Five key albums from Creation Rebel, the original On-U Sound house band, are being repressed to vinyl and all highlighting early production work from Adrian Sherwood.
Alongside the individual LP reissues is a 6CD anthology box set, entitled High Above Harlesden 1978-2023 in tribute to the working class area of North-West London where the band started out.
Creation Rebel was originally assembled as a studio project by a young Adrian Sherwood to realise his first album recording session, resulting in their debut set Dub From Creation (engineered by another titan of UK dub music, Dennis Bovell). Over time the group evolved, becoming the European touring band for Prince Far I, and recording a series of seminal records under their own name, with band leader and line-up mainstay Crucial Tony Phillips having more creative input as time went on. Together with drummer Charlie Eskimo Fox and Ranking Magoo, Tony continues to lead the band in the present day. Following the imprisonment of bass player Lizard Logan, and the tragic murder of Prince Far I, the band ceased activity for a long period of time, from the mid-1980s onwards. The individual members carried on making significant contributions to other projects, with Crucial Tony making a name for himself as a producer in his own right, setting up the Ruff Cutt band, label, studio and production house in his native Harlesden. After reforming to play a Sherwood At The Controls evening at London’s Jazz Cafe in 2017, the band headed back into the studio to start working on the rhythms that would become Hostile Environment.
The albums included in the reissue campaign are:
Dub From Creation (1978)
Seminal first studio work by revered dub producer Adrian Sherwood, engineered by Dennis Bovell. Featuring drums from Eric ‘Fish’ Clarke of the Black Roots Players and brother of reggae superstar Johnny Clarke.
Close Encounters Of The Third World (1978)
The most sought after title in the Creation Rebel catalogue, partly recorded at Channel One studio in Jamaica and mixed by Prince Jammy in London. Secondhand copies in decent condition command an astronomical price.
Rebel Vibrations (1979)
Featuring drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott from the legendary Roots Radics, unavailable since original release, a righteous collection of heavy basslines and big tunes, originally released on pre-On-U Sound label, the highly collectable Hitrun.
Starship Africa (1980)
A true dub classic – backwards tapes drenched in interplanetary sound effects, ghostly voices from beyond the stars and ringing percussion. Featuring members of the Roots Radics, Misty In Roots and Prince Far I’s Arabs. Recently voted #1 in Mojo Magazine’s How To Buy… On-U Sound feature as their most recommended release in the entire catalogue.
Psychotic Jonkanoo (1981)
Featuring backing vocals from John Lydon (The Sex Pistols, Public Image Limited), and displaying a markedly experimental UK approach to traditional Jamaican roots reggae, resulting in a distinctive hybrid sound that still sounds fresh.
Hostile Environment (2023)
The triumphant comeback set by a band returning from a 40+ year exile in outer space. The trio of Crucial Tony, Eskimo Fox and Magoo reunite with producer Adrian Sherwood to create a modern spin on their heavyweight dubwise rhythms.
High Above Harlesden 1978-2023
A 6CD anthology box set containing all of the above albums, plus 36 page booklet with photos and sleevenotes, and 7 bonus tracks.
The Creation Rebel Story by Adrian Sherwood
The band was originally a studio project, playing on my very first production released in 1978, Dub From Creation, engineered by Dennis Bovell. This was the first release on the Hitrun Label (started by Peter ‘Dr.Pablo’ Stroud and myself). To help start the label Prince Far I gave us some of his productions to release, and also voiced “Frontline Speech” on the rhythm of the title track “Dub from Creation”. We were so happy when he released this in Jamaica on his own Cry Tuff label. Hitrun in turn helped organise live shows for Far I in the UK and Holland, and we decided to use the name on posters – Prince Far I and Creation Rebel. It was costly bringing musicians from Jamaica but it was also very hard to secure the services of a top UK based drummer. Far I told us of a fantastic new talent who we should bring to the UK for the first set of dates. Not long out of the Jamaican army, we brought Lincoln “Style” Scott to London. On our first rehearsal at the Gangsterville record shop, it was clear how good he was.
