Judge Dread

The Big Twenty Four

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Ooh, that's a big 'un! Twenty-four, you say? Well, who could've imagined? In 1972, Judge Dread, the most unlikeliest of stars, shot to fame on the back of his debut single, "Big 6," and its follow-up, "Big 7." An album was quickly assembled to cash in on their success, and its title, Dreadmania, aptly summed up the state of the nation, as magisterial fever gripped Britain. Released in 1974, Working Class 'Ero picked up where its predecessor left off, and included another two of the Judge's hits. Big Twenty Four presents both these sensational sets in their entireties. "It's All in the Mind" sets the rude tone of both albums, which are filled with tantalizing wordplay, witty innuendos, and clever double entendres. They weren't clever enough to get past the censors, though, who ruled all the Judge's singles out of order, whether they were or not. However, beyond the blush-inducing lyrics lay much of the best reggae ever recorded outside of Jamaica. Working with Trojan's top session men, Dread wrapped his rude lyrics within perfect reggae backdrops, with many of his songs built around classic Jamaican rhythms, adding further authenticity to his sound. And like the island stars he so admired, the Judge was happy to look beyond Jamaica for further inspiration, whether to the European discos for "Je T'Aime," his own island's past for "Dread's Almanac," the U.S. for the okra Western "Belle of Snodland Town," or the music halls for "Grandad's Flannelette Nightshirt." The two sets conveniently brought together here are essential listening for any reggae fan, with the set tossing in "Molly," a non-album single, and "Big 8"'s instrumental B-side, "Mind the Doors."

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