Dennis Brown - "Blessed Are The Men (The Pill)" (6:33)
Junior Delgado - "Cry, Cry" (6:32)
Review: The influence of The Crown Prince of Reggae, as Bob Marley used to call him, still looms large over the genre 20 years after he passed. The latest reminder of his considerable talent comes from this gem Dennis made with Jux produced by Niney in 1977. "Blessed Are The Men (The Pill)" is unusually long for a dub track at over six minutes, but it sinks you into it throughout via the cuddly groove, sliding snares, hanging guitar twangs and buttery vocals. Flip over for Junior Delgado's "Cry, Cry", an impassioned anthem with plenty of blazing potential.
Earl Zero - "None Shall Escape The Judgement" (6:10)
Soul Syndicate - "None Shall Escape The Judgement" (version) (2:54)
Earl Zero & Soul Syndicate - "None Shall Escape The Judgement" (extended) (6:51)
Review: Earl Zero is a foundational figure in the roots reggae scene of '70s Jamaica. Working with producer Bunny Lee on this self-penned piece, it was originally given to the more established singer Johnny Clarke in 1975 and went on to become a hit. It wasn't until 1980 that Earl's own version came out on Epiphany Records and saw similar success. "None Shall Escape The Judgement" is a crucial cut that rides on a higgledy-piggledy rhythm section as bass twangs and rim shots peel off the groove. Earl's buttery, blissed out and heartfelt delivery soars up top next to celebratory trumpets to seal the deal in style.
Review: Long running dub dons Nice Up! unveil a brand new talent on their latest: that man is Escape Roots, a Glaswegian producer and Mungo's HiFi's Walk n Skank resident who calls upon vocalist Dandelion to muse on the many different joys of ganga. Riding on classic dancehall rhythms with hooky guitar riffs and tumbling claps, Dandelion touches on toothpaste, butter, soap and the titular Ganga Socks. It's tongue in cheek, head in the clouds stuff that will have you skanking for days. For those who like it more stripped back, flipside "Version" is where it's at.
Review: Fat Frog's second EP of 2019 on his own Purple Fade finds him link with Donovan Kingjay and Addis Pablo. It's "Never Giving Up" first off with a spacious dub and tight studio work making it a clean and crisp affair that complements the heartfelt deliveries of Kingjay nicely. Things get more spaced out and cosmic on "Version" and "Melodica Cut" before finishing off with a stripped back, slower and more subliminal version.
Review: Room In The Sky know how to serve up top notch reggae instrumentals, and few do them better than The Inn House Crew. There's a slight sadness to the forlorn melodica playing that drifts over "The Roach" but the cheerier nature of the chords mean you aren't allowed to wallow for too long, and the jangled drums and riffs are always keen to move you along. Flipside "Rathid" is a more classic roots cut with dusty drums and woodblock hits that bring the warmth.
Review: Jabesh and I David combine to great effect here for a selection of dubs that fuse the old with the new. There are classic guitars and drums on title track "Hold A Meditation" but the broad, smeared synth bass adds some contemporary cool that makes it suitable for a range of different settings. The "Dub" version has lush wet claps and mesmeric filter work before a tooting top line on "Rocktone Melody" gets you in a different state of trance. Closer "Rock To The Dub" sees I David show off his mastery of the studio buttons and rounds out a solid 7".
Family Man & Youth Professional - "Southern Version" (version) (3:51)
Review: More than 40 years after its initial release, Afrik revisit the blissed out reggae of Melford Jackson's one and only hit, "Southern Africa". At its heart is some fantastic chord work, which trills and shimmers above the rumbling drums and jangling little guitar riffs. The flip finds Jamaican reggae bass player Family Man link with Youth Professional Band for the enchantingly aimless and wandering "Southern Version", in which it is so easy, and so enjoyable, to get lost in on a lazy afternoon.
Review: Fans of digital roots take note: "Gun Fever" is a brilliantly dark and direct offering from Frankie Jones. Mixing up the sound of 80s Jamaica and the sort of dub that was loved in the UK by dancehall crowds, it first landed on Third World in 1986 and now gets a crisp new remaster for the first time in its history. The low swinging bottom end is warm and rich, the claps chart and the rimshots are laden with effects, especially on the flipside "Version", that really sink you deep into the riddim.
Review: London's Jah Fingers present former Heptones singer Naggo Morris and producer Niney The Observer on this latest one. The A side houses the gentle roots and lovers rock combo of "Jah Guide": a steamy, earthy, humid cut that pairs great rim shots with the aloof vocal work of Morris. Flip over for a busier cut by The Observer. "Give Her My Love" features a lead line that rings out with naive charm, taut drum hits and prickly percussion that will keep your limbs moving. A two sided gem.
Rapha Pico & The Signal One Band - "Lead The Way" (4:58)
The Signal One Band - "Lead The Dub" (4:55)
Review: The Signal One Band formed in 2017 after a bunch of local regular session musicians linked up after meeting at Earth Works Studio in Amsterdam. Between them the gang has worked with big names from the worlds of ska, reggae and dubstep, and all this goes into a crucial melting pot that brews up the old and new, finished off with a warm vintage aesthetic. Their new label is minted with a rumbling, roots tune that has lush trumpets and billowing chords cushioning your daily grind. The dub on the flip is even fatter and perfectly easy to get lost in.
