Winston Riley

Dancehall Techniques: Winston Riley Productions 1986-1991

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As fans are well aware, Techniques founder Winston Riley moved from singer to producer in the late '60s with the launch of the label named after his band. Techniques quickly left its mark, first in Jamaica and then, in 1971, in the U.K., with Dave & Ansel Collins' chart-topping "Double Barrel" smash. Riley remained on the cutting edge, and by the end of the decade was introducing the world to slack, via General Echo's debut album. Come 1985, while other producers quaked in the face of Prince Jammy's mind-blowing "Under My Slang Teng," Riley slapped back with Tenor Saw's "Ring the Alarm," storming the dancehalls with his earth-shattering "Stalag 17" dub version. Riley wasn't giving into the ragga rage yet, battling against the digitization of reggae with hard-edged versions of revived riddims, and even when he gave in to the inevitable, so laced with keyboard melodies were his versions that they barely sounded like ragga at all.

Dancehall Techniques captures this period, 1986-1991, in all its glory, as the producer unleashed a stream of stunning riddims and introduced the masses to a new generation of dancehall stars, toasters, singjays and vocalists alike. The set mixes them up but groups the riddims together, thus showcasing Riley's production and remix skills. Surprisingly, the set doesn't stretch back to 1985 and the featured version of "Ring the Alarm Quick" here is a later remix, but the disc does boast the bulk of the best of Techniques' hits from the rest of the decade. There's Super Cat's groundbreaking "Boops," which inspired even more songs on that subject than even Red Dragon's "Hol a Fresh" did on the virtues of bathing. Appropriately, the set sequence's Red Dragon's kid brother, Flourgon's retort "Biff a Spliff" immediately after. There's no cultural message on that number, though, and it was left to Admiral Tibett to fly the conscious flag across this slack age with the likes of his huge hit "Leave People Business." But it was the "Bad Boys" that really ruled the dancehalls, like the tough as nuts Cutty Ranks, the boastful Waterhouse styled Courtney Melody, the party hardy Daddy Lizard, whose "A Fi Fly Out" sent the whole scene soaring, and, of course, the aforementioned Red Dragon, who closes the set with the almost respectful "Yu Body Good." From veterans like Gregory Isaacs, paired here with the gruff Tiger, to rising singing stars like the sweet as sugar Pliers, Riley worked with the best, and made them shine even brighter. A fabulous compilation that is a must-have for every dancehall fan.

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