Monday, December 20, 2010

End Of Year Report & Top 5 Reggae Albums Of The Year

For me this year has not seen the same great wealth of quality reggae releases as last year, although in truth that was always going to be a difficult task. This year has also seen the further demise in record sales. I myself posted on here and reported about this for United Reggae at the end of 2009 and now they have followed that up with the news that another prominent London based specialist reggae shop is about to close.
That said this year was not been completely barren and full of gloom and doom by any means. Veteran reggae stars Don Carlos (Changes) and BB Seaton (Ready for the World) released excellent new albums and stalwarts Luciano and Gyptian both had critically acclaimed albums out. New comers Toussaint, with his own brand of reggae soul on ‘Black Gold’ and Dutch born Maikal X’s ‘Genesis’, both show great promise for the future, also crowds at reggae based festivals appear to be up, with Rototom Festival in Spain attracting over 130 000 people.
The death of reggae maybe a bit premature, but for some of reggaes big names may find that they will have to evolve somewhat and maybe add different styles to their portfolios for if they want to progress and maybe even get reggae to flourish again. This will on doubt upset many traditional fans, but for reggae to get back to the position where it was in the late ‘70s and early ’80s it may have to fight its way to the forefront from within other musical genres.
The underground reggae scene appears to have a wealth of talented people out there, and a lot of hardcore support, in fact without the absolute dedication and passion of today’s underground reggae and dub artists from many nations Reggae, as we know it would possibly not exist. Reggae today is the underground; they hold onto and create what we remember from time.
Springline label has played its part with many releases this year from the likes of, The Manor, Steve Steppa & Samson plus a couple of well received compilations. Next year, it is hoped, will be no different with an alternative, off centre dub album from Denja entitled ‘Shamen's Trip’ due for release in February and a 2nd album from The Manor in the pipeline for early summer. Also as I’ve been speaking about diversifying Springline will also release its first non-reggae offering ‘Cheap Dress Full Of Stars’ by the David Powell Experience at the end of January

To find out more about these artists you can visit

Finally, as is so often the case at the years end, here are Gibsy’s and mine top 5 reggae albums of the year. I have chosen mine on the basis that these are from artist that were either new or just ones that I had not heard of before and therefore gave me an unexpected surprise when listening to them.

Skarl's Top 5 for 2010
2. The Bullets - Sweet Misery
1. Zema - Jubilee

Gibsy's Top 5 for 2010
5. Pato Ranking Meets Don Fe - Vol 1
4. Digikal Roots - Let There Be Version (EP)
3. Manor - Revelation Congo
1. Pama Int’ Meets Mad Professor - Rewired

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Josey Wales – Reggaes Best Outlaw

Josey Wales was born Joseph Winston Sterling in West Kingston, Jamaica. He took his stage name from the Clint Eastwood Western The Outlaw Josey Wales and along with his sound-system partner Charlie Chaplin and the likes of Brigadier Jerry was widely regarded as one of the best DJs on the dancehall scene of the early ‘80’s.
Wales’s first DJ performances were with the Roots Unlimited Sound System in 1977, but it was as part of mentor U-Roy's King SturGav Hi-Fi Sound System in the early '80s, where he spent three and a half years, that he really made his name. At King SturGav he teamed up with fellow DJ Charlie Chaplin and the two sparring partners became one of the most potent one-two punches of the era, which in turn made King SturGav arguably the biggest sound system around.

His first recordings were live performances issued on producer Bunny Roots' label, but it was when he hooked up with the primary producer of the day, Henry "Junjo" Lawes and began moonlighting for his Volcano sound system that in 1983 he issued his first-ever single on the Volcano label, "Baby Come Home."The song wasn't much of a hit, but its follow-up, "Let Go Mi Hand," on the Mad Mad riddim, from an old Alton Ellis tune which was made popular by Michigan and Smiley’s use on ‘Diseases’, was a breakthrough smash that established Wales as a recording star, not just an electrifying live performer.
His debut album, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ soon followed, helping to cement his status as one of Jamaica's top DJs, behind only Yellowman at his peak.
Further hits followed, including "Bobo Dread", which appeared on the ‘Two Giants Clash’ album recorded with Yellowman and "Drug Abusing", taken from his self-produced second solo album ‘No Way No Better Than Yard’.
In 1985 he cut an album for George Phang in called ‘Undercover Lover’ before moving over to producer King Jammy's label and recording a series of hits that included "Na Lef Jamaica," "Ha Fi Say So," "Right Moves," "It's Raining," and "Water Come a Mi Eye," among others. The ‘Rulin'’ album appeared in 1986 on the Black Solidarity label, and several collections of his work for Jammys also followed in the late '80s. By this time, however, Wales' conscious and Rastafarian style seemed increasingly out of date with other toasters, who were upping the ante for lyrical technique, with slackness and gun talk beginning to rule the dancehalls. Nonetheless Wales remained true to his beliefs and was an active presence on the Jamaican music scene for quite some time, both as a recording artist and as a mentor to up-and-comers like the young Shabba Ranks.

During the early ‘90s he mainly focused on collaborations, releasing duo albums with old cohorts U-Roy ‘Teacher Meets the Student’ and Charlie Chaplin ‘Kings of the Dancehall’ which appeared in 1992 and 1994, respectively, and a duet with Beres Hammond, "Hey Girl," was a smash hit in the U.K. reggae charts in 1993. The solo album ‘Cowboy Style’ was also released on in 1994 on Greensleeves and he also worked with the likes of Gussie Clarke, Tappa Zukie, Philip "Fatis" Burrell, and Bobby Digital during the decade. It was also during this decade, in 1997, that he was robbed at gunpoint in a Kingston bar. He was wounded in the incident and this ironically helped briefly revitalize his recording career, as he scored Jamaican hits with the singles "Bush Wacked" and "Who Shot the Colonel" (The Colonel being another of Wales’ aliases).
In 1998, Wales joined the reunited King SturGav Hi Fi Sound System, touring with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Brigadier Jerry, and U-Roy and to this day he remains a popular figure in the dancehall scene and still knows how to get a crowd moving, as was witnessed in 2008 at the Reggae Geel festival in Belgium.
(Respects to Steve Huey)

Toussaint - Black Gold

Released back in August on I Grade Records was Black Gold by Toussaint. This album has been described as reggae soul and reggae roots music for its blend of reggae interweaved with soul, funk, jazz, R&B, and deft folk/rock elements, but call it what you want, I quite like soulful reggae, one thing is for sure Tousssaint has found a classy way of putting his message across.
It is not the first time soul has been mixed with reggae after all the likes of Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and others were covering Motown and Stax classics for labels like Trojan way back. Ok maybe not in a way like this but their voices and some of the arrangements were not that far away from the originals and moving on into the late ‘70s Prince Lincoln Thompson was adding elements of Gamble and Huff’s Philly sound to his music. I suppose where this differs is that it is that here is an artist that has made something of a name for himself as a soul and jazz vocalist who has been drawn to the power of reggae and its association with being the music of the sufferers, for make no mistake despite its silky, easy on the ear sound this is an album fighting against the exploitation of the masses by the elite, a constant reggae theme.
There are also personal stories on here such as ‘Conquering Cocaine’, which touches on the singer's own history of trouble with the drug and softer moments like the R&Bish ‘Unforgettable’.
Some tracks are slightly Marleyesque in their qualities and this applies to "Roots In the Modern Time" one of the main stand out tracks for me. Here Toussaint tells how people are often found neglecting their roots as they pursue the comforts and symbols of the modern world, while the other stand out, and well away from a reggae vibe is the neo-soul sounding ‘Changes’. This tune has one of those jazzy vibes a kin to Erykah Badu and looks at the American political system and warns that though Obama may be president don’t expect things to change over night and that equality and fairness for all will still be a constant battle.
Hopefully this album should appeal to both reggae and soul fans in equal measure and maybe just maybe with the added help of the diversity in instrumentation it will see Toussaint reach wider critical acclaim.

