Feb 19, 2013

RhoDeo 1307 Roots

Hello, These past months we traversed the UK dubscene, but before all that there were a few UK bands bringing reggae to the island, obviously they found their lead in Jamaica who's first big stars came to the british shores in the mid seventies. As we near the end of our tour of the UK reggae scene one man has thusfar been absent, well not any more. Dennis Bovell's influence on '70s U.K. music goes far beyond his punk-related production liaisons, or his role as Linton Kwesi Johnson's producer/bandleader with Dennis Bovell and Dub Band. He was central to the development of British reggae as a distinct sound, both with his group Matumbi, and as a producer, and the kind of dub and instrumental excursions on Decibel: More Cuts From Dennis Bovell 1976-1983 laid the foundation for Adrian Maxwell Sherwood and Mad Professor to emerge in the '80s. .  .... N'joy

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Born in Barbados in 1953, reggae guitarist Dennis Bovell (sometimes known simply as Blackbeard) was one of the key figures on the London reggae scene of the late '70s and early '80s, not only as a solo artist but also as a producer.

Bovell moved with his family to South London at the age of twelve. He became immersed in Jamaican culture, particularly dub music, and set up his own Jah Sufferer sound system. Running the sound system brought trouble from the police and Bovell was imprisoned for six months on remand, but was later released on appeal. Bovell was friends at school with future rock musicians including keyboardist Nick Straker and record producer Tony Mansfield(New Musik), both of whom later worked with Bovell.

Bovell also worked as an engineer at Dip Records, the precursor to the Lovers Rock label, and he was a key figure in the early days of the lovers rock genre. He is also known for attempting to fuse disco rhythms with reggae, most notably with the hit song "Silly Games" by Janet Kay.

The band Bovell co-founded in the mid-'70s, Matumbi, was one of England's first self-contained reggae bands, and also one of the best,  in addition, Bovell released several albums of solo dub experiments, which often featured jazz-pop keyboardist Nick Straker and producer Tony Mansfield (Captain Sensible, New Musik), both old school chums. As Blackbeard, Bovell released Strictly Dub Wize in 1978; he quickly became involved in production work for experimental post-punkers like the Slits and the Pop Group. I Wah Dub appeared in 1980, carrying on Bovell's eclectic sensibilities; Bovell reverted to his real name for 1981's Brain Damage, which began to move away from dub towards rock, R&B, boogie-woogie, etc. Bovell spent the early '80s working with artists like Linton Kwesi Johnson and Alpha Blondy; he returned with a mostly straight reggae album in 1986, Audio Active, recorded with a group tagged the Dub Band.

Meanwhile most of his work has been remastered and re released as well as Dennis Bovell Presents The 4th Street Orchestra - Ah Who Seh? Go Deh! / Leggo! Ah-Fi-We-Dis ‎and Scientific-Higher-Ranking-Dubb/Yuh-Learn. In 2011 he released Ghosts Outside a Dub Version of the Steve Mason "Boys Outside" album. Then a year later out of the blue came the well recieved "Mek It Run"

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Matumbi formed in 1971 in South London, with a line-up of Ted Dixon (vocals), Euton Jones (drums), Dennis Bovell (guitar), Errol Pottinger (guitar), Eaton "Jah" Blake (bass guitar), Bevin Fagan (vocals), and Nicholas Bailey (vocals, later better known as Nick Straker). In the early 1970s they acted as a backing band to touring Jamaican musicians. In 1973, they opened for The Wailers at the Ethiopian famine relief concert in Edmonton, where much to their emabarrassment they went down better than the headliners, Bovell later saying "The press thought we were much better, and we felt terrible because they were our heroes." They signed to Trojan Records, and had a major breakthrough in 1976, when their version of Bob Dylan's "Man in Me" became the biggest-selling UK reggae single that year. Success brought problems for the band, with their record label unhappy about some band members other musical activities, and Bailey and Dixon left, to be replaced by Webster Johnson (keyboards). Pottinger and Jones also left the band, with Glaister Fagan and Lloyd "Jah Bunny" Donaldson joining. The new line-up signed a deal with Harvest Records, and toured with Ian Dury & the Blockheads. Matumbi recorded two sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show in 1978. The group's debut album, Seven Seals, was issued in 1978, but their second album, Point of View, was a greater success, with the title track giving the band a top 40 hit in 1979. Further albums followed between 1980 and 1982, but these did not match their earlier success. The band split up, with members moving on to various other projects; Bovell released solo material and became renowned as a producer, Donaldson joined The Cimarons, and Fagan and Blake recorded as The Squad.

