This brilliant Soul Jazz Records compilation of Jamaican reggae producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee hits the mark with 23 prime cuts of roots reggae and dub.
Dreads Enter the Gates With Praise
29 March 2019
Soul Jazz Records are one of those labels that consistently release brilliant albums. It's hard to find a mediocre release in their back catalogue. They are one of my go-to labels, a mark of quality that you know will never let you down and whenever I'm in London, it's mandatory that I visit Sounds of the Universe, my favorite record shop in the world and Soul Jazz Records own vinyl emporium. Seriously, my kids hate me for dragging them to Soho for the obligatory trawl through the records; it's so much more rewarding than buying online (hint, please open up a shop in Birmingham).
After that opening, it will come as no surprise to hear that this Bunny Lee compilation is a stormer. As the press release states, Bunny Lee is the hitmaker from Jamaica and these 23 cuts provide rock solid proof of that claim.
The son of a shoemaker, Edward O'Sullivan Lee, better known as Bunny 'Striker' Lee is a living legend and one of the greats of Jamaican music who produced, shaped and defined 1970s reggae and brought it to international audiences. Bunny started as a record plugger for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label in the early 1960s and would work with and alongside other pioneers of the Jamaican music industry before taking the step to becoming a producer in his own right. Lee produced some great early rocksteady and reggae singles, but it was the particularly fertile period between 1969-1972 that cemented his position as one of the leading producers in Jamaica. That coincided with Lee traveling to the UK to license his music to labels such as Pama and Trojan breaking the dominance of his one boss Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd.
It was to be the mid-1970s though that would see Bunny Lee establish himself as reggae producer of international repute, known for his 'flying cymbals' sound and 'house' band the Agrovators. The tracks on this album are from this period, heavy yet melodic roots reggae.
The album kicks off with one of Bunny's longtime vocal collaborators, Johnny Clarke and his "Enter Into His Gates with Praise", a beautiful slice of roots reggae with Johnny's sweet lilting vocals giving praise to Jah and Bunny's signature flying symbols high in the mix courtesy of Agrovator's drummer Carlton Davis. Next up is another longtime collaborator and fellow reggae legend King Tubby. The Dub Station beings with a slowed down, reverb-heavy version of the James Bond Goldfinger theme tune before bursting into glorious trumpets, drums, and organ. It's a sublime dub cut. Other musicians include Shorty the President and Jah Youth, appearing alongside reggae luminaries such as Dillinger, Jackie Edwards, and the Mighty Diamonds to name just a few.
But other lesser known acts are also included. The brilliant Gene Rondo track "Why You Do That" calls out a police informer, set to a heavy roots backdrop it's hard to resist the temptation to get up and skank the day away.
The balance between vocal and dub cuts is judged, and sequenced, impeccably and ensures the pace is kept up throughout the album never drifting into extending dubs. Most tracks clock in at the mid-three-minute mark with the longest cut the Uniques, Queen Majesty which comes in at a (for dub reggae) measly six minutes and two seconds.
It goes without saying that if you're into reggae, this is a must-have album, but if you are just dipping your toe in the reggae waters, and are looking to develop your reggae knowledge, then this is a great place to start.
Bunny 'Striker' Lee never misses the goal. He always hits the target!