Review: Jah reins supreme over the four spiritual dubs that make up this roots package from Joy & Happiness. Sattalite's "Jah Praises" is a call to arms, albeit a gentle one, with impassioned vocals drawing your attention. Ant Henderson's "Sing To Jah Dub" is as echo drenched as dub comes and will leave you feeling lost at sea. Brother Dan gives himself over completely to Jah on "Jah Is My Strength" while things are pared back to a icier dub on closer "Strength Of Jah Dub". All hail the king.
Echoslim X Nicko Rebel X Mr Williamz - "Higrade Skanking" (3:43)
Review: Nicko Rebel Music are back to serve up more top shelf skanking material after their debut release sold out in quick time. The EP introduces a host of debutants including Nadine Sutherland, Echoslim and Nicko Revel who sit next to the more established Mr Micah Williams, a Necessary Mayhem mainstay with skills to burn. Sutherland's "Dance Africa" is a rootsy roller with flabby bass and big trumpet lines accompanying her vocal work, which celebrates the glory of Africa, while B side "Higrade Skanking" from Echoslim X Nicko Rebel X Mr Williamz does exactly what it says on the tin.
Review: The seemingly bottomless Greensleeves vaults turn up more gold here with two prime cuts - Wailing Souls' "Who No Waan Come" and Al Campbell's "Unfaithful Children" - that are treated to a first new pressing since 1981. "Who No Waan Come" is silky and sedentary as they come, with kick drums just about managing to propel things along beneath gorgeous doo-wop harmonies. The Linval Thompson produced "Unfaithful Children", however, is a more driven affair with authentic roots. Psyched-out effects, endless reverb and hits that ricochet around, making it a widescreen dub that draws you in and takes you along for the ride.
Review: Studio One have put out plenty of big tunes and this is the latest to get a big reissue on a super loud-cut 12" single for extra devastating impact. It's a well-known classic every self-respecting reggae fan should know and blows up any party, especially when tweaked like these two versions. They were originally produced by Studio One bossman Coxsone Dodd and have been covered by The Clash as well as sampled by The Fugees and hip hop MC KRS One. The snaking lead synth, the rumbling drums and classic ska trumpet are all straight up irresistible.
Review: Bahamian super talent Fritz Bootle Jr., or FJ, has only one other Discogs entry to his name next to this album, and it's an EP from 1993. The years in-between led to much of his music being lost but thanks to Smiling C, six of his best tunes have been unearthed and pressed to vinyl for the first time here. Mixing up '80s synth and boogie, some tropical rhythms and soft boy vocals, it makes for an exotic, sun-kissed take on r&b that transports you directly to a dance floor in the Caribbean where a warm red fireball is slowly sinking below the horizon as you sip on a cocktail and prepare to get up to get down.
Review: Although the titular track might have been somewhat spoiled by a certain TV advert, the rest of Gregory Isaacs' most well known album still stands up. Lazy reggae rhythms are permeated by sparkly synth work from Wally Badarou, which at the time was a brave and progressive move away from traditional reggae and toward the ensuing sound of dancehall. Isaac's own buttery, laid back musings are front and centre, crystal clear and delicate throughout, always complimented by dainty piano chords that sink you deep into a dreamworld. The production throughout is first class, too, making this a true classic.
Eyes On Your Body (feat Dru, Sketch Carey & Alx) (3:13)
Only You (feat Mya) (3:03)
Don't Walk Away (2:49)
Royal Soldier (3:08)
Life Is Real (feat Popcaan & Padrino) (2:58)
Street Kings (feat Yami Bolo, Junior Reid & Capleton) (3:24)
Review: Jamaica's Royal Soldier is the king of contemporary lovers rock and his new album Jah Cure deals with, as the title suggests, modern life as a soldier, as well as issues of love and consciousness. Across the 14 tracks, his forlorn croonings are complimented by guest spots from heavyweights like Damian Marley on the ganga ode that is "Marijuana", Tory Lanez on dancehall cut "Magic" and Popcaan & Padrino on "Life Is Real", a crisp bit of Caribbean trap. Elsewhere, classic roots bleeds into modern day r&b to make for a genre-crossing work that will earn the man behind it plenty of plaudits, as well as new fans.
Review: A true hot stepper and one of the best of its kind, this 1984 masterpiece from Ini Kamoze is heavy, real and authentic. It was actually Jamaican born artist Cecil Campbell's debut album and features spacious, slow motion dubs that invite you deep within their cavernous drums. The chattery percussion, echoing hits and loose percussion all make a real mark. "World-A-Music" has a beat fans of Damien Marley will recognise, and "General" features some of Campbells more vulnerable vocal work. For fans old and new, this is a perfect roots album with a unique perspective.
Review: It was in churches in the late sixties that Pablo Moses first started performing and a decade later he was putting out his own releases and making an immediate impact on the dub world. "Pave The Way" was his third full length album and was produced, recorded then mixed by the hands of the revered Geoffrey Chung of Jamaican Dynamic Sounds. Our picks of the bunch include album highlight "Africa Is For Me", the shuffling "A Step Before Hell" and superbly hazy "I See It Everyday".