Dave and Ansel Collins ‘Double Barrel: Expanded Edition’ CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

Fifty years of the Trojan reggae label this year and this album is one of the most successful of all that were released, and in the early 1970s the weekly new releases on the label was truly prolific. Interestingly, the 1971 original title track, with its unique vocal gymnastics and catchy riff, was initially released as a 45 and rocketed to the very top of the UK pop charts at a time when reggae could do no wrong and Trojan were the premier label on which to record and receive widespread media attention. The duo of Dave Barker and Ansell Collins were the de facto Simon and Garfunkel of reggae insofar as you could barely think of one without the other. How do you follow up such an instant classic? was the question posed, but in, ‘Monkey Spanner’, they had yet another quirky tune to attract the masses and that 45 again sold well to a wider audience. Produced by Winston Riley of Techniques fame and his own self-titled record label in Jamaica. Nothing quite tops either of the aforementioned, but as a whole the album stands up to repeated listens with duet operating together on ‘I The Third (aka Karaté)’, which repeated the formula and was somewhat less successful chart-wise, but another fun tune nonetheless, while individually Ansell Collins impresses on both ‘Secret Weapon’ and ‘Ten to One’, while Dave Barker takes over lead vocal duties on ‘That Girl (aka Groovy situation)’. Of the plethora of bonus cuts, an alternative version of ‘Double Barrel’, and some rarer 45’s that surfaced on the independent labels of the day such as Big Shot, one should take note equally of a cover of a Norman Whitfield Motown song, ‘It’s Summer’, and certainly reggae music during this period shared a close affiliation with the emerging soul sounds in the United States, with other memorable covers following in hot pursuit. The striking and terrific front cover graphics with a double-barreled smoking gun still never fails to impress and that can also be said for the musical content within, The usual high standard of accompanying photos and 45 label graphics and the single in particular was a major hit in other European countries at the time. A must have item in any serious reggae devotees collection and a fine continuation of the series, rediscovering the historically significant albums of the era.

Tim Stenhouse