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Big boy, watch I-man good!

The latest Scratch collection from Heartbeat is entitled Cutting Razor: Rare Cuts From The Black Ark, an excellent collection of Black Ark killers — most of which have never been released. Featuring sleeve notes from the upsetting David Katz and 17 choice cuts, Cutting Razor is all killer, no filler. Let me watch its size, it's dangerous:

1. Cutting Razor - Junior Byles And The Versatiles
The album starts off with an alternate version of The Versatiles' stinging "Cutting Razor", which features a lusher arrangement than the sparse original. Junior Byles takes the lead vocal, making this the definitive version of the tune.

2. Staring - Time Unlimited

Time Unlimited are perhaps best known for their haunting repatriation tune "Africa We Are Going Home". Here the group sounds quite jaunty, with enthusiastic DJ work from Jah Vill and some corny "doo be doo be doo" backing vocals.

3. Let's Fall In Love - Junior Murvin
"Let's Fall In Love" is a playful tune from Junior Murvin, apparently taken from the second album he recorded for Scratch that remains unreleased. While rather twee, this sounds like it could have been a hit single.

4. What A Sin - Lee Perry
Sounding like an out-take from the Roast Fish, Collie Weed And Cornbread album, "What A Sin" was actually recorded around 1980, when Scratch was adopting his Pipecock Jackxson alter-ego. It's a neat tune where Scratch scolds wayward women, baldheads, and soldiers.

5. Sufferers Time - The Heptones
This is the 7" version of the Heptones' classic "Sufferer's Time", which is nice to have if (like me) you've only heard the album version from Party Time.

6. One Step Forward - Max Romeo
"Straight to Michael Manley's head" is where "One Step Forward" is aimed, according to Max Romeo himself in the sleeve notes. It's kind of an odd choice for this collection, as it's neither an alternate or a 7" mix.

7. Righteous Judgement - The Upsetters
"Righteous Judgement" is an early Black Ark instrumental, featuring a bouncy Family Man bassline, and sounds as if it was a rhythm track for a vocal tune, rather than meant to be a straight instrumental.

8. Black Candle - Leo Graham
9. Big Tongue Buster - Leo Graham

An obeah saga by Black Ark stalwart Leo Graham. He's joined by Prince Jazzbo on an alternate mix of "Big Tongue Buster", which flow together to form a poor man's discomix. Although "Buster" is always credited to Prince Jazzbo, the toaster in question doesn't sound like Jazzbo; another Black Ark mystery to be solved.

10. Come Along - The Bluebells
One of the most heavily pirated Scratch productions, "Come Along" by The Blue Bells is a rather ethereal tune calling for an escape from Babylon.

11. Yama Khy - U Roy And The Children
Guaranteed to put a smile on your face is the wonderful "Yama Khy" by U Roy & The Children - the children being Scratch's young son Omar and daughter Marsha, providing a childish chant for U Roy's toast over the Mighty Diamonds' outstanding "Talk About It".

12. Land Of Love - Sons Of Light
An often overlooked Black Ark killer is "Land Of Love" by the mysterious Sons Of Light. Previously available on Trojan's Build The Ark, this version is much cleaner.

13. Feelings - Sharon Isaacs
Yikes. The one clunker on Cutting Razor is Sharon Isaacs' "Feelings", which even in an alternate mix is still to be avoided.

14. Mister Craven - Junior Murvin
Junior Murvin's "Mister Craven" will most likely startle fans, since Junior foregoes his famous falsetto and does the vocal in a treble instead. Once again, we're given a glimpse into what Junior's second album for Scratch would have been like.

15. Walk The Streets - The Upsetters
An unidentified vocal group sings the somber "Walk The Streets", perhaps my favorite song on the album. Credited to the Upsetters, this tune refers to the peace treaty that was struck in 1978 between the political gangs who made the streets of Kingston so dangerous. A nice companion to Kiddus I's "Security In The Streets", also recorded at the Black Ark and commemorating the same event.

16. 4 And 20 Dreadlocks - Evan Jones
A discomix of Evan Jones' bouncy tune, based on an old English nursery rhyme.

17. Judgement - Time Unlimited
Time Unlimited concludes the album with the chugging "Judgement", which warns that judgement is "sailing along, so we got to be strong".

The wonderful painting of Scratch on the cover of Cutting Razor was done by artist Robert Steinhilber, who was nice enough to pass along a 8.5 x 11" print of his work to me about a month before Cutting Razor was released. Due to an oversight at Heartbeat, Robert wasn't credited on the sleeve notes, so big up Robert for his work.

June 2003