Title
Artist
Label
Format
Date

Dub Plate Style 1990-1999
Manasseh
Hammerbass
CD
November 19, 2005

Track list
  1. Clash Version
  2. Clash version Pt. 2
  3. Creation
  4. Creation Dub
  5. Rise Up With Johnny Osbourne
  6. Rise Up Dub With Johnny Osbourne
  7. Skenga With Natty P
  8. Masaï Get A Bly With Natty P
  9. Mind The Gap Version
  10. Jungle Trees Dub
  11. Pharoah's Dub
  12. Good Stepping
  13. Stepping Pt. 2
  14. Natural Roots Orig. With Earl 16
  15. Natural Roots Sound With Earl 16
  16. Natural Dub With Earl 16
  17. Planet Humanity With Ras I
  18. Humanity Dub With Ras I
  19. Walking On Tightrope With Orville Smith
  20. Tightrope Version With Orville Smith
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Reggae in 2005 -- though it still proves to have the power of upliftment -- seems to be stuck in a stage in which it is constantly referencing the past and not coming up with anything new -- one drops out of JA are still being recycled -- though in truth they have changed very little since the Xterminator revolution in the mid to late 90's.

Digital UK reggae which was such an aggressive, inspired, fresh energy and revitalising force during the 90's has now reduced itself to simply referencing itself , and still churns out digi steppers, which if looked at honestly, hasn’t changed at all for about five years. As a genre, UK and Euro reggae has even showed a tendency to go progressively backwards over the last five years by still relentlessly focusing on steppers -- a sub genre which reached its apex as far back in the distant past as a quarter of a century ago.

So it is a pleasure to hear this Manasseh album, which in part, focuses on early period UK digital reggae, captured at a stage when it was still trying fresh ideas and going out there to be original and new.

This album is far from perfect -- but that is part of its charm, revealing Manasseh's willingness at the time to just try out concepts, going as far as to leave mistakes in the final mixes when things didn't quite work, or when sampling was still too primitive to be efficient.

So that is the album's strength -- from the London punk pugnacity of Natty P's "Skenga" to the deep thoughtfulness and clever, almost sculptural structuring of "Jungle Trees" this is a mentally rewarding listening experience. (It's tempting to speculate that Steve Reich or Neu would be proud of an intelligent textured pattern like "Jungle Trees", featuring eerie recurring cyclical noise tones, reminiscent at times of Steve Reich‘s "Drumming" album.)

This work isn't ideal -- the Upsetter sampling on "Creation" is heavy handed and too obvious (It's from Junior Murvin) -- but the timbale tuned drums take away the listeners' cynicism, drawing you into the spaciousness and sense of drama in the mix.

This album is definitely recommended as a quick picture of how UK roots used to be (mistakes and all) before it became mired in dull formula, cliché and self imitation. The question arises, where are Manasseh now? Their intelligent mixes and willingness to take chances with the new are sorely needed in reggae now in 2005.