Various ‘Once Upon a Time at King Tubby’s’ (Pressure Sounds) 4/5

Based on the concept of musical feuding in the studio between DJs who respond to one another with often humourous tirades on 45s, the latest compilation alludes to a tradition that actually predates reggae in Jamaica. In fact it is a tradition that harks back to the origins of African American folk music in the United States, yet from the 1960s became synonymous with the sound system culture of Kingston. Notable adversaries at the time included ‘confrontations’ between Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster on the one hand, and Lee Perry and Prince Buster again on the other. In extreme cicrumstances verbal fisticuffs could lead to physical violence. Happily, the only squaring up on this album is of largely good natured banter and is focused on witty put downs of one aonther by legendary DJs I Roy and Prince Jazzbo. This series of musical ripostes originated when the latter antagonised DJ Big Youth on vinyl, a supporter of Big Youth took exception to this and reputedly assaulted Prince Jazzbo outside Randy’s in Kingston. Consequently producer Bunny Lee urged I Roy to go into the studio and recount events. This in turn elicited a response from Prince Jazzbo and so the saga began to unfold. All stood to profit commercially from the 45s and the compliation features the DJ cuts, their instrumental versions backed by the Aggrovators and Revolutionaries, and even a couple of original vocals from Johnny Clarke and Derrick Morgan (who also contributes a verbal jibe at I Roy!). Needless to say there is joyful music and hilarity along the way. This is another episode, albeit a minor one, in the larger reggae jigsaw effectively put together by Pressure Sounds with a suitably cowboyesque duel on the cover to illustrate proceedings.

Tim Stenhouse