Taken from the album. Please turn up the bass when listening. This is dub music after all!
‘You were always hearing synthesiser music,’ he explains. ‘There’s groups like Tangerine Dream that you would hear of, there’s Stevie Wonder on the radio, playing all kinds of things on “Living for the City”. There was a lot of music with synthesiser being played on it early on, and the Moog synthesiser was the talk of the century at that time".
Bernard 'Touter' Harvey 2006
According to reggae historian David Katz this album "is easily one of the rarest dub albums to ever surface in Jamaica; because of the specific ingredients of its creation, it’s also one of the most unique.“
Featuring classic Jacob Miller/Inner Circle rhythms played by The Fatman Rhythm section and mixed by the great King Tubby, the album was originally released on a mis-labelled tiny vinyl pressing back in 1976.
Its unique sound is a result of the the mixing techniques of King Tubby along with the Moog and ARP synthesisers of Bernard ‘Touter’ Harvey. Touter is known for playing organ, keyboards and Moog with Inner Circle and Bob Marley as well as on many of reggae’s great albums and singles; he also played the prominent synth on Uptown Top Ranking.
The original Jacob Miller riddims were produced by Inner Circle’s Lewis brothers, Roger and Ian, both of whom are now well known as the owners of Miami’s Circle House Studios home of Sean "P Diddy" Combs, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Whitney Houston etc.
Jacob Miller was one of reggae's brightest stars, for a time considered by many to be a rival to Bob Marley as the music's king. He died in a car crash at just 25 years of age.
during the mid-1970s, dub albums emerged in Jamaica as a viable outlet for creative transformation. The instrumental B-sides that had become the rage during the late 1960s were soon supplanted by dub version sides. These further manipulated popular rhythms through the application of startling sonic effects, such as echo, reverb and delay. Over the crucial core of drum-and-bass, portions of the vocal might be dropped in and out of the mix, or new instruments overdubbed to take prominence in a heavily altered new version of a previous creation.
Initially, dub B-sides served as platforms for rapping DJs to toast their improvised rhymes on Jamaican sound systems. Then, around 1973, the first dub albums emerged, supposedly to serve as continuous fodder for these verbal outpourings. As the form rapidly progressed, dub albums soon began to stir interest overseas. Part of the fascination stemmed from the fact that re-titled album tracks could often be difficult to identify. Dub’s revolutionary countenance really meant that familiar songs were being transformed into new musical entities in the creative hands of dub mixers and session players.
The era of ‘classical’ dub in Jamaica was curtailed by the arrival of computer-driven dancehall in the mid-1980s. Yet, the original dub techniques pioneered by a handful of the island’s most talented engineers influenced countless popular forms around the world, from hip-hop, ambient and house, to jungle, trance and many other dance music sub-forms.
The album you hold in your hands is one of the rarest dub albums ever to surface in Jamaica and, because of the specific ingredients of its creation, it’s also one of the most unique. Pressed in minute quantities in Jamaica, in or around 1976, it is virtually unknown, because it somehow surfaced in a blank sleeve, bearing only the label of a related 12-inch single: Earl Zero’s ‘City of the Weak Heart’, which was released on the obscure E-E Saw label (a phonetic reference to the biblical character Esau). Produced by the Lewis Brothers (aka Fatman Riddim Section from Inner Circle), for their company ABC Productions, the album was composed of a number of Jacob Miller’s most hard-hitting roots rhythms from the Tenement Yard and Killer albums. These featured synthesiser overdubs by Bernard ‘Touter’ Harvey, all mixed deep into the dub stratosphere by King Tubby.
The Tenement Yard album was a triumph, featuring some of Jacob Miller’s strongest works. The title track and ‘Tired Fe Lick Weed in a Bush’ related the drastic pressure facing ghetto residents. ‘Money’, the opening track, decried the vanity that resulted from greed and avarice. ‘The Truth Has Come Again’ noted the discrimination facing followers of Rastafari and ‘Roman Soldiers of Babylon’ and ‘Dreader Dread’ warned of the coming retribution facing evil police. All tracks were cut over rock-solid roots rhythms, courtesy of the Fatman Riddim Section and Company. Through the link with Geoffrey Chung, the album surfaced on Jam Sounds, later being pressed on Star Apple, once Tommy Cowan became involved with the group. Later on, re-titled Dread, Dread, it was reissued, internationally, by United Artists.
Around the same time that Tenement Yard was being assembled, Touter Harvey cut a number of synthesiser versions of its choicest rhythms, ostensibly for single B-sides. Fascinated by the instrument, he says he purchased one at the earliest opportunity. ‘You were always hearing synthesiser music,’ he explains. ‘There’s groups like Tangerine Dream that you would hear of, there’s Stevie Wonder on the radio, playing all kinds of things on “Living for the City”. There was a lot of music with synthesiser being played on it early on, and the Moog synthesiser was the talk of the century at that time. Everybody was talking about Mini-Moog and what the Moog can do. My first synthesiser was a Arp Odyssey. I think that was ’76, in New York. I did the first tour Burning Spear did, we were under the auspices of Jack Ruby and Island records at the time, and I walked into Manny’s Music store on 48th
Street in Manhattan, saw it and kind of fell in love with it. I just like the way it work, the ease of use and whatnot, and I used it extensively with Inner Circle. I later bought a Mini-Moog and an Arp Omni.’
Touter is adamant that this album was never meant to be an album. As far as he can recall, someone suggested he cut some synth versions to Jacob Miller and Inner Circle rhythm tracks, which he did, mostly as a ‘a bit of fun’ or to experiment, just to see how it would sound. As far as he knew, they were destined solely for single B-sides. The album was mixed by the dub master himself, King Tubby, at Tubby’s legendary Waterhouse facility, a fact confirmed by Roger Lewis, who was present at many of the mixing sessions. Unfortunately, when it was issued, the album was somehow mistakenly labelled as ‘City of the Weak Heart’. This was a 12-inch single by Earl Zero, another outstanding track featuring the dynamic backing of the Lewis Brothers and Inner Circle, voiced in an alternate form by Jacob Miller for the Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller album.
Along with synth dubs of the songs from Tenement Yard and Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller, the album has a couple of tracks featuring a prominent xylophone, played either by Touter, or possibly by Augustus Pablo. The most invigorating of these is a cut of Miller’s ‘Ghetto on Fire’. The remaining tracks are a bit of a mystery, even stumping the Inner Circle members. Although they played on them, they now find it difficult to recall the details of sessions conducted more than 30 years ago. All of the players involved in the creation of this album have since gone on to gain greater glory through their music. Inner Circle and Jacob Miller headlined the One Love Peace Concert, taking privileged billing above Bob Marley and the Wailers, while acclaimed albums for Island records expanded their fan base.
Miller died tragically in a car crash in 1980, aged just 25, and King Tubby was brutally murdered in 1989, but Inner Circle eventually regrouped to score incredibly popular hits such as the 1989 release ‘Bad Boys’ and the 1993 chart-topper, ‘Sweat.’ They’ve since opened the Circle House studio in Miami, currently one of the most in-demand recording facilities among the R&B and hip-hop fraternity.
When it comes to dub, the Fatman Riddim Section were not to be trifled with, as the subsequent albums Heavyweight Dub and Killer Dub showed. The instrumental album that Touter cut at Channel One with the Lewis Brothers, Fatman Riddim Section Featuring Touter, shows that Touter was highly expressive when it came to all things synth. King Tubby, of course, is the unsurpassed master of dub, while Jacob Miller was one of the greatest roots vocalists of all time. Put them all together and the result is an exceptional and unique dub album, unearthed here for your listening pleasure.