The Good, the Bad and the Dread: The Best of Dreadzone

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Formed in the early '90s by musicians who had played with Big Audio Dynamite, Julian Cope, and the Sisters of Mercy, London collective Dreadzone might not have scaled the same heady heights of fellow dub purveyors Leftfield and the Orb, but their influence on the contemporary dance scene is unquestionable. The Good, the Bad and the Dread, their first retrospective, highlights just how much their eclectic blend of reggae, techno, ska, and hip-hop is stamped all over the dubstep, drum'n'bass, and breakbeat genres, even if only one of its 16 tracks will be instantly familiar to the casual clubber. The aforementioned number is of course their sole Top 40 single, "Little Britain" (featured here in a previously unreleased vocal mix), an anthemic slice of sweeping orchestral ambient electronica based on Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, which became a ubiquitous soundtrack for nearly every TV show trailer in the mid-'90s. Unsurprisingly, its parent album, Second Light, apparently one of seminal DJ John Peel's most-favorite-ever records, makes up the bulk of this compilation, with five of its nine tracks making the cut, including the trippy, bhangra-fused instrumental "Cave of Angels," the Jamaican roots of "Zion Youth," and the Yello-sampling Celtic-tinged "Captain Dread." But it was their 1993 now-deleted Creation Records debut 360..., with two tracks appearing here, that introduced the world to their quirky, cut-and-paste sound, with "The Good, the Bad and the Dread" (featuring a young Allison Goldfrapp), which samples Ennio Morricone's score to A Few Dollars More and Charles Bronson's voice from "Once Upon a Time in the West, in particular showcasing their love for all things cinematic which would pervade their 17-year career. Two tracks apiece are taken from 1997's Biological Radio, 2001's Sound, 2005's Once Upon a Time, and 2010's Eye on the Horizon, the standouts of which are the electro glam rock of "Gangster," the Middle Eastern-flavored jungle of "Ali Baba," and the funky dancehall R&B of "I Know," while "Fight the Power," their protest response to the 1994 Criminal Justice Bill previously only available on their Maximum EP, is also included. Proving that U.K. reggae doesn't begin and end with UB40, The Good, the Bad and the Dread is an inventive and unique retrospective from one of the pioneers of the modern bass culture sound.

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