Here’s a great new 7” single release from London’s Kiko Bun (Federico Marin), a short and to-the-point reggae song with a retro feel. Recorded in New York, its location allowed the involvement of Ticklah – associate of the Easy Star All Stars – at the production desk and he adds a characteristically busy and deep bass-oriented sound. This is especially evident on the ‘B’ side – ‘Where I’m From (I Remember How to Dub)’ – where the dub sound is set free to follow the rhythm wherever it goes. It’s a song that is bound to be revisited and remixed as time goes on, as is already evident in the Tom Misch remix which transforms a neat reggae tune into something more akin to jazz.
View footage of Kiko Bun and Ticklah in the studio:
Kiko Bun: Where I’m From, released vinyl/DDL on Island label.
Coventry’s own Selecter, originally formed in 1979, are back with a new 12-track album, produced by Neil Pyzer and mixed by Prince Fatty. Still fronted by lead singer Pauline Black and fellow original member Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson, it’s good to hear this new music from one of reggae’s great bands. The album is divisible into fast ska-based rhythms and more leisurely reggae songs, sequenced to provide a balance between the two. Proceedings open with ‘Box Fresh’, an upbeat ska song, setting the pattern for other tracks in a similar vein including ‘Open Goal’. ‘It Never Worked Out’ is a more leisurely and more interesting reggae affair, in common with the Eastern-flavoured ‘Breakdown’. Similarly ‘Karma’ is a retro-styled reggae song. ‘See Them a Come’ could have appeared at British reggae’s peak, as could ‘Walk the Walk’ with its Rudy-message-to-you horns. Into this proficient set of songs there suddenly appears ‘Because the Night’, the Springsteen/Patti Smith classic that receives a highly convincing treatment here, surely destined to be a live crowd-pleaser. The album closes with ‘Still I Rise’ – thoughtful reggae music at its best, instrumentally and lyrically strong, giving way to a slow and lengthy final section: a song that could well have provided an effective alternative title for this collection as a whole.
The Selecter ‘Subculture’: released by DMF Records (CD, vinyl, DDL) 15th June 2015
“Featuring”, as the label blurb has it, “the original 1981 Island album, plus the previously unissued accompanying Dub set…” That accurate description sums up this new release from the Paragons, the vocal reggae outfit that gave us the late John Holt and Bob Andy. The year of issue means that these are re-recordings of some of the Paragons’ best known songs, featuring the trio of John Holt, Garth ‘Tyrone’ Evans and Howard Barrett. This collection includes ‘The Tide is High’ (after the versions by U Roy and by Gregory Isaacs, and after Blondie had already fashioned it into a pop/rock hit single), ‘Man Next Door’, ‘Riding on a High and Windy Day’ and (the much-dubbed) ‘Wear You to the Ball’. Engineered by Errol Brown, and recorded at Tuff Gong studio in Kingston, Jamaica, it’s not surprising that the production sound is clear and uncluttered in comparison to the Paragons’ early versions of these songs for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle records in the 60s. The musicians involved here include Mikey Chung, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, all adding up to an excellent tour of the Paragons’ best tracks, with the vocals mixed up front. As if that were not enough this release also features a dub set of the entire album and that is really where the sound takes off. Sequenced differently from the vocal tracks, the dub set kicks off with ‘Riding in Rhythm’ (an excellent dub take on the vocal track) and then essentially goes from strength to strength, featuring ‘The Version is High’, ‘Wear Out the Dub’ and a dub entitled ‘My Best Rhythm’ (a perfect dub of ‘My Best Girl’). It’s old-time reggae and still sounds great.
The Paragons/The Paragons Dubwise, CD, released by Caroline Records, May 2015.
It’s an unusual pleasure to buy a coffee at Newcastle Central Station and simultaneously to be absorbed by some serious reggae music, but that was my recent experience. However one of the train companies apparently finds reggae ‘not appropriate’ for its business, to which I say as a customer ‘yes it is’ – very appropriate. So this one – ‘Lately Dub’ by Niney the Observer, and possibly the finest dub ever – is for the guy who was running the outlet on the day in question. Turn up that bass.