Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., June 21, 2002
Dennis BrownMoney in My Pocket (Trojan)
Dennis BrownDennis Brown in Dub (Heartbeat)
Niney the ObserverMicrophone Attack: Niney the Observer 1974-78 (Blood & Fire)
Head Shot: Reggae Instrumentals, Dubs and Other Oddities(Heartbeat)
Rock On: Greatest Hits From the Observer Label(Heartbeat) It was back in 1971 that the apocalyptic chant "Blood and Fire" turned Jamaica on its ear, earning Song of the Year honors and helping usher in a period of Rasta-dominated roots reggae Bob Marley later dubbed "Rebel Music." The singer of that prescient tune soon became heralded as a popular and visionary producer known as Niney the Observer. A contemporary and close musical colleague of Lee "Scratch" Perry, Niney forged a potent dreadbeat sound that proved tremendously popular and influential in Jamaica from the early Seventies into the Eighties, scoring countless hits for reggae's biggest stars. Some of Niney's best work has just become available on a slew of new and recent reissues. A good overview of his work is provided on Rock On: Greatest Hits From the Observer Label. This terrific compilation offers many obscure gems and previously unreleased extended mixes by the likes of Gregory Isaacs, Michael Rose, Delroy Wilson, and others. Niney's most enduring success came with the winning combination of reggae's Crown Prince, Dennis Brown, backed by the mighty Soul Syndicate band. The innumerable classics from these collaborations have long been available on Dennis Brown's Heartbeat albums Some Like It Hot and Open the Gates, and on the new Trojan reissue Money in My Pocket. Some stunning dubs and wicked DJ remixes of these Brown tunes are now among the new treasure trove of Niney reissues. The best of the lot is Microphone Attack: Niney the Observer 1974-78. It finds the cream of that era's DJs, including U-Roy, Big Youth, Dillinger, and I-Roy, toasting outrageously over D. Brown's silken vocals and Niney's crucial riddems. Any way you cut it, this is simply murderous stuff and comes highly recommended. Also excellent is Dennis Brown in Dub, which highlights Niney's mastery at the controls, taking 20 of Brown's tunes from the previously mentioned albums and turning them into reverbed, echo-plated, rhythmic space journeys. If all this isn't enough to satiate you, the icing on the cake is the appropriately titled Head Shot: Reggae Instrumentals, Dubs and Other Oddities. This intriguing array of Niney riddem rarities spotlights some of the underappreciated but vital instrumentalists, like saxophonist Tommy McCook, trumpeter Bobby Ellis, and percussionist Noel "Scully" Sims, who've enlivened literally hundreds of reggae sessions. Respect due. These reissues stand as a glowing testament to one of reggae's foremost producers and visionaries.
(Money in My Pocket, Head Shot)
(Dennis Brown in Dub)