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The Very Best of Judge Dread

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Album Review

When Alex Hughes walked into Trojan studio in 1972 to record for his own sound system a one-off retort to Prince Buster's "Big Five" hit, he never expected to walk out with a record contract, let along a hit and a new name: Judge Dread. But the exuberantly rude "Big Six" shot up the U.K. chart to number 11, with another ten singles and an EP following in its wake, before the magistrate's hit strewn reign came to an end in 1978. The Best Worst of Judge Dread bundles up a batch of these charters, including all the smash big 'uns — "Big Six," "Big Seven," "Big Eight," and "Big Ten," then throws in "Big Nine" and "Big One" for good measure, along with "The Winkle Man," "Y Viva Suspenders," "Up with the Cock," and "Come Outside," the latter the flip of the double A-sided "Christmas in Dreadland." The jokey but poignant "Bring Back the Skins" off Dread's Jamaica Jerk EP is included too, albeit under the title "Last of the Skinheads." So, this 1978 compilation was indeed a best-of collection, highlighting Dread's past accomplishments, with all the hits and a few spares drawn from the DJ's albums. By the time of its release, Dread's star was descending, and his singles, while still charting, no longer sailed into the Top 20. By year's end, his chart run was over for good, with his final "hit" not even breaking the Top 50. Thus, The Best Worst of Judge Dread was, in a way, Dread's epitaph, at least for his stardom days, and a fine one it was.


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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