Augustus "Gussie" Clarke

Ram Dancehall

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Gussie Clarke remains one of Jamaica's most cutting edge producers. He started his career recording the island's early DJ stars, debuting with a cut from U-Roy, and quickly established himself as a hero of the dancehalls, even as he continued to work with some of Jamaica's greatest singers. The shift to ragga kept him on his toes, and it wasn't long before he gave the new digitized style a twist all his own. Clarke had made his mark with a uniquely dubby style, and now he'd bring that sound into the digital age. In 1988, he scored with Gregory Isaacs' "Rumour" and then garnered an international hit with J.C. Lodge's "Telephone Love," utilizing the same rhythm. Surprisingly, this compilation from 1989 features neither of these smash hits, but does bundle up ten others from this period. Featuring Clarke's work with DJs and dancehall singers (but no veteran stars), Ram Dancehall is a showcase for the producer and the artists alike, while also working as a master class in rhythms, abetted by such musical legends as Steely & Clevie, Danny Brown, Dean Fraser, and the considerable arrangement talents of Mikey "Home T" Bennett. The album boasts fabulous cuts from J.C. Lodge and such dulcet toned singers as Brian and Tony Gold, Cocoa Tea, Hugo Barrington, and Home T. In another time and place, Lady Patra would have been the doyen of the lover's rock scene; here she combines sultry vocals with a sharp rap on one of the album's highlights. Equally memorable is the Golds' version of "Maniac," seductively footloose in the dancehall. A trio of toasters also set the album alight: the tough Tiger, the lascivious Johnny P., and the great cultural toaster Admiral Tibet. The last's "Mad Man" is a bouncy little number, all trippingly light hearted until the scathing lyrics sink in; it's a formidable condemnation of society's treatment of the mentally ill. Tough rhythms, superb production, great songs, phenomenal artists, and, while not the greatest hits, a solid selection of excellent music.

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