Various Artists Bass Culture Review

Compilation. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

An excellent series worth full marks, as every track here is an absolute winner.

David Katz 2012

The Nascente label is not really known for reggae releases. They have done a few worthy compilations of African music and some basic introductory guides to various styles, but very little in terms of music emanating from Jamaica.

So it’s unexpected indeed to find Nascente issuing what turns out to be a very excellent reggae compilation series, exploring the music’s evolution over four sets of thematic double CDs, issued to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Jamaican independence.

The real boon here is the exceptional track selection, expertly chosen by DJ Jim Layne. Many compilations mistakenly stick to pure hits, or are constrained by the catalogue of one parent label; but Bass Culture is truly diverse in scope and has many delightful obscurities to spice things up along the way.

Whether you know little of reggae or are already a seasoned fan, the music here is equally appealing. Volume 1, This Town Is Too Hot: Ska and Rocksteady, has The Techniques’ early Little Did You Know and The Ethiopians’ intense Losing You. Volume 2, Boss Sounds: Early Reggae, has Little Roy’s seminal Bongo Nyah and George Dekker’s obscure Foey Man.

The best of the bunch is Volume 3, When Reggae Was King: Roots Rockers, DJs and Dub (pictured), which has the African Brothers’ thrilling Lead Us Father, the unknown Won’t Come Easy by Sweeny & The Wailers, and Dennis Brown’s forceful Deliverance Will Come. Only slightly less compelling, Volume 4, Mash You Down: The Birth of Dancehall, has Noel Phillips’ early thriller, Youth Man, and Sister Nancy’s cautionary Bang Belly.

It’s all great stuff, and the sequencing works well, despite a few curveballs on the final volume. There are also heavyweight liner notes with each release, adapted from (BBC reviewer) Lloyd Bradley’s Bass Culture book. Unfortunately, a few factual errors have not been corrected, and the illustrations are merely scanned record sleeves and labels – archive photos would have been welcomed.

Also, some Jamaican R&B and mento could have been included on Volume 1. Nevertheless, the series gets full marks, because every track included here is an absolute winner.

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