Thursday, June 1, 2017

Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Hopeton Lewis "There She Goes" b/w Vin Gordon and The Supersonics "Reggay Trombone," Johnny Clarke and the Flying Vipers "Highest Region" b/w "Highest Version," Mungo's Hi Fi featuring Johnny Clarke "Rain Keeps Falling" b/w "Spring Shower Dub"

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Hopeton Lewis "There She Goes" b/w Vin Gordon and The Supersonics "Reggay Trombone" (heavyweight 7" vinyl single, Trojan Records, 2017): This limited edition Record Store Day 2017 release boasts two unreleased Duke Reid productions from Treasure Island's archives. As both cuts are fantastic, one wonders why they lay hidden until now (perhaps the almost ridiculous abundance of incredible music in JA at the time made it difficult to choose what to release?). Lewis' sprightly rocksteady track (love the combination of flute and sax here) masks the heartache of the lyrics: "There she goes/And I'm lonely once again/There she goes/And I don't know where she's going/But she's gone, gone, gone." "Reggay Trombone" spotlights Vin Gordon's t-bone chops as he's backed by Tommy McCook's Supersonics on this cheerful and lively early/skinhead reggae instrumental. (Copies are still out there to be had at reasonable prices.)

Johnny Clarke "Highest Region" b/w Flying Vipers "Highest Version" (green 7" vinyl single, Jump Up Records, 2017): Phenomenal roots singer Johnny Clarke is supported by Boston's reggae/dub masters Flying Vipers on this excellent single (unofficially titled Johnny Clarke Meets Flying Vipers). The atypical and unsettling beat and stripped-to-the-bone dubby instrumental backing on "Highest Region" provides a sharp contrast to Clarke's plaintive chant of "We want, we want, we want to go home/To Zion, away from Babylon" (the restlessness and unease in the music won't be calmed until there's deliverance from evil). Its dub "Highest Version" is even further deconstructed to great effect. This is definitely one of the more unusual dub releases you'll find this year and very much worth owning.

Mungo's Hi Fi featuring Johnny Clarke "Rain Keeps Falling" b/w "Spring Shower Dub" (7" vinyl single, Scotch Bonnet Records, 2017): For Record Store Day 2017, Glasgow-based Mungo's Hi Fi created a fantastically spare and seductive new roots riddim track for Johnny Clarke to sing his message of love over ("Rain keeps falling/And my body is calling/You're my one and only/I don't want to be lonely/You're my pride and joy/We were meant to be/Life is just for living/Love is what I'm giving"). Notably, this cut and its great dub version feature the "flying cymbals" that harken back to Clarke's first hit in 1974 with Bunny Lee, Earl Zero's "None Shall Escape the Judgement." As to be expected, Mungo's Hi Fi and Clarke deliver nothing short of the best.

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