1. Nobody Knows
2. This Song
3. Roots In A Modern Time
4. Be You
5. Sunshine In Morning
6. Hello My Beautiful
7. Black Gold
8. Look Up
9. Conquering Cocaine
10. Rise and Fall featuring Jahdan Blakkamoore
11. Marching
12. Patient
13. Unforgettable
14. Changing
15. Rain Again
Available from System Records

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Josey Wales - Reggae Legend

Having recently reviewed both Johnny Osbourne and Sugar Minott ‘Legends’ box sets, Johnny for United Reggae last month and Sugar here earlier in the year, it was brought to my attention that dancehall superstar Josey Wales has also had a ‘Legends’ box set released as well.
Born in St Marys, Jamaica, Josey Wales aka The Outlaw and sometimes The Colonel was one of the best deejays of the 1980s and these four albums will show you why.
First up is 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' which was released in 1983. It was produced by Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes at Channel One with the Roots Radics firing up some of their best riddims such as the much used classic Mad Mad for ‘Let Go Mi Hand’ and Fat She Fat for ‘No Bother Me’.
His second album soon followed in the same year, but this time he strode out on his own producing the album himself with the help of Cornerstone producer Michael 'Pep' Chin. There is more of a rootsy feel to this second album with the High Times Band supplying more classic riddims such as Answer for ‘It Have Fe Sail’, Heavenless for ‘The World Is Like A Mirror’, Real Rock for ‘Too Greedy’, Vanity for ‘Yu Wrong Fe Send Come Call Me’and Queen Of The Minstrel for the beautiful ‘Maxine’. The album also featured the hit single ‘Drug Abusing’.
The third album is 'Two Giants Clash' with Josey clashing with Yellowman, as they ride atop the same Roots Radics riddims, with Lawes back in the producer’s seat. It doesn’t really cut it for me this album as Yellowman at times seems to be just going through the motions on songs like ‘Mr Big Shot’ and ‘Wrong Girl To Play With’, though he does redeem himself somewhat on ‘King Of The Crop’ which rides on Frankie Paul’s Stars. So Josey wins this one on points for me with songs ‘Bobo Dread’ on the Lovers Race riddim, ‘Jah A Mi Guiding Star’ on the afore mentioned Stars and ‘Sorry To Say’, a song about not being able to take a red eye girl, cut to Slim Smiths old Studio One smash Rougher Yet riddim.
The last of the four discs is 1985’s George Phang produced set ‘Undercover Lover’. The digital age is about to dawn. Now I’m not a great fan of digital, but Sly and Robbie with their Taxi Gang supply take some great old riddims like Phil Pratt’s Talk About Love, used to great effect for the albums title track, plus there are takes on the Real Rock riddim for ‘Nuffy Nuffy’ and Rockfort Rock is used on ‘Pon Street Again’. While the smash dancehall king of the digi riddims Sleng Teng is used deftly on ‘Freeze Who Goes There’. Also the song ‘Jose Ready’ which utilises the Hypocrites riddim has a certain catchiness to it, though this is with out doubt due to touches of The Cates Sisters ‘Get Along Without Ya Now’ in the chorus.
So once again Greensleeves bring out another fantastic box set and when these box sets are priced at just £11.99, as it is at Amazon, then its hard to find reasons not to buy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Johnny Osbourne – Reggae Legend

Born Errol Osbourne in 1948 and raised in Jones Town, the Mecca of dancehalls in Kingston, he would become better known as Johnny Osbourne when he rose to success in the late ‘70s and mid ‘80s and became the king of those same dancehalls.
It was during 1967 that Osbourne first strode out as a singer when he became lead vocalist of The Wildcats. They recorded for producer Winston Riley but unfortunately nothing became of these works. The Wildcats' manager then financed a session at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One, from which his debut single, ‘All I Have Is Love’, was released. In 1969 he recorded an album, ‘Come Back Darling’ with the Sensations and with Riley once again at the controls. On the day of the albums completion, Osbourne emigrated to Toronto, Canada, to join his family. Here he sang with various soul and reggae groups, finally becoming lead vocalist for Ishan People. He recorded two albums with them, before the group broke up in 1979 and Osbourne decided to return to Jamaica.

On his return he joined back up with Coxsonne at Studio One recording ‘Forgive Them’ and ‘Jealousy, Heartache And Pain’ for the label. He continued recording extensively for Dodd into 1980 with these sessions culminating in the iconic ‘Truths And Rights’. Shortly after the release of this album he had a hit for the then Prince Jammy with ‘Folly Ranking’ and album of the same name soon followed. The success of these recordings made him one of the most in-demand vocalists in Jamaica and a glut of material was released. Along with many successful singles released over the next couple of years there were the Albums ‘Fally Lover’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Innah Disco Style’ and ‘Never Stop Fighting’ .
In 1983 Osbourne began the year with two big hits, 'Yo Yo' and 'Lend Me A
Chopper', before enjoying further success with the popular ‘Water Pumping’, an adaptation of Hopeton Lewis' smash hit 'Take It Easy', which had also served as the basis for Johnny Clarke's 1976 hit "Rockers Time Now".
The hits didn’t stop there with "Get Cracking", "Check For You", "Rewind" from 1984 and "Buddy Bye", "No Sound Like We" and "In The Area" in 1985 all scoring large.

