Earl 16 enjoys a deserved reputation as one of reggae’s leading vocalists, having started out at the celebrated Studio 1, and over the years going on to release classic tracks produced by Jamaica’s A-list including Lee Perry, Linval Thompson and Clement Dodd. Reggae Roast are a DJ/post-dub contemporary-roots sound collective who have built up a formidable live performance reputation gained at festivals including Glastonbury and Bestival, and residences in London. So putting the two together promises much indeed. This new single release (on Reggae Roast Records) offers up five versions of ‘Occupy the Session’ with remixes, constructions and deconstructions at the hands of some top contemporary producers including Noisses, the highly respected Nick Manasseh, and newer names like Adam Prescott who has previously remixed for outfits including Mungo’s Hi-Fi (see reggaemusic.org.uk 2nd November 2011) and the eardrum-challenging Iration Steppas.

To start, the base track, ‘Occupy the Session’ is produced by Manasseh and label boss Moodie, and in this original form is a straightahead vocal version with Earl 16 mixed up-front, backed by a subtle instrumental mix and an overall upbeat feel. No assault on the senses here, just the uplifting feel that reggae has promised and delivered from the start. There is also a fine and straightforward instrumental ‘version’ in the time-honoured tradition, again produced by Moodie and Manasseh, lilting along without a care in the world and almost inviting some DJ to declaim, albeit gently, over the top. Adam Prescott’s ‘Full Up Mix’ radically strips down the instrumentation, with familiar riffs from reggae appearing and disappearing in the mix, together with elements of the original vocal manipulated into what amounts to a contemporary definition of dub. The ‘Carnival Mix’, courtesy of Noisses, is a great dubstep/drum and bass/dance take on the rhythm with a deep electronic pattern running through that deposits you somewhere between Jamaica and Ibiza. Maybe Cape Verde.  ‘Occupy the Session Dub’ is a Manasseh dub take on the initial rhythm track, this time treating dub in the received tradition of the great dub producers of previous years, and a highly pleasing treatment it is too.

What a joyful little record. Bankers, government ministers and captains of industry should be compelled to listen to it. They might become better people.

Reggae Roast Feat Earl 16: Occupy the Session. Release 6th August 2012, 12”/digital (Reggae Roast Records)

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