Crazy Caribs – Dancehall Dub (Ariwa/Mad On Jamaica CD)

Crazy Caribs

The cover doesn’t do this album any favours. There’s obviously nothing wrong with summery island imagery (that’s where the music originates!), it’s just that this sort of graphic is more usually wrapped around yet another generic compilation featuring a bizarre mixture of Ace of Bass, Marleys Bob and Ziggy and Inner Circle’s “Girl I’m Gonna Make You Sweat” alongside whatever Trojan or whoever is licensing cheap this week.

Everyone knows that to be de rigeur you’ve got to have:

1) A mixing desk and or ganja leaf (dub)
2) A grainy shot of sufferah youth in downtown Kingston (roots – or you can go the whole hog and just ineptly rip off the designs that Intro do for Blood & Fire).
3) De gal dem inna de batty rider (dancehall)

In fact this record does feature the pop hits of the day, but not like you ever heard ’em before.

Crazy Caribs is a Mad Professor project, with the indomitable Mafia & Fluxy versioning contemporary hit riddims and adding their own flavour. The production is as crisp and booming as you would expect. Mad Professor never gets the respect he deserves from the self-loathing UK reggae purists. Needless to say, he rises above the snobbery yet again here – the re-workings are inventive and the whole album is very listenable considering it is entirely instrumental.

This is partly down to the quality of riddims like Coolie Dance, Diwali and Fiesta/”Vitamin S”, but it’s also due to the varieties of studio trickery and instrumentation – some tracks are cavernous bass-driven monsters, some are more floaty and ambient. There are quite a few tunes where the vocal melody is still present as really effective steel pan sound.

Perhaps most surprising is how the imaginative choice of riddims creates a satisfying whole. 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P gets a absolutely wicked re-rub alongside all the bashment, and there is another chapter in the compelling history of the legendary soundsystem dubplate killer Kunte Kinte.

It’s great to hear some proper innovative dub workouts of dancehall riddims after so many mere “backing tracks” – hopefully this will be built on, and become a whole new genre of itself.

Plus, on a sweltering bus journey through London, it isn’t really so bad to be able to look at the cover and forget where you are… for a moment.