ARTIST: LINTON KEWSI JOHNSON
ALBUM: LKJ IN DUB
LABEL (YEAR): ISLAND RECORDS (1980)
FOR FANS OF: MATUMBI, BURNING SPEAR, LEE SCRATCH PERRY
Words by Ciaran Davis
My auntie and uncle have impeccable music taste and an eclectic record collection. When I was a teenager, trips to visit my cousins would involve late night sessions listening to all sorts of records. From D.A.F to Public Image Ltd., I got into a variety of artists who were trying to do something different. Of all the things I listened to, Linton Kwesi Johnson's album, LKJ In Dub, stands out. LKJ is a poet who was born in Jamaica in 1952 and settled in Brixton in 1963.
I saw him recite poetry in St. George's Church, Sheffield in 2012 as part of a literary festival. His performance was vivid; poems such as 'Sonny's Lettah' still channel a furious, yet controlled anger. In the subsequent questions and answers session, Linton eloquently described the mechanisms behind the London riots and why they will happen again. Yet LKJ in Dub is a departure from the poetry that he is famous for. On this album his famous songs are reworked and the lyrics are often removed. The concept behind the album was in keeping with other dub albums; take songs that are familiar to the listener, ramp up the bass and mix it in the studio.
The most striking thing about the album is the artwork – a stark red background interspersed with bold black font depicting the album's title; your gaze gravitates towards it. The music on the album also emits a raw hypnotic quality. 'Bass Culture' is my favourite – the pulsing bass mixes with LKJ's lyrics to create a woozy atmosphere. In 'Victorious Dub', the bass and drums lurk in the background, creating a slightly frenetic vibe. I keep on returning to this album to get that warm analogue sound; it’s a timeless piece of music, perfect for after-parties.