Thursday, November 24, 2005

Sovereign Rhythms Vol.1 - A 1993-1995 Hardcore and Jungle Selection

OK, so here’s Part 1 of a mix that I did more than 2 years ago. I was particularly disillusioned with drum n bass at the time, and hadn’t really dug out my old skool much in recent years... Hence after a long stoned session of frantic re-discovery, I went back in and determined to put together a couple of mixes to showcase some of my favourite Jungle and early Drum n Bass tracks from that time. Many of these tunes have been largely unavailable since then, hence the emphasis was intended to be on letting the tunes breathe so that a new audience might get to hear what the music had been capable of back then. Some of the mixes were a bit of a nightmare to pull off (I wasn’t into the idea of ‘correcting’ any errors in the mix later), so a lot of work went into these babies. However, just to stress that this isn’t a ‘Best Of’, or a ‘History’, it’s merely a selection of personal favourites from 93 to 94 – roughly about the period that the music was morphing from hardcore breakbeat into Jungle, and from there into drum n bass.

As it happens, despite the subtitle, there’s not much in the way of strictly ‘hardcore’ on it, but the vibes of hardcore are still very much present in many of the tracks IMO… especially on ‘Open Your Mind’ and ‘Monarch Of The Glen’. I should add that Droid and Slug are much better versed in 92 / early 93 bizness than I, so they should be getting some prime moments of hardcore madness up here for y’all in the not-too-distant future…

Download Sovereign Rhythms Vol.1 - A 1993-1995 Hardcore and Jungle Selection (87.7mb)

00:00) 1.DJ Tamsin & Monk - A Better Place [DJ Crystl Rmx] (Whitehouse)
(06:01) 2.Deep Blue - Helicopter Tune (Moving Shadow)
(08:44) 3.Foul Play - The Stepper (Moving Shadow)
(11:47) 4.Urban Wax - Take Me Up Remix (Liquid Wax)
(17:24) 5.DJ Crystl - Let It Roll (Dee Jay)
(20:54) 6.Ruff With The Smooth - Twisted Girl (Basement)
(27:10) 7.Intense - The Quickening [DOPE Remix] (Rugged Vinyl)
(30:49) 8.Ed Rush - Bludclot Artattack (No-U-Turn)
(34:44) 9.Danny Breaks - Vol. 1 (Droppin Science)
(39:20) 10.Foul Play - Open Your Mind (Moving Shadow)
(43:00) 11.DJ Taktix - The Way VIP (Back2Basics)
(47:11) 12.Hyper-on-E - Lord Of The Null Lines [Foul Play Rmx] (Moving Shadow)
(50:40) 13.Sub Sequence - Everyday (Too‚z Up)
(54:17) 14.Omni Trio - Original Soundtrack (Moving Shadow)
(57:18) 15.D.O.P.E. - Travelling Part 2 (Rugged Vinyl)
(61:09) 16.Studio Pressure - The Water Margin (Photek Recordings)
(65:04) 17.Fokus - Trigger Happy (Lucky Spin)
(66:36) 18.Hyper-on-E - Monarch Of The Glen (Moving Shadow)

(00:00) 1.DJ Tamsin & Monk - A Better Place [DJ Crystl Rmx] (Whitehouse)

OK, so straight in and the lush opening chords of Crystl’s tuff take on Tamsin & Monk’s ‘A Better Place’… You might actually recall a short section of the first drop in this tune even if you’ve never heard it in its entirety before, as it used to pop up as one of those annoying ads-for-ourselves that MTV used to run... usually featuring short clips of tunes that they would never dream of playing in their entirety. So here Crystl (with more than a little help from engineering wiz Pete Parsons, I’ll wager) ruffs up the original with some trademark tuff-but smooth beat-work, and comes up with a stunning roller that still exudes freshness today. Incidentally, Whitehouse was yet another one of those labels that couldn’t be found in Ireland ten odd years ago; instead I got this on a superb compilation called ‘Counterforce’ on Internal, which featured a slew of Crystl tracks plus a bunch of other prime cuts. Curiously enough, the ‘mixed’ version of that LP was actually programmed/sequenced rather than DJ-mixed, and it also featured Orbital’s breakbeat number ‘Are We Here’ tacked on to the end...

(06:01) 2.Deep Blue - Helicopter Tune (Moving Shadow)
(08:44) 3.Foul Play - The Stepper (Moving Shadow)

Next up we have Deep Blue’s ‘Helicopter Tune’… a huge anthem in 93/94, but always worth re-checking – its thoroughly unique vibe still has the power to make one sit up and pay attention. Check the odd mix of drum machine-type exactitude (the automaton hi-hat and the stiff bongo-loop) juxtaposed with the looseness of the breaks and general Jungle ruffidge. A big smiley upbeat number, but it still somehow retains that martial junglistic quality. From there into Foul Play’s ‘The Stepper’... and how far removed from the latter-day concept of ‘stepping’ this tune is! Quite similar to a hiphop remix they did with Rob Playford (King Just’s ‘Warrior’s Drum’), with the “Hey-Hohh!” vocals. As ever, awesome rhythms that still flow with panache despite their intricacy: Foul Play were truly the Kings.

(11:47) 4.Urban Wax - Take Me Up Remix (Liquid Wax)

OK, on to Urban Wax i.e. Phantasy and Aphrodite… two old skool raver champions at the top of their game back then, and a world removed from ‘Drop Top Caddy’ et al. It’s stuff like this that makes me switch off when I hear nu skool steppers bang on about how the beats have to be braindead in order to be danceable… I mean, who in their right mind would favour a big clunking snare on twos and fours over this gorgeously sublime track as it skitters and slides with graceful athleticism all over the shop?

