Capital Letters: Wolverhampton in Dub

a0869349583_10Capital Letters, producing new music after a gap of several decades, have met with acclaim for their resolute adherence to the authentic sound of Midlands roots reggae. Their comeback release ‘Wolverhampton’ has been positively reviewed on these pages and now we have the complete dub version of the album on separate release. Mixing engineer Dave Sandford was given licence to play dub with the original album, commenting that “on these dubs I just went with what I wanted to hear. Of course there are the norms for dub albums, but I wanted to take it further, trying to do things that haven’t been done”. The results speak for themselves as the album sounds neither like a classic-era dub collection nor a latter-day digital experiment. Along with the dub elements that might be expected – echo, reverb, bass, drums – there are unpredictable additions of partial vocals, sounds and effects that give it all an adventurous feel rather than just offering instrumental versions of the vocal tracks. This approach is demonstrated on a track like ‘Opportunity’ which powers along happily, and also on both versions included here of ‘Wolverhampton’, one of which is a ‘stripped down’ vocal version of the original track. ‘Tell Me What’s Wrong’ has a strange staccato style that works well, while ‘Jamaica’ stands out as a strong rhythm track in its own right with snatches of vocal thrown in to accentuate the overall impact. With 14 dubs here, plus 3 further alternate versions, the overall musical feel is curiously light, fresh – and happy. Listen alongside the original vocal album and the dubs here can be appreciated further. The 14 core tracks conclude with ‘A Place on Earth’, a fine conclusion indeed.

Capital Letters: Wolverhampton in Dub, released on Sugar Shack Records, CD and digital, 16th October 2015

Capital Letters: Wolverhampton

CapitalLettersWolverhamptonIt’s been a mighty long time since Capital Letters released their ode to ‘Smoking My Ganja’ in the reggae/punk heyday of late-70s Britain, but the Wolverhampton wanderers now return with a brand new album named after their home town. Comprising fourteen tracks it is almost certainly the only album ever to feature a song called ‘Wolverhampton’ and another called ‘Jamaica’. The album opens with ‘Jah Music’, setting the initial mood as one of gentle roots reggae along with relatively understated vocals, drawing to a mildly dub-influenced conclusion. The next track, ‘Wolf’, has a similar feel.

Thereafter, ‘Opportunity’ has a slightly harder edge, both lyrically and in its familiar rhythm. The more assertive lyrics continue with the powerful anti-war theme of ‘Dat Nah Stop’, its hard message set within a deceptively light and melodic rhythm and instrumentation. This contrast between placid musical style and serious lyrics is a feature of several of the tracks here and it is a particular strength. The spiritual roots sound of ‘Thanks and Praise’ is clear enough in its meaning, while ‘Tell Me What’s Wrong’ returns to the message of peace, delivered, like ‘Movie Star’, in a vocal style reminiscent of lovers’ rock or even that of a soul ballad.

Capital Letters have been through several personnel changes over the years. The band reformed in 2013 and this is their first album of new music for 30 years. Engineered by Noel Browne at his own studio, this is an intriguing mix indeed; unashamedly retro in some ways, but sounding vital and new all the same.

Capital Letters ‘Wolverhampton’ released on Sugar Shack Records, CD and DDL, March 23rd 2015; additional limited-edition vinyl release of selected tracks and their dub versions.