During Style’s first visit we recorded what would become the second album, Rebel Vibrations. Rhythms from this session also made up a lot of the third record, Close Encounters Of The Third World, which found the band moving away somewhat from the original ‘strictly come dubbing’ idea with more vocals from Crucial Tony and Lizard Logan added. Prince Jammy was on a visit to London and got employed to mix the record. By now Rebel was developing into something like a ‘proper’ band with Tony, Lizard, Fatfingers, Mr.Magoo and Dr.Pablo in the UK, and with Style flying in for shows and recording.
In 1979 Rebel started to get a great reputation, still backing artists but opening with their own set, and yours truly learning to mix the live sound. That year Hitrun organised the Roots Encounter tour with Prince Far I, Bim Sherman and Prince Hammer. Shortly after that we got invited to join The Slits tour to promote their debut album Cut, with Don Cherry also on the bill. The tour for Style sadly ended in a Glasgow hospital the day before our London show at The Rainbow in Finsbury Park, Scotty had a burst appendix. When we got to London, we couldn’t find a drummer that was free to deputise, despite our best efforts.That night, Tony played drums and that was pretty much Style’s last show with Creation Rebel.
On Style’s return to Jamaica, he teamed up with Far I’s old bassist Errol ‘Flabba’ Holt and some of Jamaica’s finest talent to form Roots Radics. His career as a session musician exploded – they almost immediately became the backing band for Bunny Wailer and Gregory Isaacs and one of the most in demand rhythm sections on the island.
What became the fourth album had actually been started before making the second – Starship Africa began with a session at Gooseberry Studios with Charlie ‘Eskimo’ Fox (Freedom Fighters) on drums, Tony Henry (prior to joining Misty In Roots) on bass, and as always, Crucial Tony on guitar, along with his cousin Clifton ‘Bigga’ Morrison (Jazz Jamaica) who had also played on Dub From Creation, on keyboards. During a session in 1979 Style Scott had overdubbed some of these tracks and we recorded a couple more. In 1980 while working with ‘Zen Gangster’, Chris Garland, Starship Africa was mixed, edited and finished at Berry Street Studio with the engineer, Dave ‘Nobby Turner’ Hunt.
I first saw Charlie Fox in 1974 while he was drumming on Gregory Isaacs’ first UK tour. I was 16 and as I’d worked in my school holidays for the Pama label, managed to get into the Apollo Club in Willesden. Fox was a very in-demand drummer. His band Freedom Fighters in the 1970s were backing lots of top visiting acts like Dillinger, Trinity and many more. Fox continued working with Freedom Fighters (as did Desmond ‘Fatfingers’ Coke) but then also joined Creation Rebel.
In early 1980 Rebel did a few dates with The Clash and then went off to Europe for freezing squat shows in places like Berlin. By now the band was a balance of vocals and dub, continuing to back Prince Far I in the UK and Europe, and trying to secure shows in their own right. Also by now in the band was percussionist Bonjo I (later to become better known for African Head Charge).
Thanks to Lawrie Dunn at Virgin music (and later Statik Records) we managed to get access to The Manor Studios in Oxford, my favourite studio ever. It was residential and owned by Virgin, Richard Branson lived nearby and would regularly visit. It was here that we made the fifth album, Psychotic Jonkanoo, released in 1981. A year later we made album number six – we thought Lows And Highs (bass and treble) would propel Rebel forward, as to our ears it sounds somewhat commercial – haha. It was the most costly record we’d made up that time and in many ways it had a lot going for it – the single “A Love I Can Feel” was getting a lot of radio play and loads of shows were planned, but then things then took a very sad turn. Firstly our lead vocalist and bassist, Lizard, got in a misunderstanding with HM Customs and ended up being sent away for the next year, which stopped Rebel in their tracks. Then in 1983 Prince Far I was murdered at his home in Jamaica. This was devastating and both events led to the end of activities for the band.
Creation Rebel, all who were and are still involved, have created a great legacy. Their records inspired a legion of dubheads and they were foundational in the formation of the On-U Sound and Ruff Cut labels, not to mention bands such as Roots Radics, African Head Charge, Dub Syndicate, Singers and Players and many more. And on this new album it all comes full circle with Hostile Environment, featuring three of the original Rebels and with some wonderful guests. The album title is the term that UK Prime Minister Theresa May used to describe creating a hostile environment for people seeking refuge and asylum, one of the backdrops to the shocking Windrush scandal that has affected so many Caribbean families who have lived and worked in the UK for their whole lives.