Review: Roots Vibration keep up their tireless dub reissue work with another dig into the untouchable back catalogue of the one and only Lee "Scratch" Perry. Back to 1978, this is a slab of gold that was first recorded in the revered Black Ark studios the dub don owned before burning it down in a stoned and paranoid state. "Captive" finds him musing inwardly on the continual enslavement of black people in the West, calling for mental and spiritual liberation. The Upsetters once again dub it out on the flip side in excellent fashion.
Review: "Better Herring" has become a big money tune from the Pioneers and it was last available as part of the mega-comp "The Story Of Trojan Records". Before that, the title tune had only been released in England on 7" on Attack in 1970 under the Soul Directions alias but thanks to Boss Records, this lo-fi bit of ska and retro soul is now available to DJs and dancers once more. "Mama Look Deh" on the flip is a much more laid back tune, with a happier outlook, gorgeous guitar riffs that seem to grow ever quicker and tight drum playing to get you moving.
Review: Rock A Shaka's "Prince Buster Classics" series of seven-inch singles has served up some scintillating Ska of late, mixing tracks from the great man with ones he produced for other artists. The latest "45" in the series is more straightforward and simply gathers together two of the Ska pioneer's greatest cuts. First up on side A is 1966's "I Won't Let You Cry", a super-sweet fusion of mid-tempo ska rhythms, dewy-eyed soul vocals from the man himself and nods towards the American rhythm and blues style that so inspired him. That rhythm and blues influence comes to the fore on flipside "I'm Sorry", a loved-up, organ-rich number that features some of Buster's most heartfelt vocals.
Review: Hot on the heels of their fine compilation of classic Prince Buster tracks and productions, "Roll On Charles Street", Rock A Shacka delivers a tidy "45" featuring two of the collection's most potent cuts. On the A-side you'll find "Islam", a driving but punchy classic from 1964 that should be familiar to all but the newest ska fans (the vocal refrain, "my people, my people, do you not wanna go", is the killer hook). Over on the flip it's all about Don Drummond's "Sudden Attack", a Prince Buster-produced gem from the same year which like the A-side features all of the original Skatalites band as back-up. This is an altogether cheerier dancefloor number which boasts a suitably heavy rhythm and some suitably firing horns.
Duke Reid, Tommy McCook & His Skatalites - "Night Food Ska" (2:49)
The Skatalites - "Latin Goes Ska" (3:02)
Review: Treasure Isle's latest seven-inch single dusts down and offers up two fuzzy, all-action gems from the label's bulging vaults. On the A-side you'll find the Duke Reid produced "Night Food Ska", a 1964 B-side from Tommy McCook and the Skatalites that layers duel male/female vocals atop a rich, life-affirming backing track full of jaunty ska grooves and mazy horn solos (trumpet, sax). Over on the flip you'll find the Skatalites' superb "Latin Ska", which featured on the same Jamaican single all those years ago ("Latin Goes Ska"). Entirely instrumental, it features a wealth of Latin-influenced horn lines and solos over another skanking ska rhythm.
Review: When Congolese musician Albert Siassia moved to Paris in the early 1980s, it wasn't long before he joined forces with a local reggae band that he re-christened Tokobina ("Let's Dance" in the Lingala language, fact fans). Together, they released a handful of inspired but now notoriously hard-to-find records, from which two of the tracks here are taken. There's "Mama Africa", an unashamedly positive dancefloor workout full of glistening, South African style guitars, dub disco grooves, bustling, rumba-influenced percussion and Siassia's headline-grabbing vocals, and "Pointe Noire", a superb chunk of new wave/Afro-disco fusion that's arguably even better than the EP's title track. The other two tracks have never before seen the light of day on any format, having been rescued from long forgotten demo cassettes. Of these, it's the Congolese reggae sweetness of "Sangi (Demo Mix)" that hits home hardest.A killer first release from a new label brought to you by one of the Sofrito Crew Hugo Mendes
Review: The Skints are a tropical punk four piece from the big smoke riding high off the back of sold out EU and UK tours. This is the second limited-edition 45 to come along with their new album "Swimming Lessons" and it's easy to see why they've chosen "Armageddon". Jamaican rising star Runkus delivers a bold commentary while dark, stepping dub-wise rhythms carry his message. Flip over for the "Gentleman's Dub Club 8-Track Mix" - a trippy one laden with reverb and extra weighty bass.
Review: The Slackers are a legendary ska outfit for good reason: they've put out more than 20 albums and countless singles across a fine career that dates all the way back to 1991. Now they're back on Names You Can Trust with a pair of irresistible cuts. "Baba Roots" is a feel good and swaggering ska tune with sliding bass and great lead horns that bring the sunshine. "150 Seconds" on the flip is a slower and steadier tune with laidback horn leads that are more loved up and unhurried.
Review: Timmy Thomas, sometimes known as The Magician, frequently regarded as one of the most sampled men beyond the Brown franchise, he's been referenced by everyone from Drake to Dilla to MC Hammer. Here we find two of his most well known cuts, both taken from his 1972 album, Why Can't We Live Together. There's a wry cosmic sheen weaving and shimmering in the background of the soaking wet Afrofunk groove of "Africano" while the keys of "Why Can't We Live Together" instantly hit with a soul you've heard, felt and loved in so many contexts. Certified classic.