A couple of lean years followed but he was back in the big time again in 1988 with the release of ‘Good Time Rock’ and ‘Rude Boy Skank’ recorded for Bobby Digital. These two songs were included on 1989’s ‘Rougher Than Them’. A few singles were recorded during this time as he continued to record for the likes of Coxsone Dodd, Ed Robinson and the now coronated King Jammy. Singles including 'Keep That Light', 'Unity' and 'A We Run Things' all saw the light of day, but regrettably a long-promised second album from Dodd never materialized
Johnny has remained a popular artist to this day although his recording days have been somewhat greatly diminished since those days of both Johnny’s and Reggae’s glory days.
To read a review of the latest Greensleves 4cd box set Jonny Osbourne - Reggae Legend visit

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Positively Nelsons – The US Virgin Islands Conscious Reggae Sisters

Reggae sister act Positively Nelsons are US Virgin Islands sisters, Arvian A.K.A. "Sparkles" and Stephanie A.K.A. "Empress Auset" who have been singing harmonious, motivational, inspirational and conscious reggae and gospel vibes for over 20 years at various venues across the globe.
It was not however until 2005 that they formerly become recording artists. Their music is an eclectic combination of various smooth and rhythmic reggae styles that will provoke thought, have you sitting at the edge of your seat or moving intrinsically towards the dance floor with lyrics that are filled with culture and meaning. Overall, the songs are uplifting, motivational and straight to the point with either Reggae Bubblers (featured on this blog here) or JamRock Reggae Band from Raleigh, NC supplying the riddims

The sisters have recorded four albums to date with 1st album, ‘No More Tumble Weed’, released in July 2005, followed by, ‘Wait A Minute’, released a year later in July 2006. Then after a short hiatus the 3rd album, ‘Know Where You’re Going’ was released in November 2008, before finally in February 2009 the 4th album, ‘So, Let Dem Talk’ hit the shelves.
These albums have variously been described as “a must listen to CD for all the conscious reggae fans” by Al Baptiste Sr (Xpress Band, Virgin Islands) on ‘No More Tumble Weed’ and Alton Aimable ( ) said of ‘Wait A Minute’ “A CD that is a musical Trojan to penetrate every ones mind and soul with lyrics to make you think.”
It is hoped that more great music will be available from the sisters soon but until then you can get any of their previous releases from

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Norman “General” Johnson - The Chairman of the Board

General Johnson best known as lead singer with Chairmen Of The Board and before that The Showmen sadly passed away, back on October 13th, after a long struggle with lung cancer.

Chairman Of The Board are probably the band that first kindle my love for soul music way back in the early ‘70s when they had massive success with songs like ‘Everything Is Tuesday’, ‘Dangling On A String’ and of course the excellent ‘Give Me Just A Little More Time’. I was filled with great sadness when I heard of his passing as I believe it is listening to those songs on the radio in my formative years that lead me to find such a connection with Northern Soul as a teenager and beyond. Now I just want to say thanks for some really fantastic tunes and more importantly for leading me to the road for Soul!

The musical career of Norman “General” Johnson started out around 1950 when he was part of an accapella gospel group called the Israelites. From here he soon joined a school band called The Humdingers in the mid fifties. They were soon noticed and got to record singles for Atlantic. The songs however were sadly never released. In 1961 they changed label and signed for Minit Records. A name change came with that and The Showmen were born. They released several singles with the label, the most notable of which was the R&B top forty hit ‘I Will Stand’. They then moved to Swan Records in 1965. Here Johnson released a solo effort, ‘The Honey House‘, before as a band they released the superb Wigan floor filler ‘Our Love Will Grow‘.
For a couple of years they continued in this vein hopping from label to label releasing the odd single until in 1967/68, When Holland-Dozier-Holland departed Motown, the trio courted General Johnson and Danny Woods and eventually enticed them away with the prospect of forming a flag ship quartet with Harrison Kennedy and Eddie Custis at their newly formed Invictus label..
Chairmen of the Board were the product of this merger and things got off to a flying start with the release of "Give Me Just a Little More Time". It sold a million plus copies, reaching #3 in the US R&B charts and a very respectable #3 in the UK pop chart. This was swiftly followed by "You've Got Me Dangling On A String" and Everything's Tuesday" that peaked at #19 (US R&B) #5 (UK) and #14 (US R&B) #12 (UK) respectively. Despite this singles success and with two LP’s also released (S/T & In Session), in the US at least, everything was not contented among the group, with Eddie Custis becoming increasingly disheartened and finally leaving in 1972.
Just after Custis leaving Chairman Of The Board hit back with the album Bitter Sweet. The album was somewhat of a relative failure and this accompanied by the Invictus ship hitting troubled waters plus Johnson’s own business disagreements with the label, led to them leaving in 1974. They did though leave a final legacy with the LP Skin I’m In, which spawned “Finder’s keepers“, a break away from the flouncy pop soul to a more gritty funk sound reminiscent of early Commodores. It was met with a warm welcome from the public, but was to be the last time the band would break into the US R&B chart top 10 reaching #7 and also the last top 40 hit in the UK charts peaking at #21.
As well as appearing on all this famous hits General Johnson also was quite a song writer in his own right and wrote and recorded the original version of the ballad "Patches", which won a Grammy Award when covered to great success by Clarence Carter. He also wrote the Grammy-nominated “Somebody’s Been Sleeping In My Bed” for 100 Proof Aged In Soul which peaked at #6 on the US R&B chart supplied the all girl vocal group with their #1 US R&B smash “Want Ads”.
Johnson continued writing and performing Johnson and toured the UK in 1976 with six musicians, including co-founding member Danny Woods as Chairmen of the Board, but their earlier success this time eluded them. With this disappointment the act was broken up immediately afterwards with Johnson signing for Arista Records as a solo artist. Again though in 1978, Johnson reformed the Chairmen of the Board along with Danny Woods and Ken Knox and in 1980, they formed Surfside Records, an independent record label based in Charlotte, North Carolina. The reformed group scored a regional hit with "Carolina Girls", but mainstream success was unfortunately never tasted again.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Reggae Bubblers – Man Heart So Cold

If good, honest, wholesome, Roots and Culture is your thing then look no further than The Reggae Bubblers. This band from the island of St. Croix in the U.S Virgin Islands has a very organic sound with lyrics that are steeped in their Rastafarian beliefs.
Their new album ‘Man Heart So Cold’ is out now and you can read a full review at

The album is available to buy from

Tayo meets Acid Rockers ft. PupaJim - Vampayaa

Out on the 22nd of this month is the new release from Scotch Bonnet subsidiary label Scrub-A-Dub........Tayo meets Acid Rockers ft. PupaJim “Vampayaa”

The track features PupaJim, who is causing serious shockwaves of late in the world of reggae with a voice that sounds straight off an 80s dancehall 7”. Together with Tayo and Acid Rockers they have created a modern steppers classic with a blood-curdling array of remixes.
RSD pulls out all the stops applying his signature Bristol sound on a serious roller while Marcus Visionary steps up the pace with a jump up Karnival banger and Starkey stamps his gutter style with colorful swirling synths.
This is a limited edition 12" heavy weight vinyl press, so grab it before it’sgone.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Protoje "The Seven Year Itch" Sampler

If you follow things on places like Facebook you may have already come across this, but for thoughs of you who don't here is a link for a free sampler at Mediafire that is presented in a mixtape format

The sampler includes all previously released tracks from the upcoming album, including 'Arguments', 'Dread', 'JA,' 'Roll,' and 'Rasta Love' (featuring Ky-Mani Marley). Each track is accompanied by exclusive audio clips of Protoje explaining his creative process, as well as its own artwork designed by Taj Francis. Fans are also treated to a bonus live version of 'Dread,' recorded on the night of Protoje’s first performance at the renowned Jamnesia Sessions in Bull Bay, Jamaica.

