Various Artists

Watch How the People Dancing: Unity Sounds from the London Dancehall 1986-1989

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In the '80s, when reggae was changing from roots to dancehall, the Unity sound system was already a big player in London. And when the digital sound started, they were inspired to start making their own tunes, instead of simply playing others. Using a Casio and a four-track cassette recorder, they laid down the rhythm tracks, then went into a real studio to add vocals and overdubs. All the tracks here were tried and tested on the Unity sound system before being released as singles on their own Unity label -- the first, Kenny Knots' "Watch How the People Dancing," was played for six months before it became a record. On the majority of the vocal cuts, an instrumental "version" is appended (just as it would have played on a sound system). The result is true street-level British reggae from the dawn of the digital era, and all surprisingly good, given that none of the people involved were really musicians -- they all worked for Unity Sound, except for some of the singers. From 1986-1989, this is what made people in London dance, sitting comfortably alongside Shabba Ranks and all the other music coming out of Jamaica. These names might be unknown, but there's no denying the power of the music here. This was the reggae DIY era, and the Unity people did it proud.

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