03 April 2008


I first heard of Trojan's "Tighten Up" series back in the late '80s when reading an interview with Mick Jones. He was explaining the inspiration behind "Tighten Up Vol.88", the title of Big Audio Dynamite's third album. These reggae compilations were quite popular in their day, and over the years I've been patiently scooping them up from the bins in charity shops. Yes, I know I could track down the missing volumes online easily enough these days, or even buy shiny new CD editions, but where's the fun in that, I ask you? As I've said before, vinyl thrills are increasing hard to come by in charity shops these days (some don't even bother stocking wax anymore) but still I persevere. One of my favourites in the TightenUp series is Volume 4, which I found in a shop just half a mile from my house.

The sleeve's in a terrible state - looks like it must've had something sellotaped to it at some point, but the vinyl's in pretty good shape, so I stumped up the quid asking price. Hopefully I'll find a nicer copy one day, cos it's a lovely sleeve. The uncredited female model looks gorgeous, and luckily her face on the rear sleeve is unblemished...

She's probably a big ol' mama these days, but she was damn hot in '71, yessiree. I must admit a general weakness for old records with female models posing on the sleeve, especially from the '70s. There's a playful, almost innocent sense of gentle titillation about them, which you don't really see in the more hard-edged modern world.

The album itself it full of tasty treats, kicking off with the proverbial "Blood & Fire" by Niney, and also featuring the mournful harmonies of The Ethiopans on "The Selah", ushering in the Roots era after the previous late '60s period of pop-ska, and alienating all the skinheads in the process. Nice to hear The Slicker's version of "Johnny Too Bad" (later covered more famously by UB40) and an appearance from Jean (otherwise known as Judy Mowatt, who later joined the I Threes) with the Gaytones. The album finishes with a flabbergasting rendition of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" by Merlene Webber. Wunnerful...

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