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Gussie

Gussie Clarke CD

Don’t miss this sharp mix from the two Swedish soundsystems Rough Lynx and Million Vibes — A Tribute to Augustus ‘Gussie’ Clarke. Some may think the man’s sound is a bit cheesy and too polished, and while that’s true at times Gussie still delivered plenty of amazing tracks. Gregory and Shabba did some of their best work during this era.

Get Three Coffins Ready

It’s simple. I love spaghetti westerns. Any movie that’s got Franco Nero or Lee Van Cleef gunning down Mexican bandits over a Ennio Morricone soundtrack is gold in my book. Director Sergio Leone is the obvious master of course, with the masterpieces in the Dollar trilogy defining the entire genre. But stopping there would be a mistake. You also need to check out stuff like Django, Death Rides A Horse, Keoma or the incomparable Companeros to get the whole picture.

The connection with reggae is obvious. Go back to the sixties for instrumental Upsetter tracks with titles like “Django Shoots First”, or to the eighties and nineties when the toughest deejays would talk about duels and riding horses. And from there you’ve got the whole soundclash thing which constantly evokes images from Italian westerns. Most famously perhaps when Cocoa Tea sang “Mr Undertaker, make them a coffin / No, my mistake make that two” on a classic dubplate (who cut it first, Stone Love?), echoing Clint Eastwood in “Fistful of Dollars”.

This brings me to this mix that’s been circulating for a while on the Internet. A guy called Dale Cooper — yup, Twin Peaks — has built some riddims based on Western soundtracks, and put Sizzla accapellas on top. Sounds tasty? Download it here. The cuts of “Represent” and “Rise To The Occation” are pure genius.

The samples in my old Roll Like A Thunder mix are from Companeros, by the way. What did you say the Swede’s name was again? Yodlaf. Yodlaf Pettersson.

New tunes

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Or actually not new at all, but stuff I’m digging at the moment:

Mad Cobra – RIP
Apologies to Bounty Killer and Ninjaman, but in my book the king of gun tunes is the crazy snake, Mad Cobra. “RIP” is another mid-nineties masterpiece where the seriously bloodthirsty deejay is riding the “Gunshot” riddim.

Jamtech Foundation – Grudge feat. Capleton
Niklas at Disco Belle tipped me off about this one. This is the guys from one of Stockholm’s more important reggae sound systems, KBC, who have switched things up and gone in a different direction (and found a way to reuse their old dubplates). I assume the genre has a clever name, but to me it sounds like fast house with plenty of cheesy rave effects, cut-up basslines and some well-chosen Capleton ranting on top. Not my usual thing but it kinda works.

Nigger Kojak – Nice Up Jamaica
USA? No!
England? No!
Canada? No!
Germany? No!
Jamaica? YES!

New Deadly Dragon fortyfives

Just got my hands on two fresh reissues from Deadly Dragon: Horace Martin’s “Shock Me A Shock” and a version of Papa San’s “Perdemident”. Both are produced by Dennis Star and originally released on the man’s own label.

“Shock Me A Shock” is of course a sweet little sound killer on top of a ridiculously fat “Here I Come” bassline. The hook is the same as in Patrick Andy’s Sleng Teng version “Sting Me A Sting” and a Shelly Thunder track, but don’t be mistaken. This one is definitely hotter than either of those two and could be good to keep in the box just for counteraction purposes.

I don’t know Papa San much, but “Perdemident” appears to be one his biggest tracks. A quick search brings up several versions including some jungle mixes on Fashion. Papa San is always a solid deejay, his tongue-twisting style doesn’t get boring.

Gal want mi cellular number

Gal Want Mi Cellular Number

You bet I was excited to find one of Bounty Killer’s catchiest songs ever on fortyfive. “Cellular Number” is a Jammy’s production, on a pretty funky take of the usually hysterical “Sick” riddim. It was released back in 1995, incidentally making it as old as my current cell phone.

I was thinking that a 2009 version of this song needs to go something like “Gal want to follow mi Tweets”, but it would take some effort to come up with a second line that rhymes with that and rivals “she wants the performance of the piece of lumber”.

Locked groove

Nice novelty feature on Pressure Sounds’ newest release: the 12″ mix of the mighty “Kunta Kinte” ends with a locked groove. Like something straight out of the Jeff Mills / Richie Hawtin play books. Take that Serato users!

Three things

…I’ve learned from reading Beth Lesser’s spectacular book “Dancehall”:

1. The most sought-after beret was black with a red pom pom. John Wayne was one of the few to own one.

2. Mr Harper was working full time at the Bank of Nova Scotia before starting Killamanjaro.

3. Horace Andy is really into roller skating.

Stick with the ancient ways

So if you think my blog posts are too few and far in between, let me tell you it’s not going to get better. A new job in the real world sadly means less time for listening to reggae. I thought I’d keep the blog alive though, we’ll see how it develops. The good thing is my new employer is pretty cool. We have more servers than you, no matter where you work.

