New Age Steppers

Massive Hits, Vol. 1

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The New Age Steppers were a twisted sort of punk/reggae supergroup organized by On-U Sound label head Adrian Sherwood in the early '80s. It included vocalists Ari Up (formerly of the Slits) and Mark Stewart (known for his work with the infamous Mafia) as well as Roots Radics drummer Style Scott and a handful of other studio musicians, with Sherwood himself doing that dubwise voodoo that he did so well at the mixing board. The ironically titled Massive Hits, Vol. 1 draws on the band's first three releases, taking about half the material from New Age Steppers and Action Battlefield and putting those tracks together with all but two selections from Foundation Steppers to create a generous program and about as good an overview of the group's formative years as you could ask for. There's an early and drastically deconstructed version of "High Ideals and Crazy Dreams" (which would later be recorded in a far superior version by Strange Parcels) with Stewart on vocals, and a charmingly heartfelt and vocally amateurish rendition of the Junior Byles classic "Fade Away" performed by Ari Up. Bim Sherman makes an uncredited appearance on "Dreamers" and "Vice of My Enemies." But some of the collection's best moments are purely instrumental dub, such as an excellent remix of "Private Armies" and the coolly militant-sounding "Stabilizer." Avant roots reggae doesn't get any better than this.

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