Tag Archives: reggae

Pressure Drop

Seminal reggae fanzines in the NME, 8 July, 1978.

Reggae Fanzine er, Shock

Vibrations work. Though emanating from Camden town, Pressure Drop, formerly Britain’s (if not the world’s) only reggae fanzine, operates on Jamaican time. The next issue will always . . . soon come.
The protracted and compulsive wait for the third issue of PD to appear – for it is true that the magazine has only roared twice in its three year life – was relieved at the end of last year by the appearance of Ital Rockers, an enthusiastic step about the current scene from Edinburgh’s Dougie Thompson.
Ital Rockers 2 has been on the ‘zine shelves for a while now and is in danger of being taken for granted. Help shift as few more of this ish and you may live to see Issue Three. Much of the current ish is taken up with an ample retrospective of Marley & The Wailers since ’73 and “Catch A Fire” – a trifle short on historical perspective but a sequel on the early years is promised. There’s a feature on Black Slate, some by now rather dated reviews, tribute to Edinburgh’s Ital Club, and an interesting look at the way reggae has influence the pop charts in the ’70s.
Help restore Scottish pride by voting Jock Stein at the next general election and sending 30p (including postage) to Dougie Thompson, 70 Milton Road West, Edinburgh, EH11QY.
Or from good fanzine shops everywhere, where you might also sight up The Best Of Rebel Music Volume 1, further panacea to relieve the pressure. Certainly this ‘zine is a Phensic for clumsy dilettantes with cloth ears.
Rebel Music is a collection of features and discographical delights that first appeared in Blues and Soul magazine, written by Chris Lane and Dave Hendley. Contents include feature/interviews on well ranking – if less applauded – talents like The Abyssinians, Earl Zero, Big Youth, The Royals and Burning Spear (where Winston Rodney gives good interview).
The visuals are rootsy to match, with plenty of charts, labels, and a formidable Greg Isaacs pose on the back cover. Price is 35p or 45p including postage from Dave Hendley, 27 Hewitt Avenue, London, N22.
Issue Three of Pressure Drop will, impresario Nick Kimberley informs I men, soon come, and in dreadest guise yet.

Doctor Bird

Greensleeves

The first 12″ release from the classic reggae label Greensleeves reviewed in Sounds, 29 April, 1978 by regular reggae reviewer Eric Fuller.

Wailing Souls – War
(Greensleeves GRED1)

Channel One (Kingston JA) studio has an awe-inspiring reputation, and The Revolutionaries under Joseph Hoo Kim blast out a thundering rockers rhythm featuring explosive crashes of percussion that flatten everything in sight. Vocal harmonies are clean and melodic, while Ranking Trevor DJ’s better than usual in waves of reverb. What they used to call a boss sound.
(Interesting technical note: reggae artists are the only ones to exploit the potential of the 12″ single, adding dub and/or toasting technique. Never heard it? Find it, quick)

Pat Kelly

The great reggae singer live in Sounds, 12 October, 1978.
The Bouncing Ball was a West Indian club in Peckham. Admiral Ken was the resident sound.

Pat Kelly
Bouncing Ball
The passion, innovation, dexterity and freshness of Culture’s music (Rainbow Theatre, early session) expressed the most gratifying face of contemporary reggae, but Pat Kelly (Bouncing Ball, late session) moves the soul with a simplicity and directness from the roots of rock steady that cuts so much deeper.
A central figure in Jamaican music more than 10 years ago with The Techniques, Pat Kelly has enjoyed a great current rejuvenation through 12-inch release updates of his best songs.
Kushites provided the necessary rhythmic backdrop, opening the show with a version of ‘Baby I’ve Been Missing You’ on the appropriate note of sentimentality before switching to a vigorous rendition of ‘Talk About Love’ during which ‘Mr Slick, Mr Personality’ took the stage, replete with suit and bow tie. Technical aggravation with microphones marred the consequent performances of the tender ‘If It Don’t Work Out’ and ‘How Long’, but once overcome the singer dispensed with his band altogether for purely vocal treatments of ‘Try To Remember’ and ‘I Love You For Sentimental Reasons’, demonstrating the cool, restrained style that hallmarks the best of his performance.
Much applause then marked the opening bars of ‘I’m In Love With You’, currently number one in the 12-inch chart and the most heartbreaking song in circulation –‘What am I to say, what am I to do, when you love someone and I know it isn’t me, I can’t believe you took my heart, and tore it all apart’ – music it’s best not to listen to unless in the happiest of moods. The show closed with the inevitable ‘Queen Of The Minstrels’, an Eternals song versioned to death by countless performers, the greatest compliment to the sweetness of the tune.
He might not have played for very long, but in a couple of songs he made me feel more than any other artists I chase every week. A woah!

Eric Fuller

It Dread Inna Inglan

LKJ’s single reviewed by Vivien Goldman in Sounds, 12 August, 1978.

