Boomkat Product Review:
From the top shelf of UK soundsystem culture, Soul Jazz pull up a cracking selection from the Fashion Records archive, running classic Dancehall, Jungle and Lovers Rock from Cutty Ranks to General Levy, Carlton Lewis, Top Cat and Janice Walker
Between the early ‘80s and late ‘90s Fashion Records were crucial players in the dialogue between Jamaican, Caribbean music and the sound of UK’s urban centres, and their influence would spill over to become a cornerstone of British dance music culture.
“While nearly all other UK reggae labels focused on releasing Jamaican music, from the early days of Island and Trojan in the 1960s, through Island and Virgin in the 1970s and Greensleeves that came up in the 1980s, Fashion’s focus was firmly on music produced in the UK. This unique British perspective shaped both lyrical content and musical fashion. And like all the great music labels, from Studio One to Blue Note, Fashion was able to create a significant roster of its own artists.
Amazingly for a small independent label, a number of Fashion artists achieved mainstream UK chart and crossover success, including Laurel & Hardy, Smiley Culture and General Levy. But although this success was welcomed, crossing over into the mainstream was never the main focus for label owners Chris Lane and John McGillivray (who also runs the successful Dub Vendor record shop), whose starting point was always primarily focused on producing quality music first.
In the early 1980s, Fashion Records captured the rise of the emerging British dancehall scene in its ascendency. The large roster of first generation British-born artists and MCs on the label, including General Levy, Papa Face, Smiley Culture, Bionic Rhona, Asher Senator, Laurel & Hardy, Top Cat and many more, often gave a unique and sometimes humorous British lyrical perspective to Fashion releases, discussing everyday subjects, from police harassment to road safety.
Throughout much of the 1980s and into the 1990s Fashion continued to release an almost relentless array of UK dancehall releases as well as continuing with lovers rock and the occasional dub releases. Then, in the mid-90s, with the dancehall and reggae releases still coming on strong, Fashion released a superb series of early jungle tracks linking Jamaican and British MCs and dancehall artists with young jungle mixers, remixers and producers. By this time dancehall artists General Levy and Cutty Ranks had become the staple vocal samples of literally hundreds of white label jungle records and Fashion took advantage of this, often getting young producers to work in exchange for sample clearances.
This album is a subjective and scatter-gun ride through some of the many unique and heavyweight tracks to come out of the Fashion stable - some classics, some lesser-known, all 100% killer.”