According to Protoje “These songs were written over a 7 Year Period, hence the album title 7 Year Itch. I want this Sampler to give people who wouldn’t normally have access to my music, a chance to connect, and to understand why I choose to express myself in this way. All i ask is for ones to share this music. Spread music Spread Love."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dubmatix - System Shakedown

System Shakedown is the excellent new album from Dubmatix. It’s an album with a fantastic classic reggae vibe that’s been mixed with the sounds of now.
It features a host of special guests:

The Mighty Diamonds
Brother Culture
Tippa Irie
Dennis Alcapone
U Brown
The Ragga Twins
Jay Douglas
Kulcha Ites
& Omar Perry

checkout a full review at

by the CD, MP3, Vinyl from

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sonia Pottinger Passes Away

Jamaica’s first female record producer, Sonia Pottinger OD, who had been ailing for some time has passed away.
She was probably the most important woman involved in the Jamaican music business having opened the Tip Top Record shop in 1965. She was married to music producer Lyndon Pottinger and in the following year proceed to produce local acts herself.
Her first single as a producer was ‘Every Night’ by Joe White and Chuck. Then throughout the rock steady and early reggae eras, she became very prolific producing hits for The Ethiopians ("The Whip"), Delano Stewart, The Melodians ("Swing And Dine"), Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and Toots & the Maytals, which were released on her Gay Feet, Tip Top, Rainbow, and High Note labels, then in 1974 she acquired Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label shortly before his passing.

During the 1970s, she started producing albums and worked with Bob Andy, Marcia Griffiths, U Roy and Big Youth. Her most well known album production though is Culture's ‘Harder Than The Rest’, released in 1978.
She continued working into the 1980s dancehall era and produced Archie & Lynn's "Rat in the Centre" before finally retiring from the music business in 1985.
Are thoughts are with her family and friends at this unfortunate time, but we give thanks for the wonderful musical legacy Sonia left behind.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Laurel Aitken - Voodoo Woman [Music for Mods: Soul And Ska Sounds From The Sixties]

Having profiled Laurel Aitken the other month I then came by this new release from Pressure Drop records entitled ‘Voodoo Woman - Music For Mods: Soul And Ska Sounds From The Sixties’ with the emphasis mainly on soul and also, though not in the title, R&B.
Now before Jamaica found its own musical style in the shape of ska the big noise at the dancehalls of the late 50’s was American R&B and opener ‘Voodoo Woman’ is straight up Bo Diddly inspired, pounding piano, brass stabbing, jungle rhythm beating R&B and ‘I Believe’ with its lolloping gait is Professor Long Hair meets gospel. There are some nice soul tunes ‘Jamaica’ is a heartfelt, homesick sounding lament squarely aimed at the new immigrant population of the UK, who were perhaps questioning whether they’d done the right thing in leaving for these shores. ‘Sweet Precious Love’ on the other hand is a real upbeat foot stomper. On the ska front ‘You Can’t Stop Me From Loving You’ and ‘Don’t Play With Fire’ are good ol’ fashioned harmonica powered gems.
A lot of the songs have a feeling like you’ve heard it before with Laurel “borrowing” snippets and ideas long before the Gallagher brothers. ‘Last Night’ is an obvious cover / reworking of the Mar-Keys Atlantic hit while others such as ‘Bewildered Blues’ are more subtle as he steals a piano opening from Kerry Lester’s ‘Love Letters’ while ‘You Left Me Standing’ for some reason making me want to burst into a chorus of The Drifters ‘Save the Last Dance’.This is obviously a must for fans and collectors of Aitken, with almost all tracks new to CD,as it showcases another side to his prolific output, but also this should appeal to those who like tunes with a sixties groove that are more on the obscure side as well as to those of straight R&B. The album is well packaged with great informative sleeve notes by Mike Atherton. I mean I learnt a new great piece of trivia in that Laurels backing singers The Carols were just up the road from me in St Albans! A nicely put together album despite a dubious title, I do hate this compartmentalizing thing, although I can see where they are coming from.

1. Voodoo Woman
2. Last Night
3. Baby Don T Do It
4. You Can T Stop Me From Loving You
5. Seven Lonely Nights
6. I Believe
7. Bewildered And Blue
8. Jamaica
9. Looking For My Baby
10. You Left Me Standing
11. I M In Love With You Baby
12. Glory Hallelujah
13. I've Been Weeping And Crying
14. I Need You Aka Indeed I Love You
15. Let S Be Lovers Aka I Can T Stand It
16. Don T Play With Fire
17. The Mule
18. This Little Girl Of Mine
19. I Want To Love You Forever
20. Pack Your Bundle And Go
21. Bongo Jerk
22. Don T Break Your Promise
23. Never You Hurt The One You Love
24. Sweet Precious Love
25. Darling

Pama International Last Gigs

Pama International are about to set off on their last shows for a while as they take a well earned break from the constant pressures of gigging and recording.
However this does not mean that all will be quite at their Rockers Revolt HQ as they have lined up 4 new albums to be released from early next year.
Dates penciled in at the moment are for

Feb'11 - Intensified - Lunar City Groove (21st anniversary release - brand new album & dvd documentary)

Feb'11 - Maroon Town - Urban Myths (ska/rap/latin grooves from London's globe-trotting sensation)

Mar'11 - The Sidewalk Doctors (London's new kings of rocksteady)

Mar'11 - Pama Intl meet Wrongtom (fresh from his killer reworking of Roots Manuva, Wrongtom is finishing off Pama Intl-Love Filled Dubs)

So to catch the last 5 shows from this stalwart of the UK reggae scene over the last decade catch them at

27/11 Newbury Arlington Arts
28/11 Birmingham Sound Bar
09/12 London Gazs Rockin Blues, Soho
10/12 London Brixton Hootananny (last London show-free entry)
17/12 Folkestone Quarterhouse

Also on the road at the moment are the following ROCKERS REVOLT bands:

12/11 London The Jazz Cafe
26/11 Norwich Arts Centre
10/12 Oxford The Cellar

26/11 London Brixton Hootananny
17/12 Folkestone Quarterhouse

03/11 London Cafe In The Crypt, Trafalgar Sq

05/11 Oxford The Cellar
10/12 London Brixton Hootananny
17/12 Folkestone Quarterhouse


Monday, November 1, 2010


The fantastic new studio album from Bristol phenomenon Babyhead is now available at Rockers Revolt and other good musical outlets.

Following on from the release of their singles 'Jungle Law', 'Think Money' and dubs over this summer, they have now unleashed Babyhead's third and darkest album, 'Heavy Weather'
Both singles were greeted with critical acclaim and global airplay, including here at home; Kiss100-David Rodigan, BBC Radio 2-Alex Lester and xfm's-John Kennedy.

'Heavy Weather' was recorded in Portishead’s “State Of Art” studio and is Rooted in Dub, heavy skank, thunderdrums, blazing horns and sharp lyricism, featureing 13 songs from the rural/urban landscape. It is a personal tale of love, life, politics, sex, death and the greatest British preoccupation - The weather.

Read a full review at.......

you can also catch 'em live
12/11 London Jazz Cafe
26/11 Norwich Arts Centre
10/12 Oxford The Cellar

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gregory Isaacs 1952-2010 The Cool Ruler!

