Monday, March 23, 2009


There are some good artist LP's out there, but like jungle, dancehall is all about compilations and singles. Despite a bit of selector snobbery towards the former (a strange one, as compilation cuts are often better than the 7" pressing), comps really do provide both an invaluable resource for introducing fans to the genre, and also for collectors trying to get their hands on that one crucial cut which can't be found on 7" but appears on a one-riddim album. Personally I love reggae compilations. They're how I discovered the genre, and I still buy secondhand comps regularly, as you never know what gems you might find - plus the covers are usually great!

Here's some mid 80's-mid 90's samples from my collection - I was gonna do a mini-review of each one, but this has been languishing in my drafts folder for ages, so i thought it best to just post it now before I forgot about it for another 6 months. Woebot
did a nice write up of UK reggae comps on his now defunct blog if anyone's interested in further exploration.


Blogger Martin said...

I haven't seen the Just Ragga girl gang in a long time, how many poses did they do in that street? I have to say, I disliked the Ragga Ragga Ragga covers with the stumpy cartoon man so much I actually threw away the cover to Vol 4.

Do you know if the 'Wicked in Bed' rhythm album ever got released on vinyl? I only ever borrowed a tape copy off a mate...that had a great/ridiculous cartoon cover, with Shabba wearing shades, surrounded by a bedroom full of knackered women, putting his hand up in a 'Next!' gesture.

Also, I have to ask - do you, or does anyone reading this, remember 'The Ambush' LP, which had a seriously hilarious cover - it was basically 'Ragga Ragga Ragga 3', give or take a couple of tracks. I had it on vinyl but side 2 jumped all over the place and I think I ended up just binning it and buying RRR3. It had a photo of some bloke ambling along through some copse with another bloke waiting for him with (IIRC) a massive tree branch shaped like a sword. I've never found any reference to it on the net or met any reggae fans who remember it...

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, these covers are terrible -- and deepy misogynistic -- if they were heavy metal covers depicting women and violence and guns in the same cheap porno exploitative way, you'd laugh at them or sneer or scorn -- sorry, very dodgy sleeves and just plain bad art too.I don't know what you are thinking to showcase these records as "great sleeves." They look like cheap porn and men's adolescent fantasies about guns and women. What's to praise here in 99% of these sleeves? Care to tell us?

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or is it a case of "so bad they're good"? It's lost on me.

They're just bad.

2:37 PM  
Blogger droid said...

LOL... who is this? Did you even look at the sleeves or are you just indulging in some generic anti-dancehall idiocy? Out of all the covers Ive posted there's maybe 4 or 5 that could be considered to be misogynistic, and there's not a single gun or bit of 'violence' on display.

As for your 'what's good about them' question. As my Ma used to say: if you don't know - I can't tell you... but one things for sure - I'd take the bizarre amateurish slapdash styles of some of these sleeves over 99% of the anonymous over-designed pap that tends to grace most record covers these days.

At least there's a bit of character in these lads.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, this is folk art. if it was in the museum next to a Darger you'd be drooling.

please post a link to your idea of good art, just curious.

9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if your idea of "great record sleeves" ( I have to laugh ) are ( look at them one by one as you have shown them above ) "Puannay tegareg vol 1", "Various Artist Butterfly " , "Limousine Steely and Cleevie", "Moving Away", "Fast Car".....

What on earth justifies them as good covers? POst modern irony perhaps? So cheaply done they are funny? WHat's great art about a bad drawing of a woman's arse hanging out of her jeans > ( "Tegareg") or a bad photo like "buterfly"...or a bad drawing of a red sports car..or a sexist,cheap, bad drawing of woman's legs as she gets out of a car ) Limousine) ???? How about a porno take off like "Kesta Punany Chemist" sleeve .....Jesus, if these were early 80's hair metal adolescsnt Heavy Metal sleeves, you'd be all righteous and dissing them, for God's sake....

what the.....

And that's good cover art? The 80's cover art of "Damsel", that's the best...


Tell you what, there are some New wave of British heavy metal records at my local record shop going cheap..that might be your kind of thing,..or there are some hair metal 90's records going that better?


11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS Saying it is folk art is patronising psuedo academic white middle class speak -- do you think the original artists saw them as "folk art"?

