Clancy Eccles & The Dynamites - Freedom / Fire Corner [Doctor Bird/ Cherry Red - 2020]Here’s a double-headed CD release of two grooving, charming, and at times creative reggae albums from the year 1969- both of which originally appeared on the legendary Trojan Label. From Doctor Bird Cherry Red’s Reggae sub-label here is a classy reissue of these two albums- featuring a host of bonus tracks, and a neat inlay booklet.
The set is presented in a double see-through jewel case- this takes in a wonderfully colorful inlay booklet, featuring a selection of quotes about each project, a four-page write-up about the recordings, vinyl labels, and cover artwork.
The first album here is Freedom from Clancy Eccles- the original album took in twelve tracks, this reissue adds in a whopping thirteen tracks- with the first disc featuring twenty-five tracks, and a seventy-minute runtime. Freedom was the debut solo album from Jamaican singer, songwriter, promoter & producer Eccles- the album took its name from his 1961 hit of the same name- which is seen as one of the early examples of Ska, and opens up the album. So getting into the album it’s self, and first, up we have the title track which is an urgent-yet-mellow blend of a strutting ‘n’ darting bass line, tight percussion hits, Eccles richly wailing vocals, and a nicely smooth & playful horn breakdown. As we move into the album we coming to jiving & train like motion of “Dollar Train” with its blend of scrubbing groove, wavering male harmonizing vocals, and more shouty lead vocals- this track has these odd morse code tones that appear at the start & near the end, and initially they seem out of place, but repeat listenings show their odd genius. We have the bizarre & tight jigging vibe of “Auntie Lulu” that finds buoyant ‘n’ bright organ loop, a tight nitty-gritty grove, echo chamber touched lead vocals & ghostly female chants. The original album is top off with the wonderful infections "Mount Zion"- which blends together a strutting & slapping groove, waving male & female vocals, and this looping horn melody.
Of course on this CD we get the thirteen bonus tracks- and there some great gems here too. We have the ragged steel drum meets strutting groove of “Festival 68’" which features some wonderfully joyful yet at times off-kilter vocals. The manic & tight organ jive meets bass strut of “Bangarang Crash”. Or the slower waltz reggae & playful horn honking “Great(Beat)”. All in all a great selection of tunes, with the bonus tracks nicely fitting in with original album tracks.
Moving onto the second disc & we have The Dynamites – Fire Corner – this appeared seemingly as a joint release on Clandisc (Clancy Eccles label) and Trojan, with the original featuring twelve tracks- once again this CD takes in another thirteen bonus tracks. The Dynamites where Eccles house band, and all the tracks on this disc where ether penned by him, or are covers- and as you’d expect with a reggae house band these tracks are largely instrumental( save for some MC shouts). The album moves from descending bass groove meets rising horn melody of “Internally”. Onto the wavering & wondering “One Way Street” with it’s haphazard & loud organ work moving over a mesh of steel drums, other organ tones & bass struts. Onto scrabbing rubber band bass, darting organ lines & hay-hay shouts of “Joe Public”. Compared with the first disc the tracks on this album are a little roughshod & at times samey, but that's the issue with many backing band albums- though if you enjoy more wondering, wonky & wavering reggae I think you’ll enjoy this well enough. The thirteen bonus tracks are more of the same really, & maybe even more Off-kilter- we have the rapid pummeling table drums meet swinging horn work of “City Demonstration”. There's the wonderfully shambolic “Last Call” with it’s drunken ‘n’ darting organ groove & wonky shifting horn work layers. I’d say you’d need to be more a firm fan of more off-kilter reggae to fully enjoy this disc- but once again there are some fine moments here.
If you have a penchant for early Ska or Rocksteady reggae this double-disc set is a no-brainer. It’s so great Doctor Bird reissue these early & important records from the jamaica reggae scene- and long may it last!.Roger Batty