Rootsy Reggae / Visions Of John Clarke
John Clarke
CD / 2LP
May 19, 2006

Track list
    Rootsy Reggae
  1. Big Leg Mary
  2. You're Just The One
  3. John Brown
  4. Boss I
  5. Creator
  6. Recession
  7. Polution
  8. Wasn't It You
  9. You Like To Borrow
  10. Babylon Spanking
  11. Abortion
  12. Bum Bang Festival
    Visions Of John Clarke
  13. Good Collie Weed
  14. You Like To Borrow
  15. You're Just The One
  16. Tell Me The Truth
  17. We Need Some Solution
  18. Wasn't It You
  19. Babylon Spanking
  20. John Brown
  21. Shack Up With You
  22. Come Back Darling
  23. Outro
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4/5 Sleeve : 4
Released originally by Bullwackies in 1979, "Visions Of John Clarke" was a little thrown together, still, its sleeve carried a ringing endorsement from Bullwackies himself - signing its cover as Ras Senrab, President of the John Clarke Fan Club - and the album attracted the interest of no less than Studio One boss Coxsone Dodd, whose bid for distribution-rights was thwarted when the Brooklyn label Makossa quickly put in for a full licence. Out soon afterwards, the new version - entitled "Rootsy Reggae" - duplicated five tracks, but with markedly different mixes, fresh edits, and sometimes new instrumentation. This CD presents both albums complete with the original track order, yet another great rerelease in the string of classic Wackies albums that have been (re)released by Berlin dub-techno duo Moritz Von Oswald and Mark Ernestus a.k.a. Rhythm & Sound, as part of their rerelease program of the complete Wackie's catalog. More on their own releases, whether technodub on Basic Channel or their Rhythm & Sound label can be found at the Basic Channel Website. The singer - not to be confused with Johnny Clarke - had been running with the Wackies operation for the past six years, ever since moving from Jamaica to New York. Hed cut memorable sevens with co-founder Munchie Jackson for the Tafari label - like 1975's "Recession" over a reworking of Jackie Mittoo's 'Big Car'-riddim - and for Munchie Jackson's Earth label "In Search of The Human Race" as well as several tunes for Lloyd Barnes' imprints like Jumbo Caribbean Disco, Senrab, Uptown, Senta, Wackies and Versatile. Several are included on these two albums, but with new instrumentation and mixes. John Clarke is a very fine singer, who opens this album with "Big Leg Mary" driving him crazy, followed by the smooth lovers tune "You're Just The One" with its jazzy guitar licks, the fine don't boast about yourself "John Brown" with great horn riffs and the plaintive "Boss I" about being tired of people bossing him around, again featuring that jazzy guitar in the background. "Creator" is a fine song of praise on which John Clarke sounds like a little bit more upbeat Sylford Walker, "Recession" is the first tune he recorded after emigrating to the United States with its heartfelt everywhere I go they tell me there's no vacancy in this big city tale of depressing economical situation, followed by another well written big city tale, this time about the "Polution" in the city. The beautiful "Wasn't It You" is a great song about encountering a girl from his children years after a long time, followed by the superb "You Like To Borrow" but you never like to pay, in which John Clarke wonders though i lend you my money, last thursday morning, and you promised to pay me, the next friday evening, from that day I never see you again, i don't like that incorporating some nice scat vocals near the end of the tune. More common lyrical themes are covered in "Babylon Spanking" with its vision of Zion and in his next tune the condemnation of "Abortion". The last tune of the "Rootsy Reggae" album is the upbeat party tune "Bum Bang Festival". The "Visions Of John Clarke" album is kicked off by the fine ganja tune "Good Collie Weed", followed by the more experimental arranged longer dubby take on "You Like To Borrow" and the alternate version of "You're Just The One" on which the guitar licks sound more rock than jazz inspired. "Tell Me The Truth" is a great soulful tune questioning his girlfriend i hope it's not my big car you love, i hope it's not my big house you love, followed by the heavy bass driven "We Need Some Solution" and over all John Clarke's voice sounds more soulful and less lamenting on this album and certainly on these two tunes. "Wasn't It You" is as minimalistic as the other version, but slightly more upbeat. The version of "Babylon Spanking" is again more dubbed up on this album, on the one hand emphasizing the backing, on the other freeing up a bit more space for John's nice vocals. "John Brown" is the fifth tune taken from these ten on "Vision Of John Clarke" that appeared in another version on the "Rootsy Reggae" album with the horns even more prominent here, followed by the smooth lovers tune "Shack Up With You" and a fine rendition of Johnny Osbourne & the Sensations' in 1970 for Winston Riley's Techniques recorded "Come Back Darling" rounding it out. One thing is for sure, Coxsone Dodd was right when he wanted to get a hold of this album, as this is a great collection of an almost unknown singer, often mistaken for that famous namesake, over flawless Wackies riddims, but what's my recommendation compared to that of the late and great Studio One owner...