Matumbi - Seven Seals (flac  278mb)

01 Guide Us Jah 4:08
02 Hook Deh 4:11
03 Hypocrite 3:40
04 Bluebeat & Ska 3:07
05 Empire Road 3:25
06 Music In The Air 4:48
07 Allover This World (Money) 2:57
08 Rock 11:28
09 Break Down 7:47

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Digitally remastered version of this 1981 album by one of the masters of Dub and Reggae. The album contains a blistering array of styles, including afro beat, Skataliteish rhythm and blues, jazz and straight up soul. 16 tracks including 'Bettah' and the very popular title track. Nice transfer, but not a "digital remaster". The source material on this CD comes from an LP, not the original master tapes. There are fragments of this album available on various collections and those are taken from the original tapes. In all, a landmark recording of Bovell and a good example of genuine reggae. The tracks “Living In Babylon”, “Runnin’ Away”, and “Chief inspector” can all be found, slightly re-mixed, on Bovell’s “Babylon Soundtrack” . Brain Damage really lives up to its name for mind-boggling dub wizardry.

Dennis Bovell - Brain Damage (flac  305mb)

01 Brain Damage 2:04
02 Bettah 3:09
03 After Tonight 2:55
04 Our Tune 3:03
05 Run Away 2:22
06 Heaven 5:20
07 Bah Be Lon 2:57
08 Bertie 3:26
09 Aqua Dub 2:03
10 Frea Stoil 3:03
11 Smouche 3:00
12 El Passoah 3:39
13 Chief Inspector 2:28
14 Ehying 4:25
15 Dutty 2:48
16 Cabbage 3:22

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Decibel is a strong example of British reggae emerging as a distinct form -- it's not the Channel One or Studio One rhythm cops with a new melody or instruments flung on top, but a parallel roots sound from a different place and space. It's denser, with full basslines and the band playing longer melody lines than the 'Ja' norm that reflects the influence of U.K. pop. "The Grunwick Affair" and "Harmonizer Dub" show this isn't strip-down-and-drop-out dub so much as flesh-out and fill-in the middle with lots of little details floating through, and dub-wise studio tricks applied to the instruments (and the latter doesn't even work that well because the recording is so static).

"Dominion Dub" works off a melodic guitar hook and effects overkill on top before going to skipping-along-in-the-park reggae -- it gets down to bass and drums in a different way, while "Rowing" is pretty classic in its use of space and heavy reverb over a skeletal riff hook. Many tracks, like "Zombie Zones," are well-developed instrumentals with some dub touches (more than dub per se), and even "Zion Dub" is both fuller and edgier than the 'Ja' norm.

"Higher Ranking" starts with jazz-tinged guitar, and develops a sunny afternoon, easy skanking feel as sax trades off with the guitar -- it's a reminder of Bovell's finely honed pop sensibility. "Shi-cago" works harmonica into that sunny afternoon feel, and it makes for a very smooth transition into the strong melodica driving "None Jah Jah Children."

"Entebbe" works off phat skanks before a nice horn line adds the missing melodic link and a trombone solo takes over to carry it home, but then "Scientific" is all drums and dub-sonic weirdness. "Ah Fi Wi Dis" is classic dub with militant, triumphant horn surges, and ragged-but-right punctuation blats with Bovell's bass at the fore, while "Blood Ah Go Run" features vocals and plenty of effects on a pretty striking repatriation anthem.

Dennis Bovell - Decibel (More Cuts And Dubs 1976-1983) (flac 330mb)

01 The Grunwick Affair 4:02
02 Harmoniser Dub 4:25
03 Dominion Dub 3:30
04 Rowing 12" Version 6:59
05 Zombie Zones 3:58
06 Zion Dub 2:44
07 Higher Ranking
08 Ranking High 2:41
09 Scientific 2:56
10 Shi-cago 2:49
11 None Jah Jah Children (Melodica Version) 3:09
12 Uganda Crisis 2:23
13 Ah Fi Wi Dis 2:50
14 Entebbe 2:58
15 Blood Ah Go Run 3:35
16 Dub'er 2:52

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ric said...

Aswad, Matumbi, great classic reggae combos, pure golden discs..Thanx to bring them back in the light. Have you also Capital Letters - Headline News (1979) in your Santa's sack ?

Anonymous said...

I have 'Brain Damage' on vinyl, and it's still a remarkable album. If I didn't have any other vinyl records I'd keep a turntable just to play this one alone!

Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

the entire decibel album sounds quite overdriven and distorted unfortunately.

FrankDell said...

I have been looking for Brain Damage for years. I cannot thank you enough.

Rho said...

Hello Solopower just upped everything on this Dennis Bovell page

s o l e p o w e r said...

YOU ARE THE MAN RHO !! I will relish them in their flac glory.

thanks for the effort !

tab said...

Would it be possible to re-up the flac of Matumbi - Seven Seals please? Thank you very much.

apf said...

Thanks for the re-ups, Rho !

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for fulfilling my request.