Universal Rockers

Dennis Alcapone

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Universal Rockers Review

by Jo-Ann Greene

Dennis Alcapone had been one of Jamaica's most successful DJs, but by the time he signed to the British independent label Third World, his ranking had been seriously reduced by the rise of a new generation of toasters. He released two albums for the label in 1977, and it's these sets that Universal Rockers draws from. Both sank without a trace at the time, but their merits have become more evident with the passage of time. Producer Bunny Lee handed the DJ some of his best rhythms to toast over, all performed by his studio band the Aggrovators, with drummer Sly Dunbar enlisted for a number of the tracks here. The band laid down some of the most militant sounds around, and Lee further toughened them by focusing on their sizzling beats, honing them even sharper for the DJ. Lee created his own scintillating versions of current hits, including a clutch reprising singer Leroy Smart's recent hits, as well as reaching back into Jamaica's archives to resurrect rhythms from the past. Thus, the music is masterful -- classic rockers from Jamaica's premier session band and a producer at his creative heights. Alcapone's exuberant toasting dovetails perfectly with the exhilarating rhythms. But at a time of thunderous preaching and serious reasoning, his very enthusiasm worked against the DJ. Yet it still remains inexplicable that classic cultural numbers like "Babylon Set Rasta Free" and "Natty Dread Walk With Love" failed to hit on the island, while such rave-ups as "Universal Rockers" and "Six Million Dollar Man" didn't strike home in the British reggae scene. But better late than never; now those who missed it all the first time around have a second chance.

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