Bim Sherman: Across The Red Sea


On-U Sound 1982.  On-U LP 17


It’s been too long since I posted any On-U material, so to remedy that here’s an early release from Bim Sherman.  For me his voice is so beautiful that I’m happy to listen to pretty much anything he recorded, but even without that, this is a strong dub album as you’d expect from the label.  It’s not as experimental as the material they became best known for – sometimes it’s straight up reggae, sometimes pleasing but predictable dub, but this is a solid effort from guys who really know what they’re doing.

My copy looks absolutely mint, but unfortunately crackles in places.  Somehow the crackles remind me of the handful of Jamaican pressed singles I have so it’s not as annoying as it might be.

Gary Clail: End Of The Century Party


On-U Sound 1989.  ON-U LP49


I’ve been ripping too much indiepop lately, so here’s a change of mood to the ever reliable dub label, On-U Sound; this time Gary Clail.

This was his second album, easier on the ear than his earlier outings with Tackhead.  Here he collaborates to good effect with On-U labelmates Dub Syndicate (more from them later), Barmy Army and most notably the singer Bim Sherman whose silky voice is enough to stop you in your tracks.

His political fire hasn’t dimmed though – on this album he rails against corporate power (Two Thieves and a Liar, Privatise The Air) and a remarkable anti-meat eating track, Beef.  I’m a vegetarian, but if there’s one thing likely to get me back on the burgers it’s the likes of Morrissey and his absurd preaching.  Here though Clail tells it like it is and leaves the listener to draw conclusions.  I have a better version of this track on a single which I’ll post at some point.

The Beatnigs: Television


Alternative Tentacles 1988.  VIRUS 71T


The Beatnigs were a short lived project led by Michael Franti who went on to form the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy.  They made only one album, from which this single was taken.  It’s an interesting mix of punk, hip-hop and industrial, and while it is very much of its time, it still works 25 years after the event.  The single version was reworked by Adrian Sherwood and the On-U crew.

I miss politics in music.  I remember during the Iraq war the intense irritation of Neil Young when he felt obliged to make an angry album about it because no-one else had.  OK, it wasn’t a great album, but the anger politics can inspire has made as much great music as it has bad.  This track deals with a theme that is as important now as it was then and is an old one in media studies.  Television it argues, fills so much of our lives with its banal garbage that it crowds out what’s important.  While the rich fleece us for every penny we’ve got, instead of doing something about it, we obsess over X Factor.  I don’t really watch TV, but I obsess over music and maybe that’s as bad.

Barmy Army: The English Disease


On U Sound 1989. On-U LP48


An odd album for me to own because my disinterest in football is total.   I’ve always been a sucker though for anything on On-U, and I like the idea of a thousands-strong male voice choir.

In case you didn’t know, this is the On-U crew with their usual dubbed out genius, accompanied by recordings of football chants which wander in and out of the mix.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s worth it for when it does…

It’s a curious mix of piss-take (donkeys playing football on the cover) and homage – these guys are clearly fans.  It’s about much more than just the game – it’s about how it fits with the English psyche.  I didn’t spot any reference to the hideous racism oozing off the terraces in those days which seems an odd omission, but then I’m hardly in a position to make any sort of comment about football culture.

Side two is a bit crackly in places I’m afraid, but it’s perfectly listenable.

African Head Charge: Great Vintage Vol 1


On-U Sound 1989; ON-UCD02


A dose of superb otherworldly dub here from African Head Charge on Adrian Sherwood’s endlessly interesting On-U Sound label.

This is a compilation containing most of the tracks from AHC’s first and fourth albums, My Life In A Hole In The Ground (1981) and Off The Beaten Track (1986).  The band has had a constantly shifting line-up but is essentially the Jamaican percussionist  Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah with Adrian Sherwood providing studio trickery.  The result is like nothing which had gone before.  The usual dub effects are present, but instead of the Jamaican rhythms you’d expect, the inspiration comes from Africa which gives the album a completely different feel.  Noah later moved to Ghana, so this mixing of the Jamaican and the African was more than skin deep.

This is really experimental stuff and sounds like music from another planet, but it’s surprisingly listenable for something so groundbreaking.  For me the standout is Far Away Chant which sounds like we’re earwigging on a long forgotten religious ceremony.

On-U re-issues African Head Charge material from time to time.  Best buy right now is the Japanese Triple CD which combines Off the Beaten Track, Songs of Praise and In Pursuit of Shashamane Land.


Primal Scream, Irvine Welsh & On-U Sound: The Big Man And The Scream Team Meet The Barmy Army Uptown


Creation 1996.  crescd 194


A marriage made in heaven, this.  Primal Scream are absolutely at their peak, Irvine Welsh is the author of Trainspotting and I’ve been nuts about On-U ever since their bargain Pay It All Back sampler tempted me into the world of dub for the first time.

What we have is classic Primal, dubbed up by On-U with Welsh reading from Trainspotting over the top, made for the European Cup in 1996.  Of the three versions, it’s only the first which is really essential listening.

It wasn’t the only time On-U got involved with football – under the moniker The Barmy Army  they did a album full of football crowd samples called The English Disease.  If the useless slacker sorting my phono stage ever finishes it, I’ll rip my vinyl copy and post it here.  In the meantime, it’s CDs only I’m afraid.

I can’t imagine anyone needs further recommendations for Primal Scream, but just in case, Screamadelica is the one to have, but I also like Xtrmntr and their pretty decent attempt to be Exile On Main St era Stones on Give Out But Don’t Give Up.  Yes, I know most people hate that one, but I’m not most people.