Whilst on a reggae tip, and on the subject of Mikey Dread, here’s an unsung gem from the late, great man. Rescued from obscurity by its inclusion on the Lee Scratch Perry anthology, Arkology Vol II, this is one of the great tunes to emerge from Perry’s Black Ark studio, in which Dread toasts over the top of Perry’s equally mesmerising ‘Dreadlocks in Moonlight’. Dread (born Michael Campbell) was known throughout Jamaica as the ‘Dread at the Controls’, the name also given to the national radio show he hosted for the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. Quite what Dread at the Mantrols means is beyond me – in fact any information on this track seems hard to come by – but as with a lot of things involving Lee Perry, ours is not to question.
Campbell went on to reprise much of the lyrical content and melody for his much bigger hit, Barber Saloon, a harder-edged funkier cut which just lacks the ethereal quality of this one. The balance between Mikey’s stoned, rhythmic drawl and the beautiful melody underpinning it is what makes it so special. A listen to one of Mikey Dread’s compilations reveals that a lot of his back catalogue is fairly unspectacular, and it’s fair to say he’ll be best remembered for his work as a producer and DJ rather than artist in his own right. This one though is bang on the money and highlights the vivacity of the toaster / singjay style that came to the fore in late 70s Jamaica and went on to have such an influence on hip hop in the US and beyond.