A: Horace Andy - Slave Drive
B: The Mighty Two - Slave master
Now here's something you don't see every day. Although Horace Andy did record in the Gibbs' studio every now and then, not much of the result ended up on any of the studio's imprints. The great foundation singer's releases on Gibbs are few and far between, but definitely worth checking out. If anything, Slave Drive(r) is ample proof of that.
After the fierce countdown, Slave Drive immediately bursts into a mean, driving and well heavy roots version of Alton Ellis' Rocksteady. Obviously, Horace Andy's singing is sublime and perfectly balances out the backingtrack's harshness. A track, by the way, that stands out through its use of the "flying cymbals" style. This way of drumming, with the emphasis on the open hi-hat, was invented by fellow producer Bunny Lee in 1974. Although "invented" may be an exaggeration, as Striker was clearly influenced by the US Philly disco sound and thought it would fit well in his Aggrovators sound too. And indeed it did, as the new style would rapidly become the new craze and everybody started copying it. Horace Andy sang quite a few flying cymbal driven (hit)songs for Bunny Lee, so perhaps that's why Gibbs decided to go for this approach on Slave Drive as well. It sounds familiar and clearly it works, but he didn't revisit it much thereafter.
I first heard Slave Drive on the excellent Reggae Masterpiece compilation, and although Horace wasn't having the best of days when it came to writing original lyrics when this was recorded, the track grabbed me from the get go. It's not so much the flying cymbals that do it for me, it's the the superfat bass. It's so loud, so heavy and so upfront in the mix, it simply begs for a play on a big soundsystem. In that light it's somewhat dissapointing that Errol Thomspon didn't put more effort in the dub. Slave Master is a nice piece of instrumental reggae, for sure, but nothing too spectacular. ET could go wild on his dub mixes, and if he would have gone a little more crazy on the board for this one, I think it would have benefitted the dub. But maybe, just maybe, that's because Bunny Lee always used King Tubby for his dub mixes and it is without doubt that these mixes are among the best dubmusic has to offer. I keep imagining how Slave Master would have sounded after King Tubby's golden touch. I blame those damn flying cymbals for that...
*********Label: Errol T (Ja)
Release date: 1975
Matrix: JG 7713
Riddim: Alton Ellis - Rocksteady