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Tribesman Assault

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Newly arrived in the Big Apple, producer Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes set up a studio in the Bronx in the early '70s and launched his Wackies label soon after. Tribesman Assault was one of his first releases, a scintillating set of dubs plus one vocal track, credited to his studio band, Roots Underground. The set's riddims were recorded previously while Barnes was still working in Jamaica — the set, however, was overdubbed in New York and mixed down there, with Prince Douglas grabbing both production and engineering credits and Jah Upton the mixing honors. The Wackies label quickly established a unique reggae sound far removed from the Jamaican norm, and that's already evident on this set. Eschewing the heavy, heavy dub sounds of the dancehalls, Tribesman Assault prefers a lighter, less oppressive style, with many of the tracks falling into the instrumental category rather than "proper" dubs. The numbers themselves were versions of a diverse set of riddims, African Jamaicans' "Girl of My Dreams," Tyrone Evans' "Dread Like Me, Leroy Smart's "Ballistic Affair," and the Righteous Flames' "I Wasn't Born to Be Lonely" among them. The "Ballistic" version, "Disco Reggae Rocker," beautifully exemplifies the Wackies style. Jah Scotty's sizzling stick and Bobby Paschal's funky bassline set the bouncing mood, and Jerry Hitler's reggae guitar is so distorted that it becomes indistinguishable from the Love Joys' synth, adding glamour to a bustling rhythm-based piece. "Tribal Rock" adds Hitler's phenomenal lead guitar to the brew, "Dread Feeling" his bright, surfy guitar that belies the hefty bassline, "Shotgun Skank" a decided touch of blues, "Black Brigade" a sense of suspense and a tinge of stepper's styling, "Makka Root" a prettier rocksteady atmosphere, and the title track predominant reggae guitar and a true dub feeling. On the final number, K.C. White (backed by the Love Joys) offers up a superb version of Dennis Brown's "Open the Gates" over one of the heaviest riddims on the set. Not your typical dub fare by any means, but a stunning message of intent from a label that would soon become legendary.

Tribesman Assault, Roots Underground
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