Sunday, 31 May 2009

"War Ina Babylon – An Island Reggae Anthology" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2009 Universal/Island 3CD BOX SET of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"…You Make My Heart Go Giddy Up…You Set My World on Fire..."

Released 25 May 2009 - "War Ina Babylon: An Island Reggae Anthology" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Universal Island 531 833-1 (Barcode 600753183311) is a 64-track 3CD Mini Box Set with music spanning between 1962 and 2005. It was released as part of the Island Records 50th Anniversary celebrations (1959-2009) and as such contains some of the label's hardest-to-find music/vinyl - much of which has never been on CD before.

Fans have eagerly awaited this box set of remasters and frankly frank - it’s been worth the 'irration in the nation'. Here's a detailed breakdown of the tracks with catalogue numbers provided for the first time (most songs are UK 7” singles unless otherwise noted):

Disc 1 - "The Harder They Come - Ska To Reggae 1959-1973" (76:55 minutes):
1. Boogie in My Bones – LAUREL AITKEN (1965 UK 7" single, Island WI-198, A)
2. We're Gonna Love – WILDRED 'JACKIE' EDWARDS (1963 UK MONO LP "The Most Of Wilfred Jackie Edwards" on Island ILP 906)
3. Darling Patricia – OWEN GRAY (1962 UK 7" single, Island WI-002, A)
4. Forward March – DERRICK MORGAN (1962 UK 7" single, Island WI-011, A)
5. Housewives Choice – DERRICK MORGAN & PATSY (1962 UK 7" single, Island WI-018, A)
6. Honour Your Mother And Father – DESMOND DEKKER (1963 UK 7" single, Island WI-054, A)
7. King Of Kings – JIMMY CLIFF (1963 UK 7" single, Island WI-070, A)
8. Exodus – ERNEST RANGLIN (1963 UK 7" single, Island WI-128, A) - Instrumental
9. Eastern Standard Time – DON DRUMMOND & THE SKATALITES (1964 UK 7" single, Island WI-149, A) - Instrumental
10. My Boy Lollipop – MILLIE (SMALL) (a 1964 song on the 1967 UK MONO LP "The Best Of Millie Small" on Island ILP 953 - UK 7" single credited to MILLIE)
11. Carry Go Bring Come – JUSTIN HINDS & THE DOMINOES (1964 UK 7" single, Island WI-154, A)
12. Bonanza Ska – CARLOS MALCOM & HIS AFRO JAMACIAN RHYTHMS (1965 UK 7" single, Island WI-173, A)
13. Sweet William – MILLIE (SMALL) (as per 10)
14. Dance Crasher – ALTON ELIS & THE FLAMES (1965 UK 7" single, Island WI-235, A)
15. Guns Fever – THE BABA BROOKS BAND (1965 UK 7" single, Island WI-229, A)
16. Take It Easy – HOPETON LEWIS (1967 UK MONO LP "Take It Easy: Rocksteady With Hopeton Lewis" on Island ILP 957)
17. On The Beach – THE PARAGONS (1967 UK 7" single, Island WI-3045, A)
18. You Don't Care (You'll Want Me Back) – THE TECHNIQUES (1967 UK MONO LP "Duke Reid's Rock Steady" on Island ILP 958 – a VARIOUS ARTISTS compilation featuring The Techniques)
19. Stop That Train – KEITH & TEX (1967 UK 7" single, Island WI-3091, A)
20. Rock Steady – ALTON ELLIS & THE FLAMES (as per 18)
21. My Conversation – THE UNIQUES (1968 UK 7" single, Island WI-3122, A)
22. Ride Your Donkey – THE TENNORS (1968, Island WI-3188, A)
23. Take Five – VAL BENNETT (1968 UK 7" single, Island WI-3146, aka "The Russians Are Coming - Take Five")
24. Hold You Jack – DERRICK MORGAN (1968 UK 7" single, Island WI-3159, A)
25. The Harder They Come – JIMMY CLIFF (1972 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6139, A)
26. Breakfast In Bed – LOMA BENNETT (1972 UK 7" single, Blue Mountain BM-1013, A)
27. This Is Reggae Music – ZAP POW (1973 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6181, A)

