With tour dates coming up in Britain, France, Holland and the USA, plus a forthcoming new album due for release, things are on the up for Hollie Cook (see reggaemusic.org.uk 15 October 2017, 9 July 2014, 29 April 2012). Here’s a video for ‘Angel Fire’ in a gig she did for Amnesty International this Autumn in London. Great stuff.

From Hollie Cook (see reggaemusic.org.uk 29 April 2012 and 9 July 2014) comes a fine new single on Merge Records. ‘Freefalling’ is a slow and sweet reggae ballad, while ‘Survive’ is a melodic reggae song in a retro mood, both tracks featuring guitar that could have been beamed in from another time and both with restrained and heartfelt vocals. The tracks are taken from Hollie Cook’s forthcoming third album, ‘Vessel of Love’, due in January 2018, and follow the release of lead single from that album ‘Angel Fire’.

The new single is a contemporary take on lovers’ rock produced by renowned producer Martin ‘Youth’ Glover. It moves Hollie Cook on from the dub-heavy sound of her previous two albums to a more mature and measured take on reggae, brimming with love and warmth.

Hollie Cook: Freefalling/Survive single on Merge Records, October 2017

Hollie-Cook-Twice1This release from Hollie Cook follows up her debut album (2011) and its excellent dub version (2012) (see reggaemusic.org.uk 29th April 2012) in fine style. ‘Twice’ displays a highly confident approach to reggae and its many influences, incorporating elements of style from the past several decades. Many of the songs here are offered at relatively modest tempo and with some deliberation. Along with the contributions of several guests including Dennis Bovell, Horseman and of course Mike Pelanconi (Prince Fatty) it all falls into place. The opener ‘Ari Up’ tenderly recalls the late punk/dub/reggae frontwoman of the Slits, a band of which Hollie Cook herself was a latter-day member: it starts in a madrigal sort of style and continues with some unpredictable key changes within a crystal-clear production. The quality of the opener sets the tone for the rest of the album. There are the squeaks and beeps of synths from the 70s and 80s throughout. There are also some unexpected string arrangements, for instance on ‘99’ and ‘Looking for Real Love’, that serve to recall cop programmes where Cagney and Lacey would power along a New York backstreet before driving through a pile of boxes that had unaccountably been left in the middle of the road. But this all works. The different styles and arrangements come together, underpinned by a strong but relatively subtle reggae rhythm that is all the more effective for being understated.

The underlying rhythm tracks are strong, as in ‘Tiger Balm’, a melodic reggae song worthy of dub attention. ‘Postman’ (the second single release from the album) is another strong melodic track, opening with steel percussion that asserts itself further as the song proceeds. The album closes with ‘Win or Lose’, its synth sounds much in evidence and sweet multi-tracked vocals propelling it through to a pleasing close.

Hollie Cook ‘Twice’, release May 2014

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

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