Jah Stitch

Original Ragga Muffin (1975-1977)

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With the great King Tubby dubbing legendary producer Bunny Lee, and the results crowned by the deejay stylings of Jah Stitch himself, Original Ragga Muffin: 1975-1977 works on multiple levels. You are able to marvel at any one element (Lee's rugged rhythms, Tubby's fantastic versions, Stitch's vocals) or simply bask in the glory of the overall product. Though initially pegged as an imitator of the great Big Youth (both were once employed by Jamaica's Tippertone sound system), Stitch clearly has his own style. Maintaining more of an even keel than Youth, Stitch works his themes through repetitive chanting, punctuating phrases with "Huh!" shouts that demand your attention. On "African People (3 in 1)," he presents a three-part acronym breakdown of the words "Africa," "Zion," and "Ethiopia" to wonderful effect. Unfortunately, Stitch fails to main the lyrical creativity on the material that follows. But anything the deejay lacks in poetic ingenuity he makes up for in the dedication to his subjects: "Watch Your Step Youthman," "Sinners Repent Your Soul," "Militant Man," and "Real Born African" being particularly revealing titles. Other highlights include two vocals over Johnny Clarke's "Crazy Baldhead" (one a humorous jibe at rival producer Joe Gibbs) and "No Dread Can't Dread." On the latter, Stitch sounds like he's jogging to the pace of the great, chugging rhythm, chanting "Natty dread a-the stal-a-wart." Guests include Vivian "Yabby U" Jackson, who contributes two productions, and Horace Andy: Stitch follows up the singer's great "Zion Gate" vocal with his own "Every Wicked Have to Crawl" discourse. The overall results of the deejay's plain-speak over Tubby's bass-heavy reductions create an appropriately dark, smoky atmosphere. Combined with the five Stitch cuts on Blood and Fire's If Deejay Was Your Trade compilation, Original Ragga Muffin provides the best overview of an underrated performer.

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