Fire up the barbecue, crack a Dragon Stout, mix up yer Guinness punch, carry out whatever cliched act of Caribbeanism you can think of, because it’s summer at last and a new Roots Manuva album is here! And with artwork from the legendary Tony McDermott (who was responsible for the illustrations on Greensleeves classics by the likes of Scientist, Mad Professor and the famous “Carnival of Reggae” 12″ sleeve) it’s a thing of beauty.
Okay, let’s clarify that ‘new’ a little. What you hold in your hands is in fact largely a series of re-works by a talented producer who, for reasons best known to himself, goes by the moniker Wrong Tom. Big Dada first came across Wrong Tom a few months before the releaase of Roots Manuva’s album, “Slime & Reason”. The DJ and producer (whose previous credits includes work for Lynval Golding’s Pama International, Trojan Records and his Staines homeboys Hard Fi) got in touch asking if he could bash out a dub version of the lead single for that campaign, “Buff Nuff”. As it wasn’t costing and we’re cheap like that we said he could have a go on spec. When we heard the result we immediately commissioned a series of mixes which, turned round in about a fortnight, became the bonus disc for the limited edition version of “Slime & Reason”. The responses we received were pretty ecstatic so we asked Tom if he would be up for expanding the work into a full album.
Two years on and Tom, with moral support from Mr Manuva, has turned in an album which covers all four of Roots Manuva’s main albums, plus tracks from “Dub Come Save Me” and “Alternately Deep” and a brand new collaboration with Mr Manuva and Ricky Ranking on lead single “Jah Warriors”. Tom decided to re-imagine each track as if his re-work was in fact the orignal version of the tune from a previous decade. Hence “Motion 5000” becomes classic roots groove “Motion ’82,” whereas something like “Rebuff” sees “Buff Nuff” return as vintage digi-dub. The project is approached with such conviction and skill that many of the tunes become hard to place in their orignal context, so it really does feel as if these funky, skanking, shuffling little numbers are in fact the ground zero of the Manuva experience.
And while this album is, in effect, a bit of summer fun to keep us all satisfied until Roots comes through with a whole new batch of material, the re-works are so well done, and lock so tight with Rodney’s vox that they actually achieve more than anyone could hope for. Often when people are dealing with Mr Rodney Smith they’re so concerned with his ground-breaking productions, his convoluted back story and his Genuine UK Maverick status that it’s easy to forget just what a good MC he is, how clever with words, how funny and insightful, how relaxed and easy and plain beautiful he sounds on the beat. It’s all here, one of the best UK lyricists and voices of the last decade as you’ve never quite heard him before, but probably secretly always wanted to. Sit back and enjoy while the sun still shines…