The music industry is reacting with grief to news that Jamaican reggae star Gregory Isaacs has died. Isaacs, nicknamed the Cool Ruler, died at the age of 59 at his London home this morning following a long illness with cancer. The Jamaican reggae singer was best known for his song 'Night Nurse'. Gregory Isaacs was born on July 15, 1951. However, it was not before the mid-1970s that he hit his stride with ballads like ‘Love is Overdue’ and ‘All I Have Is Love’. However, Isaacs’ career was marred by a longstanding cocaine habit that landed him in jail on several occasions. In a 2001 interview with American writer David Katz, Gregory Isaacs discussed his cocaine habit. “It is very dangerous,” he said “It was the greatest course I’ve ever been on, but the most expensive. Like in high school,” he concluded. Meanwhile, Isaacs’ road manager, Copeland Forbes said the artiste was always enthusiastic even after he was diagnosed with cancer. Forbes also described Isaacs as a man who was well-known and loved all over the globe. Gregory Isaacs has died leaving 11 children. His body is to be flown to Jamaica for burial.
Gregory Isaacs the Cool Ruler
July 15, 1952 to October 25, 2010

Remember to switch off the flashplayer before starting

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pama International Meet Mad Professor – Rewired! In Dub

Mad Professor should need no introduction. From the early 1980's he has furthered dub music like no other. Producing, remixing, collaborating and releasing 1000's of reggae titles, with a who's who of reggae royalty & beyond, including; Lee Perry, U Roy, Mikey Dread, Johnny Clarke, Macka B, Sly & Robbie, Horace Andy, Max Romeo, Sandra Cross, The Orb, Beats International, Sade, Depeche Mode, Jamiroqui, Rancid, KLF, Beastie Boys, Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction) and many more. In the mid Nineties, Mad Professor’s profile increased to global status after remixing Massive Attack. The resulting album 'No Protection' went onto sell over 1 million copies.

Pama Intl have now teamed up with Mad Professor to bring you Rewired! In Dub... a complete reconstruction of Pama Intl's Outernational album. Upon it's release 'Outernational' received superb reviews and now you can read the thoughts of Gibsy Springline in his review of Rewired! In Dub at…..United Reggae.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Uniques - Absolutely Rock Steady

The Uniques, occupy a very special place in the hearts of Jamaican music lovers. Ask any reggae aficionado to name their favourite singer and it's a certainty that Slim Smith's name will head the list.
Keith 'Slim' Smith was one of the original Techniques with Winston Riley, and Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd recalled "before The Wailers hit the most popular group was The Techniques with Slim Smith..." but in 1966 Slim left to form The Uniques. They immediately established themselves as Jamaica's Number One group with hits such as 'People Rock Steady, 'Let Me Go Girl' and 'My Conversation'.

"At The Carib Theatre, The State Theatre, The Regal Theatre and the Music Union we stole the show from any other group performing and, on one memorable occasion, from The Wailers where Bob Marley threatened Slim Smith..." Jimmy Riley

Slim developed a close working relationship with up and coming producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee although, in typical fashion, he also recorded for other Kingston producers including 'Coxsone' at Studio One.

"After a few years Slim left The Uniques and went solo and the hits continued... 'Everybody Needs Love', 'Blinded By Love' and he was off on tour of Canada. He appeared in places like Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, Wales and all over London. In London he was regarded as the best Jamaican singer and was hailed wherever he appeared." Tony Mack

"I was in New York when I heard about the tragedy and I did not believe it at first... only when I heard it from several sources did I believe it. Slim had returned home to his parent's house after smoking ganja with some friends and could not get into the house. He broke a window to get in and badly cut his arm. His injuries were so severe that he bled to death before he could get treatment..." Jimmy Riley

"Slim is an incomparable singer even though he's been dead thirty odd, coming on for forty years. Slim was the nearest thing to Curtis Mayfield and he could also play instruments... look how long Slim Smith dead and you hear his music still. Do you know of another singer who's come up like Slim Smith? You've never had another singer who's made that impact on Jamaican music like Slim Smith." Bunny 'Striker' Lee

'Absolutely Rock Steady' is a spellbinding release showcasing a selection of some of The Uniques most popular hits presented alongside some of their less well known recordings. If you know and love the work of Slim Smith and The Uniques you'll be reaching for your wallet already... if not we're envious of you as you'll be hearing them for the first time. We guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

To mark this momentous release there will also be a limited silk-screen printed edition of the vinyl album.

To read a review of the album visit United Reggae

Classic Aswad and Easy Star All-star releases revamped

Due for release on 26th October are two different revamped reggae classics.

First up is Zion Train with their first new material since the grammy winning 'Live As One' album. This new work, available on 10-inch vinyl sees the train reworking Aswad's classic 1980 tune 'Rainbow Children'. Aswad front man Brinsley Forde still features on vocals and is joined by Dubdadda and Ras Pyton with dub and vocal remixes from Prof Skank.

The second release that day, although if you live in the UK it is available from the 18th, is ‘Dubber Side Of The Moon’. This is a complete remix of the entire Easy Star All-Star album ‘Dub Side of the Moon’ featuring bass heavy sounds from Groove Corporation, Mad Professor, Adrian Sherwood, 10 Ft Ganja Plant, Dubphonic, Dreadzone, Victor Rice, Dubmatix and many more.
Available to pre-order at Easy Star Records
A promo video can be seen HERE

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Upsessions - Beat You Reggae

Continuing on with the old skool early reggae inspired albums that have been rotating lately at Springline Towers, are Dutch rude boys The Upsessions with their release from late last year, “Beat You Reggae”. This is yet another album that embraces that early reggae vibe and wears its influences firmly on its sleeve. Tunes like ‘Boss Pressure’ and especially Boogeyman, with its manic yelps sound lost Upsetter material, while The Black Ballroom Skank features a toasted lyrical style that reminded me of I-Roy. ‘Reggae Funkalicious’ and ‘The Soultrain’ are exactly as their titles suggests. The first is full on, mighty organ led funky reggae with the latter and closing track a more Stax / Volt inspired selection. ‘Hold Me Belinda’ has semi soul aspirations as the intro leads you into believing it is going to burst into a Motown styled soul fest but then morphs into swinging ska. The vocals on this however are a bit strained and uncomfortable; perhaps it is the pace that is the problem because on slower numbers the vocal is much improved. The ‘Dorothee Blackswan’ croon sees the Upsessions in almost lovers rock territory and is a track doesn’t really do anything for me as it is rather weak. ‘They Say’ however, which is in a similar vein, has a certain gentleness to it that I find quite endearing. My favourite song on the album is the rocksteady story ‘Sammy Wear No Gun’ telling a typical tale of a man wrongly shot down. Good old fashioned fare that one.
This is an album of mixed styles where some work and some don’t, but overall it can be considered a success…oh and it’s worth checking out for the laid back ‘Max, You Can’t Ride A Monkey’. I haven’t got a clue what it’s about but this simple tune should put a smile on anyone’s face.

