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Glen Brown and Friends Rhythm Masters, Volume 1 Review

Compilation. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

...the variety of the sounds here... is irresistible.

Alwyn Turner 2005

Glen Brown's standing in the pantheon of reggae is perhaps best indicated by the note on the cover of this CD: 'Original mixes by King Tubby'. All the tracks here are produced and arranged by Brown, but his name simply doesn't carry the same weight as some of his contemporaries, hence the need to lean on his heavy friends.

At his peak in the 1970s, little of his music made it to Britain; now that deficiency is being addressed, and this compilation will go a long way to establishing his credentials as a creative force deserving wider recognition.

We start with perhaps his best-known rhythm track, "Dirty Harry" (credited to saxophonist Richard Hall) a simple two-chord pattern with descending horn riff that was re-used on dozens of singles in the mid-'70s. And indeed we then have a selection of eight of those versions - instrumentals, vocals and toasts -that ring the changes in endlessly inventive fashion. It's beautifully sequenced, gradually stripping away elements, until by track 6, "The Winner", there's virtually nothing left but spectral hints of the original, and then rebuilding it to assemble a wonderful I-Roy interpretation, "Rasta On Sunday".

After half-an-hour on the same foundation, it comes as a bit of a shock to be introduced to new rhythms halfway through the CD, and something is inevitably lost from the unity. The highlight of the remaining eight tracks is Gregory Isaac's "One One Cocoa", a tortoise-and-hare tribute to the virtues of a steady life. It also, however, shows up one of the weaknesses of the compilation, being placed next to Brown's own vocal on the same track, "Take A Step"; a fine producer, Brown simply can't compete as a singer with the likes of Isaacs.

Similarly his excursions on the melodica can't help but remind a listener of Augustus Pablo, and again Brown suffers from the comparison.

Even so, the variety of the sounds here, which also including a brace of Big Youth tracks, is irresistible.This is an overdue compilation - making the prospect of further releases on this new reissue imprint, Hot Pot, a mouth-watering prospect.

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