy Pearson, guitarist Steve Harper and Bobby Bird whose grounding in ambient dub in the form of Higher Intelligence Agency brings something more to the sound of The Beat. The single ‘Walking on the Wrong Side’ is recognisably the sound of Beat, accessible ska/reggae reminiscent of the Police in some ways (unsurprising as Ranking Roger has worked with Sting) – upbeat, happy, and good to hear this sound again. Wha’ppen!
The Beat: ‘Walking on the Wrong Side’ single released July 2016; ‘Bounce’ album (vinyl and digital) released September 2016
Here’s a dub release steeped in the sound system culture of south London. In the making for a period of years, the album was apparently not intended for release, concentrating instead on working and reworking samples of dub from over the years, extending their possibilities and seeing where they would take the producer (and the listener). Alongside King Yoof are appearances by I-Lodica, Earl 16, MC Spee and Raggs, this is dub for 2016 – opening with the slow deliberative dub of Rum on Ice (featuring I-Lodica) inspired by past dub masters, leading into a similarly gentle Bushwacka Dub. There’s a vocal presence on Lion Sleeps No More (featuring Earl 16 and MC Spee) while Straight Dub is, well, pretty straightforward. King Sleng firmly hints at its dancehall roots. With nine tracks in all, this is a great little dub record.
King Yoof: Homage To The King LP; release June 2016 (vinyl and digital), Moonshine Recordings