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Yabby You Meets Mad Professor & Black Steel In Ariwa Studio

Yabby You Meets Mad Professor & Black Steel

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Album Review

The meeting of the dread roots maestro Yabby You and the techno-driven Mad Professor had all the ingredients of a clash made in hell. You's forte — hypnotic, mesmerizing roots with a message — by all measure seems the total antithesis of the Professor's oftentimes startling, yet invariably brilliant, special effects-ridden style. Yet, it turns out that the pair's meeting was a match made in heaven. Mutual respect was the obvious key, one shared with multi- instrumentalist Black Steel, who, bar the flute and horns, performed almost all the splendid music within (Augustus Pablo does guest on one number). His extremely sympathetic instrumentation captures You's signature trancey rhythms, the basslines are superb, and the keyboards heighten the atmospheres while spotlighting You's strong melodies. His guitar work on the intro to "Blowing in the Wind" is absolutely sublime, setting the stage for the entire piece. That charity-urging number, no relation to the Bob Dylan song, is one of four vocal cuts on the set, and arguably the best of a high-quality batch. It's classic You in a most magical mode; "Commercial Dreadlocks," in contrast, is absolutely incendiary, as You's vocals and Steel's bassline stalk the false Rastas. The apocalyptic "Death Trap" is a stunning steppers-styled version of the Congos' "Row Fisherman"; "Amen" is a jubilant, New Orleans-splashed take on the traditional hymn. The vocal tracks are incredibly strong, and the five accompanying dubs ("Death Trap" gets two) are phenomenal. "Righteous Dublocks," for example, turns the vocal version inside out, playing down the original's militancy and pushing up the melodiousness of the song. "Winds of Dub" blows away the vocal version's dread edge, wafting it instead with luminescent pastoral atmospheres. Beyond all the brilliant versions of the vocal tracks, there also are a pair of unrelated dubs included, the menacing "Steppers Corner" and "Rootsy Mood," a splendid version of "Full Up." Invariably, the dubs are the meat to the vocal tracks' potatoes, and it's here that You and the Professor's awesome talents truly become one. Even in this more digital mode, the Professor manages never to dissipate the organic magic of You's sound; rather, he enhances it with his own wizardry. You easily conjures up mesmerizing music out of the electronic gear, while the Professor twiddles the knobs to heighten the effect. It says much about this marriage that the album is equal to, and at times even surpasses, any of either man's previous work.

Biography

Born: 1946 in Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s

Yabby You was born Vivian Jackson in a Kingston ghetto. By the time he was 17, Jackson was so malnourished that he had to be hospitalized. He was eventually left with severe arthritis and crippled legs. While he could not work, he had musical talent and — taking his cues from divine inspiration that he felt came from the sounds of nature around him (and the help of friends) — founded a harmony trio, the Prophets, in 1972. They made their single debut with "Conquering Lion," a classically...
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