(Dread at the Controls)

Now you are tuned in to the champion sound, A-1 sound, world class sound…we are the champion sound that rule this town!

Mikey Dread isn’t shy about sharing his talents. Since 1976, he has shaped the sound of reggae and delivered it to the world via his renowned radio shows, ‘Dread at the Controls’.  Life is a Stage is the staggering twenty-second release from this legendary radio presenter, TV presenter, producer and musician.

As a producer, Mikey Dread has not only influenced the sound of reggae and dub music, he also left his mark on punk during the late 70s. Dread was responsible for introducing reggae elements into 1970s UK punk, such as The Punk Stars and The Clash, producing and writing tracks like Bank Robber.  His epic career has spanned many countries and disciplines, including producing and performing with Japanese punk bands, hosting TV series such as Rockers Roadshow and the documentary series Deep Roots Music, touring, performing and reporting on the reggae scene around the globe.

Yet, in 2007 he is still jamming in his studio in Kingston, creating and producing some killer reggae music. Thirty years on, Michael Campbell a.k.a. Mikey Dread is far from being a dusty portrait hanging in the reggae hall of fame.

Life is a Stage was recorded at the luxury Anchor Studios in Jamaica, mixed at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong studio and released on Dread’s own label, Dread at the Controls.  This release combines old school quality with contemporary freshness. The album showcases Mikey Dread’s style, with sweet riffs, melodic horn lines and heavy dubs combining to compliment his signature vocals.

All the big names are here: Sly Dunbar, Fully Fullwood, Tony Chin, Flabba Holt, Style Scott, Glen Browne, Dalton Browne, ‘Sticky’ Thompson, Deadley Headley, Bongo Herman and Robbie Lynn.  Interestingly, most of these reggae dons also appeared on his landmark 1979 album World War III.

Mikey has created a meaningful and heartfelt album. He covers social issues like teenage pregnancy, stem cell research and post-colonial Jamaican politics and has thrown in some sweet tracks, I’m Not the Kind and Dread Next Door for all the lovers. Destiny and Praise Jah Jah explore Rasta philosophy, while Backstage Pass comments on the fickle world of being a superstar. Pound a Weed reworks the Dennis Brown classic, Have You Ever.  The female backing vocals of ‘Brady’ Ellendre Walters, ‘Grace’ Sonia Spence and Chantelle Ernandez spice up the sound on the album, and provide three-part harmonies in true roots reggae style.

My pick for the album would have to be Soundbwoy Special, incorporating the stings and effects so familiar to Mikey Dread fans (‘Oh my gosh, the music just turns me on!’), dubbed out percussion, call-and-response vocals alongside a driving bass line.  Life is a Stage showcases this man’s ever living energy for dubwise music.  Check it!