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Bedtime Stories

Judge Dread

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Album Review

For anyone who thought that a dread-free 1974 spelled the end of Britain's biggest, rudest reggae star, 1975 was to be an annus miserabilis, as Judge Dread sashayed three singles into the U.K. Top 15. His hilariously salacious version of "Je T'Aime" was first to hit the charts, followed by "Big Ten," yet another in the "Big" series of naughty jokes set to flawless reggae riddims. The holiday knees-up "Christmas in Dreadland" completed Dread's hat trick in December, by which time the Judge's third album, Bedtime Stories, had entered the Top 30. Needless to say, neither the title track nor any of the other songs on the set were appropriate nighty-night tales for children, with "Bedtime" telling of the magistrate's far from judicial exploits in chambers. Even so, when you've waving your big 'un about, it's easy to scare off the birds, and part of Dread's charm is that his boasts are offset by his self-deprecating humor. "This Little Piece of Dinkle" is a case in point, as is "Last Tango in Snodland," where the Judge's advances are thwarted — until, that is, the lady's boyfriend turns out to be a fan. Which leaves one wondering just how our magisterial hero ever amassed a covey of brides. But he did, then lost them all, as he explains on "The Six Wives of Dread." For that song Dread took reggae into the English Renaissance; for "What a Beautiful Pair" (whose theme is self-explanatory) he drags it back into the vaudeville of the 1920s, while "Rudeness Train" chugs straight into a ragga-meets-disco future, with the sad tale of "Trenchtown Billy" returning to a calypso-fied Jamaica. With its wit, wry tales of love gone wrong, mix of musical styles, and flawless backings, it's no wonder that Bedtime Stories was a firm favorite with reggae fans. The Captain Oi! reissue adds five bonus tracks, including the aforementioned "Christmas." "Rasta Chat" (aka "Dread and I"), "Je T'Aime"'s b-side, perfectly and hilariously skewers red-eyed ganja singles to an incendiary rockers backing, while Dread toasts up a storm in perfect Jamaican style on "Look a Pussy" ("Big Ten"'s flip). Both out-reggae the reggae stars at their own game. In contrast, the Judge's sweet, reggae-fied cover of "End of the World" and the bouncy instrumental "Golden Fleece" were released on a single under the pseudonym of Jason Sinclair. However, without the Dread name and any suggestive content, it ignominiously failed to ignite the chart.

Biography

Born: May 2, 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...
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Bedtime Stories, Judge Dread
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