Poet And The Roots: ‘It Dread Inna Inglan’ (Virgin)
Linton Kwesi Johnson, most militant man in reggae internationally in this ya time now. “Dem frame George Lindo in Bradford Town and the Bradford blacks dem a rally roun'” … to a Dennis Bovell rhythm ominous as a riot shield at party time. If only Liddle Towers were around, his fate would benefit from a third musical appeal from Poet & The Roots. If they ever get me, Linton, a 7″ version of my tribulation would do me a treat, thank you.

Tuff V Duff

X Moore compares Aswad and Third World in the NME, 10 April, 1982.

The Tuff v Duff Debate
ASWAD
A New Chapter Of Dub (Island)
THIRD WORLD
You’ve Got The Power (CBS)


Third World’s album cover sees all six of da boize grinning in triplicate on the front, a cinematic-sized wedge of credits on the back and lilac-coloured inner sleeve. The usual cack.
Aswad’s album front depicts marching lions, gargoyle werewolves growling in dark gauche, pulling a prophet-laden redgreen an’ gold chariot. The regulation naff-religious equivalent of a Mills and Boon cover. Haile predictable.
Cack artwork identifies the product – take your partners in the Tiff v. Duff debate.
Third World start with ‘Try Jah Love’, a Stevie Wonder song that says: “We’re beautiful and you’re beautiful too, baby” and just manages to stay right side of pleasant. One down and the rest of the album is Beverly Hills reggae ‘n’ futon funk – black liberal music with a guilty conscience, caught half way between patio bar-b-cue and high street revolutionary. Third World should go all the way and become Stevie Wonder’s backing group, which is what they do best, or else stop kidding themselves if they think they’re sly reggae missionaries, taking rebel music into the charts on the back of a disco beat.
The song that knocked all the ‘tryers’ into the trash-can of pop oblivion, the only reggae number one I can remember, was as tuff as a Bolshevik. Althea & Donna’s pop gem ‘Up Town Top Ranking’ made no concessions either to the menopausal Manilow ‘n’ Spumanti set or the nauseous bigots of the reggae scene. It tripped up the charts, a hammer in the head that said rebel music must be castrated before it’s ready for white schmuck consumption, and jerked a defiant two digits at the moron macho rasta-stud brigade along the way.
Third World’s crass attempt at crossover was recorded in Los Angeles, mixed in LA and Burbank California and mastered at Precision Lacquer – you must have got the sound fixed in your mind… you know: schmaltz, schlooze, schlurp, snooze… Californication.
At least Barry White had some meat to his music; Third World flirt with all things chartable chic and still manage to achieve the near impossible of finding nothing with substance.
Scattered in the messy musical tissue are even more desperate steals. ‘Jah Love’, side one, tangles with the lead line from ‘Hotel California’, half-inches vocals from ‘Off The Wall’ and gets nowhere near Michael Jackson or ‘Fingertips’-era Stevie Wonder. The other side finds itself caught up in Max Bygraves ‘Deck Of Cards’ with ‘I Wake Up Cryin”, a wet liberal’s wet dream about screwing that never dares say ‘fuck’. ;Zwept, if you’re going to dribble on about sex ten at least talk honest and squalid like Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Something Came Over Me’.
Listening to Third World trying to make it big and hit it off with the hip mortgaged middle-class is like turning the pages of a wallpaper catalogue full of bad designs … First they try War, then they try Boz Scaggs, then try Clint Eastwood … forget it, try Prince Far I’s ‘Throwaway Your Gun’ (a real winner) or …
… Aswad’s ‘New Chapter’, which I’d almost forgotten about amongst all the Third World press releases and ‘Let Falklands Be Falkland’ gushy crap from CBS.
To be straight, tosh, this is the best reggae album I can remember without looking through me record collection. ‘New Chapter’ starts magnificently, a real power, with that bass riff and marching drums. LION.
‘New Chapter’ is built like a tank, true, but sounds too sharp to be anything other than uplifting – Aswad, lyrically silenced in dub, are never dumb. Always well clear of passivity, their music has more challenge coming through an earphone than Third World could muster through a sound system.
Songs only hint at other tunes, capture the energy of ‘Junkie Ship’, ‘Voodoo Chile’, ‘How Much Longer’ … any number of good ‘uns, and remind me to play more militant reggae next week.
‘Flikaflame’ and ‘Truth’ (slipping and squawking) keep side one tough, snare tight, bass proud and mix taut, while outside Sunday afternoon lazes in the sun. ‘Bammie Blow’ sees Bammie Rose himself add some light relief with relaxed sax interruptions but I don’t want to be relieved, I want to hear the drums snap and feel the rhythm drive … ‘Tuffest’ finishes the side with jogging snare and crooning horns. Tuff style.
Side two keeps turning the screw, and riding the rhythms with sound-experimentation. The only thing that would soften the drive is thankfully absent; Aswad’s biblical babble is ultimately as harmless and hopeless as the cautious discontent of Third World’s lyrics but Aswad win out cos they don’t print their ideology on the sleeve insert. (Dub stays super-hard cos it isn’t burdened with naff lyrics). Listen, blind trust in the inevitable righting of wrongs is too lazy – revolution has to be organised and built for and, anyroad, redemption was always a conservative fixation.
Be honest, ‘Back to Africa’ is turning your back on responsibility, junking reality, the easy fantasy (political fetishism) but at least Aswad’s protest poses a threat and gets up the right rich bigot noses.

