Hot on the heels of the single release of ‘Got Your Money’/’Wet Dream’ (see reggaemusic.org.uk 5th August) here is the full realisation of Prince Fatty’s latest fantasy which is apparently inspired by sources including ‘Kung Fu, vintage public service announcements and dub’. As well as both tracks from the single, there are another eight assertive tunes to be found here, featuring, amongst others, Horseman, Hollie Cook, Dennis Alcapone and legendary Pioneers member, George Dekker. The album opens with ‘King Fu Battle ina Brixton’, an alarming prospect indeed for any London commuter, with the distinctive vocal contribution of Horseman leading the way and a curious guitar solo straight out of some unspecified previous decade. Next up is the classic ‘Ali Baba’. Some fainthearts might understandably be nervous of tackling this afresh, but this is a fine version. Beginning and ending with an announcement in received BBC pronunciation from another time, possibly another planet, ‘Ali Baba’ finds Winston Francis and the ever reliable Dennis Alcapone making themselves known atop a sharp dubbed-up rhythm track. ‘For Me You Are’, with Hollie Cook and Horseman, will be familiar to those who have already heard Hollie Cook’s excellent debut album and its Prince Fatty dub version (see reggaemusic.org.uk 29th April). It remains a particularly strong track with its definitive Fatty dub rhythm unrelenting throughout – Hollie Cook and Horseman’s treatment of the sparkly disco-era ‘And the Beat Goes On’ is also revisited here. ‘Go Find a Fool’, featuring Winston Francis, is treated with the respect it deserves and what a pleasing sound, its dub fading to an old-school conclusion of forlorn love. By contrast, ‘Barbarina’ offers fast-paced dub in a vintage style with Dennis Alcapone again prominent in the mix. ‘Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler’ is a vital and at times amusing album that generally refuses to behave itself. In fact, it could almost be described as a mix of Kung Fu, vintage public service announcements and dub…
Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler, Mr Bongo label, release 17th September 2012
Prince Fatty’s distinctive fast-paced dub-production approach to some surprising tracks from a previous era was heard to great effect on his dub mix of Hollie Cook’s debut album (see review on reggaemusic.org.uk 29th April 2012). Here he crops up again with his unique reggae perspective on ‘Got Your Money’, previously the slightly plodding province of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB), the former Wu-Tang Clan rapper himself. In its original incarnation this was instantly recognisable mainstream hip-hop, musically and lyrically. Here, Hollie Cook provides the female vocal input, along with Horseman in the ODB role. Implausibly enough, Prince Fatty (Mike Pelanconi) has turned it into something closer to an uptempo dancehall anthem with Hollie Cook’s vocal contribution sounding surprisingly sweet in the chorus. This will be the lead track on Fatty’s forthcoming album ‘Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler’, due for September launch. As if that were not enough, the single is backed with Prince Fatty’s visitation upon that old Max Romeo song ‘Wet Dream’. Released originally in 1968 and banned by BBC radio, at that time the only music station legally transmitting, it has since been endured at many a wedding function, suggesting that Max Romeo’s alleged explanation that it was really about a leaking roof above his bed was less than accurate. This mix has some delightful vintage percussive keyboard, excellent dub production, along with the distinctive whooping contribution of Dennis Alcapone at key moments and there appears to be a cat in the mix somewhere. The multi-tracked vocals fit the song just right. Both tracks feature the Studio One veteran George Dekker and the production values are as good as it ever gets. On both tracks there’s something light and amusing about all this; it’s music that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is all the better for that.
