Review: In recent times we've been treated to plenty of reissues of classic lover's rock gems, including an Athens of the North-released collection of lover's rock covers. It's therefore rather exciting to hear some brand-new lover's rock in a similar vein from Crucial Rockers, a studio band formed by producer Jamie Searle. The track given the cover treatment is Womack & Womack classic "Teardrops". While that was fiendishly uptempo, this version is sweet, slow and effortlessly soulful, with Searle's warming riddim offering a perfect match for the un-credited vocalist's fine delivery of the Womacks' weary and emotional lyrics. The flipside dub is rather tasty, too. Sadly there aren't many of these around, so act fast if you want to secure a copy!
Review: The Kingstonians were a relatively short-lived Jamaican band whose greatest work was produced by Derek Harriott between 1968 and '70. It was at the tail end of this period that they recorded their sole album, "Sufferer", an early reggae classic featuring a swathe of sought-after cuts. It's from that set that these two tracks are taken. For the record, both have appeared on 7" singles before, but are so hard to find that collectors are willing to spend up to 500 Euros to find original copies. A-side "Hold Down" is particularly potent, with the vocal trio's fuzzy vocals rising above a killer early reggae rhythm much in Hammond organ stabs, warm bass and clipped guitars. "Nice, Nice" meanwhile is a more up-tempo affair that gives a little more prominence to a typical early reggae guitar riff. Together the two tracks make for a suitably scintillating package.
Review: Vocalist Eva Keyes and producer Dan Taliras first worked together back in 2018 on the joint single "Tired of the City". Since then they've released a handful of other collaborative records, with Taliras handling the obligatory flipside dubs. Like much of their work, "In A Crisis" is a revivalist roots reggae number in which Keyes delivers socially conscious lyrics atop a chunky riddim, crunchy Clavinet lines and hazy horns. As is traditional, Taliras delivers a Dub mix on side B, skilfully re-framing the track as a sparse, echoing and deep mixture of skeletal grooves, echoing vocals and effects-laden instrumental snippets.
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: This is a super new 7" from Japan's Rock A Shacka. It finds the Chosen Few tackle reggae cuts from The Stylistics and The Moments and the results are so sweet they'll have your mouth watering. "My Thing" hits a gorgeously soul drenched bullseye between dub, reggae and lovers rock, largely thanks to the gorgeous vocal up top. The gently swaying drums and guitar riffs only heighten the soothing effect. "Children Of The Night" goes slower, with more effects and fatter bass to sink deep into as the horizontal grooves encourage you to lay back and gaze at the stars.
The Groove Master - "I Love The Way You Love" (3:52)
Review: For their latest missive, Rock A Shaka have decided to offer up a new pressing of The Chosen Few's early '70s classic "I Love The Way You Love", a slab of languid, soulful sunshine recorded at a time when reggae as we know it today (rather than rocksteady or ska) was still a nascent musical form. While the original vocal version has featured on a number of the Jamaican band's albums over the years, the accompanying flipside "Version" by producer Prince Tony Robinson AKA The Groove Master has previously been frustratingly hard to find. It's worth picking this up just to get it, as Robinson's additional musical flourishes - think Tommy McCook style sax, fluttering flute solos and harder rhythm guitar - lift the band's fine riddim to even higher heights.
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.
Review: Dig This Way Records is back with a second sizzling 7" release, and this time it's a brand new collaboration with Italian-Jamaican label Tebel. It features Jonny De Ambassador and Abeng (Claudio SugarCube) as well as a serious group of musicians. "Country Boy" is well schooled in classic dub and ska, but comes with some slick contemporary flourishes in the form of production techniques and some groggy riffs. The vocals are lazy and louche, the drums cut deep and vibes are pure sunshine. The dub on the flip is even more roomy and horizontal for those lazy afternoons in the park.
Review: He's hardly prolific, but DJ/producer Del Gazeebo has been offering up occasional re-edits, mash-ups and bootleg reworks for longer than some of us have been alive. Here he begins 2020 in fine fashion with two party-hearty reworks guaranteed to get the dancefloor moving. Aside "Barbara Don't Love Me" is a bouncy, subtly beefed-up take on a horn-heavy 1960s soul/rhythm and blues classic that sounds like it would go down well at parties that love Northern Soul. Flipside "Dat Ting" meanwhile is a head-nodding take on a punchy soulful reggae cut underpinned by weighty bass and tight hip-hop beats.
Review: Way back in 1980 Montego Bay outfit The Golden Sunshine Steel Drum Band self-released their sole, self-titled album, a fine fusion of steel pan music and reggae that has long been a collector's item. For those without funds to buy an original copy of that LP (second-hand ones go for big sums these days), we'd suggest picking up this tidy seven-inch single featuring two of its most celebratory moments. A-side "Drum & Steel Song" is superb, with the band layering hand percussion and ear-catching steel pan melodies atop a sturdy, dub-wise reggae groove. "Sunshine Steel" explores similar sonic territory and more than lives up to the promise of its title.
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: Busty Brown's early reggae cover of the Temptations' smash hit "My Girl" from 1964 is presented here in all its glory. It's a glorious makeover that has soaring trumpets filled with optimism, deep cut drums that wriggle and rumble nonstop, as well as Brown's buttery, authentic vocals up top. Legendary dub outfit The Upsetters then take care of an instrumental on the flip side that goes a little slower and more purposefully about its business. It's not often that a cover outshines the original but in the case of this one, that might be what's happening here.
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.
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: This is some essential original roots reggae from all the way back in 1977. Recorded by Earl (Sixteen) Daley, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Steely, Albert Malawi and Dalton Browne at the legendary Black Ark studios and now reissued by Belgian connoisseurs Roots Vibration, "Freedom" is a real stepper; sweet guitar licks and vocal work with drums and bass piled up on top of one another in perfect harmony. If you're after something deeper, flipover for the "Dub" version provided by The Upsetters. Timeless.
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: 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: Nick "Bobby Blackbird" Dean is the Equinoxx producer behind "The Master Blenda" - a new instrumental that nearly never was: in 2015, he was involved in a near fatal car crash that left him hospitalised for three months. Grammy-nominated band Raging Fyah, horn maestro Stingwray and keys legend Franklyn "Bubbler" Wahl all feature on the A side - an upbeat ska anthem with big leads and a high feel good factor. Exile Di Brave takes over the flipside dub, which is an exercise in fantastic studio trickery and oodles of reverb. This is a sweet new 10" from this ever more essential label, especially as it is one that might never have been.
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