George Phang ~ Power House Selector's Choice Vol. 1
17 North Parade - Groove Attack
November 7, 2008
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 4||Sleeve : 4/5|
The 17 North Parade subsidiary has already been home lately to some
very crucial re-releases for VP Records, but none of these in my opinion can top the 4CD-boxes with
George Phang's productions for his own Powerhouse label. Although known for other interests including
football and politics, George Leroy Phang's love for and knowledge of music runs very deep as well.
Growing up in Trench Town he was exposed to some of the best talent Jamaican music had to offer,
being a frequent patron of dances featuring sound systems such as Sir Coxsone Downbeat. During the
late 1970s a phenomenonal growth took place in reggae music internationally and Phang developed a
close association with Sly & Robbie, the legendary 'Riddim Twins'. This drum and bass partnership
were at the forefront of the Kingston studio scene and played on a great portion of the tunes then
being released. While spending a lot of time with Robbie in particular at the iconic Channel One
studio, the legendary bass player took note of Phang's amazing ear for music. He picked up many
recording techniques and ideas along the way which he then parlayed into a career as producer.|
By the early 80s dancehall fever was in the air and Sly & Robbie continued to create brilliant new sounds that enhanced and pushed reggae more and more towards the digital era. Not only did they play for their very own Taxi label but also for Lewis & Marshall's Sun Set, Philip 'Fattis' Burrell's Vena and amongst a few others George Phang's Power House imprint. Power House featured some of the most progressive riddim tracks built by the duo, bringing together classic familiar sounds from the past and adding an extra punch that gave the material featured on the label a very unique sound. The 'Final Mission'-riddim utilized for Half Pint's raggamuffin anthem "Greetings" - the song most synonymous with the producer George Phang - is a case in point. A classic Studio One instrumental by trombone virtuoso Vin Gordon named 'Heavenless' reconstructed to mash up the place inna dancehall style.
There’s still a heavy reliance on electronic riddims but the production is up to Taxi standards — no Casios in sight and, in the case of raggamuffin pioneer Half Pint, the vibes are entirely righteous. His "Greetings" literally demolishes dancehall crowds. It becomes an instant classic and a raggamuffin anthem and manages to put Sly and Robbie back on top. On recording "Greetings" Robbie insists that Sly’s unique drumming is inspired by fellow artist Josey Wales’ dancing in the studio. Sly points to Phang’s instruction for the inspiration: "George Phang say 'bwoy Sly, play some drum that when you go to dance it mek people fire gun and all that.' He was conducting the session and listening to all these rolls I was making and he was walking up and down the studio and come back to me and say 'ya man, mek the rolls longer.' So I was playing off his inspiration."
The only way to do justice in this review to this immaculate 80 tune 4CD "George Phang ~ Power House Selector's Choice Vol.1" collection and the second volume "George Phang ~ Power House Selector's Choice Vol.2" would be by offering soundsamples of all the tunes. As that's not possible I'll just recommend this 4CD-box with its nice cover and booklet by telling you that besides one-off recordings for George Phang by Johnny Osbourne, Echo Minott, Pinchers, Conroy Smith, Al Campbell, Admiral Bailey, Tenor Saw and Nitty Gritty (who together appear on the recently released "17 North Parade Presents ~ Tenor Saw Meets Nitty Gritty" on which their 8 tracks George Phang produced album is re-released with an additional 8 track - for other producers -) it has several tunes by Power House favourites Frankie Paul, Peter Metro, Sugar Minott, Little John, Charlie Chaplin, some of the best tunes on vinyl (back then, CD now) by Josey Wales, Yellowman, Barrington Levy, Michael 'Lickshot' Palmer, Toyan, Leroy Smart and of course Half Pint.
And if you realize that all these artists voiced brilliant relicks laid by (mainly) Sly & Robbie of classic (especially Studio One) riddims inna dancehallstylee like Lester Sterling's 'African Beat', 'The Answer' a.k.a. Slim Smith' 'Never Let Go', the Heptones' 'Baby', 'Bobby Babylon' a.k.a. 'One Step Beyond', Peter Tosh & The Wailers 'Burial', 'Can't Dweet', 'Curly Locks', the mighty 'Cuss Cuss', 'Darker Shade Of Black', 'Death In The Arena', 'Declaration Of Rights', 'First Cut Is The Deepest', 'He Prayed' a.k.a. 'Dub Organizer', 'Heart Breaker', 'Stylee', 'Hypocrites', 'I'm Just A Guy', 'Java', 'Lecturer', 'Let's Move', the original 'Level The Vibes'-riddim and 'Love Me Forever' you will surely understand that this is a phenomenal release. But the most exciting part of this "Volume 1" is the 10 tune version excursion over 'Heavenless', starting of course with Half Pint's seminal "Greetings" and featuring Little John's Brook Benton cover "True Confession" over the alternative version of the 'Heavenless'-riddim as well. This compilation, organizing 80 tunes from the early days of dancehall by riddim, is one half of the most complete retrospective of gems released on George Phang's Power House label, available at a very fair price making it a must buy CD-box.