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Album Review

It is nearly impossible to underestimate the influence that punk-reggae-dub held over music in the early '80s. Whether you consider the revolutionary rhetoric of Bob Marley, the political assault of the Clash, or even the first germination of hip-hop. The early '80s experienced one of history's most unprecedented exchanges of musical ideas, spanning the beaches of Jamaica, the cold streets of England, and the urban blight/scenester mecca of uptown/downtown New York City. By 1982, things looked grim. Punk was dead, as was Bob Marley. The closest fusion of the two that could be found was in the downbeat of the Police. Also dead was Ruts singer Robert Owen. It was under these conditions that the remaining Ruts members — John Segs, Paul Fox and David Ruffy — joined with up-and-coming U.K. dub producer Neil "Mad Professor" Fraser, who had just finished work on his soon to be legendary Ariwa studio. Disc one of this collection captures the results of said meeting. Alternating between traditional reggae-dub ("Whatever We Do" and "Rhythm Collision") and more modern punk-funk ("Push Yourself - Make it Work") the group made one last battle cry for the underground that aligned them with legendary punk-dub artists like the Slits and Adrien Sherwood. Beyond the original eight tracks, an additional six 12" mixes are included, which further demonstrate the internal sound clashes, taking the lush dub of "Militant" and stripping it down to a dark, minimal version. Disc two finds contemporary dub collective Zion Train reworking the original session tapes over 15 years later. Using Mad Professor's vintage mixing deck, the ambient dub specialist surprisingly lifts the vocals on "Whatever We Do," giving it an almost pop sensibility. The rest of the disc takes a slightly spacier approach, no doubt a remnant of Zion Train's past work with ethno-trancers Loop Guru and the Shamen. But the most notable change is the hefty addition of the group's brass section on several cuts which, while interesting, cannot make these re-workings as essential as the originals.


Born: 1955 in Guyana

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

A disciple of Lee "Scratch" Perry, Mad Professor was one of the leading producers in dub reggae's second generation. His Dub Me Crazy albums helped dub make the transition into the digital age, when electronic productions started to take over mainstream reggae in the '80s. His space-age tracks not only made use of new digital technology, but often expanded dub's sonic blueprint, adding more elements and layers of sound than his forebears typically did. In the mid-'90s, he returned to the basics,...
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Rhythm Collision, Vol. 1 & Remix Versions, Mad Professor
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