Dug-Out

Mabrak: Drum Talk

Leroy Mattis’ first drum was a plastic butter container. ‘My mother wouldn’t buy me a drum because back then the situation in Jamaica was very tense… In 1960 Jamaica was still an English colony, and the drum is a roots instrument.’ Tommy McCook was living two doors down; during the first years of The Skatalites, Mattis would practise there. In 1970 he was National Junior Drumming Champion, with Count Ossie winning overall; four years later his ensemble battled in the Senior finals with the drummers of the Light Of Saba.
‘Our group was initially called Genesis, it was a 7-piece drum group, but I changed the name to Mabrak, which means Thunder in Amharic. We knew that we were coming with a heavy sound.’ Experiments in percussion, in the middle of the night at Harry J’s — funky versions of rhythms like Curly Locks, Too Late To Turn Back Now and Fattie Fattie, led by talking drums — beautifully mixed by King Tubby, who couldn’t believe his ears.
Originally released in 1976, in paper inners only. Smartly sleeved in quintessential Dug Out style this time around — with an insert, including a recent interview with Mabrak.

Honest Jon’sHard Wax

  

Genesis: Drum Talk

In the early seventies Leroy ‘Mabrak’ Mattis studied at Howard University in Washington DC, where he joined a drum and dance group named Contact Africa. Instructor Kojo Fosu introduced him to the talking drum.
‘I had only seen it in magazines. He started showing me, and taught me the history of it. Talking drum is the highest level of drum music…
‘Going back home in 1973, I knew I was now ready to record. That’s when I bumped into an old friend, Bim Sherman. He knew I was a musician, and he was going to King Tubby’s studio that day. I tagged along. I recorded rasta repeater drum overdubs on his first hit, 100 Years. This allowed me to re-connect with Tubby…’
With brilliant guitar instead of horns, here is a different version of the rhythm Bim used for Love Forever. The same as on Mabrak’s Drum Talk LP — but a little brighter and more dynamic, and bringing a deep, unmissable Tubbys dub.

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Tiger: Rap Pon Rydim

A previously-unreleased rocksteady version of Ding Dong Merrily On High. Or rather the one-of-a-kind, head-on, 1988 mashing of harder-than-hard-core dancehall and ultra-raw Detroit techno. Utterly inspired, gale-force ranting pon a flashin’ TR-909. Soundboy will choke on his Horlicks and soil his winceyette onesie.
Jaw-dropping.

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Tenor Saw: Victory Train

‘Special thanks to Freddie McGregor and the Studio One band’, it says on the cover, as the up and coming Saw gets full superstar treatment from the best in the business (not to mention a full-colour sleeve).

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Willi Williams: Sweet Home

Driving Shaka murder, fury and yearning mixed into a perfect marriage of digital and old-school music-making. Bagga Walker and a drum-machine tear up the dub. Complete with rare, ebullient Colarman toast.

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Nitty Gritty: General Penitentiary

‘Nitty Gritty. Just reading the name alone tells you that he is rough and tough. Having survived many a hard time in the ghetto, he’s come forward now in his own original style, to let everyone know that he’s arrived with a force.’ Another Black Victory classic missing in action, with superb rhythms and killer dubs, a dream combination of Studio One and Bullwackies musicians, and the young sing-jay already at the top of his game.

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Sugar Minott: Sheriff John Brown

Co-architect of Black Victory, Sugar himself takes the mic for its last release, a driving sufferers cliffhanger about bent cops and going on the run, with Bagga Walker, the great Studio One bassist, in full effect…

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Tempo Explosion

Moving between New York and Kingston, Jamaica, in the mid-to-late-1980s, the revered Black Victory label is a perfect storm, crossing the sainted ranks and deep lineages of Studio One and Bullwackies, together with the first, most celebrated strikes of the digital revolution in reggae.

Here is its key album: a devastating, chilled, dread run on King Tubby’s Tempo rhythm, and surely the greatest one-rhythm LP of all time, with the very greatest versions of the Red Rose classic. (Wackies artist Leslie Moore’s sleeve design compares its intensity with nuclear testing in Nevada, so you know you’re in trouble even before the needle drops.)

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Little John: What You Want To Be

Bim! Rougher than rough Roots Radics cut of Every Tongue from 1982, fired up with wild effects, murderous dubbing, and live, jostling microphone interplay; and with an excoriating version.

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Naphtali: Hole Up Your Hand

Brilliant, icy, rude-boy minimalism, ticking and clopping out of the Vibes Sounds studio in Mayville Road, Leytonstone, East London, in 1987. Blacka at the controls, Jah Warrior the apprentice dentist.

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Foxy Brown: Love Is Where You Find It

Careening from the Black Sublime of Dadawah to the, er, Foxy Brown of Jennifer Hylton, Dug Out lets off this early-nineties r’n’b-tipped torpedo, recorded by Lloyd Pickout Dennis at Dynamic, with the Firehouse Crew — George programming drums, Danny the bass, and Wrong Move the other keys.

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Dadawah: Peace And Love

Dark, hypnotic, tripping nyabinghi from 1974. Led by Ras Michael over four extended excursions, the music is organic, sublime and expansive, grounation-drums and bass heavy (with no rhythm guitar, rather Willie Lindo brilliantly improvising a kind of dazed, harmolodic blues). Lloyd Charmers and Federal engineer George Raymond stayed up all night after the session, to mix the recording, opening out the enraptured mood into echoing space, adding sparse, startling effects to the keyboards. At no cost to its deep spirituality, this is the closest reggae comes to psychedelia. Lovingly returned to its original, singular glory, restored at Abbey Road, with superfly vinyl in old-school, hand-assembled sleeves.

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Jah Warrior: Dub From The Heart

With one eye on the past, this captures UK roots sound-system vibes, like magic in a bottle; the other on the future, it’s a prophesy of dubstep. The music is live and direct, in-session; grooving and intense, dense and massive; swirling, sizzling and echoing, with writhing Junglist bass. A collaboration between Steve Mosco and Dougie Conscious, this was originally released in 1996, in the early days of Steve’s London-based Jah Warrior label.

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Anthony Red Rose: Electric Chair

A stinging, thumping, futuristic soundboy frightener, terrible and remorseless, this was originally brandished by JA producer Dennis ‘Star’ Hayles in 1989, caged in a label sampler. Mid-decade, Red Rose had a smash hit for King Tubby with an immortal song about a rhythm with fierce tempo; by now it has mutated into a killing machine, controls set to vaporize all zinc pan, super-charged with the shock treatment of all dibbi dibbi.

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Michael Rose: Observe Life

Raw, stripped funk from the Black Ark, charged with atmosphere and aura. Done over as Zen tutelage, no doubt inspired by Rose’s spar Niney, this is the Final Weapon rhythm — that signature cowbell, tough, scrubby guitar, bass bubbling deep in the pocket, and the Upsetter mixing live on the spot. Adrian Sherwood revisited the song with Ari Up — but here is the hortical piece.

Honest Jon’sHard Wax