Creation Rebel – Hostile Environment
CD / LP / DR
October 6, 2023
Website Record Label
1. Swiftly (The Right One) feat. Prince Far I
2. Stonebridge Warrior
3. Under Pressure
4. That’s More Like It
5. Jubilee Clock
6. This Thinking Feeling feat. Prince Far I & Daddy Freddy
7. Whatever It Takes feat. Isha Bell
8. Salutation Gardens
9. Crown Hill Road
10. The Peoples’ Sound (Tribute To Daddy Vego)
11. Off The Spectrum
After surprising On-U-Sound fans and reggae enthusiasts with the release of two great Horace Andy albums, Midnight Rockers and Midnight Scorchers, in 2022, the quirky UK producer/sound engineer Adrian Sherwood surprises again with the release of Creation Rebel’s brand new album, Hostile Environment. It’s the first album in over forty years from what was known as the the original On-U Sound house band. Creation Rebel bridged the gap between reggae and punk in the late ’70s and attracted attention with classics such as Dub From Creation and Starship Africa. The Hostile Environment set features original Creation Rebel members Crucial Tony, Eskimo Fox and Ranking Magoo, alongside fellow musicians Kenton “Fish” Brown, Mark Bandola, Cyrus Richards, Gaudi, Henry “Buttons” Tenyue, Patrick Tenyue, Dave Fullwood, Dean Fraser, Megumi Mesaka, and Okiel McIntyre.
In the late 1970s, a band called Creation Rebel was formed in the UK, consisting of members from the renowned Prince Far I’s backing band, the Arabs. Their first album, Dub From Creation, was produced by Adrian Sherwood and engineered by Dennis Bovell. This album marked the debut release on Sherwood’s Hitrun label, which later became On-U Sound. The group’s lineup constantly changed, and they not only supported Prince Far I but also collaborated with other artists both on stage and in the studio. They performed alongside punk artists like the Clash, the Slits, and Don Cherry. However, it was their groundbreaking release in 1980, Starship Africa, that truly showcased their futuristic and innovative approach to dub music. That album is often regarded as one of the greatest dub albums ever made. After experimenting with a more commercial sound, Creation Rebel disbanded following the tragic murder of Prince Far I in September 1983. Decades later, in 2019, Adrian Sherwood extended an invitation to three key surviving members from the band to join him for live performances. During the COVID-19 lockdown, they took the opportunity to collaborate on music, eventually culminating in the creation of a full-length studio album called Hostile Environment.
The album’s title is a nod to former British Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial policies towards asylum seekers, the recent Windrush scandal, and the home secretaries’ intention to create a hostile environment to stop those seeking refuge. This is particularly significant for a group of UK-based Jamaican musicians who have lived in the shadow of a former colonial power that seems to have forgotten past injustices. In spite of these substantial themes, the music on the album is elevating and brimming with happiness and appreciation, all the while recognizing the daily challenges encountered. The musical arrangements are both precise and melodious, while they also bring in a catchy groove. At the same time, there’s no hesitation to venture into experimental and eclectic effects whenever inspiration urges to do so. The album successfully strikes a harmonious balance between thought-provoking lyrics, infectious backdrops, and deep dub influences.
Prince Far I
The haunting deep gruff voice of the late King Cry Cry aka Prince Far I can be heard on two tracks, starting with the compelling opening track, Swiftly (The Right One), on which also the vocal of Mr. Magoo is heard. The other one is the superb This Thinking Feeling, featuring Bristol-based Jamaican ragga vocalist Daddy Freddy next to Prince Far I. Both tracks are standouts and an utterly joy to listen to. But there are more deadly goods to fulljoy including the instrumental piece Stonebridge Warrior which beautifully highlights the horns played by the former Matic Horns (Henry & Patrick Tenyue) and Cyrus Richards’ melodica play. The soulful Whatever It Takes, with Isha Bell providing backing vocals, delves into the disparity between Windrush-era immigrants and their British-born children, highlighting the generation gap that emerged. Meanwhile, Under Pressure bemoans the repeated scrutiny and discrimination faced by the community from law enforcement. Additionally, The Peoples’ Sound (Tribute to Daddy Vego) is a lively tribute to the late promoter and sound system legend. The strong and striking dub tracks That’s More Like It and Jubilee Clock are truly hard-hitting offerings, while Salutation Gardens and Off the Spectrum are dreamy and atmospheric dubs.
Overall, Hostile Environment is an impressive comeback album that definitely needs to be heard by longtime reggae & dub aficionados as well as the younger generation of fans.