Mr Spaulding ‘Twelve Tribes of Israel’ 2CD (Hot Milk) 4/5

mr-spaldingIt was in 1983 that a then mere nineteen year old, Renford Ferguson aka Mr Spaulding, first went into the Aquarius studios of Kingston to lay down the relatively short debut album. It is this recording that is being revisited in a new and significantly expanded edition that now extends onto two CDs with a beefed up running time of just under an hour and three-quarters, and multiple versions that take in 12″ disco, dub, 7″ and instrumental variations. In sum, a reggae fan’s treasure trove of interweaving riddims. Some have compared the recording as a whole to that of Hugh Mundell’s ‘Going Places’ and as an underrated singer amidst other better known musicians that parallel is not without merit.
The sparse instrumentation of bass and drum complete with guitar and sound effect adorn this album and its supplements from start to finish and the thunder-crushing bass in particular is among the heaviest bass this writer has ever heard and experienced on record and would make for an intoxicating (not to say deafening) listen in a dancehall proper. In style, Mr Spaulding sounds not dissimilar to the falsetto vocals of Barrington Levy whom he most resembles, though the rootsy side to Horace Andy is discernible in parts. Minimalist accompaniment permeates proceedings as on the title track which opens up in its extended 12″ format while the opener, ‘Unseen Eye’ can be viewed from its vocal, original dub and Willy dub prisms. Mr Spaulding represents but a tiny microcosm of the history of reggae and little has been heard of him since. However, it is the very capturing of a crucial moment in musical history that makes this re-issue such a treat.

Tim Stenhouse