Review: The King & City label is the subject of three 12" reissues, starting with One Blood's classic Lovers Rock take of William DeVaughn's soul anthem, Be Thankful.
Taking the influence of reggae from the Caribbean diaspora within the cultural melting pot of 70s London, the birth of Lovers Rock, often-dubbed 'romantic reggae', is a uniquely black British sound, developed against a backdrop of riots, racial tension and sound systems.
A style suited to the London scene, it represents an apolitical counterpoint to the then dominant conscious Rastafarian sound and continued the soulful and commonly love-themed rocksteady style.
Active during the scene's peak, King & City was launched by Neville King and Lee Laing to champion the sound and alongside other producers like Dennis Bovell, created genre-defining hits.
Formed in 1979 One Blood was made up of the 5 Robinson brothers - Errol, Jerry, Lloyd, Trevor and Paul - and recording at the legendary TMC studios, went on to release two albums and countless singles.
Be Thankful pays homage to DeVaughn's original, with smooth vocals gliding atop tight drum and bass, vocal jumping up dub pom acapella to summer perfection. The tapes here passed to cohort Lexx, crafting a wonderful discodub that is all groove, expertly cutting back and forth...diamonds in the back, sunroof top.
Review: Iconic dub and reggae "rhythm section" Sly and Robbie (AKA Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare) first worked with Vladislav Delay back in 2018, during the recording sessions for their collaborative album with trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, "Nordub". It's therefore not that surprising to see them once again join forces with the Finnish experimentalist for another joint full-length. "500 Push Up" is based on grooves, vocalizations and field recordings made at Dunbar and Shakespeare's Jamaican studio, which the Finn then chopped up, reworked and overdubbed in his studio. The result is a set of tracks that take dub in intoxicating new directions, adding heaps of hazy electronic sounds and a distinctive swing that's hugely alluring.
Review: The King & City reissue series continues with Paul Robinson's disco boogie jam Come On Sister. Moving from the Lovers sound of his early productions, his first solo recording was aimed straight at the blues, clubs and pirate stations of South London and beyond - a prolific artist on the rise.
Appearing as a 13 year old protegee drummer in The Simeons, recording for the legendary Freedom Sounds label out of Kingston; to forming the influential Roots / Lovers Rock outfit One Blood; then vocalist in the Nick Straker Band; and through to a 30 year career as "dubplate" producer / singer Barry Boom, Robinson is a man of talents and serious legacy.
This highly sought after debut, part of Neville King and Lee Laing's family of labels, followed releases in One Blood and productions for female Lovers groups Blood Sisters and Charisma. A pure disco boogie party cut, Come On Sister sees the Robinson family hit the Brit funk.
In label style, the flip is given the Discomix treatment, here by up and coming digger, dealer and producer, Bruno (Perfect Lives). Letting the horns, dub bass and drums build in anticipation before the keys and guitar join and it all drops to Robinson's vocals - Come On Sister.
Review: To close the 3 EP reissue series of Neville King and Lee Laing's King & City label, the all female group Charisma are presented with their summer infused Lovers cut, Everything Is Fine.
Three Lewisham friends, Angela Richardson on lead vocals, with Geselle and Janie backing, were active from 1982 to 1990, but are really remembered for the early recordings made with Neville King. Their debut, Everything Is Fine rides the Lovers sound at its peak. Written with One Blood's Lloyd Robinson, with the rest of band of Robinson brothers providing the rhythm section, this is pure South London sound system music.
Recorded again at TMC (Tooting Music Centre) Recording Studios - working alongside the likes of Dillinger, Tradition and New Musik - Everything Is Fine rides a beautiful soul reggae rhythm as Trevor (Drums) and Lloyd (Bass) Robinson set the foundations, while One Blood provide the Dub mix.
A true love's lament, a song of hope, serenity and pure vibes. Label head Chuggy slides behind the mixing desk for an extended Discomix that stretches, loops and dubs the vocal and dub back forth, to close a glimpse at this uniquely British phenomenon, taking reggae closer to it's heart and soul.
Review: Emotional Rescue presents the music of Haile Maskel in the first in a reissue series working with Patrick Billard aka DJ Duckcomb, sourcing and licensing from this digger's vaults and out to the wider world.
Heralding from the furtive 60's Trenchtown, Jamaica, young Michael Ashley aka Haile Maskel grew up singing, learning guitar and bass. His first recording session was produced by friend Bob Marley, with Peter Tosh on keys, Robbie Shakespeare on bass and Carlton Barrett on drums.
The list of sessions is long, working with Lee Perry, Light Of Saba, Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott. Touring took him overseas where he settled in Los Angeles in 1983, soon launching his Opulence (Sound) label.
Maskel's band, the 101's featured members of The Twinkle Brothers, including cousins Asher and Debo Brown on drum and bass, and augmented by local players. Mixing conscious messages in love songs, Maskel crafts a boogie discodub on which to exalt an uplifting summer jam.
