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linton-kwesi-johnson-bass-culture.jpg BASS CULTURE
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Island Records ILPS 9605

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• “Street ’66” set to a picture of the housing album cover. Thanks to mambule2.

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7.66 “Brilliant”

TJR saysEssentially, this was the third set from the London-based poet, every time in collaboration with Dennis Bovell’s roots-rockers. “Bass Culture” is the best one yet, with a sublime run of hard-hitters only coming to an end with the final three cuts. The moody “Street ‘66” is darkly atmospheric and seems to infer that the police who’ve come to break up a low-key chilled party are messin’ with the wrong people! “Reggae Fi Peach” is about a school teacher from New Zealand named Blair Peach who moved to England and became active in the movement against Neo-Nazis in Europe. He was killed at a protest against Neo-Nazis… not by the Neo-Nazi’s themselves, but by London’s “Special Patrol” division of their police department. Linton’s addresses can make the hairs on the back my neck stand up: “Oh ye people of England, GREAT injustices are committed upon dis land, How long will ye permit dem to carry on? Is England becoming a fascist state? The answer lies at your own gate, and in the answer lies your fate.” Opening up side two, “Inglan Is A Bitch” is another excellent piece of performance poetry which focuses on the struggles of an immigrant living in London. Johnson moved to London to live in Brixton in 1965. On moving to London he has said that it was cold and ugly and that “it wasn’t the picture book idea one has of the mother country”. It’s highly evocative – he’s a master of his art.

The Jukebox Rebel

Critics' view

I remember at the time of its release that many reviewers considered Bass Culture a slight disappointment because it didn’t reach the highs of Forces of Victory. Granted, following up a record as great as Forces of Victory is no easy task, but all these years later I wonder what were people thinking. Bass Culture is tremendous, another successful collaboration between Johnson and Bovell with songs that are, at times, even more confrontational (e.g., "Inglan is a Bitch") than anything he had previously recorded. I will admit that the Dub Band sounds better on Forces of Victory, but Johnson is hitting his stride at the time of this release and experimenting with song structure and lyrics a little more (i.e., not everything is explicitly political here). Still, I defy anyone to come up with a reason to not own this record. An extra added bonus is John Kpiaye’s great guitar playing.


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