(17:24) 5.DJ Crystl - Let It Roll (Dee Jay)

And on: Crystl’s ‘Let It Roll’: seminal stuff from Crystl and Pete Parsons again. Parsons was undoubtedly the Rob Playford to Crystl’s Goldie i.e. a skilled mediator for Crystl’s ideas. Amazing rhythms, and a beautiful breakdown to boot. As for the 2003 remix…. Well, when you’ve heard this, you really gotta ask just one question: why?

(20:54) 6.Ruff With The Smooth - Twisted Girl (Basement)

From there we head onto the little-known Ruff With the Smooth on Basement Recordings, and ‘Twisted Girl’ – one of my favourite tunes form this period… although it took me about ten years to find some decent mixes for it! Simon ‘Bassline’ Smith was involved in this if I’m not mistaken… a really lovely dreamy vibe to it, yet no sign of it resting on its big fat lazy laurels a lá latter-day GLR; instead there’s a hint of poignancy – one that for me, always recalls the end of that naive period in the music, and the beginning of the industrialisation of drum n bass – the laying down of new laws regarding styles, titles and tempos… but here, in an Indian Summer of innocence, this track rolls on, blissfully free of the need to have a big build-up or drop. Sweet stuff.

(27:10) 7.Intense - The Quickening [DOPE Remix] (Rugged Vinyl)
(30:49) 8.Ed Rush - Bludclot Artattack (No-U-Turn)

Intense. 1993!!!!! Yes, so far ahead. Big Bukem tracks from back in the day (when he used to cane the best of the atmospheric breakbeat tracks), and some of the earliest ‘drum n bass’ tracks that I heard (i.e. neither ‘Hardcore’ nor ‘Jungle’ – something new). Intense were masters of cinematic samples, and seriously on form when it came to their beats too. So simple and yet so effective. OK, on we go, and enter… The Blackness. ‘Bludclot Artattack’ was Ed Rush’s first big tune, and it still provides a lesson in the power of rolling simplicity (Grand Master Nico over at No-U-Turn was at the controls, natch). Dubbed-out sub-heavy Jungle through and through. The same vocal sample – Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now – was recently unearthed again by Paradox for his ‘Dilettantes’ tune…

(34:44) 9.Danny Breaks - Vol. 1 (Droppin Science)

Danny Breaks… Volume 1. I tried to get this tune for about 10 years and had given up all hope when it arrived in the post out of the blue – much thanks and respect to the one and only Statto for passing on this awesome 12” to me… this one is dedicated to him. J As for the tune, what can I say? Chinese pianos rolling down the stairs passing a load of tumbling Amens on the way, the orgasmic vocals… this one is for the Jungle Ravers, no doubt, but it still oozes class and individuality all the way. Danny Breaks dropped the quality from the off, and has never let up since.

(39:20) 10.Foul Play - Open Your Mind (Moving Shadow)

More from the mighty Foul Play, thus time with possibly their biggest track – the anthemic ‘Open Your Mind’, and a real brain-bending journey into hardcore junglism. I reckon the title, while surely Ecstacy-inspired, also represented a plea by the virtuosos of hardcore breakbeat to have their style taken seriously by the cognoscenti of UK dance music… you gotta remember that as late as 1993, the likes of Oakenfold and Pete Tong were still queuing up to diss UK Hardcore Breakbeat. Such a shame they didn’t do their homework (and reserve their ire for d+b’s later misdemeanours), cos they missed the best period of the music altogether. Anyhow, former music journo (and former Jungle devotee) Simon Reynolds never stopped banging on about this track and it’s not hard to hear why: you’d have to have a heart of stone and feet of lead not to be moved by it. Foul Play got much more self-conscious about their aspirations to be ‘proper’ musicians after this point, and while they had yet to roll out more killer tracks, nothing that came after retained that nutty E-‘d-up quality so evident here.

(43:00) 11.DJ Taktix - The Way VIP (Back2Basics)

DJ Taktix... “It’s…. the Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy!” I can well remember having a laugh at just how many times this vocal sample had been rinsed by the Back2Basics cru back in the day… and then they went and dug it out AGAIN recently in order to drain the last few drops of vibe from it. I first heard a mix of this on the excellent ‘Renegade Selector 1’ compilation (a seminal LP purchase for me), and it still stands as one of my favourite Jungle tracks… I love the ruff/smooth combination with the RnB vocal running over some absolutely FILTHY breaks and the interjections of the MC… and when the half-speed dropout comes in second-time round with that sample stuck in a loop of suspended animation… it gets me every time.

(47:11) 12.Hyper-on-E - Lord Of The Null Lines [Foul Play Rmx] (Moving Shadow)

And so, yet more Foul Play, albeit on remix duties this time (where they generally excelled). For years, it was this – the first very slick Foul Play remix of Hyper-On-E’s biggest track that really got me… I only got properly converted to the madness of the original tune some time later. (The original is fucking MENTAL by the way). Under the guiding hand of Rob Playford, Moving Shadow was responsible for putting out some really creative remixes in 93/94, and between them, Foul Play, Omni Trio and Hyper-On-E pretty much defined Shadow at that point. Oh yeah – Hyper-On-E later changed their name to Hyper-On-‘Experience’ (like Foul Play, they’d lost their taste for the ardkore, and were seeking musical gentrification)….

(50:40) 13.Sub Sequence - Everyday (Too‚z Up)

Next up, Sub Sequence on Too’z Up… connected in some fashion to the Intense cru, many tracks by these chaps explored a similar atmospheric terrain. This one is composed mainly of samples taken from Sabres Of Paradise’s ‘Haunted Dancehall’ LP (which came out around 94 too if I’m not mistaken) and while chilled, is kinda anxious too…

(54:17) 14.Omni Trio - Original Soundtrack (Moving Shadow)

Omni Trio and a track off his Volume 4 EP on Moving Shadow. The godlike Rob Haigh could do no wrong for me back in 93/94. At the time, some appear to have found Omni Trio’s stuff too delicate or quaint to allocate it a place in the emerging ruff Jungle sound… but not me. I remember asking in renowned Jungle emporium Section 5 if I could hear the explosive 95 remix of ‘Feel Good’ (backed with the dynamite ‘London Step’) and whoever was behind the counter shook his head and advised me to ignore it… cos it was ‘shit’. Such a shame that this was never picked up on for the James Bond movie series; it certainly beats Bukem’s lame 1997 ‘James Bond Theme’ hands-down.

