Knowledge is found in the sacred place of the most high; happy is the man that foundeth wisdom, and with that getting get overstanding, and knowledge shall be added unto thee." (Prince Far I, "Negusa Negast")
"People don't know how these songs were made. People don't know the mood that make them!" (Roy Cousins)
This is a very heavy selection of diverse rhythms, and certainly no cobbled together, half forgotten selection of second rate Tubby's rhythm tracks and discarded B sides.
With so many overdone and repeated Bunny Lee/Tubby's releases flooding the market over the last ten years (many of them certainly sub par) it is tempting to think the well has surely run dry, but it is releases like this that still have the power to move and remind us of the richness, surreal inventiveness and diversity of Kingston's late 70's output.
From the first track to the last, there is barely a dull moment. Prince Far I opens the album with a chant over The Royals "If you Want Good", with a lyric reminding us to treat our fellow man with respect (apparently, in Far I's perception), because we may need them one day if we fall on hard times. It's a dreamlike and otherworldly dissolving cut to this classic track, with Far I's voice drastically slowed down and cut up, with the drum track moving into distortion levels. The essential dub cut of "Want Good" follows, impressionistically renamed "Noise Hole," the title a perfect semiotic metaphor for the distortion and overload of the composition. This dub comes from the Tamboki Wambesi 45 and is distinctive due to its beautifully out of tune bass which fits so eccentrically and perfectly.
"Manna from the Sky" is the celebratory dub reinvention of "Facts of Life". The strident snare-rimshot rhythm has Afro Cuban overtones, but it's also strangely reminiscent of the drum and percussion interplay on pianist Oscar Peterson's tunes such as "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars." With an ambient hiss twisting in and out of the track at points, piano chords breaking down and horns melodies giving emotion to the force and aggression, this is a high point of the album.
"My Love" dub features a Style Scott slow paced heat on the snares, with The Royals' perfect harmonies lifting the dreamlike mood. The guitar moves through the tune, giving it a Wes Montgomery/Grant Green vibe as the snares break down into the silence and spaces in the mix. The vocals, ghost like, move as disembodied tones.
"Ghettoman Dub" is a beautiful shape shifting dub, twisting from low end rumble to metallic highs, sounding like your speakers are malfunctioning, the bass cones coming unstuck or the tweeters cutting out .The bass drops in and out as the engineer gets to the heart of the structure.
"Jah Know I" (featuring Knowledge and Prince Far I) with its eerie warped vocal effects is one of the album's high points. Bizarre snare tones ricochet and spiral into feedback as Knowledge and Far I's introspective lyric works its Gnostic power.
The sleeve notes do not make it clear where all these tunes derive from:some were certainly drawn from old Tamboki Wambesi 45's and assorted 12" B sides, whilst others are presumably selected from Roy Cousins' late70's/early 80's dub albums, but Pressure Sounds don't clarify here. No matter. If you love the early classic Pablo discomixes, the Hit Run 12"s or the early Burning Spear "Living Dub" albums, you have a treat in store here. Very little filler here.
Reviewed by Greg Whitfield @ www.reggaenews.co.uk