RELEASE
January 09, 2007
LABEL

Album Review

Ever since its earliest days, reggae has been as much a forum for producers as for songwriters, singers, and instrumentalists -- maybe even more so. It's producers who ultimately determine the sound of a recording, by choosing the musicians, shaping the mix (the relative volume and presence of the various instruments), creating arrangements, and often even writing some or all of the music. Producers have a huge influence in all genres of pop music, but in reggae they have always been particularly central; legendary producers like Lee "Scratch" Perry, Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, and King Tubby have distinctive, recognizable sounds all their own. The same is true of Lloyd "King Jammy" James, who basically acted as midwife for the dancehall sound in the early '80s through the creation of such seminal rhythms as "Cat Paw," "Fire Fire," "Love Punaany Bad," and, especially, the deathless "Sleng Teng." This is the first of four two-disc volumes celebrating the golden age of dancehall reggae at Jammy's studio, and it acts as something of a catalog of his work, featuring a handful of rhythms and several singers and chatters on each one. Nitty Gritty's answer to Tenor Saw's "Ring the Alarm" is included here (titled, appropriately enough, "False Alarm"), Johnny Osbourne's classic "What a La La" is included on the same rhythm, as is the Dean Fraser horn cut "Stagalag Excursion." There are no fewer than six versions of the "Sleng Teng" rhythm, including Tenor Saw's "Pumpkin Belly" and Johnny Osbourne's "Buddy Bye" in addition to the Wayne Smith classic. Other featured singers and toasters include Admiral Tibett,Dennis Brown, Leroy Smart, and Pinchers. Essential, as are the other three volumes in the series.
Rick Anderson, Rovi