From the folks at Springline Records/Come Fi Conquer we encounter an album fashioned not in the trial and tribulation of Kingston, Jamaica, but in the mean streets of Willesden, North-West London. Like previous releases from this undervalued label the sound, feel and message remain true to the origins of the music and its guiding influences. The album opens with ‘Silver Locks Crackin’, a no-nonsense skanking start to the proceedings, followed up with ‘Playing Good Vibes’, a master lesson in slow, spiritual, melodic roots from Yabass, featuring also the contrasting input of Michael Rose. This strong and impressive track is followed immediately by its dub, ‘Vibez a Wa’, with Jah Wa Wa making another guest contribution – a great dub production with snatches of the original vocal and even a touch of ‘row fisherman row’ and ‘down by the riverside’ in there somewhere, this is a fine deconstruction with all the elements of a dub-era classic mix and something that sounds almost like a Tubby-era hi-hat making itself known. ‘Community Rocker’ itself comes in with a busy dubby mix, and a lot going on around and behind the simple ‘community rocker’ line and the repeat bass phrase beneath. ‘Fear No Evil’ opens with its brief childlike vocals and a biblical message, then is straight into a deep dub-led mix, along with melodica-sounding instrumentation and a sparse drum and bass pattern. A doomy sort of feel indeed.

‘Who Jah Bless’ is a delightful discovery – again, a simple repeating vocal figure, this time with a striking keyboard intervention reminiscent of play-the-organ-at-home adverts of bygone days, after which the instrumentation and vocals are stripped away to go into an echoing bass-heavy dub before reintroducing the vocals: a brilliant little track, and quite unlike anything else recently encountered, closing with a nice spoken rhetorical question: ‘who could beat that?’ Indeed – and a great job from producer Gibsy Rhodes. Listen at the You Tube link below – it’ll spread!. Next up, ‘Judgement Day’ is thoughtful roots music, nice percussive sounds in the background, a subtle and interesting mix and the album ends on a high with ‘Natural Situation’, a splendid dubbed-up rhythm track.

A surprisingly strong album and a most rewarding way to spend 32 minutes of your life: have a listen.

Yabass Yaba Radics: ‘Community Rocker’. Release March 2013 (CD/DDL/cassette), Springline Jamaica- Come Fi Conquer-Roots Lab Intl

This Pressure Sounds double-album from Yabby You brings together some little-known bass-heavy roots tunes/dubs together with selected alternative versions, rare dubplates, and tracks previously found only on vintage singles. It is a striking testament to roots and dub at their peak. The compilation revolves around Yabby You’s creative production collaboration with King Tubby, featuring some tracks only recently unearthed for first release here.  Personnel include Barrington Spence, through King Miguel and Smith and the Prophets, together with Aston Barrett and Robbie Shakespeare on bass and the great Tommy McCook on saxophone.

Things get under way with the R and B chants of ‘Valley of Joeasaphat’ from the Prophets, followed by its dub, then up looms the austere ‘Thanks and Praise’, an ‘exclusive dub plate mix’ from King Tubby. Side 1 is completed by ‘Don’t Touch I Dread’ from Barrington Spence, together with its dub: a seminal release of the period (those previously unacquainted with Yabby You will no doubt recognise it from the widely-disseminated I-Roy version). Side 2 consists solely of dub plates, with Tommy McCook’s opening ‘Fighting Dub’ featuring the kind of bass that was truly meant for vinyl within a mix that embodies classic roots/dub production of the era perhaps better than anything else here. The dub mixes continue, including an excellent ‘Deliver Dub’ credited to King Tubby and Yabby You, culminating in Don D Junior (Vin Gordon’s) striking and unique trombone excursion on ‘Milk River Rock’, one of the newly-discovered cuts on the album, and quite unlike anything else with its rhythm track mixed far away in the background. Side 3 opens with the little-recognised Prince Pampidoo’s ‘Dip Them Bedward’ in a deejay style, plus its dub, while ‘Dub Vengeance’ from King Tubby again offers a dubplate mix, this time percussion-led, and a great tuneful old school ‘Forward on the Track’ from King Miguel. The final side consists mainly of dubplates, with ‘Poor and Needy Dubwise’ a great stripped-down dub in the classic King Tubby style.

Actively recording from the 1970s to the early 90s, Yabby You (Vivian Jackson) died in 2010. This release is by far the best introduction to his deep roots style and it emphatically sums up his definitive late 70s take on spiritually-driven roots and dub.

Release December 2012; double-album vinyl on Pressure Sounds; also available on CD and DDL

Jah Van I’s album ‘In My World’ was released during Jamaica’s anniversary independence celebrations in the summer of 2012, its Jamaica/Martinique sound bringing an optimistic feel to a powerful collection of reggae songs with strong production throughout. (see review on reggaemusic.org.uk 7 July). This new single, ‘Warrior for a Cause’, is taken from the album and is a fine roots anthem in the classic tradition: see and listen here.

Jah Van I: Warrior for a Cause; single release October 2012

This original and in some ways surprising album from Oxford’s very own is a curious collection. With a live sound throughout, particularly in the mix of the bass and drums, there is a pervasive mood of urgency – put simply, being slightly frantic – as though time was running out fast and all these styles, songs and genres had to be squeezed into one (albeit very long) album before time ran out altogether.

The opening track – ‘Prophecy’ – is roots reggae in the old style to begin, before speeding-up and throwing in some guitar twiddlings that provide a direct bridge to the rock tradition from which the album also draws its numerous inspirations. ‘Ride Your Life Like a Bicycle’ (the initial single release) starts with some classic reggae chords, then proceeds toward some quirky Englishness, as though Syd Barrett had met the Specials one enchanted evening, fading out with a down-your-way harmony section, with its talk-over reminiscent of the light programme from the golden age of steam radio; what was it anyway with bicycles in the late 60s, the Prisoner and My White Bicycle aside? More »