X. Moore


Scientist Meets The Space Invaders

80s dub reviewed in rhyme, NME, 14 February, 1981 by Vivien Goldman.

Scientist and the Roots Radics Band
Scientist Meets The Space Invaders (Greensleeves)


Space invaders styleeee!
In every arcade throughout the land the youth just shake that mechanical hand, they like to see the meteors shatter, they just don’t care if they’re mad like a hatter. They’ll steal the breads, they’ll print the breads, they’ll play to win and stay ahead. Feeling vex? Just throw out your chest and play the game to drive you insane. At least you’ll feel you’ve got control, although it’s just a game, if the truth be told. Just a machine, it can’t talk back. Just a machine, but mind the flack.
So Scientist says he’ll mix a dub to flip the flippers and bring you good luck. He’ll press the button, turn the dial, mash up the enemy and make you smile. Looks like those monsters can multiply, but Scientist explodes them, quicker than your eye goes – blinkawinkablinkawink.
Bringing you a smash selection with rhythms to outweigh any objection, it’s old ‘Mr Bassie’ and Johnny Osbourne’s ‘Kiss Somebody’ all dubbed up to move your body, Fancy new titles like ‘Quasar’ and ‘Beam Down’, guaranteed to wipe away your frown.
This is the sound they’re playing all round the town, with Roots Radics band playing the new Channel One sound, it’s much much better to play it loud, sounds much better if you’re stoned in a – SPACE INVADERS STYLEEE! …
Vivien Goldman


Basement 5

One of my fave bands from the end of the seventies with a signature dub meets punk sound have their album reviewed in Melody Maker, 17 Jan, 1981.

Basement 5: “1965-1980” (Island ILPS 9641)

If there’s one band in the world that didn’t need messing about, it was probably Basement 5. Left to their own devices, they were coming along nicely, creating their uniquely uncompromising balance between rock and reggae and just beginning to turn in some devastating live performances.
They somehow managed to combine the hypnotic arrogance inherent in Rasta ranting with the primitive power of early punk without once lumbering their militant messages with mystical mumbo-jumbo or meaningless macho rock’n’roll myths. It was almost as if they’d deliberately set themselves an impossible task; to form a stark, sympathetic soundtrack devoid of all pomp and pretence from which to express some brutal facts of life.
On a good night, they actually came mighty close to making it, delivering a set as sharp and hard as a slap round the head, but on bad nights they seemed muddled – as if they’d lost direction – and collapsed into a monstrous, monotonous and uncontrollable mess.
Not surprisingly, their debut album, “1965-1980”, weighs in somewhere between the two, packed with nine potentially excellent songs that don’t pussyfoot around but which often seem strangely unfocused.
Lyrically there’s no problem. The accent’s firmly on the fact that in ’65 we never had it so good, in ’80 we never had it so bad and ’81 things aren’t likely to get much better.
There’s hardly a word out of place with Desmond Morris’ sandpaper voice screaming apocalyptic challenges like ‘Blame it on the politicians – If you must/Blame it on the police/If you must/But we’re all to blame”, effectively and unflinchingly pointing out that if Babylon burns, we’re all going to fry so we’d better do our damnedest to see it doesn’t happen.
Such shocking honesty is symptomatic of all the songs; “Heavy Traffic” drawing crude analogies between pollution and invasion, “No Ball Games” evoking the claustrophobic terror of high-rise housing and “Immigration” breathing welcome life into a dying cliche by simply reducing it to a personal level and demanding, “Do you know what it’s like? . . You spoilt so many lives,”
In the background, bassist Leo plods a solid beat, ex-PiL drummer Richard Dudanski embroiders some tasty stickwork and guitarist JR scratches around a caustic rhythm and turns out a couple of stunning solos. But somehow each song gets sidetracked, shaping up for a fight but pulling its punches and leaving a faint impression where there should be an absolute shiner.
The blame lies, principally, with whizz-kid producer Martin “Zero” Hannet’s predilection for general atmospheres rather than precise musical effects. His trademark of seductive washes of imprecise sound may work beautifully with The Invisible Girls or Joy Division but it’s the complete antithesis of Basement 5’s need for blunt confrontation.
At their best, this band are about power not percussion and the unfortunate outcome of Hannet’s approach is to render much of their impact redundant. Only once, on the brilliant “Union Games”,does he convert radical chic into anything approaching radical reality, weaving a sinister instrumental pattern around Morris’ tortured tirade.
However, enough of the moaning. Whether “1965-1980” goes down on record as a sign of Hannet’s limitations or as further evidence of his undoubted technical genius, there’s no doubt at all that Basement 5 are a band with a lot to say – it’s just that they’re still searching for the best way to say it.

Steve Sutherland