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Big Ones

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Album Review

Big Ones indeed! This compilation kicks off with nine hits in the first ten tracks; counterintuitively "Big Nine" was not a hit. "Jamaica Jerk Off" was, a track from Judge Dread's Top 40 "5th Anniversary" EP, Jamaica Jerk. The nostalgic "Bring Back the Skins" is also taken from that EP, although here it's retitled "Last of the Skinheads." The only big one missing from this set was the Judge's final hit single, the double A-sided "Hokey Cokey"/"Jingle Bells." Dread had quite an astounding chart run between 1972 and 1978, notching up more hits than even Bob Marley would manage, making him the world's greatest white reggae artist to date. Even at the time, though, the Judge was an acquired taste, with his schoolboy smut-laden lyrics quickly offending the strait-laced. However, it wasn't Dread's playful rudeness alone that bowled over reggae fans, but his unfailing ability to pick the right song and create the perfect musical version. Hughes may have been white, but his grasp of reggae crossed the color line, fooling even Jamaicans. The second half of this compilation emphasizes this point, bundling up a batch of steaming numbers in a variety of reggae styles. On many of them the Judge returns to his roots, no longer the innuendo-loaded toaster but the exuberant DJ winding up the crowds, much as he did at his sound system before he hit the big time. Rudeness brought him fame, but it was his love of reggae that turned Alex Hughes into the formidable Judge Dread, and Jamaica's own hits underpinned his success. A tribute to the man and the music that made him a star.


Born: 02 May 1945 in Kent, England

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Although often dismissed as a novelty act, Judge Dread was actually a groundbreaking artist. Not only did he put more reggae records onto the U.K. chart than anyone else (Bob Marley included), he was also the first white artist to actually have a reggae hit in Jamaica. The Judge also holds the record for having the most songs banned by the BBC, 11 in all, which incidentally is precisely the number of singles he placed on the charts. Judge Dread was born Alex Hughes in Kent, England, in 1945. In...
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