The Revolutionaries

Channel One: Maxfield Avenue Breakdown

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The kind of material on Maxfield Avenue Breakdown, recorded from 1974-1979 by the Revolutionaries with Ernest and JoJo Hookim at the Channel One studio controls, may lack the pure sonic invention of a Lee Perry or King Tubby, but it played an equally crucial role in the development of dub. Jamaican recordings from this era introduced the rockers style driven by Robbie Shakespeare's throbbing bass and Sly Dunbar's echoed rim-shot clicks and explosive snare shots, which became a fundamental definition of roots reggae. Over that fresh drum and bass foundation, the Hookims keep their dub easy to digest by retaining most of the original song structures and mutating one element at a time. "Rema Skank" and "Ballistic Affair Version" are prime examples of how much variety can be wrung from that simple format, with the spotlight shifting smoothly among instruments as echo and reverb effects fly in and drop out. "Speak Easy" starts somber and turns into a horn-driven summer-day frolic, car-horn bleats drive "Natty a General Version," and playing with vocal tracks govern "Woman Is Like a Shadow Version" and "Have Mercy Version." A casual test of the new studio synthesizer on "Counter Attack" is the single most gripping track, thanks to a menacing Shakespeare bassline and Dunbar's militant drum rolls. It's hard to imagine that, as the liner notes say, Channel One caught flak for being unoriginal at the time. Just goes to show that one person's unoriginal consolidation can be another's innovative foundation -- especially when you're consolidating with the Revolutionaries.