(57:18) 15.D.O.P.E. - Travelling Part 2 (Rugged Vinyl)

On to D.O.P.E… dunno much about these guys… I kinda always assumed that this was a Rugged Vinyl release, but it was in fact put out on GLR with a big Rugged logo on it… maybe a collaborative project? D.O.P.E also dropped a scorching remix of Kenny Ken’s full vocal ragga anthem ‘Everyman’ on Rugged Vinyl, which was re-released not so long ago, and is well worth picking up.

(61:09) 16.Studio Pressure - The Water Margin (Photek Recordings)

And now comes The Ninja! Photek’s early stuff (i.e. the first half dozen 12”s on his own label before he got signed to Virgin) definitely made me consider drum n bass in a new way… I think it was his tracks that first made me think of how each track might only play a part in the sum total of the mix, rather than having each one offer its own narrative, its own beginning, middle and end. Photek tracks like this remained perfectly unresolved, kinda frantic and uneasy, despite the smoothness.

(65:04) 17.Fokus - Trigger Happy (Lucky Spin)

From there into Fokus… another late-era purchase for me, this one is a prime slice of deep melodic Lucky Spin breakbeatism. This one is quite typical of the signature Lucky Spin sound back then, upbeat in vibe, all rolling beats and pounding subs. Don’t think Fokus ever recorded as anything else… Pete Parsons provided a remix of this tuner as Voyager, so I’m guessing he may have been on engineering duties too…?

(66:36) 18.Hyper-on-E - Monarch Of The Glen (Moving Shadow)

And finally, we close this chapter with Hyper-On-E, this time in full-on Raver mode. An absolute fucking nightmare to mix in from the start (producers didn’t make it easy for DJs back then, oh no!), but I had to drop this in somewhere for the sheer cheek of the vibe. True ardkore scavengers, Hyper-On-E had a unique ability to drop in a million samples from a million sources into their tunes, and yet could still roll them out with the energy undiminished.

So, concludes Volume 1. Big up to Droid again for badgering me to finally get this mix up online… Volume 2 picks up from where the first one leaves off, and should be up here very soon… in the meantime, I hope you find something in this set to enjoy… the mixing is of an altogether better quality than my ‘Fever’ mix too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Droid Inna Dancehall Vol 2 - Alternate Roots

A slight change of plan this – I was going to do an entirely new early 90’s dancehall set for Vol. 2, but - these things take a stupid amount of time to complete from scratch, and in an effort to fill the gap (and clear the backlog of mixes), I’ve gone instead for an updated version of a 90’s roots mix that was originally recorded at the same time as D.I.D. Vol.1. I’m pretty happy with this mix (as in - I’m not sick of it yet!) – its got a wide range of artists and styles on it and think you’ll agree that’s it’s nice to have change from the slackness now and again, especially seeing as we’re currently in the middle of an ‘off’ decade for roots and culture (according to the cyclical theory of Rastafari that is…).

Now – the first thing that the uninitiated should know about this genre (sometimes called ‘nu-roots’ or ‘conscious reggae’) is that it can be as cheesy as hell - and examples abound here. From Luciano’s pious profundity on ‘Can’t stop Jah works’, Prince Malachi’s earnest exhortations for peace on ‘Healing on the Streets’, Morgan Heritage’s Lennonite anthem: ‘what we need is love’ and Beres Hammond’s soap operatic musings on ‘The way it is’… but it is this very cheesiness – a sincere and naïve unselfconsciousness and self-belief, (exemplified by godfathers of the scene like Garnett Silk and Dennis Brown) - that gives this music much of its lyrical appeal. That’s not to say there isn’t also a big streak of ‘Toshist’ righteous anger and politicisation running through 90’s roots. ‘Reality’ artists like Bounty/Sizzla/Capleton/Terror Fabulous have, at times all been exponents of a more fiery approach – but the thing that really hits me abut this genre is not the ‘blood and fire’ of the Bobo Dreads and ex-Raggamuffins - its the enduring positivity and inspirational qualities that form a mirror image of slackness… for want of a better word - the ‘niceness’ – of the likes of Luciano/Cocoa Tea/Garnett Silk/ Buju Banton/Morgan Heritage/Beres Hammond/Tony Rebel/Jack Radics etc…

Label-wise, as you’d expect from a dilettante like myself, the set is dominated by the big 5 of 90’s roots: Digital B, Xterminator, Black Scorpio, Jammy’s, and Star-trail; providing a nice mix of vintage and original one drop riddims. Unlike the previous mix, there are few leanings towards minimalism or experimentation in these tunes, and if anything, it can be said that Roots production in the 90’s went in the opposite direction to Dancehall, with samples and digital technology used conservatively, to supplement real instruments rather than replacing them altogether – to quote Luciano –
“…it’s when we use our minds and our creativity along with the technology that we get the best results out of the studio and out of life. But it can go too far. If you forget about the natural instruments and play everything on synthesizers then you lost the feel and the vibration that comes with making music”. There’s also a lot more of reggae’s back-catalogue to draw on when you retain the same basic structures and sounds that have been in use since the early 70’s, so, as many purists would argue, 90’s roots could be seen as the legitimate heir to reggae’s crown jewels both musically and lyrically (digital dancehall being the unhinged cyborg usurper of the throne), which is why it is somewhat curious that it is a relatively undocumented genre outside of Jamaica and the hermetic world of the international roots reggae community…

So - onto the mix. Same deal as before –
All the mixing was done live on CDJ’s or Technics, with most of the transitions between riddims being done on computer, also, some of the effects were done live on a Chaoss pad, some added later on the PC. I’ve also chopped and changed a bit from the 2000 version, and I ended up re-doing quite a few of the mixes as the sound quality on the original was a bit hissy and overdriven in places. It’s designed to fit onto a 700mb audio CD - you may get a ‘This burn may fail’ message, as I’m pushing the envelope in terms of size, but I haven’t yet had a failed burn, so it should be alright (not a guarantee! ;)). The cover is designed for those ‘slim’ CD-single cases again. Just print it out, cut along the guides at the corners, and fold in half. The MP3 has been fully ID3 tagged, so it should just slot into place on your playlist along with the rest of the mixes available here..