Track List:

01. Boss Pressure
02. Ready For The Beat
03. The Black Ballroom Skank (Outlaw Larry point a gun) aka The Black Ballroom murder
04. Boogeyman
05. Hold Me Belinda
06. Dorothee Blackswan
07. Reggae Funkalicious (Chapter 1)
08. Sammy Wear No Gun
09. Big Boss Reggae
10. Max, You Can’t Ride A Monkey
11. Backstabber
12. They Say

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Moon Invaders Vs Caroloregians – Hot Blood Cold Weather

This is a new split album from Belgium bands the Moon Invaders and The Caroloregians, well I say split but actually both are made up of nearly the same musicians with singer Matthew Hardison supplying lead vocals for both! Despite this both bands do have slightly different styles and serve up feast of great early reggae styled tunes. The Moon Invaders tend to lean more to R&B and ska, as typified by ‘I Believe’ and the cover of the Everly Brothers ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, while The Caroloregians go for a more skinhead, boss reggae vibe, akin to the Harry J Allstars, and The Upsetters, plus there are a couple of swinging 60’s, jazz tinged, organ grooves, in the shape of ‘Periferic’ and ‘Robbery’, thrown in.
One thing is for sure though, whatever your persuasion or preference is for the two bands if you like your reggae upbeat with a hook-filled catchiness plus that rocksteady, R&B, ska slant then this album certainly won’t disappoint.

Full Tracklist

01 Rocking Chair - The Moon Invaders
02 Super Sonic - The Caroloregians
03 Creole Crime - The Moon Invaders
04 F6 - The Caroloregians
05 All I Have To Do Is Dream - The Moon Invaders
06 Periferic - The Caroloregians
07 I Believe - The Moon Invaders
08 Rocking Version - The Moon Invaders
09 Working In A Coal Mine - The Caroloregians
10 Super Satellites - The Caroloregians
11 Natchez Street - The Moon Invaders
12 Robbery - The Caroloregians
13 Re:Session - The Moon Invaders
14 Karlking City Boogaloo - The Caroloregians
15 All The Bets Are Off - The Moon Invaders
16 Super Jet Jet - The Caroloregians

Maroon Town & Intensified Sign to Rockers Revolt

Interesting news from the rockers Revolt camp is that they have signed Maroon Town and Intensified to the label. Each of them are due to due one album that should be out early next year.

Maroon Town
London's ska/rap/funk genre busting 10 piece, originally formed in the mid 80's issuing choice cuts from the start. Record Mirror described their 1989 12" Pound To The Dollar as "the most innovative single of the year". Since then they have played to tens of thousands of people from Brazil to Jamaica, India to Canada, from Tajikistan to all over Europe. Now back home they are set to launch a brand new set next February on Rockers Revolt.
In the meantime catch them live at London Dingwalls w/ Pama Intl & Mad Professor, The Tighten Up Crew and The Sidewalk Doctors on 17th October

Arguably the UK's finest trad.ska & rocksteady band will be celebrating their 21st anniversary next year. To mark the occasion in fine style Rockers Revolt will be issuing their brand new album, complete with a bonus DVD documentary and rather nice artwork by the one and only Chema (who also created the Pama/Mad Prof art). The album is set for a shop release in Jan'11, but there be copies back before Christmas. Catch them live on 17th December at Folkestone w/ Pama Intl

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

King Django Quintet - Brooklyn Hangover

A bit of a strange album this as it is a live recording but as nearly all crowd reaction is removed from mix and it is not until the end of fourth song, the R&B mover ‘Hey Bartender’, when Django shares a bit of banter with the crowd and introduces the next number, the optimistic ‘Take Your Chances’, that you actually realise there are people there! Still a live set it is and was recorded at Southpaw, Brooklyn, USA in 2007 and features King Django, obviously, on lead vocals, ukulele, harmonica, melodica and trombone backed up by Justin Rothberg on guitar, Jess DeBellis on keyboards, Ira Heaps on bass guitar and Gregg Mervine on drums. The vibe that these boys create is uplifting and easy going, as they go through stripped down, raw versions of some of Django’s tunes from his many years in the music business with various guises like those of Stubborn All-Stars, Skinnerbox and Roots & Culture, the later being a body of work I’m not too familiar with, though having now heard the excellent ‘A Single Thread’ this is something I will be looking to remedy.
Generally when I think of King Django I always tend to associate him with ska, but what I liked most about this album is it reminded me how well Django spreads himself across varying styles of reggae from dancehall on ‘Fistful a Riddim’ and closer ‘LKO’, taken from the ‘Roots Tonic’ album and 2000’s multi-genre mixing ‘Reason’ respectively, to the mighty bass led, rootsy ‘Precipice’, also from ‘Reason’ to what is one of my favourite Django tunes of all time the rocksteady skank of ‘Tired of Struggling’ that rides on Bob’s ‘Keep Moving’.
I was fortunate enough to catch King Django quite a few years ago at the Underworld in Camden, London and this album has served also as a reminder of what a great performer he is as well. So until I get the chance to catch him live again I’ll just have to make do with this for although the production and sound quality is so good for a live album you think it was recorded in a studio, there is still just enough live feeling left to make you feel like your having your own personal show from the man himself. In a word excellent!
Download Here
Stubborn Records CD Here

Track Listing
01 Does He Love You
02 Rise to Find You
03 Tired of Struggling
04 Hey, Bartender
05 Take Your Chances
06 As Tears Go By
07 Crop No Drop
08 Avenue A
09 Move Like Ya Gone
10 A Single Thread
11 Not Like a Star
12 Precipice
13 Trying to Be Something
14 Fistful a Riddim
15 Nex Finga
16 Jump Dung
17 Reason
18 LKO

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Digikal Roots new EP 'Dub Master' released by UKRG

Digikal Roots new EP ‘Dub Master’

UKRG (United Kingdom Reggae Guide) recently joined the underground label arena and they present this first official release on their UKRG label an EP entitled ‘Dub Master’ from uprising dub artist Digikal Roots. DR has released 2 free albums during the past year or so ‘Let There Be Version’ and ‘Echo Dust’ to high acclaim, reviews and radio play outa national style indeed ‘Let There Be Version’ was spun in the SpringlineJamaica office every day for a week during it’s initial pre release with cry’s of ‘this could be an old Randy’s record’ from yours truly who after a whole week of saturation hoggin the mp3 radiogram was permanently banned by SJ exec producer iTal sKarl from going anywhere near it again!
DR’s 4 track EP features “Bud Rot Dub” straight away one feels a full on Stranglers meets The Clash studio jam produced by Mikey Dread sounding vibe, a rolling pounding skanker featuring DR’s trademark ultra clean guitar work and delay tactics, a raw energetic tune complete with a warm Hammond style organ inna pop a top mode.
“Wise Dub”; Now this is what I like about Digikal Roots music, wonderful use of horns against some really cool dub composition work, the bass line on this track is as powerful as it can go, the riddim track has a density irresistible to the headphones with some DR trademark reverb clarity on the mix, again a full on dub attack with impact label version sides coming to mind. “Obeah Step Dub” a steppers delight, one for the soundsystems and deejays a killer not a filler featuring ultra space echo style mixing effects with the riddim coming in and out of the mix and as always with DR’s trusty guitar skank a chanks. “Babylon Nah Hold I” featuring a top ranking riddim stomper drum track and heavy layering of the horns in warmth contrast to the ‘diginess’ of this tune’s overall sound, here’s an artist who composes music the traditional way ,who takes time to experryment with clean high end mixing quality ,fusing true digi dub with –and as his name implies- Roots sentiments adding a certain warmth and clarity from time that is so often rare to hear with today’s dub offerings. Music for Soundsystems, music for deejays & singers, music to just simply listen to.
Welcome to the arena Digikal Roots. (Gibsy 2010)
‘Dub Master’ EP is available to download at major and minor online stores.
Label : UKRG
Digikal Roots official site :
*Look out for a future official album release from Digikal Roots on UKRG*

