Sugar Minott - "Informer" (Dance Hall Showcase, Vol. II)
The Rhythm & Sound empire’s dedication to Wackie’s has moved beyond the merely admirable into the realm of public service. I can’t really think of a reissue program as thorough and extensive off the top of my head, at least within reggae, dub and dancehall (though I fully expect a flood of irate correction emails). The Wackie’s world is a peculiar one. Helmed by Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes and characterized by his wonderfully earthy mid-range and spiraling decay patterns, his dubs send songs to their outer limits, but not in overtly ‘avant’ ways. Rather, the disorientation comes through the hypnotic power of repetition, the subtly dislocating properties of dub tactics, a kind of ‘accumulative derealization,’ if you will.
Sugar Minott’s history begins with his membership in the African Brothers roots trio in the early ’70s, their subsequent dissolution leading to, firstly, a solo contract with Channel One, and then his establishment in 1978 with Black Roots Production and Youth Promotion Company. Subsequent hook-ups with Wackie’s turned in some of Minott’s finest records, particularly 1984’s Wicked Ago Feel It, though Dance Hall Showcase, Vol. II initially turned up on Black Roots. Coupling vocals with their dubs, it’s a beautiful set, the production gorgeously attenuated and physical – bass wells up in your lungs, snares explode in your chest, guitars itch across your cranium and organs jolt and lunge at your ribs.
Minott’s voice is the real prize, though. From the ascending harmonies that crown "Genuine Lover,” through to the slink and prowl of "Informer,” Minott’s unforced and gentle without sounding creamy or sleazy. His character carries the audacious simplicity of the production in a real iron-fist-in-velvet-glove move, and that stealth is key to dub and dancehall’s enduring impact. Fleshing out the CD reissue with "Informer" versions from Jah Batta and Little John only serves to further enhance Minott’s superiority: the other vocalists are fantastic, but not many can hold a candle to Minott.
My interest in these other versions is largely structural. For example, there are some heroic edits on Jah Batta’s "Informer,” where an off-the-rhythm cut suddenly and unexpectedly pulls everything off the bones of the drum and bass. Like the best dub, dancehall etc., the four versions of "Informer" on Dance Hall Showcase, Vol. II offer a solid foundation while mixing the track off into space, which is as good a justification for chasing the Wackie’s program as I can think of.