UB40 provoke mixed reactions. For some, their legacy of covering songs from the received reggae tradition as well as writing their own material has brought the music to a far wider audience than reggae previously enjoyed. For others, their style of reggae-lite verges on MOR drive-time background listening. Whatever assessment is offered, along the way they have released some tracks that deserve an honourable mention in any complete history of reggae. You might say: like what? Well, like the 12” version of ‘The Earth Dies Screaming’ with its powerful bass-led ‘version’ preceding rather than following the vocal track and enough reverb and echo to keep anyone happy. As well as its cheery lyrics of course. And the very early ‘King’ which uniquely managed to combine thoughtful reggae and even a dub into a 4 minute pop single.
So, here they are with the first new album release for three years, featuring Duncan Campbell as lead singer (he replaced brother Ali Campbell in 2008). Otherwise the membership is largely that of the original band, dating from 1978. The album is a combination of original songs and covers, the latter drawn, perhaps surprisingly, from country music, including George Jones’ ‘Getting Over The Storm’, Jim Reeves’ ‘He’ll Have To Go’, Willie Nelson’s ‘Blues Eyes Crying In The Rain’ and Vince Gill’s ‘If You Ever Have Forever In Mind’. “It’s not a country album, though.” states further brother Robin Campbell. “It’s a UB40 album. It’s a reggae album. We’ve just covered some country tunes.” It also includes the rather topical ‘How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?’ which most people will know from Ry Cooder’s 1970s reworking of a song from the Great Depression era.
The band are due to tour in the UK in September, coinciding with the album’s release. A limited edition version of the album is also advertised as available from here. “Limited to just 200 copies, the album will include a 12×12 poster signed by the band” according to their press release.
The contribution of the Congos to reggae is well-understood and well-documented. Their classic album Heart of the Congos (1977) is still held in awe as a reggae landmark (reggaemusic.org.uk 18th September 2009) while more recent dub reworkings (see reggaemusic.org.uk 19 May 2012) continue to attract attention. Plus they still perform live, with undiminished force. Now you can catch the Congos, with the unique voice of Cedric Myton up front, at the Jazz Cafe, Camden, on 26th June, a most inviting prospect.
Not long after, July 6th sees the London launch of the Prince Fatty Rub a Dub Club in Brixton, accompanied by the esteemed Trojan Sound System, along with the sounds of Hollie Cook, Horseman, Dennis Bovell, Jabbawocky HiFi, The Minister of Blaxploitation (AKA Moody Boyz) and (it is promised) more…Fatty’s tracks are mixed live and analogue with all the reverb, echo and tricks of 70s dub technicians that you might hope for, while the visitations upon ska, dub, dancehall and bass from the Trojan Sound System speak for themselves. Mightily impressive dub releases from producer Prince Fatty have been covered on these pages before (eg, reggaemusic.org.uk 22 October 2012) and here this uplifting retro/forward-facing live dub sound hits the streets of Brixton. Better lively up yerself then!
Wednesday 26th June 2013, The Congos at the Jazz Cafe, Camden, £15 advance; doors 19.00.
Saturday 6th July 2013, Prince Fatty Rub a Dub Club, 22:00 – 04:00, Brixton Jamm, £8 advance, more on the door.
Details as notified at time of writing – check first.
Although the word ‘legendary’ is somewhat over-used in referring to some of reggae’s key bands from decades past, in the case of Culture it might just be the only word that fits. Their seminal – OK, legendary – debut album ‘Two Sevens Clash’ was released in 1977 and stands as a permanent testament to the power of roots reggae with a strong spiritual dimension. Produced at the Joe Gibbs studio, its vocal core of Albert Walker, Kenneth Dayes and Joseph Hill generated a striking and melodic sound. The contributing musicians – including Vin Gordon, Bobby Ellis, Sly Dunbar, Tommy McCook and Robbie Shakespeare – speak for themselves. The harmony vocals and the straightforward melodic strength of this release still sound powerful today: if at all possible have a listen to the 2007 re-release of ‘Two Sevens Clash’ (Shanachie label) which adds some 12” mixes, dub and the distinctive contribution of I Roy to the original release.
With his son, Kenyatta Hill, taking the lead vocal place of the late Joseph Hill the music of Culture has continued to be performed live to new audiences, and there is now the rare chance to catch the current incarnation of Culture on a UK tour, commencing 19th March 2013.
Details were correct as notified at the time of writing but check locally first.
Tuesday 19 March: Exeter Phoenix t: 01392 667080 w: exeterphoenix.org.uk
Wednesday 20 March: Brighton Komedia featuring DJ Mystikal Roots Hi Fi
t: 0845 293 8480 w: komediabrighton.ticketsolve.com
Thursday 21 March: Newcastle upon Tyne The Cluny t: 0191 2304474 w: thecluny.com
Friday 22 March: Manchester Band on the Wall t: 08452 500 500 w: bandonthewall.org
Saturday 23 March: Kendal Brewery Arts Centre t: 01539 725133 w: breweryarts.co.uk
Sunday 24 March: Glasgow 02 ABC t: 0844 477 200 w: o2abcglasgow.co.uk
Tuesday 26 March: London Assembly Islington t: 08442491000 w: assemblyhall.ticketabc.com
Thursday 28 March: Norwich Arts Centre t: 01603660352 w: norwichartscentre.co.uk
Friday 29 March: Liverpool The Picket t: 08444 771 000 w: ticketweb.co.uk
Saturday 30 March: Nottingham Notts County Sports Bar
Sunday 31 March: London Bridge Park Complex t: 0208 9610866
The unique Lee Perry is due for a live session at Fibbers, York, on Saturday 27th October 2012. Who knows what that’ll be like but it should be worth investigating. Probably a good idea to check details and date before then. Meantime here is a reminder of Lee Perry in action in 1982.
Implausibly enough Little Roy has turned Nirvana’s angry and slightly desolate song of childhood into a brilliant 7” reggae single that sounds as though it was minted in Channel One in the early 70s and has just been discovered in someone’s attic, complete with period production values and a relentlessly upbeat feel that puts the original into a different place entirely. It seems even less likely that Lil Roy (or anyone else) would have a go at a reggae take on Dive, but – hey!- here it is. What a pleasant surprise. Here we are now, entertain us!
From Scientist comes this serious double-CD of dubstep rhythms. One CD consists of ‘dubstep originals’ in the shape of 12 unreleased tracks from producers including Kode 9, Shackleton, Pinch and Mala; the other comprises Scientist’s mixes of the same rhythms.
It opens with Pinch (ft Emika) and the atmospheric ‘2010’, the synth intro opening out into a dubstep percussive sound, before reverting to its outer-spacey themes in the outtro. The Scientist mix adds much echo and a very heavy treatment of the rhythm to generate another take on the same track. Guido’s ‘Korg Back’, a fairly straightforward three chord rhythm, retains its simple structure in Scientist’s hands, along with a haze of electro sounds. The collection closes in cosmos style with ‘Abeng’ from Kode 9 and Spaceape, the feel justifying the ‘launch into outer space’ theme of this release. Overall it’s an ambitious bunch of tracks but interestingly it remains accessible to audiences that might not yet be fully signed-up to dubstep. Continue Reading “Scientist Launches Dubstep into Outer Space”→