Prince Fatty: Got Your Money/Wet Dreams, Mr Bongo label, release 6th August
This is the second release from the Unit 137 label and its resident producers Hylu and Jago. It combines reggae, dub, club and jungle in a series of five mixes over the basic Anansi rhythm. The opening track, ‘Anansi’, is a vocal version from Nanci Correia with a gentle reggae take on the rhythm, a sleepy kind of melody and an industrial strength bass located so deep as to almost exit the range of human perception. David Boomah’s more assertive vocal version – ‘No Have No Heart’ – follows, the rhythm coming to life as if in support. Kahn’s remix of Nanci Correia’s vocal track makes serious creative inroads into the rhythm, generating a slightly doomy club feel to the initial ‘Anansi’ track, while the Run Tingz Cru remix of the David Boomah version adds a distinct jungle mix to the basic rhythm. The closing ‘Dub’ from the label’s own Sleepy Time Ghost (STG) in one sense brings it all together and in another takes it all apart, with its deconstruction of some of the instrumental elements of each of the mixes, snatches of both Nanci Correia’s and David Boomah’s vocals, and an overall pace that’s fixed somewhere between the slow original rhythm and its jungled-up bigger brother, all rolled into one great big latter-day dub.
Hylu and Jago: Anansi Riddim; Unit 137 label (CD, download, limited edition EP) release 30th July 2012
This new release from Ras Sis Highness – Rosalind Brooks/Simpson, born in the UK but having spent much of her life in Jamaica – is her debut album. Although it clearly demonstrates the influence of vintage era reggae (as she says, “I have been inspired by a lot of vintage and veteran artists such as Horace Andy, Dennis Brown, Bob Marley and many more…”) it would do the album a disservice to label it as a revivalist nostalgia exercise. Its rhythms and production are cutting-edge, its style is contemporary as well as being influenced by the past. The striking opening track ‘Jah Love’ is a slow-paced roots song with a loping rhythm that could have come straight from Lee Perry, together with an excellent echo/dub instrumentation behind the sweet vocal track, fading out in a classic dub style. Next up is ‘Vous Aimez Jah’, a straightforward reggae track with a simple circular melody, reminiscent almost of a traditional song or a tune from the blues, an impression reinforced by the presence of a distinctly retro organ happily making itself known in the mix. ‘One One Coco’ is a standout, its three chords providing a Shanty Town feel to the rhythm, with the minimal mix – percussion and skanking guitar up front – providing a great backdrop to the vocals. It draws to a conclusion with a strong dubbed-up instrumental section. The title track itself has a slow and sharp rhythm, again hinting at the influence of blues as well as of the reggae classics, while ‘Kulcha’ reminds us that the album is brand new in 2012, not something unearthed from the archives: its faster rhythm is unrelenting in supporting the vocal, again with a minimal mix of instruments apart from a driving percussive rhythm which provides the backbone for the track. For good measure, it’s followed by an instrumental version of the same track which in no way sounds ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’. Much the same could be said of closing track ‘Steppin’ which leans toward the dubstep venue where Ras Sis Highness made her public musical debut.
With production and mixing from Digikal Roots, and executive production from Gibsy Rhodes, this release sounds like a labour of love and makes for an excellent debut – “in the future I would like to work with a live band and travel to perform for my fans is this is for them very much indeed. Look out for me”.
Temptation by Ras Sis Highness, CD and download, Springline Jamaica/Roots Lab Intl Records, July 2012.
Wayne ‘Lotek’ Bennett follows up last year’s ‘International Rudeboy’ album with this new six-track release from First Word Records. It features remixes and reconstructions of ‘Rebel Hi-Fi’ from Warrior One, Andy H, the Ubiquitous Dub Legitimizers and of course Lotek himself. The initial track begins with a sound that hints at vintage reggae DJ style but quickly develops into something else, its unrelenting rhythm track powering along in the background with strong bass and echo, concluding in a much more contemporary mix of sounds that are then taken further in the remixes that follow. Thus the ‘Lotek Remix’ follows-through with a complex mix, its electronic bass-heavy rhythm placing the vocals further back as the dubstep-influenced sound takes over. Warrior One’s ‘Trancehall’ mix is accurately named, the original vocals being selectively deployed at the service of a merciless drum-and-bass derived rhythm. Andy H’s remix starts off with a straightahead reggae rhythm but quickly transforms itself into a dancehall-based reinvention complete with a highly persistent descending electronic bass line. A further Andy H remix – the ‘Jungle Refix’ – is pretty much what would be expected from the title, the jungle/bass-and-drum feel establishing itself assertively at the outset, interspersed with traces of the original rhythm, and quite possibly the fastest beat recorded on any recent reggae release. The dub reinvention from the Ubiquitous Dub Legitimizers starts off like a dub version in the received tradition, with powerful bass and echo, then adds some strong electronic beats, concluding with a rich mix of sound that takes the music much further than anticipated from the opening track. Australia-based British producer Lotek, having produced a Mercury prize winner and established a strong reputation from his work with Roots Manuva, Speech Debelle and others manages on this release to demonstrate exactly what can be generated from working at the boundaries of reggae, hip-hop, dance, electronics and latter-day dubstep, drawing from each but not being limited by any of them.
