Friday, April 30, 2010

Vintage Roots

Today's post is the serious roots that I promised a couple of weeks back. I got these a few years ago  off a roofer who used to run a sound system back in the day. He told me his wife hated reggae, so they'd just been sat in the attic collecting dust for the last ten years.

First up, a tune that should need no introduction: 'Ten Thousand Lions', the tune that really made Prince Hammer's name here in the UK. It's a monster of a tune, and the b-side over Delroy Wilson's 'Money' is pretty good too. The dub to 'Ten Thousand Lions' is on 'World War Dub', and there's a different mix on the b-side of the original single on Belva - both crucial and well worth seeking out.

Next, a tune that everyone ought to know, 'Gone Down The Drain' by Al Campbell. It's the same rhythm that Barry Brown used for 'Better For I'; it was also used by Rupie Dan for Shaka favourite 'My Black Race'. This got reissued a while back on the Duke Reid label, sadly without its dub. The original 7" (available here) has a different dub to the twelve - equally great.

Finally, there's Linval Thompson's version of 'Full Up': 'Six Babylon'. Nice vocal, good deejay, heavy (if slightly dull) dub. What more could you ask for?

The next post (almost ready) will bring you one of the rarest reggae LP's ever pressed. I'm also getting a couple of my favourite dubplates ready to post, so watch this space.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Found it!

Here's that Symbols tune that was mising off the last post.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Symbols, Bim Sherman & Matumbi

OK, here's the next lot of twelves, and a slightly different vibe. I've always been into the sweeter side of roots music more than the heavy stuff. The last post of 12" singles featured a few tunes that you'd describe as 'shaka killers' if you were an ebay seller trying to ramp up the price - this one is all great roots, but none of these records really fit that stereotype.

First is one of my favourite twelves: 'Mister Oppressor' by Rudolph Francis and Ranking Blake. I picked it up years ago at Daddy Kool's. They also had the Symbols' version on the Kebra Nagast label, and I ended up getting that too because I couldn't make up my mind between them. The Symbols (different outfit to the midlands-based Black Symbols) did a handful of singles in the late seventies and early eighties, and I remember hearing somewhere that Rudolph Francis was their lead singer. I first heard them on a compilation called 'King Tubby On The Mix' - a wicked tune called 'Motherless Children' that a lot of you probably know already - and have been on the lookout for more of their stuff ever since. Anyway, this record is simply beautiful. I don't have words that can really do it justice: you just have to hear it. 

The next record is 'Lightning And Thunder', one of my favourite records by Bim Sherman. It has that sweet easygoing vibe that I love, and really shows off his strengths as a singer (one of the sweetest voices in reggae!). The dub is also very nice. 

After that we have a very nice slice of Matumbi featuring Rico Rodrigues on trombone - yes, it's 'Solitude'/'Introducing Abu Baka' by the Session Men and Abu Baka.  Apart from the 12" version of 'Death In The Arena' this is the only time I've heard the instrumental part of a record come before the deejay or the vocal. I picked this up second-hand while I was still at school, and it's stayed with me ever since. The b-side has two of Michael Smith's best-known pieces.  I prefer 'Roots' to 'Mi Cyaan Believe It', but to be honest I'm not really a big fan of dub poetry and neither one gets a whole lot of play in my house.

This from a forum post from 2008: "... the man Abu Baka or Abubaka sells hats on Atlantic Road in Brixton. He is an elderly dread who has been selling hats all his life. He told me that when he was a youth (he used to smoke collie weed in a Rizla) in Jamaica, he would take a hat on credit from a manufacturer and sell it in Coronation Market, then take back the money and select another hat on trust. He is name checked in Jah Thomas's 'The Plane Land' for Gibbo."

Finally, there's the Symbols' version of 'Mister Oppressor' - I prefer the piano on the other version, but this one's still a fantastic tune and it comes with a top-class dub. The b-side is a lovely version of Alton Ellis' 1972 classic 'Living In A White Men World'. It's a great song and the Symbols really do it justice. I really like this group and would love to know a bit more about them, so if anyone has any info please stick it in the comments.

Anyway, here they all are; as always I hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rice Can't Swell

Here's U-Black's deejay cut to a tune by the Symbols (we'll be hearing more from them in coming weeks) called 'Rice Can't Swell'. It's a rare one - just a handful of copies were released on the Symbols' short-lived 'King David' imprint. Apart from a reference in RKR, all I can find in Google is the feedback for a copy I sold on ebay a while back.

I really love design of the label, this and the vocal were the only two tunes ever released on it.

It's got a really heavy rhythm and some nice drumming on the b-side. The toasting isn't bad, but it's not U-Black's best (check out some of the tunes he cut for Jammy and Joe Gibbs).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Digital Den

I don't usually go for late-eighties reggae, but there's some that you just can't say no to.  'Fire Singer' (aka 'Fire Fire') by Dennis Brown is one like that. This came out in 1987 and just a year or so later couldn't be had for love or money.

What's great about it? First, the rhythm; second, the mix; third, the vocals; fourth (and most of all), the lyrics. If you've ever felt angry about all the world's injustice, cruelty and waste then this is the song for you!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ten Tons Of Dub

Here's a great deejay tune called 'Ton Ton Woman' by Jah Stone. It's a GG's production over a sweet dubbed-up and very heavy version of 'Black Cinderella'. I don't know whose version it is, but I ought to because I've definitely heard that voice somewhere before. If anyone does know, please tell me!