Download Droid Inna Dancehall Vol. 2 – Alternate Roots (105.1mb)

(00:00) 1. Luciano – Cant Stop Jah Works – Xterminator (Mafia Riddim)
(03:24) 2. Sizzla – Till it Some More - Xterminator (Mafia Riddim)
(06:28) 3. Sizzla - Babylon Homework - Xterminator (Babylon Homework/Blessing)
(09:20) 4. Prince Malachi - Healing in the Streets - Xterminator (BH/Blessing)
(11:19) 5. Home T - Don’t Throw it all Away - Jammys (Chinatown/Bye Bye Love Riddim)
(12:55) 6. Frankie Paul - Praise Him - Jammys (Chinatown/Bye Bye Love Riddim)
(14:07) 7. Shabba Ranking - Get Up and Stand Up and Rock - Jammys (C/BBL Riddim)
(16:13) 8. Dean Fraser – Dean in Chinatown - Jammys (Chinatown/Bye Bye Love Riddim)
(18:15) 9. Sizzla – Wanting You - Star-trail (Unknown Riddim)
(21:02) 10. Antony B – Cover you Tracks – Star-trail (Unknown Riddim)
----------------- Excerpt from Garnett Silk Interview on Irie FM -------------------------
(22:44) 11. Garnett Silk – Zion in a Vision – Black Scorpio (Friends for Life Riddim)
(24:18) 12. Satellite – Tribute to Garnett Silk – Black Scorpio (Friends for Life Riddim)
(26:03) 13. Dennis Brown – Friends for Life - Black Scorpio (Friends for Life Riddim)
---------------------------- Escape the Judgment interlude --------------------------------
(27:50) 14. Antony B – Give Thanks - Henfield (Babatunde Riddim)
(31:35) 15. Luciano – Punch Line - Henfield (Babatunde Riddim)
(33:33) 16. Capleton – Who I Am - Henfield (Babatunde Riddim)
-------------------------------- Free Our Minds Interlude ----------------------------------
(37:09) 17. President Brown - Microchip - Kariang (Give Me the Right Riddim)
(39:08) 18. Sizzla – Get We Out - Kariang (Give Me the Right Riddim)
(41:05) 19. Bushman - Somewhere - Kariang (Give Me the Right Riddim)
(43:19) 20. Nisha K – It’s Over – Digital B (You Don’t Care Riddim)
(45:27) 21. Singing Melody – Say What – Digital B (You Don’t Care Riddim)
(46:56) 22. Morgan Heritage – What We Need is Love – Digital B (You Don’t Care Riddim)
(49:16) 23. Mikey Spice/Louie Culture – Grab Yu Lass and Come – Digital B (YDC Riddim)
(51:47) 24. Booby Digital/The Techniques – You Don’t Care Riddim – Digital B (YDC Riddim)
------------------------------------ Own Flex Interlude -------------------------------------
(54:24) 25. Gregory Isaacs – Lead Me - Digital B (Queen of The Minstrels Riddim)
(56:42) 26. Sizzla – Guide Over Us - Digital B (Queen of The Minstrels Riddim)
(59:10) 27. Beres Hammond – Defend It - Star-trail (Wrong Move Riddim)
(61:48) 28. Richard ‘Bello’ Bell – Purify Version – Star-trail (Purify Riddim)
(54:06) 29. Beres Hammond – Way it is - Star-trail (Purify Riddim)
(66:14) 30. Jack Radics - Purify - Star-trail (Purify Riddim)
(69:05) 31. Sizzla – Holding Firm – Star-trail (Holding Firm Riddim)
(71:45) 32. Garnet Silk - Love – Star-trail (Holding Firm Riddim)
(73:41) 33. Antony B – Raid di Barn – Star-trail (Holding Firm Riddim)
(75:33) 34. Richard ‘Bello’ Bell – Love Dub/Holding Firm Riddim – Star-trail (Holding Firm Riddim)

Mafia Riddim:

(00:00) 1. Luciano – Cant Stop Jah Works – Xterminator
(03:24) 2. Sizzla – Till it Some More - Xterminator

As I mentioned above, you can’t get much cheesier than this opening track! The first of four tunes produced by roots maestro Phillip ‘Fattis’ Burrell and the Firehouse crew on the Xterminator label (formerly know as ‘Kings and Lions’) An acoustic guitar, and some overly-busy flutes provide the melody and timbre to compliment Luciano’s precisely enunciated spoken word verses. Though its saved by its dubbed out skank and snare action, and an urgent kick pattern which pops up in every 2nd bar, the opening track to the 1997 LP ‘Sweep over my Soul’ (Luciano’s best album IMO), isn’t, I admit a tune I would’ve normally pulled out of the bag - were it not for the fact that the excellent ‘Till it Some More’ is on the same riddim.

An early(ish) tune taken from a horribly warped copy of the ‘Kalonji’ LP, this is a great example of Sizzla’s more relaxed (and comprehendible) sing-jay style, and the first of several tunes with what can only be called ‘agricultural’ themes. Female backing vocals replace the flute, and the riddim is stripped down (though the acoustic guitar remains), putting a bit more emphasis on the bassline. The Sax solo is courtesy of the ubiquitous Mr. Dean Fraser; one-time musical director of Xterminator, member of the Firehouse ‘family’ and 3rd best saxophonist in the world (though god only knows how they decided that one!), Fraser features on a lot of Xterminator’s output from the mid-late 90’s, and he is easily the most prolific Jamaican Sax player from that period.

