Kiddus I - Graduation In Zion

Dub Store - #DSR CD 001 - May 22, 2007

As revealed by Dub Store Records

Reviewed by Seb on October 23, 2007

For obscure reasons, some artists reach the top of the charts while others stay in the shadows despite undeniable talent. Kiddus I belongs to the second category even if he was briefly in the spotlight for the famous 'Rockers' movie soundtrack song: 'Graduation in Zion'; the title track of this release. We have been waiting since the 70s for a full album dedicated to this committed artist, so let's be thankful to Dub Store for their hard work compiling vintage singles.

Firstly, the booklet for the CD release is just perfect. 24 pages of pictures, extensive liner notes written by Kiddus I himself and full lyrics. Without any doubt the best booklet I've seen this year and probably one of the best ever made. That sounds big - it is BIG. If you download the MP3s only, you'll really miss out on something good.

Among the numerous stories Frank Dowding (a.k.a Kiddus I) shares with us, one particulary reveals his personality :

"Chris Blackwell from Island Records asked me for a first option in 1976 - but when I recorded at Compass Point in 1978, he told me 'Nobody wants to wake up and hear this type of music'. Because my music was too aggressive - those particular songs that I played for him - 'Too Fat' and 'Topsy Turvy World'. Even in 1972, when I played with Dwight Pickney to enter the Jamaican festival, I chose a song called 'Careful How You Jump (Fire Burn)' and people were saying 'Hey, what the hell is this guy singing about, so way-out, rough and raw?' Society was not ready for talk like this".

35 years later, society has changed, so let's listen to the words and music again. The album opens with 3 songs recorded and mixed at Black Ark by Lee Perry; 'Too Fat' and 'Security In The Streets' being presented in their discomix versions. They belong to the golden era of the studio with that particular sound that noone else but Scratch could produce. Everything is powerful - drums, bass, horns, keyboards, guitars, percussions ... I've known these songs for a long time, but it's great to listen to them restored. Only one regret, the version of 'Crying Wolf' is missing, so you'll still have to hunt down the Shepherd 7" for the B-Side. In its place you get an obscure 'Nyabingi Take' on this track, based on the same Black Ark recording but mixed at the Aquarius studio.

After this astounding introduction to Kiddus I comes 'Love Child' and its dub. There's a kind of 'Max Romeo' feeling in the vocal line of this song and the dub is done very well by Dennis Thompson. Everyone knows 'Graduation in Zion', as stated above, so there's no need to comment on this great song. 'Give I Strength' is one of the strongest songs of this set in my opinion, as Kiddus I's voice matches the rhythm perfectly. 'Fire Burn' lasts not less than 9:22. A discomix ? not at all. The musicians explore this great composition with talent in a smoky mood - simply beautiful.

'Salvation' is the weakest track on this CD, but would have been among the best on most various artists compilations. 'Harder' and 'Time' are above the average mark, particulary for their dub versions. Both these songs were recorded in New York and are quite different from the rest of the set as you could expect. Some Roots purists may dislike them but they close out the album nicely before the great aforementioned nyabinghi version of 'Crying Wolf'.

Once again, we have to thank Dub Store for this beautiful compilation that showcases a great artist who deserved better recognition - now this injustice has been repaired. Obviously it will dry up some forum discussions, since in the past so many people couldn't listen to Kiddus I's songs without hunting down obscure singles for lots of money. Good old time? Not in this case. This album will be a serious candidate for the upcoming Roots Archives 2007 Awards. Don't miss it.

Seb - Roots Archives, October 2007
Edited by Ritu Kashyap