Lotek: Rebel Hifi Remixes. Download release July 2012, First Word Records
From Tube Dub Sounds Records and the guiding hand of Fredread comes this second album from Web Cam Hi-Fi. With guest vocals from, amongst others, El Fata, Trevor Junior, Kiko and Lyrical Benjie the album generates the feel of a musical collective rather than a reggae band. Adopting the tried and tested format of vocal track followed by dub version over the same rhythm , the album is very much in the classic tradition of reggae releases from the past, although the instrumentation and production values are highly contemporary. Based in south west France, and having toured extensively to French audiences and those further afield, the music of Web Cam Hi-Fi reflects the roots European reggae tradition of gentle and soothing sounds from a time before the assertive style of dancehall and the electronic bass-saturation sound of dubstep changed things forever. Musically, a track such as Oooh Noo (feat. El Fata) recalls the tradition of reggae great Gregory Isaacs while the sharp skanking guitar of Dub Garden hints at the characteristic sounds of roots of the Marley era, and Sweetest Sound (feat. Faye Houston) is melodic reggae at its best atop an interesting and lively rhythm. The album is issued as limited edition vinyl, with additional tracks on the digital download.
Along comes a brand new dub release from the Congos, not a reissue but a complete dub of their 2006 ‘Feast’ album, with one additional track for good measure. In between the guitar, bass, echo and reverb there remain traces of the original vocals from Cedric Myton, backed up by Brent Dowe. Original production is from Bunny Lee, with these new deep dub mixes courtesy of Dub King and Nuton Williams.
Reggae has always renewed itself by continual reinvention, turning the old into the new, and this has never been more abundantly clear than on this album. The rhythms are those of some classic tracks from the peak of the vintage reggae era, given new vocals in the 2006 release, and now deprived of those vocals again in constructing a dub version of something that was already a re-creation, something simultaneously new and old. Bewildering. But good.
The instrumental tracks are those of legendary musicians including Aston Barrett, Tommy McCook, Augustus Pablo, Sly and Robbie and Vin Gordon. The album opens with A Fat Dub (version of the Congos’ vocal track Fat Cook) which in turn draws its rhythm from Cornell Campbell’s Bandulu, the distinctive bass line instantly recognisable. A Party (version of Going to a Party) comes up next, using the familiar sound of the ‘real rock’ rhythm track, while God’s Kingdom Dub (version of God’s Kingdom) uses Johnny Clarke’s Prophesy a Fulfil as its source. These three opening tracks set the pattern for the rest of the album, comprising fifteen dubs in all. Amongst these, it’s sweet to hear Rasta Congo Dub (version of Rasta Congo Man), based on the joyful strains of Lee Perry’s Curly Locks rhythm. Heaven Dub (version of Heaven Rejoice) uses the great Satta rhythm, no less welcome for being so frequently deployed in reggae reconstructions over the years.
So we have an excellent collection of dubs, drawn from re-imagined vocal versions, over the top of original rhythms from the classic reggae era. Not sure in what sense this amounts to a Congos’ album, given that the sole Congos presence of Cedric Myton is, by definition, almost mixed out of the picture for a dub reworking. Not to worry, the end result is powerful bass-driven dub reminiscent of its golden age – and how nice of those persons at Jamaican Recordings to bother.
