Album review
Natty Universal Dread 1973-1979
Big Youth
Blood & Fire
Three CD Box

Tracking list

Disc 1 : Hot Stock 1973

  1. Chucky No Lucky
  2. Waterhouse Rock
  3. Hot Cross Bun
  4. River Jordan
  5. Children Children
  6. Mr. Buddy
  7. Hot Stock
  8. Downtown Kingston Pollution
  9. Hell Is For Heroes
  10. African Daughter
  11. Things In the Light
  12. Sky Juice
  13. Not Long Ago
  14. Is Dread In A Babylon
  15. I Pray Thee Continually
  16. Streets In Africa

Disc 2 : Reggae Phenomenon 1973-1975

  1. Give Praises
  2. Mama Look
  3. Reggae Phenomenon
  4. Battle Of The Giants Part 1 featuring U Roy
  5. Battle Of The Giants Part 2 featuring U Roy
  6. Plead I Cause
  7. Hip Ki Do
  8. Riverton City
  9. Love And Happiness featuring Leroy Smart
  10. Weeping In The Night
  11. Every Nigger Is A Star
  12. My Time
  13. Natty Universal Dread
  14. Jim Screechy

Disc 3 : Hotter Fire 1975-1979

  1. Mosiah Garvey (Extended)
  2. Wolf In Sheep Clothing (Version 1)
  3. Wolf In Sheep Clothing (Version 2)
  4. Keep Your Dread
  5. I Light And I Salvation
  6. Hit The Road Jack
  7. Keep On Trying featuring Leroy Smart
  8. Jah Man Of Syreen
  9. Dread High Ranking
  10. Hotter Fire
  11. Miss Lou Ring A Ding
  12. Same Something
  13. Dread Is The Best
  14. Ten Against One
  15. River Boat
  16. Sugar Sugar featuring Junior Byles
  17. The Wise Sheep
  18. Jah Jah Love Them (Extended)
  19. The Upful One
  20. Can't Take Wah Happen On A West
  21. Political Confusion
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5

Due to production problems followed by a packaging design fault (which actually forced Blood & Fire Records to withdraw stocks of the "Natty Cultural Dread" set) most fans of classic roots reggae had to wait quite some time for the release of this highly anticipated three CD box set. The wait was worth while as this exciting 51-track set brings together the majority of the great Manley Augustus Buchanan aka Big Youth's ground breaking self-productions in one package, most of which appeared on the man's own labels "Negusa Nagast", "Augustus Buchanan" and "Tanasha" between 1973-1979. With "Natty Cultural Dread 1973-1979" UK's foremost re-issue label Blood & Fire continues the grand tradition they have set with the release of the definitive "Jesus Dread" and "Heart Of The Congos" sets.
Although U Roy deservedly gets the credits and honour for being the one who started the deejay ball rolling it is Big Youth who can be regarded as the artist who changed up the fledgling deejay scene in Jamaica in the early seventies as he brought to the form an overt Rasta consciousness and innovative techniques of delivery that literally transcended its dancehall origins. While listening to Big Youth records from that particular period in Jamaica's musical history, one of the most striking aspects is the spontaneity and looseness in the man's delivery while dropping his radical stream of consciousness jive talk atop the toughest riddims of the day. In this aspect he truly exceeds the old school of for example U Roy and Dennis Alcapone.
Divided over three compact discs "Natty Universal Dread" mainly collects Big Youth tunes that first appeared as highly collectable singles on his own Jamaican pressed labels. This implies one will find such great classic singles like "Sky Juice" and its wicked version "Not Long Ago", "I Pray Thee Continually", "Streets In Africa", "Every Nigger Is A Star", "My Time", "Jim Screechy", "Keep Your Dread", "Hit The Road Jack," "Miss Lou Ring Ding", "Ten Against One" and the two versions of "Wolf In Sheep Clothing". But there's even more niceness to be found with such tracks like "Reggae Phenomenon", "I Light And I Salvation", "Jah Man Of Syreen" and the original 7" echo version of "Mosiah Garvey" including its awesome dub. Furthermore the set features "Chucky No Lucky" and "Waterhouse Rock", which actually are the both sides of the Youth's outrageous toast to Joe Gibbs' wicked cut of Studio One's classic "Rockfort Rock".
Also worth mentioning are the four pieces to "Love Me Forever", another reworked classic Studio One riddim, including "Hot Stock" (check out the intro by backing singers Gregory Isaacs and Leroy Sibbles), "Downtown Kingston Pollution", "Hell Is For Heroes" and "African Daughter". It's a good example of the fact that Big Youth often had more to say than one piece could contain.
"Natty Universal Dread 1973-1979" is one of the most exciting reggae re-issue packages, a must-have for all collector's of vintage reggae!

Teacher & Mr. T.