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Dennis Brown, The Niney Years

Dennis Brown, The Niney Years

Dennis Brown, The Niney Years

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One of the key partnerships in both reggae and in music worldwide.


Dennis Brown, The Niney Years

There’s a strong case to be made for Dennis Brown’s early to mid 70s work with Winston “Niney The Observer” Holness being hailed as his very best. Firstly these rough edged fiery productions – often recorded at Randy’s and using Errol Thompson as engineer – strike the balance between the heavily soul influenced beginning, and the more resolutely Jamaican end of the decade. Secondly, there is a similar balance in Brown’s voice: deep enough to exude authority but still yet to ease into the molasses-like crooning style of later years.

Unlike the Orange Street releases of early 2008 (which opted for a scattergun selection of eras, producers and sound quality) this Heartbeat issue features an assortment of Niney helmed tracks from the aforementioned golden age to the digital days (with a couple of sans-Niney efforts to bridge the gap between). We have the Hi Rhythm Section homage West Bound Train, the blazing brass of Cassandra, the fervent Afro funk of Give A Helping Hand, and the close-to-clipping clavinet and bass of Tribulation. Standout later works include the self-produced Oh What A Day and the genuine Observer release Can’t Take Another Day. The LP - in a welcome sop to vinyl spinners - boasts two extended versions with deejay cuts.

The only grumbles - strictly from a nerdy perspective - are that not all the songs featured here are Niney productions and that many crucial Observer tunes have been missed out. Where is No More Will I Roam, Melting Pot, My Time, Open The Gates, Take A Trip, I Am The Conqueror or Live After You? And how about a few more of the great deejay versions and high pass filtered Tubbys dubs? What is really needed is a complete box set to commemorate one of the key partnerships in both reggae and in music worldwide. But until then, as an introduction to the Crown Prince at arguably his peak, this compilation will do you no wrong.

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