Babylon Homework/Blessing Riddim:

(06:28) 3. Sizzla - Babylon Homework - Xterminator
(09:20) 4. Prince Malachi - Healing in the Streets - Xterminator

More Fattis Burrell, more Dean Fraser and more Sizzla on this melodic riddim from ‘98. Bathed on Reverb, ‘Babylon Homework/Blessing’ is defined as much by the skanked out guitars and delicate organs as the hat and massive drop, and you could almost be fooled into thinking it was a Channel One production if not for the digital sheen left on the drums by Burrell’s smooth 90’s treatment.

Sizzla’s ‘Babylon Homework’ is the standout tune on one of his earlier LPs: ‘Royal Son of Ethiopia’, which sees the DJ on familiar ground, burning fire on Babylon in his trademark melodic chanting style:
‘Nothing inna Babylon nah work/Watch the iniquity have to get up and splurt/Not even a wicked man can serve/Rome catch a fire cause deh Vatican a thirst/Nothing inna Babylon caan work/Things get lock off and them a dead fi bare thirst/Not even a wicked man can serve/Yow - desolation trod the earth’. If you’re listening on headphones, check out the faint, extra-long overdubbed delay on the vocals – just one of the subtle little touches which give that ‘warm’ sound to the production…

Prince Malachi, alongside Determine, Mikey General and Turbulence is one of the second ranking artists on Xterminator’s roster, but this tune from ’98 is an exception to his generally mediocre output. Malachi’s vocal style is somewhere between Dennis Brown and Luciano, and the sweetness of his delivery is tailor made for this riddim, beefed up here by an extra guitar line and some female backing vocals. Lyrically speaking, it’s a straightforward and heartfelt cry for peace, which seems a little less cheesy when you consider this snapshot of the crime rate in Jamaica.

Chinatown/Bye Bye Love Riddim:

(11:19) 5. Home T - Don’t Throw it all Away - Jammys
(12:55) 6. Frankie Paul - Praise Him - Jammys

(14:07) 7. Shabba Ranking - Get Up and Stand Up and Rock - Jammys

(16:13) 8. Dean Fraser – Dean in Chinatown - Jammys

Not strictly 90’s roots this riddim. A 1988 production from Jammy, this is a dense melodic bubbling number with plenty of electronic cracks, claps, bells and vocal samples to keep things interesting. Home T (of Home T, Cocoa Tea and Cutty Ranks fame) kicks off with ‘Don’t throw it all away’, a straightforward (if somewhat keening) love song. A CDJ assisted spinback later and we’re into a ‘92 version of the riddim with Frankie Paul’s ‘Praise Him’, taken from Greensleeves’ ‘Conscious Ragga Vol 1.’ compilation. Better known for his Rudeboy, Ganja, and Lovers Rock tunes, Paul has recorded for nearly every label in Jamaica over the last 25 years, as well as putting out a few singles and an LP on the UK’s Fashion label in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Paul was also one of the few established reggae artists to get down with the Jungilists – his 1995 collaboration with Marvellous Cain on ’45 Clip’ being a particularly accomplished result of his open-minded approach.

Shabba takes over next in his own indomitable style on ‘Get Up and Stand Up and Rock’ – a big up to his contemporaries, Ninjaman, ‘Colonel’ Josey Wales, John Wayne, (Red) Dragon, Courtney Melody and Sanchez all get a mention before Dean Fraser’s playful sax on the instrumental ‘Dean In Chinatown’ drowns him out.

Fans of this riddim may want to check out John Eden and Paul Meme’s ‘On The Wire mix’ as they played a different selection of ‘Chinatown/Bye Bye Love’ cuts during their recent appearance on Steve Barkers legendary radio show on BBC Radio Lancashire.

Unknown Riddim:

(18:15) 9. Sizzla – Wanting You - Star-trail
(21:02) 10. Antony B – Cover you Tracks – Star-trail

Richard ‘Bello’ Bell’s influential Star-trail label makes its first appearance here with a Sizzla/Antony B couplet on an unknown (but very nice) riddim. I searched long and hard to find out what this one’s called, but I cant find any reference to it to or any other cuts on it in any of the riddim databases or shop catalogues, so if anybody out there knows what it’s name, put me out of my misery and leave a comment or mail me please!.

Sizzla’s ‘Wanting You’ is an old fashioned cheesy love song in a sing-jay stylee. Produced in ’97, a couple of years after his meteoric rise to popularity, this tune’s just a bit softer in tone than some of the tracks in his current romantic repertoire such as ‘Pump up her Pum Pum’ - but the lyrics definitely have a bit more charm.

Antony B’s first LP – ‘Real Revolutionary’ was one of the records that sucked me into 90’s roots, and 1995’s best new DJ has been delivering the goods ever since, straddling the line between dancehall and roots with (mostly) positive tunes, and scoring a fair few hits along the way. ‘Cover You Tracks’
(‘Nah let Babylon see weh ya walk’) is another in a long line of fruitful collaborations with Bello and Star-trail, and is a fairly typical example of Antony B’s devotional chanting style. I had to cut this one a little short due to time constraints - and so we lead prematurely into the next selection with a short excerpt from an interview with Garnett Silk on Jamaica’s Irie FM from 1993.

Friends for Life Riddim:

(22:44) 11. Garnett Silk – Zion in a Vision – Black Scorpio
(24:18) 12. Satellite – Tribute to Garnett Silk – Black Scorpio
(26:03) 13. Dennis Brown – Friends for Life - Black Scorpio

Some seriously heavy production on the next riddim – ‘Friends for Life’, an original (afaik) Jack Scorpio piece from 92. Though the version is overtly electronic, dominated by a reedy synth backing line, the vocal cuts are much more rootsy in sound, with a guitar led melody - only the robotic marching snare rolls give away its technological provenance.

