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Soundclash 4.25

Doctor Dread
“Shuffle Off”
Theremin In Dub
Tsosume Records (2013)

When the former RAS Records boss Doctor Dread handed me this CD last year, there was every bit the shit-eating grin on display. A gatefold CD with pop-up art and a bawdy cartoon, along with a full history of the theremin, was an odd backdrop to what turns out to be a thoroughly inspired concept; dub, like the theremin, after all, operates significantly on "feel." While this pairing has never been done before, a few older King Tubby dubs included sine-wave'esque sounds, almost like alarm horns blowing over the dubs. Dread had the full RAS catalogue with its many Roots Radics rhythms at his disposal, and he's chosen well here. The jerk potato chips he's also "producing" nowadays are an oddly suitable accompaniment.

-The Kaiser

Fabulous Five Inc.
“Arabian Reggae”
Fab 5 7" (1976)

And now for something completely different. This isn’t nearly as deep left field as reggae can go, but it’s definitely beyond the infield. Essentially an instrumental with some vocal interjections, the Fab 5 got some “Arabic” inspiration from somewhere. Cinema? Someone had an Arab-Jamaican friend with a stack of records? Who knows, who cares. It’s pretty cool, and a pleasant break from the norm.

-Rice & Peas

Clive & Doreen
“What Can I Do”
Treasure Isle 7" (1968)

More so than all the other rocksteady production houses, Treasure Isle's offerings embody all the keenest notes of nostalgia for "sweet, sweet Jamaica." Their's is a gentle breeze of an approach that you can hear perfected in this track, where nothing is hurried or forced, and hardships are purely of the heartbroken variety. I've always thought that Winston Wright's keyboard flourishes were an under-appreciated part of Tommy McCook's Supersonics band and here they round off what is simple songwriting perfection - a notion all too repeated in Jamaica's golden age of recordings.

-The Kaiser

Rico Rodriguez
"Water Shuffle (aka Saint Shuffle)"
Count Boysie pre-7" (1961)

It's been posited that Rico Rodriguez was the most recorded trombonist in Jamaica prior to his departure for the UK in 1962. Drummond mentored him, but Don D. himself was an in-and-out figure in the studios, thus leaving his fellow Alpha Boys' School peer to pick up the burgeoning slack. These pre-ska boogie woogie shuffles were in favor before the ska rhythm took on more strident steps, particularly with soundsystem men like Count Boysie. A rare track this, but as emblematic of its era as anything you'll ever hear.

-The Kaiser

Blue Bells
“Jah Know"
Starapple 7" (mid-1970s)

For those in the know, the Blue Bells are probably best known for their quirky mid-'70s tune for Lee Perry, “Come Along,” which was more famously redone as “Dub Along” and included on the now  legendary ‘Super Ape’ album. So, I guess not much fame in that. But they actually did a handful of  quality tunes back in the day, with this present tune jockeying as best among them. It came on the  Tommy Cowan-owned Starapple label, but it’s likely a self-production. In reggae circles, we call this tune a ‘skank’. Slow and steady is deadly. Just how I like it.

-Rice & Peas

Upsetter Revue
“Play On Mr. Music"
Rock-A Shacka 10" (2014) (1977)

For his 1977 "Roots Rock Reggae" documentary, English filmmaker Jeremy Marre secured access to a number of studios then in their prime. The footage he lucked into at the Black Ark has remained the definitive visual document of Lee Perry's unique studio and engineering high-watermark. On that day, the Upsetter gathered his usual band of brothers to perform for his foreign guests, and a typically bare bones idea was worked up into a full-fledged craft work that only recently was unearthed in a full audio format. Available now for the first time on vinyl, this one's for the ages, yet again.

-The Kaiser

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