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Trojan giveth and Trojan taketh away

There's been a small but steady stream of Scratch re-releases in the past few months, mainly a series of great 12" singles from Trojan. No word as to any new collections from Heartbeat, Pressure Sounds, or Motion in 2004, but we can keep our fingers crossed. Naturally, reggae trainspotters always debate the merit of another Scratch collection when there are gems by other producers waiting to be re-released, but given that there is still so much dynamite material out there, I say keep them coming.

Reggae expert Dave Hendley has been working with Trojan to release a series of 12" singles that nicely re-create the look of the originals while sounding much cleaner than the scratchy wallet-breakers on E-Bay.

Trojan's latest 12" is the killer "History" by Carlton Jackson b/w Junior Delgado's "Sons Of Slaves", complete with an Upsetter Disco Bum sleeve. Also just released is the incendiary Upsetter discomix of "City Too Hot" b/w the rare "Lion A De Winner" (not to be confused with "The Lion" on Return Of The Super Ape). The epic "Free The Prisoners" b/w "Chase Them", is also available, complete with the original sleeve art. Then there is Scratch's infamous Lion Of Judah release "Judgement Ina Babylon" - the tune where he accuses Chris Blackwell of being a vampire. This was reissued last year, but sadly in a plain white sleeve; this new Trojan release reproduces the dynamite sleeve art depicting a shocked Lee Perry encountering Count Blackwell in a wheat field.

One 12" that receives the thumbs down is Clive Hylton's "From Creation" b/w "Satta Dub" by The Upsetters. I haven't heard this one myself, but the buzz is that not only is the quality of the tune poor, but it's a three-minute song released on a 12" for some reason. Coming later this month (March 2004) is the fantastic Leroy Sibbles tune "Garden Of Life" b/w "Jah Far I On A Pinnacle". Although available on other Trojan collections, this rare discomix will be a treat to have as a 12" again. And coming next month (April 2004) is "Bad Weed" by Junior Murvin b/w the deadly "Cross Over".

Trojan also have two new Scratch collections in the works, Dub Triptych and Lee Perry In Dub. No details are available yet on In Dub, but Dub Triptych is a 2-CD set that will combine Blackboard Jungle Dub, Cloak And Dagger, and Revolution Dub. Of the three, only Cloak And Dagger has never been released on CD, while Blackboard Jungle and Revolution Dub have only been available on less-than-stellar CD releases. So while most serious Scratch fans will have these already, it's nice to see them get a proper CD release after all these years.

Naturally, reggae trainspotters always debate the merit of another Scratch collection.

Speaking of Blackboard Jungle, a new label from England, Auralux, is re-releasing the original version of this classic dub album on LP. Entitled Upsetters 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle, this sounds like a real must-have for fans. The original record was released in very limited quantities in Jamaica -- only 300 in fact. Since then, it's been issued in various forms that all vary in quality. Auralux acquired a mint copy of the original pressing which they dubbed and mastered for this release. In addition to the Blackboard Jungle album, Auralux has also included four unreleased tracks. This sounds really exciting, and the fact that the intrepid David Katz is involved with the release makes it sound completely bonafide. There is some confusion as to when this will hit the streets, but it looks like sometime in April 2004.

Another Trojan release that has a Scratch connection is the Club Dread soundtrack, which features "Shocks Of Mighty" by The Wailers, "Rub & Squeeze" by Lee Perry and The Soulettes, and Scratch's crazy "Jungle Lion". While the movie looks awful, the soundtrack looks great, with tunes by Yellowman, Toots & The Maytals, and Gregory Isaacs - certainly not your usual Hollywood soundtrack fare.

Finally, in the "why bother" category from Trojan comes Blessed Love: Jamaican Producers 1960-1969, which gathers together a bunch of well-worn ska, rocksteady, and reggae numbers. Lee Perry is represented with "Tighten Up", "Return Of Django" and "My Cup". Yawn.

Trojan has also decided to delete a large number of their back catalogue, including some choice Scratch collections. In the "get 'em while you still can" category are: Give Me Power, Upsetting The Nation, Chapter 2 Of Words, On The Wire, Double Seven, The Upsetter Compact Set, Open The Gate, Build The Ark, and The Upsetter Collection. Bets are that either these will eventually be re-released with new packaging, or that the material on them will show up on new Trojan collections in the future.

March 2004