Various Artists

More Pressure, Vol. 1: Straight to the Head

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The Pressure Sounds label long ago established its reputation via a steady stream of sumptuous reissues. Most of their releases are dedicated to a single artist or producer, bringing the best of their canon back to the shelves, with the Sound & Pressure series acting as superb label showcases. Now, however, comes More Pressure, Vol. 1: Straight to the Head, the first in a new series of compilations given over to the label's own favorite rarities, most paired with their corresponding dubs. Many come courtesy of well-known artists, although one suspects that Black Uhuru would prefer fans not to hear "Folk Song," the original trio's first ever recording. It may no longer meet with their approval, but it's still a lovely number, with pure rocksteady-styled harmonies. A still wet behind the ears Dillinger delivers the goods on the 1975 single "Nuh Chuck It," while a young Barrington Levy bemoans he'll never be "The Winner." Rubbish! Even in 1980 he sounded like a star on this stellar Jo Jo Hookim production. Cornel Campbell already was one when he cut "Free Meal Ticket," arguably his most haunting number to date. Michael Rose could only wish for such fame, although the title of his 1977 "We Shall Over Come" single proved to be prescient; it was the last of a string of solo 45s cut while he awaited Black Uhuru's breakthrough, which promptly occurred the following year. Those are the heavy hitters, but equally phenomenal numbers came from the lesser knowns. Ras Ibuna's Karl Pitterson produced "Diverse Doctrine" is absolutely lethal, while Ricky Storme's lovelorn "The Way It Is" amazes, not least for producer Tommy Cowan's incredible riddim, a dread version of Blondie's "Rapture." And then there are the bands and musicians who deliver the phenomenal versions or, in the case of Winston Riley's studio band the Mercenaries, the instrumental takes. Their "Eight Against Rome" is one of the most exciting versions of "Death in the Arena" to make it to wax. But then, that could be said of everything here, and it's extraordinary that so many stunning singles were previously lost between the cracks. [An LP version of the compilation was also released.]

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