Disc 2 - "Party Time, Roots, Dub & Lovers 1973-1979" (78:29 minutes):
1. Book Of Rules – THE HEPTONES (1973 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6179, A)
2. Marcus Garvey – BURNING SPEAR (1975 UK LP "Marcus Garvey" on Island ILPS 9355)
3. King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown – AUGUSTUS PABLO (1975 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6226, A)
4. Carry Go Bring Come (Reggae Version) – JUSTIN HINDS & THE DOMINOES (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6261, A - Remake of a 1964 track)
5. Reggae Got Soul – TOOTS & THE MAYTALS (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6296, A)
6. Police And Thieves – JUNIOR MURVIN (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6316, A)
7. Soldier And Police War – JAH LION (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6356, A)
8. War Ina Babylon – MAX ROMEO (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6283, A)
9. Back To Africa – ASWAD (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6312, A)
10. Roast Fish And Corn Bread – LEE PERRY (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6326, A)
11. Cokane In My Brain – DILLINGER (1977 UK 7" single, Black Swan WIP 6416, A) miscredited in booklet as WIP 6334)
12. Ballistic Affair – LEROY SMART (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6353, A)
13. Party Time – THE HEPTONES (1976 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6364, A)
14. 96 Degrees In The Shade – THIRD WORLD (1977 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6413, A)
15. Ska Wars – RICO (1978 UK 12” single on Island IPR 2006, A) (miscredited as IPR 2002)
16. Prodigal Son – STEEL PULSE (1978 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6449, A)
17. Want Fi Goh Rave – LINTON KWESI JOHNSON (1979 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6494, A)
18. Love And Devotion – JIMMY RILEY (1981 UK LP "Rydim Driven" on Island ILPS 9671 (miscredited as released in 1979))
19. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner – BLACK UHURU (1980 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6626, A)

Disc 3 - "Welcome To Jamrock 1980-2005" (79:26 minutes):
1. (Stalk Of) Sensimilla – BLACK UHURU (1980 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6626, A)
2. Warrior Charge – ASWAD (1980 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6646, A)
3. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – SHEILA HYLTON (1980 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6671, A)
4. Fort Augustus – JUNIOR DELGADO (1981 Various Artists LP called "Sly And Robbie Present Taxi" on Island ILPS 9662)
5. One Love Jamdown – PAPA MICHIGAN & GENERAL SMILEY – (1980 UK 12” single on Island/Tuff Gong IPR 2035, A)
6. Sitting And Watching – DENNIS BROWN (1982 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6777, A)
7. Night Nurse – GREGORY ISAACS (1982 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6800, A)
8. Pass The Kouchie – THE MIGHTY DIAMONDS (1982 UK 7" single, Island WIP 6838, A)
9. What is Life – BLACK UHURU (1984 UK 7" single, Island IS 150, A)
10. Revolution – DENNIS BROWN (1983 UK 12” single on Island/Taxi IPR 2059, A)
11. Trouble You A Troble Me – INI KAMOZE (1983 UK 12” single on Island/Taxi IPR 2061, A)
12. Oh What A Feeling – GREGORY ISAACS (1983, Island/Taxi TX 03, A)
13. Don’t Turn Around – ASWAD (1988, Island/Mango IS 341, A)
14. Tease Me – CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS (1983, Island/Mango CIDM 806, A)
15. Boom Shack A Lack – APACHE INDIAN (1993, on the "Nuff Vibes EP" Island CID 560)
16. Murder She Wrote – CHAKA DEMUS & PLIERS (1994, Island/Mango CIDM 812)
17. Whine And Grine – PRINCE BUSTER (1998, Island CID 691)
18. Welcome To Jamrock – DAMIEN MARLEY (2005, Island MCSTD 40432)

LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT has penned the extremely detailed 28-page booklet. Reggae fans will know his name - he co-authored the fabulous "Young Gifted & Black" book about Trojan Records and also did the well-knowledgeable liner notes for the Deluxe Editions of Tighten Up 1 and 2 (see separate reviews for all 3). Each page features 3 pictures beside the text showing rare label variations, artist photos, obscure album sleeves, trade adverts, music industry charts...etc. If I was to complain it's that the booklet is small and the pictures hard to see let alone appreciate – and where’s Bob Marley – their biggest Reggae star?

The remastering is done by TIM DEBNEY at Fluid Mastering and being Reggae Music the sound quality ranges from muddy and awful in the early Sixties to sublime in the Seventies and Eighties - Disc 2 and 3 being particularly good - warm, clear and ballsy without being too brash. And it has to be said that sheer charm of the Sixties Ska on Disc 1 shines through regardless of production values.

The song choices are clever too - the rare 12" IPR series that has been reissued by other labels because you just can't get the originals other than in battered condition - the superb LP-only songs like The Techniques track on "Duke Reid's Rock Steady" - an album I've seen once in my life. Purists will however cringe at the inclusion of Aswad's horridly commercial "Don't Turn Around" (I bet their bank-accounts loved it though) but will appreciate the inclusion of their superb brass and harmonica-driven instrumental "Warrior Charge" which is very hard to find now (I’ve seen it at 4 times its Price Guide value). It all goes a bit pear-shaped towards the end of Disc 3 but "Whine and Grine" and "Boom Shack A Lack" are still great fun.

There’s always been something magical about Island Records and Reggae Music and this fabulous little Box set only hammers that home. Top-notch jam rock and big time recommended…

PS: it's companion volume "Meet On The Ledge" (pictured below) is reviewed separately

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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