Rock it from the ghetto to the Top of the Pops
The Mighty Striker Shoots at Hits is a Moll-Selekta retrospective of some of the biggest and best hits of Bunny “Striker” Lee’s formidable career as a producer. It culls classics—both originals and covers—from rock steady and roots reggae’s prime period in the 1970s, a time when Lee couldn’t miss (hence the title “Striker”).
Sweet-voiced Honey Boy, aka Honey Boy Martin, who made his name with the rock steady hit “Dreader Than Dread”, opens the disc with the sunny ballad “Jamaica”. Cornell Campbell follows with “Give Me Love”. The prototypical dancehall hit “I Don’t Want to Be Left Outside”, also known as “Zion Gate”, by Horace Andy is included here in its original 12” version. Roy Shirley’s “Israelites Leave Babylon” and Barry Brown’s “Natty Roots Man” introduce the rockers with a bit of spiritualism and social criticism. Johnny Clarke’s epic “Peace & Love in The Ghetto,” which extends to include the dub version, has the only female vocal in this collection.
Hortense Ellis’s cover version of “I’m Still in Love” is incredibly faithful to the original (sometimes also credited as “I’m Still in Love With You”) by her brother, Alton Ellis, but this one features a little more of a dub sensibility, with more of the echo effects for which Lee is known, although this track isn’t a dub mix. Lee is credited with helping to invent dub music, along with King Tubby. Delroy Wilson’s “Keep on Running” is another track that is unmistakably Striker, with his trademark orchestrations of organ and clavinet, chunky guitars and rolling bass, and that sense of space and depth in the drum sound. A cover of “Maga Lion” by Ronnie Davis is also a quintessential Lee production.
Jackie Edwards brings in another ballad with “Sexy Sandy”. His silky smooth vocals are even more seductive set against Striker’s skills. Like many of the most irresistible tracks on The Mighty Striker Shoots at Hits, “Love in my Heart” by Leroy Smart is presented with its dub side, a steady rocker highlighting the horns and the “flying cymbal”. That’s another innovation credited to Lee, though many others claim to be its originator, too.
The last half of this collection revisits a few artists showcased earlier. Barry Brown returns with “Lead Jah Jah Way”, another Rastafarian rocker, while Ronnie Davis comes back with the soulful “I’m Just a Man”, a cover of Alton Ellis’s “I’m Just a Guy”. Delroy Wilson’s “Riding for a Fall” is a foreboding song of lost love, while Jackie Edwards sweetly sings that “Henry” is “a bad, bad boy” for his heartbreaking ways, and he should, “Carry on, Henry, carry on / Leave the girls alone.” It’s almost romantically upbeat, despite Henry’s behavior, and the vocal on it makes you wish that “Henry” would indeed carry on. But unfortunately, this song isn’t paired with a dub.
“Rockers Under Manners” is, though. Johnny Clarke’s take on Hopeton Lewis’s “Rocka Shocka (Rockers for Me)” combines all of the elements that make a Bunny Lee-produced record so distinctively recognizable. Its dub remix, “Rockers Don’t Lead That Way” by DJ Ras Murray, rocks it from the ghetto to the Top of the Pops!
The Mighty Striker Shoots at Hits features several famous and phenomenal artists. But as the title states, it’s Striker who’s the star. Each track is evidence of Bunny Lee’s innovative creations and indispensable contributions to reggae, and to music in general. It’s a perfect primer for the reggae rookie, and will please aficionados as well, whether you’re in the USA, in the UK or down in JA.