The Congos: Dub Feast. Jamaican Recordings; release April 2012 (CD); May 2012 (vinyl)
The release of Hollie Cook’s debut album was one of the more surprising and pleasing reggae releases of last summer, an all-too-brief excursion into tuneful roots-style treatments of some new tracks, together with other songs gathered together from across the years. This new release – ‘Hollie Cook in Dub’ – now revisits those vocal tracks in a straighahead dub style, adding three additional dubs for good measure. This restyling, courtesy of Prince Fatty, generates a sound that faithfully reproduces the pre-digital pre-computer cut-and-paste echo and reverb methods of the King Tubby/Niney dub era, and excellent indeed are the results. ‘For Me You Are Dub’ is a standout, a rapid fire version of an Andrews Sisters’ song of the 1940s (which, backed with its vocal version, is released as a 7” single on 30th April). Even more unlikely, ‘And the Beat Goes On’ is a slowed-down dub reverb-laden reconstruction of the Whispers’ disco track from the white-trousered and smart-jacketed 1970s, while a dub take on the Shangri-Las’ ‘(Remember) Walkin’ In The Sand’ is possibly more than could reasonably be expected. ‘Milk and Honey Dub’ and ‘Crying Dub’ are also strong contenders. While most reviews of Hollie Cook’s music seem compelled to mention that her father is Paul Cook of Sex Pistols renown, it isn’t really necessary to know much about family lineage to appreciate this unexpected and excellent release which can readily speak for itself.
So far as live performance is concerned, Hollie Cook’s band established their reputation by playing Big Chill, V, Festibelly, One Love, Jazz Cafe in 2011. This year, there are plans for a release of a further album of new material and a 20-date tour, with notable performances confirmed at Bestival, Camp Bestival, The Vintage Festival. Summer 2012 sees Hollie Cook play to her biggest crowd in Manchester, supporting The Stone Roses in their historic comeback. Great expectations indeed.
Prince Fatty Presents Hollie Cook in Dub: release 21st May 2012
This new release from nine-piece London reggae band Only Joe features five versions of the same track, ‘Revolution’, in a variety of mixes, remixes and production makeovers. It starts with the original band treatment, a mid-pace roots song in the classic mould with brass and upfront vocals, ‘everywhere I go people talking fire…’ Well, maybe. It’s a melodic reggae tune in the received tradition with some thoughtful dubbing-up of the instrumental tracks in the background. Next up is the ‘version’, a fine straightahead instrumental reading, deprived of the vocal track and otherwise unadorned, in the manner of the old 7” B-side instrumental sound system versions. Things get deeper with the RSD remix, keeping fairly true to the original, before a more radical remix from Skitz and The Sea, turning the song upside down with a comprehensive reconstruction of both vocal and backing tracks. The EP closes with the Sleepy Time Ghost (STG) jungle-influenced reimagining of the song where it’s hard initially to detect the presence of the original at all. The sequencing of this release is just right, taking us from the basic track which is almost predictable in its structure and progression, through a series of remixes, to a final conclusion that has effectively turned the original into something else entirely. A bold idea, well-executed, and certainly worthy of your attention.
This debut double A-side single by Bristol-based Dub Mafia anticipates the release of their forthcoming album, due out later this year. The band generate a sweeping and ambitious sound that can best be described as a mixture of drum & bass and dance, but it also references latter-day dub and certainly dubstep, flavoured along the way maybe with hints of dancehall. ‘Danger’ is a breakbeat/dance track, highly polished in terms of production values, with impressive vocals from Eva Lazarus mixed to the front. ‘Breakneck’, by contrast, is a synth/drum and bass instrumental that changes its feel and rhythm half-way through to resolve itself into something almost psychedelic before reaching a conclusion with its final electronic pulse. This intriguing debut single can now be downloaded free from www.dub-mafia.com so you can decide for yourself before the album comes along.
Dub Mafia: Danger/Breakneck release 16th April 2012