Garnett Silk’s eerily prophetic ‘Zion in a Vision’ was an earlyish hit for the young singer, and an indication of the massive success his music would enjoy in 1993,and even beyond his tragic death in late 1994 (including a UK number 1 for ‘Hello Africa’). Much has been written about Silk’s vocal style, but the power and belief in his delivery, and the purity of sentiment in his lyrics is still striking today, and this tune ranks amongst classics like ‘Lord watch over our shoulders’, ‘Kingly Character’, and ‘Fill us up with Your Mercy’.

More of Silk’s lyrics (though unfortunately not his vocals) are present on the next tune, Satellite’s 1995 ‘Tribute to Garnett Silk’, which is essentially a medley of Garnett Silk hits (and was the first example of Silk’s work that I heard). Satellite’s not a great singer, and afaik this was his only hit, but he makes up in passion what he lacks in talent, and pulls off a decent enough tribute to the (at the time) recently deceased Silk.

I was particularly happy to get a tune from the great Dennis Brown into the mix, and ‘Friends for Life’, is a classic cut from a Reggae legend who had a string of hits over three decades, and experienced a revitalization of popularity in the late 80’s lasting until his untimely death in 1999. Known as ‘The Crown Prince of Reggae’, Brown’s musical legacy and self-effacing manner cast a long shadow over the new generation of 90’s roots singers, and his influence is particularly evident in the vocal styles of Luciano, Bushman, and their many imitators…

Babatunde Riddim:

(27:50) 14. Antony B – Give Thanks - Henfield
(31:35) 15. Luciano – Punch Line - Henfield

(33:33) 16. Capleton – Who I Am - Henfield

This 1999 production of ‘Babatunde’ is probably the most rhythmically interesting riddim here, a shuffling wall of snares and shakers, with a teasing organ hook and stepping bassline. Antony B recruits for Jah in fine style on ‘Give Thanks’
('to day when Selassie-i found me/Give thanks to day im put some love around me/Give thanks to moment Emmanuelle crown I/As a Rastaman'), and Luciano gives a smooth and assured vocal performance on ‘Punch Line’ – a tune that’s a bit more representative of his work than ‘Cant Stop Jah Works’, which was featured earlier.

Though I dismissed him as a cynical bigot jut the other day, Capleton is still well capable of delivering the goods, and for a long stretch of the 90’s it seemed he could no wrong. Even his two Def Jam/Rush Associated LP’s: 'Prophecy' and 'I Testament', are pretty good, considering the touch of death that usually comes with major label involvement in dancehall and reggae. ‘Who I Am’ is another killer cut, in which the Prophet asserts his authenticity:
'Dem wan Know/Who I am?/And where I’m from?/Who give me the authority/to bun the evil man?/buss with the conquering li-on/U no fi overstand/said me live a Zion'.

Not that you’d realise it from this tune, but this is about the point where Capleton lost the plot a bit and started getting a bit OTT on the whole batty boy business – burning so much fire that he lost his spark – and his tunes suffered as a result IMO.. in fact, if you liked cheesy puns, you might say that Id prefer ‘more prophet’ and less ‘fiyah’ - man (groan!). BTW – if you noticed some odd skipping in the last tune – don’t worry, it’s just a bit of bungling juggling (good name for a mix that!).

Give Me the Right Riddim:

(37:09) 17. President Brown - Microchip - Kariang
(39:08) 18. Sizzla – Get We Out - Kariang

(41:05) 19. Bushman - Somewhere - Kariang

The ‘Give me the right’ riddim, also from ’99, is a brass driven monster, with a tough kick pattern and organs aplenty. A perceptive and radical rejection of consumerist technology, the lyrics of President Brown’s ‘Microchip’:
‘Now I see them coming with dem one world order/And dem no say it is to make life easier/Now this is the same thing that revelations tell/without the mark of the beast you cannot buy nor sell/[Chorus]:Babylon have the people dem hip to the trick/Under the spell of leviathan 666/Under we skin dem wan come put microchip/But we nah/accept the mark of he beast/And we caan/forget the Black King of the east’ - seem even more relevant when you consider developments like the rise of RFID technology and this somewhat sinister update of the chastity belt.

Sizzla makes the most of a delayed drop in the intro to ‘Get with Out’ a killer Ganja tune with a militant subtext, and Bushman (or is it Luciano? ;)) drops some ominous lovers lyrics on ‘Somewhere’, an OK tune – but like much of Bushman’s output of the last few years, it just falls short of the potential shown on his excellent first album. We wrap up the selection with a bit of CDJ time stretching (a feature I fully intend to explore more thoroughly in the future!), and a touch of Chaoss echo…

This riddim, and the one below were real head-wreckers on the decks, so at this point It’s worth pointing out to any aspiring Reggae DJ’s that roots tends to be a bit trickier in the mix than dancehall, as you can’t really depend on the 8 bar chorus/4 bar intro formula when mixing different tracks on the same riddim. You also have to look out for ‘live’ beats (the horror!), badly quantized beats, intros that start on the snare or ‘in between’ beats and tunes that have weird 3/5/6 bar intros or choruses – and you end up having to plan your mixes a bit more precisely as a result.

You Don’t Care Riddim:

(43:19) 20. Nisha K – It’s Over – Digital B
(45:27) 21. Singing Melody – Say What – Digital B

(46:56) 22. Morgan Heritage – What We Need is Love – Digital B

(49:16) 23. Mikey Spice/Louie Culture – Grab Yu Lass and Come – Digital B

(51:47) 24. Booby Digital/The Techniques – You Don’t Care Riddim – Digital B

Bit of a weird one this. A rootsy 2000 re-version of a late 60’s Duke Reid riddim (which was originally based on a Curtis Mayfield tune), ‘You Don’t Care’ features an un-quantized live band instead of the usual mix of sampled loops/hits and live instrumentation. Though this 1970 version is fairly crazy, with the bassline sliding up and down the scale every couple of bars, this, in contrast is a sedate and dubwise production, with a tighter, more minimal arrangement, more similar to the original riddim (minus the piano).

