“The 1987 album known Time Boom X De Devil Dead (yeah, it’s a mouthful, but why shouldn’t it be?) is one of the greatest three way musical collisions that ever happened, and further evidence that you just can’t trust the Music Biz when it comes to getting superlative noise from creators to appreciators. In fact, it may just be the whole reason for this list (the best stuff you’ve probably never heard). The music and science lovers in question here being i) Lee “Scratch” Perry (having recently split Jamaica for the UK), ii) the Dub Syndicate (absolute truth in advertising), and iii) Adrian Sherwood (mix magician extraordinaire) all taking the night train together, feeling no pain, even as the Cold War reality of the moment kept burning hotter and hotter, almost as if the only conceivable constructive action was to keep moving, keep grooving, keep smoking the ganja and cranking the echo, and spilling the mad truth in hopes it might someday one day, by whatever improbable means, finally find the sort of ears that need it, want it, maybe even deserve it. Time Boom X De Devil Dead. Seriously, seek it out — possibly the greatest album ever that hardly anyone’s heard.” (Philip Random)
The Clash‘s take on Willie Williams’ Armagideon Time wasn’t included on Sandinista. In fact, it was released the previous year on the Black Market Clash 10-inch (a loose and cool collection of various b-sides and whatnot), but it came to my ears at almost exactly the same time as Sandinista care of a mixtape a friend made which was all Clash, all to some degree not punk or even rock, more the groovy, strange, dub-induced stuff which comprised so much of Sandinista‘s six sides, pissing off so many of the old school punks (but f*** those reactionary idiots anyway), and very much sucking me in, affirming me in my growing impression that whatever was going on out there culturally speaking, the world had changed profoundly in the last year or two.
My world anyway. Something to do with apocalypse, end times, armagideon – not coming, already upon us, and not really that bad, not if you had the right kind of eyes (and ears). I can even remember the precise moment it all came clear. I was tripping on some middle-grade LSD, out wandering the suburban sprawl with a house fire in the near distance, a calamity of sirens, smoke, people coming and going in the encroaching dusk, a whole block like a war zone. But I was somehow okay with it. Maybe because I had that mixtape playing on my walkman, Armagideon Time, the stretched out dub version guiding me through all the smoke and confusion like it was all just a movie, but not one I was watching, one I was in. Like, here it is, pilgrim, the Apocalyptic Now. Get used to it, because it ain’t goin’ away. It’s not pretty but it may be beautiful.” (Philip Random)
“In which Lee Scratch Perry (aka Rainford Hugh Perry), the maddest mix-doctor of them all, nails us with a powerful ember of soul fire that manages to be equal parts easy and strange. Because it’s roots reggae (always an easy groove) and it concerns the human soul (always strange). Doesn’t matter if you’re in feverishly hot Trenchtown, Jamaica, or just some pointless suburb at the north-western edge of the crumbling civilization known as Babylon. It’s all humanity if you drill deep enough.” (Philip Random)
“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s last truly great, truly world beating album, the six-sided monster known as Sandinista. In the case of One More Time (and it’s dub), that means the ideal soundtrack for an ironic walk through an upscale suburban enclave on a warm spring evening (‘must I get a witness for all this misery?’), particularly if there’s a house fire in the vicinity, sirens a-howling, black smoke rising, and you’re a little high on LSD. This actually happened to me, 1981 sometime. I ended up watching it all from maybe a block away, and thinking (not for the first time) that the Apocalypse wasn’t something that was coming, it was already here, and I was in the middle of it – and so was everybody else. Armagideon times indeed.” (Philip Random)
Another argument in favour of the Dub Syndicate (the whole On-U Sound project in general) continuing to be one of the great overlooked items in recent cultural history. Seriously. In the case of Stoned Immaculate, that means you grab a sample of Jim Morrison waxing poetic about what it’s like to be way out there at the psychedelic edge, lay it over some suitably strong and mysterious dub and voila! It hits the cool zeitgeist of summertime 1991. A stupid war has ended and with it the so-called Winter of Hate, so maybe something new and beautiful is being born. The 90s did have that vibe … for a while anyway.
“I first discovered Bankrobber via Black Market Clash, a compilation of various singles, b-sides, versions etc that came our way toward the end of 1980, perhaps driving home the point that no other outfit in the world mattered more. I mean, consider the evidence. In 1979 and 1980, The Clash release London Calling (two record set), Sandinista (three record set) and Black Market Clash which, as a subsequent CD reissue would prove, was itself just a tip of the iceberg in terms of unreleased stuff. And these non-album ‘rejects’ were often straight up brilliant as Bankrobber’s pumped up dub grooving rather forcibly argues. Hell, I know one guy who seriously considered going into a life of crime based on its simple logic of stealing form the filthy rich but not hurting anybody in the process. Then he sobered up.” (Philip Random)
“This is UB40 before they lightened up, became banal and sold gazillions of records. This is UB40 when they were still serious contenders, working the dark and delicious dub regions of the late 1970s, early 1980s, unafraid of what lurked there. In the case of Madame Medusa, that meant twelve plus minutes of serious groove that would continue to rock dance floors well into the 1990s – at least it did whenever I was given access to the turntables. What a band! What a loss!” (Philip Random)
“It’s hard to get a specific date on Bucky Skank, just sometime in the 1970s, probably post 1972, which I don’t even know for sure, it just feels right that it came from the Black Ark, Mr. Lee Scratch Perry and his Upsetters being known for their stoned and wistful wandering both in and out of time. The groove is odd, almost broken. The lyrics are mostly nonsensical to my non-Jamaican ears. But it always brings a smile.” (Philip Random)
“Lazarus eventually showed up in truncated form on the Boo Radleys‘ third album Giant Steps, arguably the greatest album ever that hardly anyone’s ever heard (except a bunch of Brits in 1993 or thereabouts), but the version you need to hear is the original 12-inch single mix with the extended and ultimately profound lead-in. Over a minute before there’s a discernible beat, almost three before the trumpets of heaven properly unleash like the Lord’s own light shining through, turning confusion to epiphany, sorrow to joy, undeath to everlasting life (there is a difference). I may not believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour, but I do believe this a helluva record.” (Philip Random)