It's a Patronising view, like middle class Yanks who patronised rare folk blues in the 60's, as a folk art objects and "field recordsings."

I'ts such bollocks, really.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

absolutely wicked post droid!

@anonymous with the problem. you're a f***ing idiot mate. you don't like the cover for steely and cleevie's "limousine"? then you nothing about design or art.

furthermore in your haste to tie yourself in knots over "patronising middle class attitudes" you've missed the five beautiful limonious sleeves that droid has posted here as well- if there's an auteur of jamaican sleeve design it's him. a guy like you can shut his face.


9:42 AM  
Blogger droid said...

@ Anon 1. Interesting to see that you've now modified your criticism. Originally you said that these sleeves were "deepy misogynistic" (sic)... ..."depicting women and violence and guns in the same cheap porno exploitative way"... ..."very dodgy sleeves". Now you're simply saying that they're bad art, having failed to provide even a scintilla of evidence to back up your cretinous kneejerk condemnations (it's dancehall, so it MUST feature 'guns and violence" on the sleeves).

The only 'porno' you can refer to is the Punanny chemist sleeve, which is only porn if you the kind of person who would consider the sexually frustrated doodlings of a 14 year old schoolboy to be worthy of condemnation.

As well as failing to look at the sleeves before rushing to idiotic judgements, you've also failed to read my post. i said 'usually great', i didn't say 'all great' or 'the pinnacle of sleeve design'. I'm not saying that these are all 'great art', what these sleeves do represent is a synergy of amateur aesthetics and commercial pressures, a combination which produces some dodgy content, some great design and some inspired and demented artwork. A million miles away from identikit 'smell the glove' type hair metal sleeves. Most importantly dancehall (and reggae) sleeve art offers insights into the world of Jamaican music and culture and it's melange of influences: sexually charged and occasionally offensive sure, but also vibrant, modern and possessing a distinct kind of naive charm... Though I'm probably wasting my time explaining this as you obviously haven't got a fucking clue about the music, the people or the culture you're so eager to condemn.

10:27 AM  
Blogger droid said...

@ Martin - the wicked inna bed riddim LP (Love is not a gamble) is available on vinyl, though my copy (the JA press) doesn't have that cover - it looks like this:

Never seen that Ambush album, bit before my time... was it some kinda bootleg/unoffical compilation?

And yes, the Just Ragga girls did get around, but Vol. 9 was the last we saw of em as they were replaced by some dodgy (and cheaper) graphics for the rest of the series.

1:01 PM  
Blogger John Eden said...

I remember that Ambush LP - I nearly picked it up for Aphasic who used to be half of Ambush Records (the other half being DJ Scud). I thought it was a riddim called Ambush tho.

Personally I've always loved good cartoon art and lettering especially and these sleeves are wicked from that angle.

The issue of the depiction of female sexuality in ragga (and JA) is more complex than sleeve art but I don't think it's fair to suggest that all of these sleeves are misogynistic or even that they all show women as passive or whatever. How many heavy metal sleeves show women dancing?

10:05 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

All I can remember about the Ambush LP is side 1 had exactly the same Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and Silver Cat tracks as those on RRR3, and possibly the same by Jigsy King, though it might have had a different title. Yeah, that 'Wicked' LP's exactly the same tracklisting...I would ask the person who lent it to me to up a scan, as it is amusing, but we lost contact several years ago...

I have a feeling that if some of the cover examples above were extremely rare 80s Italo or NDW releases, Anon wouldn't find them so problematic...nobody ever criticises the use of sexual imagery on disco, for fear of being shot down as a prude

11:43 AM  
Anonymous w&w said...

That cover for _Limousine_ is utterly awesome, totally striking. Funny to see it singled out in the comments as it was the one that most caught my eye as "artful" while browsing.

Doesn't strike me as cheap or bad or only to be appreciated in ironic mode or as "folk art" (which I agree is often a specious and patronizing category).

Thx for sharing, Droid.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous stephen said...

Love it Droid! Especially the stalag cover - a staple in every riddim selectors box.

I've always been a huge fan of Tony McDermott's Artwork for Greensleeves, especially all the Scientist covers.

@anon Perhaps you could turn your critical eye to these gems:

2:23 AM  

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