On their latest release Tape Rolling, Pressure Sounds goes mining once again in the vaults of the great Bunny Lee, this time striking gold with vintage analog tunes by the likes of Slim Smith, Cornell Campbell, Augustus Pablo, John Holt, and more. With each Pressure Sounds album I am amazed by the sheer volume of great material that is still yet unreleased, just musical notes magnetically bound to reels of tape left to waste away in some hot storage closet in a Jamaican garage or studio.
What is even more impressive though is their ability to bring these recordings back from another place and time, fully restored with a sound quality that most modern engineers would kill for. It is a testament to the recording techniques perfected by the Jamaican producers and studio engineers, toiling away in the poorly constructed and abysmally ventilated studios of Jamaica in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Having had the unique opportunity of touring Studio One last year, I was astounded by just how oppressively hot it was inside the recording rooms and it left me with a renewed reverence and respect for the great works that were created in studios with such poor working conditions.
The tunes included on Tape Rolling have a similar sound to the original studio recordings included on their Bunny Lee Next Cut album – that very deep, warm, vintage sound of old Jamaica that plays better on vinyl than on CD. The tunes included on the album were produced by engineer/producer Bunny “Striker” Lee between 1971 and 1974. This was an interesting period for Lee, who still had not proven himself in a way which would allow him to become a fully independent and truly unbound record producer. It is during this time that he was crafting the style and sound of music – the “Striker” Lee sound – that he would become famous for. The artists included here were hungry as was Bunny Lee and it is this hunger that comes through in the tracks on the album, creating an urgency in the music that would fade in some of his later works. The master tapes are raw and the performances uninhibited. All of the strife, tension, and unbridled excitement is exposed here for everyone to hear.
For casual reggae listeners this meal may be a bit too heavy. This album is serious reggae business. If you are a fan of the poppy, Americanized, “Cali Roots” style of reggae then you may want to go for some lighter fare. Pressure Sounds releases are prepared by reggae aficionados for reggae aficionados. Make no mistake, this is your father’s reggae.
With close to 100 solid LP releases to their credit, the Pressure Sounds stamp is almost as reliable as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. They have never released lackluster material and they won’t be starting with this latest album. Tape Rolling is an exceptional collection of tracks from one of the more underappreciated periods of the early golden age of reggae. It captures some of reggae’s most beloved artists during a period of transition and great innovation for reggae and it is an album that I highly recommend.
Slim Smith – The Time Has Come (unreleased)
I Roy And Augustus Pablo – Devil’s Brother In Law (unreleased)
Ernest Wilson – Sentimental Man (Extended Mix)
Big Joe And King Tubby’s – Rasta Train
Cornell Campbell – I Wonder Why (unreleased)
U Roy Junior – Two Ton Gulletto
John Holt – Stick By Me (unreleased)
King Tubby – A Wonderful Version
Cornell Campbell – Give Me Love (unreleased)
King Tubby – Straight To The Copycat Head
Busty Brown And The Clowns – Soon I’m Gonna Make It
Horace Andy – Man Next Door (unreleased)
I Roy – Noisy Place (unreleased)
Leroy Samuels – Trying To Wreck My Life
Delroy Wilson – Any Heart Can Be Broken (unreleased)
Eric Donaldson – Cherry Oh Baby (unreleased)
I Roy – Festival Mash Up
Vin Gordon – Riding For A Fall
Cornell Campbell – My Confession (unreleased)
Slim Smith – Turning Point (unreleased)