The dub is also excellent, in fact I listen to it more often than the deejay side. Heavy bass, pounding drums, a shed-load of echo on the horns, organ and vocals, and tracks fading and dropping in and out of the mix all over the place: it's a masterpiece and it's designed to be played very, very loud.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Hi there,

I've got a couple more nice tunes today. First up, 'Musical Combination', Charley Ace's monster deejay cut to Keeling Beckford's hit 'Combination'. The b-side is also pretty decent, a lovers vocal by Keeling Beckford with a really interesting rhythm track - I really like the bubbling organ and stabbing horns behind the vocal.

Next we have another deejay tune - Dennis Alcapone's cut to 'Magnificent Heptones' on the Pressure Beat label. The vocal is a sought-after medley of 'Baby', 'Why Must I' and 'Why Did You Leave Me To Cry' that Joe Gibbs put out in 1971 or thereabouts. In this version Alcapone stays away from the nursery rhymes and riffs off the themes of the original songs - the result is quite satisfying. The real star of the show, though, is Vin Gordon's version on the b-side. It's definitely one of his best tunes, and has a relaxed, improvised feel to it. I always prefer reggae instrumentals that flow like this rather than repeating a single phrase over and over and over again.

The next tune is a bit of an odd one. I'm not quite sure how to describe 'Leaving The Ball' by Mr Nigel, it's not a deejay tune and I'd hesitate to call it singing. Mr Nigel was actually Nicky Thomas who as we all know really could sing quite beautifully.

The b-side, 'Sweep The Street' by Neville Hinds is a really nice fairground-flavoured organ cut on the same 'Wear You To The Ball' rhythm. Neville Hinds had a major hit with 'Delivered', his instrumental version of Alton Ellis' 'Deliver Us' but mostly worked as a backing musician, and later as a producer at Dynamic studio.

'Poor Man' by John Jones is also a bit odd, and it's not reggae: it's a Dynamic Sound production with a bit of an Elvis vibe. I quite like it - I'd be interested to know if I'm the only one. The b-side 'Merci Cherie' sounds like something you'd get from one of the better hotel bands at the end of a wedding reception. The Tiger label is one of my favourites, just for the design. The wavy black stripes and blocky, cutout-style letters work really well together.

After that short break, we're back to the deejays again, or rather we're back to Prince Buster. The Prince did a couple of cuts of Java way back when, both credited to 'Senior Pablo & The All Stars'. The first was called 'Science' and was very good, but it didn't have a dub. The Jamaican issue had a really good dub of 'Giant' on the b-side, the UK issue had Dennis Alcapone ('Giant' again - wicked tune). So the second one, which actually has an instrumental version is in serious demand. 

The instrumental is a note-for-note rip-off of the Randys original; but being recorded in a different studio, it has a different sound (I've heard that it's Pablove on melodica). The deejay side is fantastic. Buster puts some seriously righteous lyrics over that missing dub: it's a really spare mix and at one point everything but the melodica and the deejay drops out. My copy's in a bit of a state, but I hope this'll inspire you to go out and look for one in slightly better condition. 

We finish with another deejay tune, 'Free Black People' by Jah Woosh. Like 'It's A Fire', this is quite rare and not in the best nick. The vocal side got reissued on a Pressure Sounds compilation a while back - 'An Even Harder Shade Of Black' - and it has a really nice mellow dub.

Anyway, here they all are. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Top Twelves

It's been a while since my last post, so I thought I'd try to dig something good out of my virtual crates. I've chosen three of my favourite twelve-inch singles today: 'Kingdom Of Jah' by the Twinkle Brothers, 'Warrior Charge' by Aswad, and 'Glory Glory' by Beshara.

I first heard this one on a cassette that a friend's dad lent me about 20 years ago. He'd already flogged all his records years before and just had a stack of tapes left over. I think it was probably a similar situation to the one I found myself in a while back: records, or clothes for the kids?

Anyway, we have two really great tunes here: you can find the lyrics on 'Words Of Wisdom' in the links section, but it's the music that really makes them. The horns and percussion are great, and the mix is spectacular: dark and spacey with lots of sound effects and plenty of width and echo.

Everyone knows 'Warrior Charge' , one of Aswad's very best recordings. I've put this on for the dub, which really brings out the jazzier side of the song. The drumming is also spectacular. Sometimes it's easy just to take Aswad for granted. Their 'Showcase' LP and 'New Chapter Of Dub' are so familiar that you almost find yourself forgetting just how groundbreaking they were. If you listen to Burning Spear's first live LP, that's Aswad playing the instruments; they had a rich complex sound that you can never get tired of listening to. I think the only reggae band that can match Aswad at their best is the Light Of Saba.

I got my copy of 'Glory Glory' off a guy called DJ Derek who used to play at my local back in Bristol. It cost me the princely sum of £3.50. Beshara were a brummie band best known for lovers rock classics 'Men Cry Too' and 'Shadow Of Love'. This is a seriously heavy record - it has the sort of dub that can make your ears bleed - and seems to be quite sought-after.  I recently saw a copy sell for over £100 on ebay.

Anyway, I've got a few more twelves lined up for the next couple of weeks, including 'Gone Down The Drain', 'Ten Thousand Lions' and a selection of essential lovers rock. Until then, I hope you enjoy this.