Nisha K’s ‘Its Over’ features the first and only appearance of a woman in the mix, and repeats her successful formula of singing lovers tunes over roots riddims. Though not an amazing tune, it is refreshing to hear a female voice over a tough riddim, as (even more so than dancehall) roots is a primarily male affair, with ex I-three singer Marcia Griffiths being the only female artist to achieve any kind of notable success over the last decade.

Master of the pop/reggae crossover, Singing Melody takes a break from doing Gabrielle covers and shows of his vocal skills with a cheesy lovers tune: ‘Say What’, but is swiftly out-cheesed by Morgan Heritage’s utopian ‘What we need is Love’. ‘The Royal Family of reggae’ as they are known, are a bit of a love ’em or hate ‘em concern. Members of the moderate ‘Twelve Tribes’ sect of Rasta, Heritage are the Jackson’s of roots reggae, a traditional vocal harmony group (originally) made up by an extended family of 8 singers and musicians. Their softer and somewhat dreamy view of Rastafarianism, exemplified in LP’s like 1999’s ‘Don’t Haffi Dread’ (to be Rasta) has made them icons for blonde dreaded gap year students everywhere, and though they’ve built some heavy riddims (like ‘Buss Up Barriers’) down through the years, and their vocal skills are beyond reproach, there’s also an edge of cynicism in the unrelentingly spiritual image they project. When I saw them in London in 2001, there was a moment in the middle of the gig when patriarch of the group: Denroy Morgan launched into a rambling 10 minute speech about love, peace, greed and Jah - which was all well and good until it culminated in an extended ad for their new LP (‘available in the lobby’)…

The killer cut on this riddim: ‘Grab Yu Lass and Come’
('Ya nah see whole heap a bush back inna yard wan chop down’) is another agricultural anthem, this time from singer/DJ combo Mikey Spice and Louie Culture, the former being a classically trained multi-instrumentalist who’s been recording vocals since the early 90’s, and the latter being a versatile and consistent reality artist who was probably one of the first real ‘sing-jays’… We end with the dub - and my favourite moment in this selection, when the guitar drops out, and you’re left with the bare bones of drums, bass, and 7” vinyl crackle…

Queen of The Minstrels Riddim:

(54:24) 25. Gregory Isaacs – Lead Me - Digital B
(56:42) 26. Sizzla – Guide Over Us - Digital B

I’m a huge fan of Gregory Isaacs; he’s the master of mixing up tough riddims with tender vocals – that ‘softness’ that hits hard. His quavering laconic delivery on ‘Lead Me’ over Bobby Digital’s beautifully smooth ‘92 version of the classic ‘Queen of the Minstrels’ riddim is a typically melancholy lovers tune which sees Isaacs leaping so far over the line into the cheese zone that he comes out the other side… There’s a moment in the middle of this riddim – a 16 bar bridge where the melody shifts up a few notes, and Isaac’s delivery –
‘You know how to be naughty/and you sure know how to be nice/Girl you’re just my type/and by you/I’m hypnotised’ – is just unbelievable, so cheesy, and yet so (for want of a better word) cool at the same time… Just how does the man do it??

Sizzla makes yet another appearance here, voicing over an identical version of the riddim from the LP that gained him international recognition in 1998: ‘Black Woman and Child’. This tune has it all IMO. Great riddim, great delivery, and great lyrics:
‘Dem fi know I climb mountain and the valleys/Jah tell mi so I run both river banks/Within life you've got follies yeah yeah/Here is the rasta youth thrice giving thanks/Jah Jah, give I-man health and strength/Working for you makes no cents/You Could Never put a dime in my pocket/King Salassie- I-run the frontline so watch this’ - and the rest of the LP (bar a couple of tunes), and most of his output up until 2001 or so is of the same high quality.

I couldn’t seem to find the original of this riddim (though I imagine most of you will be familiar with it), but I do have this glorious Channel One version of it from the mid-70’s, which is well worth a listen.

Wrong Move Riddim:

(59:10) 27. Beres Hammond – Defend It - Star-trail

Mafia and Fluxy provide the brassy, bubbling riddim backing Beres Hammonds ‘Defend it’. A stalwart of Lovers Rock, Hammond’s silky voice should be familiar to dancehall fans for his various hit-making combos down through the years, including numerous collaborations with DJ’s - Cutty Ranks and Buju Banton amongst others.

Purify Riddim:

(61:48) 28. Richard ‘Bello’ Bell – Purify Version – Star-trail
(54:06) 29. Beres Hammond – Way it is - Star-trail

(66:14) 30. Jack Radics - Purify - Star-trail

We take a short break from Hammond’s plaintive tones as we drop into another riddim - a Star-trail production; the ‘Purify’ dub is the only riddim here to really deviate from the standard roots pattern, substituting a deep stomping kick and a trotting snare for the usual one drop. Beres makes a swift re-appearance here with ‘The Way it is’ – a philosophical reality tune, with a (deliberate?) touch of the ‘Days of our Lives’ about it. Some of the lyrics in this one crack me up:
‘Now here’s a man who has done no wrong/and/All his life he’s been holding on strong/and/Just one morning a little bit late/The next thing you know his daily bread is at stake/And in a time when the bills are high/Cost of living soars to the sky/Got his kids - can he explain to his woman/that an extra ten minutes in bed ruined the program? ’- and If Hammond ever loses his voice (god forbid), I reckon he could do worse than looking at a career as a soap writer for Jamaican TV...

