‘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).
‘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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.