Tribute To Pressure Sounds

Tribute To Pressure Sounds

When I was young and first getting into music, the record sleeve was everything.  There was no internet, no MTV and most music media was devoted to artists I did not care about. So, I pored over record sleeves, dissected every bit of minutia, read every liner note and studied photos for clues about  clothing and hairstyles and how it was that a “punk” band could have a lead singer with long-ass hair like a hippie.    When I would go to a record store, I headed to the “Export” section or the “punk” section (which most stores did not have) and tried to figure out what I would like based on photos or graphics, a logo or the feel of the sleeve.  More often than not, I was right.  If the graphics were proper, if someone devoted obvious love and care to the packaging, the music within tended to be worthwhile. The best though was to come home with a new record from some band I loved and find a poster stuffed in alongside the vinyl; or a printed dust jacket with lyrics and more photos — really anything other than the total let-down of that white paper or plastic jacket.

I was always a fan of records.  As a DJ, I liked to play them; and in the same vein of sharing music, I liked to sell them.  I was never really a collector.  I came into Jamaican music via hip hop and for many years I listened to only dancehall.  I had no interest in older Jamaican music (roots, ska, rocksteady) and I would hesitate to say I played “reggae” because I was worried that I would sound like a hippie.  Gradually, this attitude wore away and I started to explore the whole wide spectrum of Jamaican music.  The thing that really caught my fancy was dub music — it had a revolutionary fervor, an anger that spoke without words.  It was music that knocked everything down, ripped time and space to shreds and then gathered it all together to build it back up — It was extreme, avant-garde innovation with no pretense.  As I really knew nothing about dub music, I reverted to my youthful self and would rifle through record bins, picking LPs based on graphics.  One of my favorite records that I picked up at that time was Prince Far I’s Cry Tuff Dub Encounter (Chapter 3) on a label called Pressure Sounds. The cover eschewed the stereotypical “Jamaican” graphics of most Dub LPs, instead featuring art-work that looked cut and paste in the best punk rock tradition. And the music itself was deeply quirky, alternating between the thunderous voice of Far I with great, echo-drenched swathes of drum, bass, flute and percussion. The liner notes were detailed and funny, both giving straight information and hinting at the personal taste and aesthetics of the label’s owner. I began to keep an eye out for the label, picking up a number of additional dub LPs and the heavy roots of Little Roy & Friend’s Packing House album.  At the time (late 90s) most Jamaican music “experts” dismissed anything that appeared after 1980 – Pressure Sounds on the other hand, celebrated the period releasing the fantastic Hitbound compilation When The Dances Were Changing and a tribute to Prince Jammy called The Crowning of Prince Jammy.  A few years later, Pressure Sounds was the first reissue label to acknowledge the incredible, digital music that was made during 1986-88 at King Tubbys studio with the release of Firehouse Revolution. For me, who had long treasured those Firehouse – Courtney Melody 7″s, I felt like Pressure Sounds was a kindred spirit. When I opened my own shop, we stocked every Pressure Sound release and they always sold — they looked great, sounded great, were always interesting and tended to either introduce me to something I didn’t know or re-affirm the greatness of something I loved. I credit (and my wallet curses) the Pressure Sounds Compilation Safe Travel for really introducing me to rocksteady, that soulful strain of Jamaican music that existed briefly in the late 1960s and is now an ongoing obsession.

About ten or so years ago I was in a shed in the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica getting devoured by mosquitos.  The shed was filled with old records, the majority of which had been soaked and re-soaked so many times that a terrifying mold crawled from the walls and floors to the records themselves — the jackets reduced to a toxic substance that turned to dust under the lightest touch.  I was not happy. After an hour or so, I finally hit a vein of twenty records that had miraculously escaped damage.  They were a weird group of records, things that I had never seen before including one called SOUND SYSTEM INTERNATIONAL DUB LP.  It turned out to be a Clancy Eccles Dub LP mixed by King Tubby that had (apparently) never popped up before.  I sold the record in auction and maybe a year later I saw that it was going to be reissued by Pressure Sounds.  When I got a copy, I noticed that we were thanked in the liner notes for unearthing the record.  It was a super kind move and it felt nice to be acknowledged for hard work.

This September Pressure Sounds released two records: I-Mo-Jah – Rockers From the Land Of Reggae and Words In Dub which were their 100th and 101st release. The records are deep and sometimes spooky roots and dub — heavyweight stuff.  The records themselves were seriously rare, even when first released.  Maybe a couple hundred copies were ever pressed and weirdly I had bought a few in a record shop / weed spot in Irvington, New Jersey back in 1992 or so.  To reach one hundred releases is a pretty impressive feat, to release a hundred quality releases is astounding.  So, in honor of Pressure Sounds, which has taught me so much, I made this little tribute mix of tunes that I have been loving lately.  All of them are available on the Pressure Sounds Website, so please take a gander and discover some great music.

++Tribute To Pressure Sounds 100++

TRACK LIST: I-Mo-Jah – Jah Love / Phillip Fullwood – Jah Say Love (Words In Dub Lp) / I-Mo-Jah – Love Everyone + Dub/ Phillip Fullwood – Reorganize The Race / Lee Perry & Kendrick Diggory – Chim Cherie Rock / Bob Marlery – Natural Mystic / Don Prendes – Ska Ba Doo / Yabby You – Deliver Me From My Enemies (Dub Plate Mix) / Keith Goode – Jah Jah Deliver Us / Carl Moore – My Forefathers Died In The Sand / Tidals – What A Great Day / Alric Forbes – Warn The Nation / Tommy McCook – Bigger Things / Phil Pratt & Ken Boothe – Sweet Song For My Baby / Phil Pratt – Safe Travel / Cool Cats – What Kind of Man / Termites – Push It Up / Termites – Miss Stella / Lee Perry & Upsetters – Hit Me Back / Dynamites – Nyah Rock / Lee Perry – Inna Iwah / Delroy Wilson – Baby Don’t You Do It / Barrington Spence – Wake You Shake You / Cornell Campbell – Give The Little Man a Great Big Hand / Al Brown – Aint No Love / Rudy Thomas – Grand Father Bogle (Dub) / Lloyd Parks – Slaving & Slaving Dub / Revoltuionaries – Kunte Kinte / Al Brown – Wisdom / Wayne Smith – Life is a Moment in Space / Althea & Donna – Going to Negril & Dub/ Prince Far I – Zacky The High Priest


2 Replies to “Tribute To Pressure Sounds”

  1. I love all of this and am listening to the mix now… but I especially agree with the assertation that graphics, branding, and packaging mean something. If someone takes care to package something nicely or spend money (or time) on design, it means that what’s inside the package is special. It’s also why I judge books by their cover & wines by their label.

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