L.A.’s The Aggrolites are back with “Reggae On Rugged Road”, their fifth studio album since they formed around a decade ago. I have to say when I first put the CD in I was initially caught somewhat off guard.........
This ‘third chapter’ of dub showcases 22 tracks of variant styles recorded at various studios using a variety of techniques and equipment set ups, from the humble bedroom studio through to the pro ‘we got everything’ studio by artists such asJah Billah, Anti Bypass, Iditafari Family, Don Fe, Steve Steppa, Digikal Roots, Bandulu Dub, El Bib, Early Worm and Mystical Warrior
The album is free to download and provides a very interesting and enjoyable journey through the underground dub scene.
Stone Rollin’ sees Raphael Saadiq carry on in similar vein to 2008s superb “The Way I See It” in that the ‘60s feel is still very much alive and well. This time though the Motownness is replaced by a heavier R&B feel laced with some period teenbeat pop. Take ‘Heart Attack’ that opens the set with its pounding drums and guitar riffing way reminiscent of Sly Stone, then there’s swinging single ‘Radio’ that has a bit of garage/surf band appeal while ‘Over You’ has more pounding funked up drums that almost drown out the orchestral string element of the song. The excellent title track itself is rock & roll soul that with its wailing bluesy harmonica makes it a kind of early Rolling Stones dipped in soul sounding affair. There are still some quite soulful cuts with the lush ‘Go To Hell’ dipping into Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” territory as it ascends onwards and upwards. ‘Movin’ Down The Line’ could easily be a forgotten track from his previous album as that Motown two step handclappin’ fingersnappin’ groove returns as does ‘Just Don’t’ with its touches of Motown’s late ‘60s psychedelic soul sound of sitar, and spacey keys added to a big string arrangement. ‘Good Man’ is another slice of smooth soul with a female rap that tips it towards a more 21st century sound. Comparisons, much as I have here, are going to be made about this album with songs sounding a bit like this and a bit like that and some may say isn’t it about time he found a sound of his own, but at the end of the day so what. The melodies, as with all of Saadiq’s work are strong and he sounds like he is really enjoying himself, which in turn transfers to the you the listener, lifts you and puts a smile on your face and isn’t that something that all good music should do?
Jamaican deejay/singer King Kong was born Dennis Anthony Thomas in Kingston, 1964. He initially started out under the name of Junior Kong and recorded his debut single "Pink Eye" at Tuff Gong in 1982.
He then worked with GT and formed his own Love Bunch Sound System, before recording for King Tubby's Firehouse label. Here his early recordings for Tubby were over fledgling digital rhythms, and included songs such as "AIDS" and "Babylon", which established him as a popular artist. His first album release, Two Big Bull Inna One Pen issued on Firehouse in 1986, was a split with another of Tubby's singers, Anthony Red Rose and featured musicians Dwight Pickney and Bingy Bunny on guitars, Flabba Holt bass, the drums of Cleveland Brownie and Steelie Johnson on keys. The success of this album brought him work with one of Jamaica's top producers of the time King Jammy. It was here that he scored his biggest hits including "Trouble Again" on the ‘Death in the Arena’ riddim, which was also the title track from his Jammy-produced debut solo album that featured a backing band of Steely & Clevie & The Super Power All Stars. Lyrically a lot of his songs were typical in content of the era, but several of them also leaned towards political and cultural themes. At the latter end of the ‘80’s he relocated to New York, and then to Canada where he released material occasionally on his Conscious Music label. The death of close ally Tenor Saw in 1988 prompted King Kong to release "He Was a Friend" as a tribute, before in 1989 he moved again, this time to England where he reportedly teamed up with Mafia & Fluxy, a riddim section and production team consisting of brothers Leroy (bass) and David Heywood (drums) and engineer Gussie P. I am however unable to find any release details on this partnering so any info anyone has would be much appreciated. The last confirmed sighting I have of Kong was back in 2005 with the release of "Rumble, Jumble Life" on Massive B records and produced by Bobby Konders.
King Kong is a bit of a forgotten name when it comes to dancehall with luminaries Nitty Gritty and Tenor Saw seemingly taking all the plaudits and for me this may be down to the fact that his singing style is so much like Tenor Saw that his songs probably have struggled to stand up on their own merits. This is a shame because Trouble Again is a really good album; ok a couple of synth heavy tracks like “Mix Up” may not have stood the test of time well, but songs like ‘Follow Me’ on the ‘Rub-A-Dub Man’ riddim and the ‘Cuss Cuss’ riddim driven “Legal We Legal” are excellent examples of ‘80s digi dancehall. If only perhaps he had had kept to the delivery style of opener “Mash It Up Already”, which is the least Tenor sounding, he may have cut more of a niche for himself.