Reggae Sound Clash
OK, I know this isn’t a proper sound clash in the traditional sense. The idea of DJs battling each other with their sounds and dubplates has been an important part of Jamaican music since the clashes became popular in the 1950s. The sound clash can be an emotive subject though, competition and rivalry played out on record decks is serious stuff, with the winner having bragging rights over other systems. They do get ruff at times, but it still seems a very civilised way to settle who is the best.
In my own small, bloggy way this new feature will play off two singles against each other. Both will have been selected on merit, but like all music it is down to you the listener which one you prefer. The contest will be decided by three categories, and it is just a bit of fun. I didn’t start this blog to piss anyone off, but just to highlight great music!
So in the first Reggae Roots Review Singles Sound Clash we have in the red corner, established singles label Partial Records and their upcoming single ‘Stepping Out of Babylon’, featuring one time Black Uhuru singer Michael (Mykal) Rose. This track was originally released about ten years ago on Michael’s African Roots album, and hearing it for the first time I can see why it is getting a single release.
Liam at Partial has a good ear, and he does unearth some cracking tracks that would have otherwise been lost to the pages of Discogs. Check out his recent Amelia Harmony single in my review from a few weeks back.
In the yellow corner, we have Jeh Jeh and I Fi and their label Roots Attack. The label was formed in 2015 as an extension of their existing sound system. These guys are based in France and have been releasing some interesting stuff, you can read more about them and their ‘Showcase’ album here. This particular release of the classic gospel number ‘Jericho’, features the vocal talents of The Viceroys and it has a nice mixture of traditional, vocal led, spiritual reggae, combined with modern production techniques.
I have three categories to help decide this clash, Tune, Bass and Reggae Vibes. It is not very scientific, but music isn’t, its all about the soul. So let battle commence!
Stepping Out of Babylon wins out for me on this one. This is my favourite Partial release for some time; it is deep, slow and bass heavy, just my thing. The B-side ‘Stepping Dub’, ups the bass anti as you would expect, I am looking forward to getting this on the turntable and feeling those speakers shake. Unfortunately my mp3 copy doesn’t do it justice, its tailor made for a big amp and big speakers.
‘Jericho’, being a more vocal led track slightly loses out here, although there is a good use of drums to add some depth of sound. It does have the advantage of being a four track 12” though, so if you like longer mixes, there are a couple of very decent dub workouts. It is a close one this.
Tune, Melody and Lyrics
As much as I love Michael Rose, Jericho wins here due to those close harmonies from The Viceroys. The single is dripping with experience and history and as it is a gospel tune, it was always going to have that harmonic edge. Both have religious and spiritual lyrics, so nothing to separate them there. One plus from the Partial release, is that I have discovered the Michael Rose African Roots album and now have the job of tracking that down.
I am not sure how to define this category, the best I can say is that it is all about the gut feeling you get when you first listen to a track. Both of these releases are excellent singles, but I must just give this one to Stepping Out of Babylon, as I do like my reggae, dark, heavy and skanky. Jericho is more ethereal and spiritual, which has its place and if it caught me in a different mood I might have given it the nod…. different strokes for different folks I guess.
So with a 2-1 win the victor this time is Partial Records and Stepping Out of Babylon, congratulations Liam!
Both releases are available at the label’s respective Bandcamp sites, Partial Records is here and Roots Attack can be found at this link. This is the first time that I have run this feature; I would be interested in knowing what you thought. Any comments on which single you prefer would also be very welcome. Give it a social media share as well if you can…… Bless, Paper Lion.