Been catching up with some crusty old reggae albums lately. This is one I owned back in the day and haven’t heard for years – and certainly never to this degree of fidelity. As I recall, ‘Africa must be free’ was an album I owned on an imported Jamaican pressing .
For anyone who was collecting records – especially reggae records – in the 1970’s , this apparently simple statement is freighted with portents of doom. Simply put, buying Jamaican pressings was always a bit of a risk because the quality of such pressings could be so variable . As imports, they were more expensive than UK releases, too. However, the frisson was the snob value of having something that might not appear in a UK edition for months, if at all and for serious reggae collectors, this was sometimes a key factor.
The downside of JA pressings was that they were rarely flat, often pressed off-centre, usually used sub-standard vinyl with lots of ‘snap, crackle & pop’ and had sleeves that often seemed to have been ‘assembled and glued together by a temperamental 5-year old. In my days as a record shop manager, I remember we got a consignment of imported Joe Gibbs albums, where the label was so off centre that the last track on one side had been pressed through it. Vinyl, eh? And there are still people who reckon it’s better than cd’s…..Luddites ……
Anyway, ‘Africa must be free’ still sounds pretty good after all these years…in fact the accompanying dub version (which I’d not heard until now) is terrific and the work of Augustus Pablo if I’m not mistaken. Hugh Mundell sounds even younger than he was (16) when he cut this album in 1978. Sadly, he was unable to build much of a career as he was shot dead in Kingston in 1983 whilst sitting in a car with singer Junior Reid. In typically prosaic fashion, his murder was rumoured to be due to an argument over the ownership of a refrigerator….. go figure…..