Review: More from the bulging back catalogue of Park Rangers, an obscure Japanese reggae band who have spent the last decade delivering surprising cover versions of well-known pop, rock and disco songs. On side A there's another chance to wonder at their 1960s rocksteady style re-make of Pharrell Williams' mega-hit happy, in which the Neptunes star's lead vocal is replaces with a cheery Hammond organ solo. It's the kind of cover that can't help but put a smile on your face. The same could be said about their similarly minded flipside cover of Prince classic 'Kiss'. While it's not as instantly recognisable, it has a similar feel thanks to the band's canny fusion of tuneful Hammond organ solos and retro-futurist reggae riddims.
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.
Brentford Rd Soul Rebels - "30-60-90" (feat Dennis Alcapone) (3:01)
Curtis Baker & The Bravehearts - "30-60-90" (2:42)
Review: This super limited 7" features four original Gravity label artists and serving up their own respective versions of one original. Prince Alfonso & The Fever kick off with fat-bottomed swagger and earthy dub funk grooves, and Nestor Alvarez flip the script with more Latin percussion and bossa-style grooves. Brentford Rd Soul Rebels take you to a hot summer's day with their reggae soundtrack, and last of all Curtis Baker & The Bravehearts lead with a big sax line and hip swinging tambourines that all come underpinned by big bass. Varied and vital, it's a small bit of wax but it packs a big punch.
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.
Review: This coming together of two dub and reggae giants might never have been heard had it not been unearthed in some long-forgotten vaults. Originally recorded at some unknown point in the seventies, it follows their debut album Ital Dub, and later King Tubby Meets The Rockers, and is just as vital. Lead by the trademark harmonica expressions of Pablo, with the contagious rhythms of Tubby, it is a free flowing record that explores a number of different moods and grooves from deep and hazy to more life affirming and direct. As a result, it keeps you utterly locked throughout.
Sam Carty - "Milte Hi Akhen Aka Bird In Hand" (Full vocal version) (3:53)
Mystic I - "One More River To Cross" (3:09)
The Upsetters - "One More Dub To Cross" (3:18)
Junior Murvin - "People Get Ready" (3:23)
The Upsetters - "People Get Ready Dub" (3:18)
The Silvertones - "Feel All Right" (2:40)
Review: Barely a week goes by without a new release that has Lee "Scratch" Perry's name on it somewhere. This one from Rock A Shaka in Japan brings together all the best bits from the famous Black Arc studio and features big names like The Upsetters, Junior Murvin, The Silvertones, and Perry himself. There's a laidback air of sun kissed Caribbean grooves from top to bottom, with various Dubpate Mixes, full vocal versions and dubs adding up to a feel good collection of loved-up riddims that will slide their way into your affections.
Upsetter Revue - "Play On Mr Music" (feat The Heptones & The Congos & Junior Murvin)
Carlton Jackson - "History" (Dub Plate mix)
The Silvertones - "Rejoice Jah Jah Children" (Dub Plate mix)
Jimmy Riley - "Give Me A Love"
The Upsetters - "Give Me A Dub"
Lee Perry - "Soul Fire"
Sam Carty - "Milte Hi Akhen Aka Bird In Hand" (Full vocal version)
Mystic I - "One More River To Cross"
The Upsetters - "One More Dub To Cross"
Junior Murvin - "People Get Ready"
The Upsetters - "People Get Ready Dub"
The Silvertones - "Feel All Right"
Keith Rowe - "Sugar & Spice (Love Has Got Its Way)"
The Upsetters - "Spicy Version"
Review: Although there have been a number of retrospectives focused on Lee 'Scratch' Perry's productions during the period he ran the Black Ark studio (1973-79), few have gone quite as deep as this superb compilation from Rock-A-Shacka. What makes it stand out from its rivals is not the number of well-regarded classics included - though it does contain a few, such as "Soul Fire" and Mystic I's "One More River To Cross" - but rather the deepness of the selections and the impressive number of previously unreleased tracks. Check, for example, the superb all-star outing "Play On Mr Music", after which the compilation is named, the languid and soulful "Dub Plate Mix" of The Silvertones' conscious roots classic "Rejoice Jah Jah Children", and the two mixes of Keith Rowe's "Sugar & Spice".
Review: It would be fair to say that Lee 'Scratch' Perry's work with The Full Experience, a female vocal trio comprised of Aura Lewis, Pamela Reed and Candy MacKenzie, is not among his best known material - in part because only limited amounts of it was ever released in the late 1970s. This brilliant anthology from Doctor Bird does its best to fill in the gaps by gathering together Full Experience tracks from various largely little-known releases, including a clutch of cuts that have never before appeared on wax. Highlights include the dancefloor-focused disco-reggae sweetness of "Disco Fits", the super-soulful "Ice Cream", the Congoes-esque "Young Gifted & Broke" and the brilliant 12" mix of "Disco Devil", which is based on Perry's fine riddim for Max Romeo's "Chase The Devil".
Review: The Pioneers were pivotal during the skinhead reggae period and their 1970 album Battle Of The Giants on the mighty Trojan Records is as fine as they come. At the time it was released, the band was spending lots of time in the UK and taking cues from ska, but always returned to Jamaica to record. It shows in a record that mixes driving reggae grooves with more pop leaning songs and flourishes of soul. Swaggering rhythms like "Samfie Man" sit next to love struck tunes like "Consider Me" and it's not hard to see why this outfit was one of the first to have international reggae hits in the post-rocksteady era.