Anyway. Keeping with my “last guy on the ball” philosophy I thought that now that I finally got myself a Macbook, it was time to check out some dubstep too. They actually have a section for it at Amoeba by now (surely a sign the genre is dead). I went with the one guy I’ve heard the most good things about and picked up Burial’s self-titled album. Yikes, it turned out to be almost two years old at this point.

Obviously, I’ve not been very interested in any dubstep so far. It struck me as something similar to that “intelligent drum’n'bass” stuff that took over after jungle died down back in the day — in this case grime would be the jungle of dubstep. But maybe that’s unfair. Burial works pretty well. His sound has a nice Basic Channel:y feeling to it, with the Berlin house drums replaced by clicking broken beats, and there’s enough little reggae samples hidden in there to keep me from falling asleep. I might have to dig some more, if I have time.

The Rockers Story

Augustus Pablo is my favorite character from the roots reggae movement. His truly humble style always contrasted nicely to the machismo and insanity that’s so common in Jamaican music. And of course, his productions were spectacular: the melodica-laden “Far East Sound”, combining melancholic sounding melodies with heavy basslines aimed straight at the sound systems. Nothing else from the seventies comes close in my opinion.

I’ve spent some time lately listening to Shanachie’s Pablo boxset “The Mystic World of Augustus Pablo — The Rockers Story”, and have to say that they do about everything right. The packaging is beautiful with great photos, there’s four CD’s of music in chronological order plus a DVD with some good footage, and a nice little booklet.

The first CD — titled “Classic Rockers” — is spectacular. Featuring strictly seventies material, it kicks of with “East of the river Nile” and goes on with a number of tracks you’ll recognize from the “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown” sessions. The secret sauce is that several versions of each track are played back-to-back; a vocal, an instrumental, and a dub. You really appreciate the weight of this stuff after being hit with Jacob Miller’s “Baby I Love You So”, followed by Pablo’s “Cassava Piece” version and finally King Tubby’s one-of-a-kind dub exercise for the knockout. I guess I can’t say enough good things about this.

Too bad I don’t enjoy the other three CD’s as much. Pablo’s material gets less interesting the further into the eighties we get, and on the third CD, “New Style Rockers”, there are a few digital tracks that won’t make anyone happy. The fourth CD is all rarities and gets back on track, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as the more well-known material.

The short DVD that’s included has some cool parts taken from the “Word, Sound and Power” documentary, featuring Pablo and Hugh Mundell doing an acoustic set out in the country somewhere. I was hoping they would have dug up some footage or audio of Pablo’s Rockers International soundsystem but I doubt that anything like that even exists. A man can dream.

Overall I recommend this of course. If you know nothing about Augustus Pablo albums like “King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown”, “Original Rockers” or perhaps Hugh Mudell’s “Africa Must Be Free By 1983″ may be better places to start. Once you’ve developed a taste for the stuff get this box set.

For bonus points: Augustus Pablo’s real name was Horace Swaby. Does anyone know from which spaghetti western the name “Augustus Pablo” was taken?

New books: Deep Down With Dennis Brown

I recently picked up two books that’ll fit the topics here: the Soul Jazz-released “Dancehall – the rise of Jamaican dancehall culture” by Beth Lesser and Penny Reel’s “Deep Down With Dennis Brown”.

Lesser’s new one sure looks fantastic (more about that in a later post), but I’d heard a lot of good about Reel’s D. Brown biography so I decided to start with it.

I’m not 100% sure what the history behind “Deep Down With Dennis Brown” is, but it appears to have been published in 2000 and be based on interviews done with various artists in the late seventies. I remember that it used to be really tough to find a copy a few years ago. Now it’s showing up everywhere, which must mean that there was a recent reprint.

Dennis Emmanuel Brown’s career is thoroughly covered from the earliest days as the Boy Wonder at Studio 1 in the sixties, to the work he did with Niney the Observer and Joe Gibbs as roots reggae took over. Focus is still set on London, and the book tries to explain what was going in the British underground reggae scene at the time. The tie between the two topics works really well and the gory details Reel goes into when it comes to record producers, labels and often shady business deals makes the whole thing really fascinating, even if you like me are not the biggest fan of the good Crown Prince.

Now for the problem: Penny Reel must be one of the most well-read people out there when it comes to reggae history, but his writing is impressively cryptic. Paragraph breaks and short sentences, seriously! They’re good things now and then. The dense language really prevented me from enjoying this read as much as I felt I should have. But then again, my favorite writer is James Ellroy and not Dostoyevsky, so I may be biased when it comes to writing style.