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Some deadly tunes from the early days

Eagerly awaited after some unfortunate delays, Born In The Sky does not disappoint. This 22 track set features nothing but rare and unreleased tracks dating from the pre and early Black Ark periods. Born In The Sky was compiled and annotated by David Katz, and taken from the master tapes apparently blessed by the Upsetter himself — got to love it. Here is my track by track review of this fine collection:

1. Goosey Version (Take 2) - The Upsetters
A cool, vaguely calypso skank by the Upsetters, featuring a rollicking guitar and nice "bar room" piano by Gladdy Anderson.

2. Roll On - Roland Alphonso & The Upsetters
An instrumental version of "Pound Get A Blow" (originally voiced by The Soul Twins but miscredited to The Bleechers). Roland's sax is given a nice echo throughout.

3. Prove It Version (Take 1) - Gladdy, Val & The Upsetters
An instrumental cut of the very funny "Uncle Charley", featuring some groovy organ from Winston Wright, tinkling piano from Gladdy Anderson, and the occasional sax riff from Val Bennett. You get the feeling that they were having an informal jam session.

4. All Combine Parts 1 and 2 - The Upsetters
A six minute Upsetting medley, containing parts of "Yakety Yak", "Duppy Conqueror", and "Maccabee Version", amongst others.

5. Sign Of The Times (AKA Mean and Dangerous) (Take 7) - The Upsetters
Another cool Upsetters instrumental.

6. Lady Lady - Cynty & The Monkees
A very funky rocker from the mysterious Cynty, who sounds like a cross between Susan Cadogan and Judy Mowatt. The song uses the same rhythm that was turned into the more famous "Enter The Dragon".

7. Enter The Dragon - The Upsetters
A previously unreleased alternate take, with weirdo sound effects and vocals from Scratch, including a "testing, testing, one two three", which suggests that this was a rehearsal that ended up on tape.

8. Good Things - Prince Jazzbo
A DJ cut of Leo Graham’s "Jump It" by the Prince. The same rhythm was used for the insane "Burning Wire" by Jerry Lewis.

9. Ungrateful Set - The Versatiles
Another rendition of Junior Byles' famous "The Thanks We Get". Although Byles' version is more famous, I prefer this cut, as I've always found the backing vocals by Scratch's children a distraction.

10. Ungrateful Skank - The Upsetters
Glen Adams helped Scratch arrange this version of "Ungrateful Set", which completely de-constructs the rhythm inna upsetting style.

11. Do It Baby - Susan Cadogan
This one kind of confuses me, since it sounds exactly the same as "Nice And Easy" from Hurt So Good. Too bad there wasn't an unreleased Cadogan track or two waiting to see the light of day, as I have always loved her voice.

12. Back Weh - Dread Locks Faye
The real gem of the collection, if you ask me. Faye Bennett (Val's daughter) challenges male DJs on this track, which is presented here in a great extended version (the vocal track runs seamlessly into the dub).

13. Faye Dread Locks - The Upsetter
Faye rolls on in dub.

14. I Man Stand Still - Jimmy Riley
A great blues reggae tune from Riley ("the pressure drop, them kill I ganja crop, everything I try is a flop...").

15. Conqueror - Stranger and Gladdy
Featuring a haunting intro courtesy of Earl Morgan and Barry Llwellyn from The Heptones, this song is reminiscent of some of Higgs & Wilson's early sufferers' tunes. A melancholy must.

16. Bring It On Home - The Silvertones
I don't care for most of The Silvertones' material for Scratch, but this is a killer, with a minimal rhythm underneath the soulful vocals. Very nice.

17. Bury the Razor - Lee Perry
Along with "Back Wey", this is one of the real gems of Born In The Sky. Reminiscent of the great "Dreadlocks In Moonlight", Scratch warns weakhearts and baldheads against trying to harm him ("after the action, there shall be a reaction"). A reminder of how powerful a vocalist Scratch can be when he restrains himself.

18. Cheat Weston Head - The Upsetter
Dubwise cut of "Bury The Razor", with the bouncy rhythm on it's own. The unusual title is aimed at producer Pete Weston.

19. Life Is A Funny Thing - The Ethiopians
Very nice.

20. Prophecy - The Ethiopians
Another rootsy number from The Ethiopians.

21. Feel All Right - The Silvertones
An acoustic rehearsal from The Silvertones — Keith Coley & Gilmour Grant minus Delroy Denton — from late 1973 or early 1974. Although not as amazing as the rehearsal for "Sweets For My Sweet" (on Heartbeat's Upsetter Shop Vol. 2), it's always great to hear things like this.

22. Lady Lady (Alternate Take) - Cynty & The Monkees
This is more of a version than an alternate take, as Cynty only sings the first verse acapella and then it's instrumental after.

March 2001