Kiddus I

Rocking Rebel, Vols. 1-2

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Frank Dowding, better known as Kiddus I, was on the cusp of major stardom when director Ted Bafaloukos tapped him for a feature spot in his 1978 film Rockers. Kiddus got his start as one of the singers and drummers in Ras Michael's Sons of Negus, an influential roots reggae band. He left the group to begin his solo career just before the filming of Rockers commenced. One famous scene in Rockers documents the recording of "Graduation in Zion," which became an early hit for Kiddus. The tune was included on the Rockers soundtrack album. Kiddus made more singles and had finished an album when he dropped out of sight around 1980. He returned to the studio in 2005 to make Inna de Yard, an acoustic album for the French Makasound logo. He's made several albums since then, but he lost the tapes for his debut album in 1981. Luckily, Michael Santoro, a friend of Kiddus, made a copy of the album, and those tapes resurfaced in 2007. They were finally remastered and this long lost artifact from reggae's golden era got its long-delayed release in 2009. The ten singles that make up Rocking Rebel were recorded at Tuff Gong, Harry J's, Aquarius, and Sound Dragon in N.Y.C. Players include Robbie Shakespeare, Earl "Chinna" Smith, Tyrone Downie, Earl "Wire" Lindo, and other session heavies, but the scant liner notes don't tell you who played on what track. Highlights of Vol. 1 include the seminal hit "Graduation in Zion," a moving song of sufferation and redemption; "Harder," which lives up to its title with a tough rhythm track; the R&B-flavored "Rocking Rebel," a dance tune with Temptations-like backing vocals and squeaking and squalling sci-fi keyboards; the slightly disco-fied funk of "Cross Over," with a galloping bassline and a hint of Bob Marley's phrasing in Kiddus' vocal; "Sweet Lady," a love song that lives up to its sugary title; and "Flying at Knots," a dub-heavy track with a dark feel and one of the record's best vocals. Kiddus is a strong singer with clear enunciation and a tenor that trembles with emotion, but the mix, or maybe the limitations of the source material, often submerges the vocals in the backing tracks. Vol. 2 has the throbbing reggae-ized funk of "Jah Jah Love," a protest song with a bluesy guitar solo; "To Toil," another song of biblical tribulation with a soulful apocalyptical vocal from Kiddus; and the uplifting "Balance," a bubbly disco tune that uses dancing as a metaphor for peace and harmony. Kiddus accents his vocal here with a series of soulful shrieks and shouts. The second disc also includes dub versions of "Harder," "Time," and "Love Child."

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
blue highlight denotes track pick