Like so many London-based youngsters caught up in the vortex of Punk, Barry Ashworth first caught the roots and dancehall reggae bug when legendary DJs like Don Letts spun bass-heavy Jamaican classics between sets at trail-blazing late ‘70s haunts like The Roxy or Camden’s Electric Ballroom.
It was a combination of this long-standing passion for roots reggae and the mid-90s Big Beat boom that would shape the sound of Ashworth and acolyte Jason O’Byrne’s Dub Pistols project, while later recording sessions with the likes of Horace Andy, The Specials’ Terry Hall and the now sadly late Gregory Isaacs have only enhanced their reputation for releasing quality reggae-tinged material.
Consequently, the first of a new series of releases on the Roots label celebrating Jamaica’s Golden Age seems the perfect opportunity for Ashworth to trawl through his old dub, early dancehall 7”s and 12”s and sequence 14 dynamite pre-digital classics on one LP, the resulting ‘Hit Sound of The Dub Pistols At Midnight Rock.’
It’s an inspired collection. Opening with the almost hymnal ‘Words of my Mouth’ from AL CAMPBELL, the selections move seamlessly from the Poppier end of the spectrum (SUGAR MINOTT’S silky smooth ‘Steal Away Girl’, GEORGE NOOKS’ fab ‘I’ve Got to Go’) through to deep-rooted Rastafarian anthems (BARRY BROWN’S ‘Movements of Jah’) and the otherworldly ‘Blow Mr. Hornsman Blow’ where ghostly snatches of Dave Brubeck’s jazz standard ‘Take Five’ waft through a gaping door of dub.
Bearing in mind Ashworth is a self-confessed fan of producer Nkrumah ‘Jah’ Thomas, it’s no surprise we also get a generous collection from his archive. This is most definitely a good thing, as the goodies include toast-heavy DJ workouts (RANKING TOYAN’S ‘Palaving Spree’) and ‘Rain Dub’ from ROOTS RADICS VS. THE SCIENTIST, a wonderfully wobbly dub with snatches of ambulance sirens, ratchet guitars and bass frequencies sliding dangerously into the red. Perhaps best of all, though, is the relatively obscure EARLY B’S ‘History of Jamaica’ (“Jamaica is a country inna de Caribbean Sea...700 miles from Miami”): a brilliant geographical Roots classic and a real find to boot.
With its’ 14 tracks clocking in at a leave-you-wanting-more 48 minutes, ‘The Hit Sound of the Dub Pistols At Midnight Rock’ is an absolute must-have for all self-respecting lovers of old school Roots Reggae. If you’ve previously given headphone space to Barry Myers’ ace ‘Scratchy Sounds’ or any of the magical Trojan Box Sets then you’ll be right at home here.
Dub Pistols online
Roots Records website
Roots Records on MySpace