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bobby Pins & The Saloon Soldiers

I’ve been listening to a lot of albums from new bands who have been inspired by that rocksteady, early reggae vibe of the late ‘60s early ‘70s on labels like Trojan and Pama. I’ll admit that none of these bands appear to want to re-invent or modernise that sound, but are just embracing it with open arms in their desire to recreate that sound. To some this means it may sound a bit old hat, but if you love that type of thing then I think you’ll really like this and want to add it to your collection. It was released and highlighted on here earlier this year and at last I have got my hands on a copy.
Bobby Pins & The Saloon Soldiers are a 9 piece from Dresden, Germany, fronted by three sassy looking, and soulful sounding female vocalists Luise, Dorit & Lotti. The music behind them is a grinding organ driven groove that’s sweet for ya feet. The album kicks off with a big boss reggae, spaghetti western inspired instrumental ‘Dual By Dawn’, that is all deft guitar and plaintive trumpet a top that organ driving beat. This is then followed by ‘Dancing On The Moon’, which sees a change of tact to more dulcet tones and introduces us to the soulful harmonies of female vocalists on this gentle sway of a tune. Rocksteady and boss reggae is then very much the order of the day with the lyrics mainly concerning love and its difficult path.
‘Streets Of Soul’ bring in a bit of motor city stomppin’ soul mixed with the reggae, while ‘Sunday’ is more straight laced heart-rending soul, with melancholy vocals backed by the raw, searing organ and moving trumpet.
Closing out the album are three instrumental versions of previous tunes. The first one ‘Reaching For The Sky’ (Dancing On The Moon) features some efficient Ernest Ranglin jazzy styled guitar. ‘For A Good Reason’ (No Reason) sees brass replace the vocal and ‘Poise & Organ’ (Poise & Fame) completes the album kind of back how we started with an organ pulsing workout.
In all 14 tracks of great old fashioned boss reggae, with some sweet soul on the side.
01 - Dual By Dawn
02 - Dancing On The Moon
03 - Streets Of Soul
04 - Hobo In The Grass
05 - No Reason
06 - The Revenge
07 - My Best Boy
08 – Sunday
09 - Place In The
10 - Poise & Fame
11 - Silent River
12 - Reaching For The Sky
13 - For A Good Reason
14 - Poise & Organ

Friday, September 17, 2010

Lee Scratch Perry New Album - “Revelation”

A legend that needs no introduction, his musical story has been followed and read by millions worldwide, his reputation as being the inventor and instigator of dub experrymentation and innovation has grown to heights that no other Jamaican producer has come close to achieving, his music especially between the years of 1969 through to 1979 is revered, collected, studied and emulated by thousands of musical followers around the globe, today he continues to play concerts to sell out fans in clubs and venues backed by various session musicians who’s line up depends on his current project. Always in demand to voice and appear on recordings and courted by various record labels and film crews Lee Perry has without a doubt superseded all that we thought was the limit. His latest album ‘Revelation’ features 13 tracks of varied reggae and dub genre cuts with a real laid back late night listening vibe.
No mistaking his vocal style and delivering his ‘scratchisms’ in fine style this is a very enjoyable listening album, the production quality and musicianship of ultra high standards will no doubt see this album gaining top reviews and new fans for Mr Perry.
Track 1 “Revelation Revolution Evolution” sets the albums laid back vibe off in fine chilled style whilst track 4 “Holy Angels” could be a Studio 1 cut of the 2010’s with its catchy and addictive hook line, with scratch praising the singers and players of the instruments.
Track 7 “Books Of Moses” has soul running through it’s veins and at the same time with low in the mix organ and guitars harking back respectfully to those classic late sixties Upsetter instrumentals with Scratch being, well, Ultra Scratch! Indeed throughout the whole album Scratch references past song titles.

I have found during the past 10 years that many people who have reviewed Lee Perry releases post ark tend to concentrate on his bafflin’ nonsense lyrics, it’s true that sometimes he does tend to go off down strange avenues that only he understands yet at the same time he does make a lot of sense in what he’s stating he’s just stating it Scratch style, the message is there if one takes the time to listen and re-listen. An allegory of music and each time one listens there’s an alternative meaning, perhaps….. An interesting album, not every tune will have you exclaiming wonderment there are a couple of fillers it has to be said, but on the whole very enjoyable and the album signs off with the crucial “An Eye For An Eye”. Lee Scratch Perry, wise observer and commentator of situations, It’s not ark music, it’s not late sixties Upsetter yet there are elements of old peppering the tracks more so on some of the intro’s, take a listen to the album.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Next year will see the return of The London Intl Ska Fest. Sean Flowerdew (Pama intl) promoted the first one back in 1988 at The Brixton Fridge and he is currently programming a world class line up of over 30 international bands and DJs, including Jamaican originators, 2 Tone legends, 21st century ska sounds and household name & top scene DJs. Headline acts will be announced over the coming weeks, contracts are signed. There should be some sensational names lined up and some world exclusives. To wet your appetite's, amongst the first acts that we have been confirmed are 3 bands that appeared on the first ever London Intl Ska Festival...

THE LOAFERS - who will be reforming for an exclusive one-off performance with all 6 members, including Finny & Sean from Pama Intl + Nas & Trev from Big Boss Man/Bongolian
BIM SKALA BIM - US ska pioneers will be performing exclusively at the festival, for what is their first UK show in over a decade.
NAPOLEAN SOLO - The Danish soul/ska sensation will be playing their first show in the UK in over 20 years!!!

In addition to this trip down memory line 2 true stalwarts of the UK ska scene are confirmed;
INTENSIFIED - arguably the UK's finest traditional ska band, will be celebrating their 21st anniversary.
MAROON TOWN - with their unique blend of ska/funk/rap/latin

And two new bands on the current ska scene;
THE AMPHETAMEANIES - Glasgow’s finest sons and daughters, who will be promoting a brand new album.
THE SIDEWALK DOCTORS - London's new kings of rocksteady cool who also have a new album out soon.

More bands tba very soon. Plans are underway to film and record all 4 days of this historical event.