Roots legend Jack Radics takes the baton with the half-chanted/half-sung ‘Purify’, which is fairly old skool in both content and delivery. Radics is one of the few artists around today whose style echoes those of the first generations of Jamaican DJ’s – scatting melodically over the riddim rather than riding every bar as he exhorts us to:
‘Purify your spirit/Got to glorify in thy God/Who you consider to be Rastafari’… and ‘If your pure and clean/You rally at gold and green’…

Holding Firm Riddim:

(69:05) 31. Sizzla – Holding Firm – Star-trail
(71:45) 32. Garnet Silk - Love – Star-trail

(73:41) 33. Antony B – Raid di Barn – Star-trail

(75:33) 34. Richard ‘Bello’ Bell – Love Dub/Holding Firm Riddim – Star-trail

We wrap things up with another selection from Star-trail. ‘Holding Firm’s’ bombastic rootsiness was a big hit for Bello in 95, with the Sizzla and Antony B versions both scoring highly in the reggae charts at the time with their respective cuts. Sizzla’s tune, which gives the riddim its name was, alongside ‘Praise ye Jah’, ‘Goodways’, Woman of Africa’, and ‘Like Mountain’, one of a string of anthems from the young DJ, and features more of his positive, (if somewhat mournful) lyrics: ‘
I've been here all day of my life/Works good and queer I behold with my sight/Some will share, others do as they like/Some, yuh flesh dem waan tear with dem fork and knife/Some don't care their heart is like ice/After kill another them rejoice’.[Chorus]: ‘Holding firm/Every man deserve to earn/Jah Jah crown our plans with success/Holding firm/Every man has his turn/You won't sink I in the mess’.

I wouldn’t call the next offering from Garnet Silk one of his best tunes lyrically, but he rides the riddim well enough on ‘Love’. I’ve often wondered if this line of the lyrics: - ‘Love is not a piece of paper/That you can just throw away’ is a reference to his attitude towards money, and to an incident in 1993, when Silk was accused of going mad when he was seen ‘tearing up paper’ (money) in public. You can check out his response to the rumours here.

Antony B’s ‘Raid Di Barn’ is a cut from his first LP (see above), and yet again, the agricultural meme rears its head in his cautionary lyrics – ‘
Nobody want to plant the corn/Everybody want to raid di barn/Who you a go blame it on/When is a next man you a depend pon’. On the basis of this mix alone, I think its fair to say that farming metaphors are a bit of a recurring theme in roots reggae - so much so, that it’s a wonder Trojan haven’t released a ‘farmyard’ box set… ;)

The mix finishes with a nicely melodic dub featuring a full range of instrumentation – pianos, guitars, strings, and (I think) Dean Fraser on sax - doing his thing yet again.

Well - that’s it for now – ended up being just a tad longer than I had planned on, so well done if you’ve gotten this far :D. We’ve got something seriously fresh coming your way over the next few days and there’s a few mixes pretty much in the bag, so hopefully we’ll get some more of them up here before Christmas.

Hang tight - I’m off to my alcove to recharge my rusty batteries…

Monday, November 14, 2005

Big Tings Soon Come

OK – It’s been more than a bit quiet around here – so apologies for that. We have a smorgasbord of delectable aural treats coming your way very soon, but whilst we put the finishing touches on a few mixes, I though it might be nice to spread the love…

I got turned on to DJ Flacks excellent 'Blue beats for Longing' depressed Instrumental hip-hop mix over at Kid Kameleon’s friendly abode – and Id heartily recommended you to do the same. Flack’s solid and swift mixing skilfully manages to avoid that ‘yawn’ factor common with instrumental mixes, and he drops a good few classics as well… ‘Roll like a Thunder’ comes courtesy of a John Eden big up, and is one of the better reggae mixes doing the rounds at the mo. Pure 80’s business – the tunes on this one are irresistible – its worth getting for ‘Gundelero’ by Mad Cobra on the ‘Storm’ riddim alone - though theres also a very nice ‘Hot Milk’ selection, featuring the sublime ‘Hundred-weight of Collie Weed’ by the sweet voiced Carlton Livingstone…

A more up to date dancehall mix over at the mix sub-forum at Dissensus ‘Street Level Sound’ – which definitely merits a listen – is chock full of sirens, effects, shout outs and a killer Sleng Teng selection about halfway through. Speaking of reggae – John Edens mini- biography of Papa Levi is a must for anyone unfamiliar with the UK scene, and as a bonus - hes recently uploaded a few Saxon Sound snippets of Levi in action for your enjoyment.

Despite seemingly taking a break from her daily deluge of Rinse FM sets Lioness has thankfully uploaded her most recent show for those of us who are suffering from chronic grime deficiency (and still awaiting delivery of a copy of the coveted Rinse FM box set). Get over there fast before it vanishes. Whislt dubstep and grime seem to have ground to a halt (with the associated blogs doing the same) Gutterbreakz is still churning out the posts on his site, and his most recent ‘Gutterbreakz FM November’ mix is good for a laugh. Unlike ourselves, Gutterbreakz doesn’t take the mixing end of things too seriously, so theres a few trainwrecks here – but the great tunes - and his entertaining commentary more than make up for it…

Last up – a couple of gigs to plug – ‘Eek A Mouse’ is (apparantly) still playing his Irish dates this weekend, despite being denied a UK visa. Anyone know definitively what the score is with this? Its supposedly on in the Temple Bar Music Centre on Friday night, and I’m vaccilating between excitement and frustration as I still don’t for sure if hes playing. If you have any new info – please leave a comment or mail me

Last but not least is ‘Electric Kettle’ from Peace Off records, who's playing live this Friday alongside Irish boys: Lakker and DJ Krossphader courtesy of the 'Leechrum' lads. I have to confess to being completely unfamiliar with this guy (out of touch with the ‘kids’ no doubt), but if hes anything like his labelmates it should be a fairly hectic night. This ones on at the old 13th floor – the Basement of Fraziers at the north end of O’Connell St.