by: Jarret Lovell
The Scientist Meets Ted Sirota's Heavyweight Dub (Liberated Zone Records)
Whether you enjoy your dub straight up, or with a little electronic twist, the name Scientist is now legendary. Along with Lee "Scratch" Perry and mentor King Tubby, Overton Brown helped create and shape the genre known as dub. He earned the moniker "scientist" because he was always fiddling with electronics, making music equipment himself out of raw parts. His discography is today sampled by too many artists to count. Ted Sirota is legendary in his own right, best known for work as a jazz drummer working with guitarist Jeff Parker and for his work with the Rebel Souls. The name of his band should be a tip-off to his interest in reggae. Here, Scientist and Ted Sirota team up for a dub album. The collaboration is less than stellar, but check out #4 "Stop and Frisk (The New Jim Crow)" for great lyrics about race and mass incarceration in the United States. The collection also features an all instrument cover of Johnny Osbourne's "Give a Little Love" (which Scientist famously dubbed years ago) and a cover of a Randy Newman song.
Raging Fyah - "Judgement Day" (self release)
There's not too much I can tell you about this release, except that I like it. Recorded at Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica - this Jamaican outfit is the real deal. Great, straightforward reggae sound with a nice, smooth bassline. No fancy production, so slick lyrics. No gimmicks. Good great reggae.
Dub Rockers Vol. 1 (VP Records)
What do Bad Brains, Fishbone, Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, and the Aggrolites have in common? A: They are all American reggae artists who have found international success. They all are also featured on this great new compilation by VP Records - one of the leading labels featuring Jamaican recording artists. Here, U.S. and European reggae acts are paired up with leading Jamaican musicians for some great collaborations, some of which are possible via vintage recordings, such as Slightly Stupid performing with Inner Circle, or Java with Augustus Pablo and Tommy McCook. However you slice it, this is a stellar compilation!!! It is about time stateside reggae artists received some recognition from contemporary reggae's top distributor. Featuring: Slightly Stoopid, Capleton, Inner Circle, Natty, Alborosie, Busy Signal, Bad Brains, Angelo Moore (Fishbone), John Brown's Body, Anuhea, Tarrus Riley, Aggrolites, Etana, Java, Augustus Pablo, Tommy McCook, Peetah Morgan, Expendables, Eek-a-Mouse, Rebelution, I-Wayne, SOJA, Gentleman, Tamika. There's something for everyone here, so play!
10Ft Ganja Plant - "Skycatcher" (ROIR)
The first thing I noticed when I picked up a copy of the newest release was that the cover art resembles that of a release by dub-legend Scientist. Just a few seconds into the first track ("In the Garden") and I was struck by how similar the sound was to a Scientist album: stripped down, crisp, bass and drum heavy. The only thing missing are the trippy test signals, reverbs and tones. This isn't roots, this is dub in the tradition of early dancehall - think early 80s Greensleeves. Features vocals from John Brown's Body! Try track #2, #5.
Eccentric Soul - "The Bandit Label" (Numero Group)
Ever since I started to incorporate funk, soul and disco into my reggae/dub format, I have been able to predict when someone will call in inquiring about something I'm playing. It usually comes whenever I play "Love Is All I Need" by the Majestic Arrows and the falsetto vocals kick in. To be sure, Eccentric Soul is the title of a series of compilations distributed by the label Numero Group which finds defunct funk&soul catalogues and re-issues them with a complete history booklet on the label's history, and that of the contributing artists. Simply for reviving (or preserving) history, the Numero Group is to be commended. Yet the quality of music on their releases is so amazingly consistent that people gobble up anything bearing the label's moniker. The present compilation (Numero 003) features the "Bandit Label," so labeled because the label's founder had some notorious shady business dealings and operated outside the law. How he ran the label, too, appears rather shady - but I'm still working through the history contained in the liner notes. As for the sound - it is pure 1970s Chicago soul. Each track features an evolving cast of musician that reached it apex as the Majestic Arrows, putting out one much sought after full release.
Don't Stop - "Recording Tap" (Numero Group)
See above for a description of this label, but whereas Eccentric Soul features - well - soul, the Don't Stop imprint features defunct disco labels. "Recording Tap" was a New York based disco label that also released what perhaps are some of the earliest rap records in the style of rappers delight (e.g., Missy Dee and the Melody Crew features a female rap; Fabulous 3 MCs is great, both 1981.) The remaining tracks are disco magic with enough funky bass solos to make any party.