To be the first to hear about line up additions and get a discounted ticket offer, join the LISF mailing list by emailing and why not join The London Intl Ska Festival facebook page

Hurry though as tickets are already going fast.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ammoye and Rise Ashen – Haffi Win

Haffi Win is the first joint full length venture from Ammoye and Rise Ashen’s and is due to be released on 17th September on Balanced Records.
Producer, musician, DJ and dancer Eric Vani (Rise Ashen) supplies the album with a mix of very infectious urban bass throbbing beats and hypnotic melodies from a mix of dancehall and dub reggae infused with hip hop and house, that creep into your psyche, while Ammoye, born and raised in Clarendon JA before moving to Canada, effortlessly enchants listeners with her smooth and easy soulful style.
The lyrical content of these songs are full of consciousness that tells stories of our choices on love, life, justice and how the choices we make can shape us as we either surrender to the challenges they bring or we fight through for what we want and believe to be right.
Standout tracks for me are pulsing title track ‘Haffi Win’, tribalish and trance like ‘Till The Soil And Beat The Drum’, the graceful ‘Bluebirds’ and the extremely clubby ‘Your Love’.
This is an album that most probably won’t appeal to hardened reggae fans, but will appeal hugely to a crossover audience who’ll like it’s very modern and at times R&B feel.
A fine album that will have you grooving, chilling and thinking with equal measure.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mad Professor

Starting as a disciple of Lee "Scratch" Perry, Mad Professor grew into becoming one of the leading producers in dub reggae's second generation. His "Dub Me Crazy" albums helped dubs make the transition into the digital age, when electronic productions started to take over mainstream reggae in the '80s. His space-age tracks not only made use of new digital technology, but often expanded dub's sonic blueprint, adding more elements and layers of sound than his forebears typically did. In the mid-'90s, he returned to the basics with a more retro-sounding style on the "Black Liberation Dub" series. Additionally, he ran his own studio and label, Ariwa, which was home to a stable of vocalists (with an emphasis on lover's rock and conscious roots reggae) and some of the finest British reggae productions of the era. As his reputation grew, he became a remixer of choice for adventurous rock and techno acts, most notably revamping Massive Attack's entire second album under the new title No Protection.

Mad Professor was born Neal Fraser in 1955 in Guyana, a small country in the northern part of South America. He earned his nickname as a preteen, thanks to his intense interest in electronics; he even built his own radio. At age 13, his family moved to London, and around age 20, he started collecting recording equipment: reel-to-reel tape decks, echo and reverb effects, and the like. In 1979, he built his own mixing board and opened a four-track studio in his living room in the south London area of Thornton Heath. Calling it Ariwa, after a Nigerian word for sound or communication, he began recording bands and vocalists for his own label of the same name, mostly in the lovers rock vein: Deborahe Glasgow, Aquizim, Sergeant Pepper, Tony Benjamin, Davina Stone, and Ranking Ann, among others.
With continuous complaints from his neighbours, he decided to move to a proper studio facility in Peckham, South London. In 1982 he recorded his first album, "Dub Me Crazy, Pt. 1", and quickly followed it with a second volume, the successful "Beyond the Realms of Dub". 1983 brought two more volumes, "The African Connection" (often acclaimed as one of his best) and the fairly popular "Escape to the Asylum of Dub".

The Ariwa studio was moved to a better neighbourhood in West Norwood during the mid-'80s, and upgraded for 24-track capability, making it the largest black-owned studio in the U.K. From there, Mad Professor really started to make an impact on the British reggae scene. He produced major hit singles for Ariwa mainstay Pato Banton and Sandra Cross, and also helmed the breakthrough album for conscious reggae toaster Macka B, 1986's "Sign of the Times". At the same time, the ragga era was dawning, and all-digital productions began to take over reggae. As the ragga sound grew more and more dominant, Mad Professor's brand of dub got more spacey and weirder; while ragga detractors complained that Mad Professor's work sounded sterile compared to the dub of old, many praised his otherworldly effects and inventive arrangements. The "Dub Me Crazy" albums reached the height of their experimentalism during the latter part of the '80s, although by the early '90s they were showing signs of creative burnout. The 12th and final volume in the series, "Dub Maniacs on the Rampage", was released in 1993.

Meanwhile, Ariwa continued to prosper as a label, with further hits by the likes of Macka B, Pato Banton, Sandra Cross, female singer Kofi, Intense, Jah Shaka, John McLean, the Robotics, Sister Audrey, Peter Culture, Johnny Clark, and others. Additionally, he began to collaborate with some of reggae's better-known figures; most crucially, he teamed up with main influence Lee "Scratch" Perry for the first time on the 1989 set "Mystic Warrior". In 1991, he produced the first of several albums for the groundbreaking veteran DJ U-Roy, the acclaimed "True Born African"; he also went on to work with the likes of Yabby You and Bob Andy. He switched his focus to touring in 1992 and released the 100th album on Ariwa not long after.

With his high-profile collaborators, Mad Professor started to make a name for himself outside of the reggae community, and soon found himself in demand as a remixer for rock, R&B, and electronic acts. Over the course of the '90s and into the new millennium, he would remix tracks by Sade, the Orb, the KLF, the Beastie Boys, Jamiroquai, Rancid, Depeche Mode, and Perry Farrell, among others. His best-known project, however, and the one that truly established his credentials, was 1995's "No Protection", a completely re-imagined version of trip-hop collective Massive Attack's second album, Protection. Perhaps creatively refreshed, Mad Professor's own albums started to regain their consistency in the mid-'90s. Mixing electronics with rootsier, more organic sounds indebted to the earliest days of dub, he left behind the Dub Me Crazy moniker to launch a new series, the subtly Afrocentric "Black Liberation Dub". The first volume was released in 1994, and others followed steadily into the new millennium, albeit at a less prolific pace than the Dub Me Crazy instalments. More collaboration with Perry and U-Roy followed as well. In 2005, Mad Professor celebrated Ariwa's 25th anniversary with a tour of the U.K. alongside Perry and the double CD retrospective "Method to the Madness".
The next couple of years were fairly quiet then in 2008 he re-emerged with the release of “Bitter Sweet Dub” part of the Dub You Crazy With Love series and “The Dubs That Time Forgot” an album that saw him dig deep into his dub vaults to deliver a set of vintage early eighties dubs from his Dub Me Crazy Days. Last year he released a 'live' album with minimal computerized trickery “Audio Illusions of Dub” that gave us new versions of classic vintage tracks including Dennis Brown’s “Slave Driver” and “In His Own Way”, Lee Perry’s “Chase The Devil” and “Fever”, Black Uhuru’s “Satan Army Band” and Norris Reid’s Pablo epic “Entrance To Jah’s World”. This production was done with the aid of his son Joe Ariwa. There was also collaboration with Argentinean based Latin dub band Nairobi on “Nairobi Meets Mad Professor– Wu Wei” that also included appearances from Lee Perry and Sly & Robbie among others plus an album entitled “Revolution Feat. Pato Banton And Mr. Professor” though I have no details on that one.
So with Mad Professor now getting back into the swing of things he will soon be out on the road mixing Pama Int’l live in an unrivalled sonic assault of dub as he helps to promote their joint venture “Pama Int’l Meets Mad Professor-Rewired! In Dub”, which will be out on October 10th on Rockers Revolt.

Much respect to Steve Huey, All Music Guide