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Interviews with King Barrow

Big Mikey Dread has posted part two of his epic interview session with Steve Barrow over on his Pod-O-Matic site — Barrow is one of the coolest guys ever, and it’s a treat to listen to both what he has to say and the tunes he’s playing.

If those three hours aren’t enough for you, my old zine Fat Bankroll actually did an interview with the man years ago too. I’ve kept it around and you can still check it out here. Pretty good stuff if I remember right.

And one more Barrow thing: The “Dancehall 2″ album he’s curated for Soul Jazz looks like it could be solid. Early B’s “History Of Jamaica” is on there and is pure genius of course.

Silverhawk is back

This message showed up in the comments a few days ago, but it’s worth a post. HAWK!

Many fans and historians of the dancehall sound system genre who have dreamt of a re-launch of the now late Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson created Silverhawk Sound, might see their dream become reality. Early summer 2009 brought a slew of internet buzz about the return of the innovative and classic sound passionately called the “HAWK” by fans.

The buzz faded with the hospitalization and passing of Steely, but even in his death Steely’s musical voice will be heard through a proposed tour called, “Tribute to Steely.” The tour is being initiated by the current Silverhawk team put in effect before his untimely death. The team includes, past selector Richard Reid (Richie Poo), Evert Palmer (Road Manager), Luciana Maneri (Steely’s Manager) and Cleveland “Clevie” Browne. It was to be Steely’s next big project, the return of the Silverhawk Sound, a necessary move which he believed would change the current monotonous face of dancehall.

When asked if it will be the same without Steely, the management team replied, “Never! But we will try our best to live up to his ingenuity and the expectations of loyal Silverhawk fans. Expect the ‘Tribute to Steely’ tour to beginning in early 2010 with previews in selected regions. The tour will include Jamaica, United States, Japan, UK, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. We now know the ‘Hawk’ is ready to fly high once again.

Contacts for Silverhawk include:

Federation salutes Steely

I usually keep an eye on Federation Sound’s podcast Federation Invasion just to keep up and latest and greatest new tunes that are coming out. However, last week they went back in time and did a fantastic Steely & Clevie special that is absolutely mandatory listening. Two hours of awesomeness! Check it out here.

Cyan Hold We Dung

The Stopper

And we’re back! I need to clean up some stylesheets and deal with a few other details, but at least all the old posts are recovered. Perhaps it would be a good time to do a bit of redesign here.

Spam attack!

Some of you who follow this blog in your favorite RSS reader may have noticed my last post turning into spam for various drugs. Looks like I’ve been hit with a WordPress exploit that let some spammer inject that crap into the database. I thought I got rid of it, but it seems to have come back already. They’re sneaky, those wicked babylonians. Expect the blog to be taken down for a few days for a complete house cleaning.

Thanks to Jah Vice for letting me know about this, I wouldn’t have caught it otherwise.

Steely RIP

Not too much left to be said about the fact that Steely, one half of production duo Steely & Cleevie, died a few days ago from pneumonia. These guys are two of my favorite producers and their impact on dancehall music should not be underestimated.

Steely played keyboard with The Roots Radics and engineered at Jammy’s during the “Sleng Teng” era. On their own labels the duo produced endless amounts of tracks driven by galloping drum machine beats during the early nineties, and kept going with hits on top riddims like Street Sweeper, Bitter Blood, Bagpipe and Sleepy Dog until just a few years ago. Not forgetting the Silverhawk soundsystem which Steely ran, and that I just heard was about to go on the road again. That’s some resume and it’s a shame it won’t keep growing. Depressing news indeed.

Hollywood Bowl Reggae Night 2009

Well, this happened a couple of weeks ago, but I finally got around to writing something about it. Enjoy.

So I managed to get to the annual reggae night at The Hollywood Bowl this year too. Gregory Isaacs was playing so I thought it would be a good opportunity to see him before he dies. Ironically he canceled due to illness. Feel better, Cool Ruler, and I’ll catch you next time instead. Anyway, had I know that beforehand I would have stayed home and nursed my impressive hangover from the previous night’s Los Feliz pub crawl, but now we didn’t find out until we’d already made it up the hill and at that point we might as well stay and check out the other acts.

Mykal Rose started the show, donning a strange multi-colored vest. He did a good job actually, going for mainly old Black Uhuru tracks and some more recent stuff, like that auto-tune hit he had last year. The man can still bring those Waterhouse vocals really nicely. His band was surprisingly decent too, sticking with drum, bass and piano most of the time and keeping the guitar solos to a minimum. I’ve never understood why the reggae live bands never bring a real live horn section. An actual guy with a trumpet would make things so much better than trying to pull that off with a cheap keyboard.

The headliner was of course Toots and The Maytals. There’s nothing us white people like more than Toots and The Maytals. Toots was going all out with his James Brown impersonation, even rocking a white leather outfit the Godfather himself could have worn back in the seventies. That’s the problem I’ve always had with Toots. Why would I want to listen to a Jamaican version of James Brown that’s not as good as the real James Brown? Never quite got that.

Reggae cat luvz teh base


Gimlet enjoying The Revolutionaries’ “Kunta Kinte”.

Time for Major Lazer


I had to obey music blogger rules and go get the Major Lazer album. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I write a snarky review about how these damn kids nowadays don’t understand what good music is and need to get off my lawn, right? No need though, it’s a good record. Not 100% solid, but it’s still good.

The thing I’m most impressed by when listening to “Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do” is how Diplo and his sideman Switch have created a complete view of what Jamaican music sounds like right now. They’ve got the high-speed euro-disco stuff, some one-drop, a rocksteady revival cut, Bobo dreads with guns, and even some Dave Kelly-sounding minimal electro. These guys know the music, there’s no doubt about that.

That’s also the downside of the album. I like as much of it as I like new Jamaican music in general. About half is really awesome. The opening track, “Hold the line”, which features Lexxus (man, it’s been a while since we heard from that guy) paired up with Santogold over a Steely & Cleevie-sounding beat is the album’s high point. Mr Vegas and Jovi Rockwell take a nice detour of Studio One in “Can’t Stop Now”. Future Trouble’s “Lazer Theme” stands out thanks to a loop stolen from some old hardcore punk song, the same formula as the Cutty Rank / Black Flag combo from Diplo’s “Top Ranking” mixtape. So far, so good.

But then Leftside shows up as Dr Evil (worst mc ever?), the BPM rate goes up to 140 and things just get kinda annoying. I can’t take the autotune. But maybe it’s one of those things where you need to ask me again after a few drinks and I’ll have a different take on it.

And major bonus points for the album cover too — nice throwback to the old Scientist dub albums.

Everybody move like a robot

Big Toe's Hifi

I picked up this 45 with the hope that it would be all call for all dance crews to do the Robot, but the lyrics turned out to be more about how modern day people need to slow down and take it easy. Still it’s a pretty tasty piece of vinyl. Released on the label belonging to Edinburgh’s Big Toe’s Hifi soundsystem, you can kinda put it in the same pile as the stuff coming out The Scotch Bonnet crew or the digital madness the Jahtari guys are cooking up.

Production-wise “Everybody move like a robot” is pretty much the Hot Milk riddim with a pile of other stuff on top — slow Led Zeppelin-sounding breakbeats, random horns and of course lyrics done with a robot voice. Overall it gives me the feeling that this is what a Fatboy Slim reggae-song would sound like. If you think that’s a good or bad verdict is up to you I guess. No minimalism here at least.

Looking closer it turns out “Everybody move like a robot” is actually the b-side, and the main track is a hiphop number that’s pretty competent but not as entertaining.