With the highly prized original the tapes unearthed unreleased dubs - "Take 1" providing a wonderful version. LA native Duckcomb found a trove of tapes of unheard material, still for discovery. For now, his longform Discomix, cutting and editing Maskel's vocal along with the dubs, completes a first archival splendor.
Review: The second in the series of DJ Duckcomb affiliated reissues brings the Jamaica / London connection to light, with a reissue of the Brixton based band Red Cloud under the spotlight.
Double Talk was their debut release, coming on House / Freestyle / Reggae label Dancefloor Records, first explored by Emotional Rescue several years ago. After meeting with label head, Jeffrey Collins, in his then London base, the band went on release 2 albums, a 12" and 7" with him, as well as notably being Floyd Lloyd Seivright's backing band.
The original 1983 12"" - now a highly sought after digger's disco reggae bomb - Double Talk is a perfect summer Lovers jam. A tale of sweat talking, cross loving and loss, with redemption and strength, all backed by an uplifting drum and bass, with guitar, keys and piano highlighting the JA climbs instilled in dem sound.
Dubble Dub brings it all down, stripping away and lifting the interplay between keys and piano, allowing guitar to ride above warm bass grooves.
On the flip Duckcomb returns, with his now trademark riding the vocal'n'dub, gently teasing'n'pulling, looping'n'flipping, before letting the echoplex loose to just let the wonderful groove bump'n'grind.
Review: Essential cover version in a reggae style of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'' originally by Nivarna coupled with a sulty late night rendidtion of Kool & The Gangs classic 'Summer Madness' . So , so good !
Review: First released on CD way back in 1998 and now getting a deserved reissue on wax, "Sacred Art of Dub Volume 1" sees two of Britain's longest-serving dub outfits - Alpha & Omega and Jah Shaka affiliate Russell Bell-Brown AKA The Disciples - put a new spaced-out spin on each other's weighty, bassbin-bothering riddims. It offers a great snapshot of late '90s UK dub, with highlights including the hot-stepping, Melodica-sporting dancefloor goodness of "Philosophers Stone", the weighty bass and soulful vocals of "Dancing On A Rainbow", the rolling, snare-heavy roll of "Elixir" and the cheery digi-dub business of jaunty bonus cut "Eternal Dub".
Review: Juno exclusive hand -numbered to 299 only copies dinked limited white vinyl edition 7 inch with an additional branded wooden 45 adapter.By now, you should know Devon Russell's sought-after 1984 cover of Curtis Mayfield classic "Move On Up", a incredible, post-disco era reggae-soul revision that just oozes sun-splashed positivity. It's virtually impossible to pick up the original 45 so this dinked reissue from Mukatsuku Records is most welcome and has been lovingly remastered. The seven-inch is also notable for including another overlooked gem from Russell's even lesser-known 1993 album of Mayfield covers, "Darker Than Blue". His rendition of "Give Me Your Love" here presented for the very first time in a 45 format is blissfully glassy-eyed, colourful and hazy, giving the Mayfield classic a decidedly Balearic reggae feel via head-nodding grooves, fluid synthesizer lines and jazzy guitar solos. In a word: brilliant.Supported so far by DJ Koco & DJ Muro from Japan and Craig Charles BBC 6 Music, The Allergies,Mr Thing, Andy Smith & Boca 45 from the uk....
Review: With sunshine becoming a regular occurrence again just in time for summer, two of France's more soulful producers have decided to join forces and offer up something suitably warm and relaxing. With the assistance of vocalist Kahina Ouali, Blundetto and Booker Gee have recorded a killer, Hammond-laden version of Lyn Christopher classic "Take Me With You" that sits somewhere between the organs-and-lo-fi-drum machines flex of Timmy Thomas' "We Can't We Live Together" and the soulful reggae grooves of 1980s lovers rock. The fine A-side original mix, which boasts Ouali's full vocal, is our pick of the pair, though the flipside instrumental "Version" mix, in which Booker Gee gets busy on the organ, is also superb.
Review: Pressed in Japan exclusively for Juno from The Park Rangers formally known as Inokasira Rangers. New issue of two killer skanking funky reggae instrumental versions of two crossover classics with a skanking organ led instrumental version of Pharrell Williams ''Happy'' on A side & on the flip a jangly guitar and reggaefied cover version of ''Kiss'' by Prince .Infectious and quite simply.... Essential
Review: Here's something to warm the heart and soothe the ears: a collection of crucial Lovers Rock cuts from Neil "Mad Professor" Fraser's Ariwa Sounds label, the majority of which were produced and released in the 1980s. During the period, the Ariwa Studio was one of the focal points (though not the only one) in London of the soulful, synthesizer-driven reggae sound, and as a result the compilation is full to bursting with treats. Our highlights include the colourful sweetness of Sandra Cross' "It's You", the slow motion bliss of Aisha's "Dancing Time", the weighty and up-beat "The Other Side of Love" by Carroll Thompson, Sgt Pepper/Aquizm's bass guitar-heavy "True True Loving" and the sunshine goodness of "I Just Want To Love You" by Leroy Simmons.