Reggae and Scotland haven’t had a great deal of history together. Thankfully, the Glasgow-based Mungo’s Hi-Fi has been doing its level-best to rectify that anomaly, on its own, and through the Scotch Bonnet label.
The label is largely a vehicle for Mungo’s but has also furnished a slew of choice reggae, dancehall and dub acts. Puffer’s Choice highlights many of those releases.
Being of Scottish stock myself, and a connoisseur of sounds that have originated from Jamaica, this compilation was a natural choice to buy from an Auckland store last year. There was a touch of the pot luck about the purchase; I was only aware of some of the acts, but given the roster it was clearly going to be a stab in the dark that hit the centre of the heart.
It begins with a rather unusual cover, Kraftwerk’s potty electro hit, ‘The Model’, performed by Prince Fatty; it’s the only track that doesn’t credit a sidekick, though Hollie Cook is the one adding the feminine vocals in place of the Teutonic timbre. This radically alters the nature of the original, making it sound more human and reversing the lyrics from “she’s a model” to “I’m a model”. You have to assume it met with the mercurial Germans’ approval, as permission would have needed to be sought from the writers to change the lyrics.
Rolling back the vibes, The Hempolics’ ‘Love To Sing’ is reworked by Mungo’s Hi Fi into a dancefloor heavyweight, with multiple verses from Solo Banton, complete with an early reggae intro.
Parly B’s contribution, with the assistance of Viktorious, ‘What A Ting’, rails against ethnic cleansing, calling out hypocrites and parasites alike, with a very 80s dancehall background.
There’s some booming bass and rapid-fire lyrics on Zeb & Scotty’s joint effort with Disrupt on the excellent ‘Jah Run Tings’. The first side wraps up with a remix of ‘Dub Invasion’ by the Led Piperz. Keeping the horn sample lifted from the classic King Tubby/Niney The Observer track, ‘Dubbing With the Observer’ which pilots the original version, this remix strips down the riddim to a simpler shuffle. “I know the kind of music that you want us to play, I know the kind of words you want me say… it’s a dub invasion, don’t take it lightly,” sings Solo Banton.
So far so good.
The second half kicks off with a collaboration between veterans Sugar Minott and Daddy Freddy for the appropriately-titled ‘Raggamuffin Rock’. The boys trade verses and it comes out like a good cop/ bad cop interrogation; Minott’s lighter tones make you feel at home, lying on a comfortable sofa with a glass of Islay single malt to hand (or something a little mellower – Ed), but Freddy drags you out into the rain-soaked alley and hits you where it hurts. Strangely, it works.
‘Golden Rule’ gets together Naram behind the boards and Tenor Youthman on vocal duties. It’s a retro-infused ragga cut with a fat bass, and when Youthman sings “if you trouble trouble, trouble will trouble you,” it invokes the genius of 1970s Jamaican star Linval Thompson, who, to this writer, is up there with a certain Mr Marley.
Mungo’s Hi Fi feature on one of the undoubted standouts, ‘Give Thanks To Jah’ with Mr Williamz spitting rhyme after rhyme on a song that fuses Smiley Culture with Alexei Sayle: “whether you drive Mitsubishi or you drive Honda, whether you drive Mercedes or you drive dem Beamer, and it don’t really matter you a bus passenger, whether you work 9 to 5 or you an entertainer, whether you a MC or selectah.”
The album winds up with Bim One’s collaboration with Macka B, ‘Don’t Stop The Sound’ which uses a thick, wobbling future roots vibe over frantic, auction-paced toasting, and the eerie ‘Dub Controller’ by OBM, which isn’t for the feint-hearted.
Puffer’s Choice is a neat compilation of great dancehall, dub, ragga, old school reggae: and there’s not a bagpipe or bodhran in earshot.
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