Sunday, 24 November 2019

Dennis Brown - The Best Of Dennis Brown (Trojan)

Money in my pocket....


Dennis Brown was an often under-mentioned and under-appreciaed name in the late seventies reggae crossover boom - not quite commercial or charismatic enough to match the popularity of Bob Marley, not rootsy enough for the punky reggae party alternative crowd or slick enough for the Gregory Isaacs lovers rock fans. That said, he has characteristics from all those sub-genres - he had an ear for interpreting a song melodiously, he could do roots and consciousness if he wanted to and he also had a romantic smoothness, albeit with a deeper voice than Gregory Isaacs. To be fair, he did have considerable success with lovers rock-style material and also Bob Marley once declared that Brown was his favourite reggae singer, calling him "The Crown Prince Of Reggae", perhaps apocryphally.  He was influenced by some of the singers from the generation before him - Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe and John Holt. So, on this compilation you will find Brown singing in several styles - roots, lovers, pop, rasta - making him one of reggae's most versatile artists.

His big hit was, of course, the actually very catchy and commercial Money In My Pocket, which was a hit at the height of the punk crossover. I remember seeing him live at Friars, Aylesbury in 1979 (note the ticket price on the poster of £2.40) and he was excellent. Other highlights are the rootsy Wolf & Leopards, the Max Romeo/Jacob Miller-esque Revolution, Westbound Train and deep, dubby Tenement Yard. Who says Dennis can't do roots? This is typical late seventies roots fare, more than suitable enough for Notting Hill Carnival. Listen to that big, rumbling bass and echoey vocal. He can do romance too, though, and Love Has Found Its Way is a classic piece of melodic lovers rock. The same applies to the lovely I'm Coming Tonight or Oh Girl (You Are My Inspiration). The sumptuous Your Man is very Gregory Isaacs-ish too.

Equal Rights is not Peter Tosh's song, but a lively, brassy and poppy Leroy Sibbles song expressing the same sentiments. Brown had an ability to adapt to what ever the vocals demands of a song were - tuneful, passionate, committed, mournful or yearning. Here I Come Again has him in a completely different mode to the previous song as he takes up the Rasta mantle, providing some soulful and pious vocals. Ain't That Loving You has his voice soaring once more, Jacob Miller-style, on a gentle, sensual skank. Cassandra sounds very like Al Green/UB40's Here I Am (Come And Take Me) in places.

Dennis showed a Rastafarian belief and consciousness on tracks like the bassy Children Of Israel, the infectious No More Will I Roam, Tribulation and Whip Them Jah Jah and also a strong sense of black heritage on Africa (We Want To Go). Halfway Up, Halfway Down features some very Steely Dan-style guitar on a mid-pace rock-ish groove. Lost Without You has an extended dub groove on its second half which showed a willingness to embrace dub rhythms, Love's Got A Hold On Me also has a shuffling, dubby backing.

Basically, you can pick any of the generous forty tracks on this compilation, they are all good, to be honest. Playing the album on "shuffle" is a good thing too. The sound quality, as on all these superb Trojan releases, is outstanding. The bass is deep and warm, as it should be, of course, but it is not reverberatingly deep. Check out the beautiful bass sound on Revolution as an example or the warm skank of Here I Come Again.


1. Money In My Pocket
2. Wolf & Leopards
3. Love Has Found Its Way
4. Revolution
5. Tenement Yard
6. Equal Rights
7. Here I Come
8. Ain't That Loving You
9. No More Will I Roam
10. How Can I Leave You
11. (I Am) The Conqueror
12. Party Time
13. Westbound Train
14. I'm Coming Home Tonight
15. Africa (We Want To Go)
16. Sitting & Watching
17. Oh Girl (You Are My Inspiration)
18. Historical Places
19. The Exit
20. Wild Fire * with John Holt

21. Man Next Door
22. Here I Come
23. Girl I've Got A Date
24. Cassandra
25. Your Man
26. Children Of Israel
27. Why Seek More
28. Halfway Up, Halfway Down
29. Blood Sun
30. Three Meals A Day
31. Whip Them Jah Jah
32. Open Up
33. Hold On To What You've Got
34. I Can't Stand It
35. If This World Were Mine
36. Let Me Love You
37. Have You Ever
38. Lost Without You
39. Your Love's Got A Hold On Me
40. Revolution (Part 2)