|The Arabs – Cry Tuff Dub Encounter Chapter 1
The Right Way
Mansion Of The Almighty
Prince Of Peace
|The wheel turns full circle and On-U-Sound's oldies offshoot, Pressure Sounds, delves into its parent company's back catalogue for one of the most groundbreaking albums ever. Originally released in March 1978 on the Hit Run label it was only a modest seller at the time, mainly in the UK, but its reputation has been growing steadily ever since and it has now reached near legendary status.
Prince Far I, the Voice Of Thunder also known as King Cry Cry was born in 1944 in Spanish Town, Jamaica as Michael Williams - a deejay with staying power because he knew and understood reggae music. His 'rockstone' voice always preached righteousness and there were no nursery rhymes or 'slackness' to be found in his repertoire. It was his belief in the power of the music to communicate a message that led him to Adrian Sherwood - a lifelong fan of reggae music they were introduced by Pete Weston. Sherwood, born in 1958 in, England had started off selling records in one of the Palmer bothers shops in Harlesden and had set up his own Hit Run label not long after leaving school. He recalls how lucky he was to meet Far I who came to him with 'a whole bag of tapes' and the pair decided to do a dub album together - but this was to be a dub album with a difference. With characteristic modesty Sherwood describes his involvement as 'tweaking' but it proved to be a whole lot more than that.
previously dub had been of interest only to hard core reggae fans - its strangeness and weirdness alienated the casual listener - there was no way in unless you held the key in knowing the original vocal or instrumental versions of the rhythms or were sufficiently in the know to search them out. It didn't mean that much unless you were a long time dancehall aficionado. there was a tale doing the rounds at the time about a nameless record company sending the tapes of their latest dub as something very wrong with it - whole sections kept dropping out!
Ironically enough the breakthrough came in increasing the weirdness - in reggae's previous to tart the music up with string sections and the watered down results crashed into the pop charts every time - for a time at least. Sherwood concentrated on the minor chord, spaced out material from Far I's rhythms and aided and abetted by luminaries of the UK studio scene such as Dennis Bovell, Marc Lusardi and Dr Pablo this 'fan who'd got his hands on the mixing desk' indulged all his fantasies about how he felt it should really sound. While he acknowledges his debt to the Jamaican dub masters, King Tubby, Errol T, Lee Perry et al he also cites Captain Beefheart and The Fall as major influences and it was this unbounded eclecticism coupled with an almost innocent, naive love of the music that added that extra dimension.
Far I's rhythms were exemplary and formed the backdrop to some of his most popular deejay hits yet the versions here have become better known and loved than the original in carnations. He always used Jamaica's top session musicians - Style Scott, Fish Clarke & Sly Dunbar on drums, Flabba Holt on bass, Chinna Smith & Bingy Bunny on guitar - they works for Far I as The Arabs but were the nucleus of a powerhouse that was to dominate reggae throughout the eighties (until the computers took over) as the Roots Radics. The overdubs at Gooseberry Studios in the UK were supplied by Crucial Tony from Undivided Roots, Sucker from Osibisa, Bigga Morrison now with Jazz Jamaica and Peter Stroud also known as Dr Pablo who added Rolf Harris stylaphone as well as his customary melodica - a team of dedicated musicians who were to go on to form Creation Rebel.
This was no rush job and the sessions stretched out to over a week's worth of work as Sherwood, Dr Pablo and Far I masterminded the mixes. Much has been made of the coming together of raw Jamaican rhythms with UK studio techniques but Sherwood now feels relaxed enough about it all to admit that some of the rhythm tracks were actually laid at Gooseberry under his and Far I's supervision and Flabba actually plays rhythm guitar on some of them. Far I loved the results and while this album introduced him to a whole new audience it also gave Sherwood the credibility that had been denied his work up until this point.
It's important to point out that nothing here has been 'watered down' or 'tarted up' but instead a coherent musical whole that stands on its own two feet has been created out of wildly disparate strands. The influence of this release has steadily increased over the last two decades and it has had a profound effect on the burgeoning nineties UK roots/dub scene although, once again, Sherwood depreciatingly dismisses this...'perhaps I put the market together for them to step into'.
Prince Far I is sadly no longer with us. He was shot dead outside his home in 1983, another victim of Jamaica's political violence, for allegedly painting out political slogans daubed on his wall and he died as he had lived - an ambassador for the truth. Sherwood's On-U-Sound goes from strength to strength - its innovations and inventions are still being adopted and adapted both within and from without the reggae business. It's doubtful if either of this album's twp main protagonists would have ever believed the far reaching effects their musical collaboration of nearly twenty years ago would have. Between them they created a genre and the blame can be laid squarely with them for what happened in a London specialist shop last week when a customer complained after perusing the racks that he was actually 'looking for some dub music but all I can find is reggae'.
Harry Hawke - February 1997
|All material © Copyright Pressure Sounds|