VARIOUS ARTISTS – Babylon (Chrysalis)
Here’s a movie soundtrack that makes you proud to be British. Apart from a couple of old Grove Music favourites – Yabby You’s ‘Free Africa’ and ‘Deliver Me From My Enemies’, takin’ ya back to them good ol’ days of ’76, and Michael Prophet’s ‘Turn Me Loose’, plus a fairly dismal lover’s rock tune by the best-forgotten Cassandra, ‘Thank You For The Many Things You’ve Done’, and I-Roy’s Bovell produced ‘Whap ‘n Bap’n’ (already available on Virgin), the whole album is sparkling spanking Best of British.
Whoops, having said that, I realise that’s the whole of side one…. still, they’re mostly good tunes, if you haven’t got them already.
But checking out Side 2, we come to some serious new age steppers. What we’re talking about here is the potential of turning your brain into a home sound system, thereby eliminating waiting for buses for hours in the cold. Invest in a pair of headphones instead, if that’s possible, and whack ’em up full so you make the most out of Aswad featuring the harrowing horn of Vin Gordon, on the sound system favourite ‘Warrior Charge’. Of course, it’s conceivable you have it already as an Island disco mix, obviously the finest form for a disc of this ilk. On to the other tunes, all Dennis Bovell (Matumbi/Blackbeard) productions.
The Specials have moved into movie soundtrack territory, and very well too; but Dennis Bovell turns a movie soundtrack – theoretical background music – to easy skanking dance music that features some Aswad-ettes, notably drummie Angus Gaye, going at it like a fireworks display on the kit. ‘Jazterpiece’ is a truly modern version of that currently hip James Bond vibration. In the interesting flick, directed by ‘Dread Beat & Blood’ man Franco Rosso, the music hits you hard, not subliminally. A moody instrumental, like ‘Manhunter’ with its steady stepping bass and eloquent horn solo pleading on top, demolishing itself in a dub explosion half way through, then creeping stealthily back, is a narrative in itself.
The movie is a must, and if you haven’t already got the album tracks on other releases, so’s the album. Wouldn’t it be nice if Chrysalis succeeded where Island have notably failed, and got the brilliant Aswad the remuneration to match the reputation?
Vivien Goldman, NME 8 November 1980
Reproduced without permission.
See also: review at Expletive Undeleted.