Disc one: 1/ Public Image 2/ Fly 2 3/ Ketmagyl (Don't Go Away) 4/ Visions Of You 5/ Mehmeda Majka Bubage 6/ Becoming More Like God 7/ Mistralazul 2 8/ I Offer You Everything 9/ Shout At The Devil 10/ Blacksmith 11/ Blacksmith Dub 12/ Elevator Music 3 13/ Josey Walsh 14/ Tyger Tyger 15/ Requiem III Disc two: 1/ Poptones 2/ Betrayal Dub 3/ How Much Are They 4/ Invaders Of The Heart Mix 2 5/ Swan Lake 6/ Snakecharmer 7/ Songs Of Innocence 8/ Fly 1 9/ Funeral March 10/ Lam Tang Way Dub 11/ The Dunes 12/ So Many Years 13/ Lam Saravane Dub 14/ A Man I Knew 15/ Elevator Music 1 Disc three: 1/ Gone To Croatan 2/ Spinner 3/ A13 4/ Passage To Hades 5/ The Mystery Of Twilight 6/ Left Where It Fell 7/ The River Suite (Extract) Disc three, Track 1 recorded at Greenpoint Studios, Brooklyn, New York Disc three, Track 1 mixed at Greenpoint Disc three, Track 1 engineered by Robert Musso Disc three, Track 5 engineered by Cai Murphy Assistant engineer on Disc three, Track 1: Jean Pierre Sluys Assistance on Disc three, Track 1: Layng Martine Disc three, Track 1 produced by Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble Disc three, Track 5 produced by SolarisJah Wobble: bass; Bill Laswell (d3, t1,5): bass; Harold Budd: keyboards (d3, t5); Graham Haynes: cornet (d3, t5); Jaki Liebezeit: drums (d3, t5); Pharoah Sanders (d3, t1): soprano sax, flute; Aiyb Dieng (d3, t1): chatan, gongs, congas; Bernie Worrell: keyboards (d3, t1); DJ Rob Swift (d3, t1): turntables; Nicky Skopelitis (d3, t1): guitar, acoustic guitar; Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey (d3, t1): drums.
2004 - Trojan (UK), TJETD191 (3CD)
Wobble of course comes from good stock, he is arguably John Lydon's most important musical collaborator (no argument in this house), and he's not one to forget his roots, 'Public Image', 'Death Disco' and 'Poptones' (on which he also played drums. Not a lot of people know that, you know!) feature here in all their glory. But there's far more to Jah Wobble than just PiL, and this 3 CD retrospective goes some way in proving it. You won't find many tracks that even vaguely sound similar, but at the same time there's a thread here, and it's not just that bass. There's character, there's an open mind, there's God given talent, and there's a wicked sense of humour. There's Jah Wobble.
The patronising "World Music" tag hangs over him in record shops, but I suppose in truth Wobble is "world music" in the real sense of the term. He's brought all sort of diverse sounds and styles together. There can't be many genres he hasn't put a hand to over the years, or fused together in true "chips and cheese" style, much to the disgust of the snobby 'world music' elite. Punk as fuck.
Wobble never did things the easy way, his early records were branded little more than novelty, but he was never scared of trying new things and making records that were far from mainstream, even if it meant people thought he was joking. It's safe to say he's had the last laugh. Though now the irony is when he really is taking the piss the grown up press can't see it!
A retrospective like this is ideal, I seriously doubt there are any people on this planet who own every Jah Wobble record, it would be near impossible. And with a back catalogue spanning more than 25 years, and countless albums, where do you start? Well, this is as good a place as any… 'I Could Have Been a Contender' pretty much covers every step of Wob's musical journey from PiL and the early solo material like 'Betrayal', right through the hazy eighties to the nineties and the Island "hits", bringing things right up to date with a healthy selection of material released on his own 30 Hertz Records.
'Public Image' and 'Fly 2' were written years apart, and sound nothing alike, but even here at the first two tracks on disc 1, the "thread" is evident. This is far more than a random selection of album tracks. It would take hours to analyse them all, but suffice to say, it's all here. From the stunningly brilliant pop of the obscure 'Josey Walsh' to the elegant textures of 'Gone To Croatan'. A long journey, but one worth taking, if via the A13.
Even as a self confessed "big" fan I'm not gonna pretend I love every single track, because on a compilation this extensive and diverse, that would be just be insulting. There is however, a certain level of consistency and quality control throughout. 'I Could Have Been a Contender' highlights the fact Wobble is one of the few musicians who has bucked the trend that normally sees artists produce their strongest material at the beginning of their career, if anything he appears to get stronger.
A team player at all times Wobble's 'solid back four' on this compilation includes the likes of Brian Eno, Sinead O'Connor, Pharoah Sanders, Bill Laswell, Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, The Edge, and of course John Lydon. Maybe Wobble was the first to prove that you can succeed with the squad rotation system? On the subject of football, I once saw a quote of Wobble's which likened his music to his beloved but frustrating Spurs. Yeah, I can see that. There's the madness and unpredictability of Gazza, but to counter it there's also the solidness and discipline of Gary Mabut. Though I suppose at least The Invaders of the Heart get to play in Europe. Boom, Boom!
If you ever wanted a bit of the Wob but were scared of his chopper this is the compilation for you. Even someone like myself doesn't own all these records. At the bargain price of £12.99, along with plush 12 page packaging including notes from Mr Wobble, you'd be mad not to…
Of course, you may have noticed I've hardly mentioned the bass, and to be perfectly frank, I don't need to. What did John Lydon say in last years' interview? "The boy showed the world something there, with three notes, you get more of a melody and a tune out of the least you play" . Wise words.
Scott M (courtesy of the Fodderstompf website)
The Trojan box set format has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, getting fifty tracks for the price of a single album can seem appealing. However, quality control, poor packaging, recycling of tracks and too many releases have all lessened the appeal of this format. I Could Have Been a Contender is one of the more interesting Trojan releases. It's basically an anthology of Jah Wobble's work. His career as a bassist started as a member of Public Image Limited and then moved to a variety of solo and collaborative projects. PiL are basically an aggressive prog rock band with a serious slice of dub. Think early Tortoise on crack or Nomeansno fronted by Mark E Smith. His playing style is as distinctive as Sherwood's production style. Wobble loves jazz, dub, global roots music, and kraut rock. This album showcases some of the musicians he has played with. Collaborators include Bill Laswell, The Edge, Sinead O'Connor, Natasha Atlas, Brian Eno, and The Molam Laos Group. Despite the quality of collaborators, Wobble does not usually use producers. This may explain why I prefer his live shows, which often feature a sound engineer playing the desk dub style. This is not a straightforward reggae album, but open your ears and join the dots between the progtastic "PiL", the haunting roots of "Shout at the Devil", the Laos dub on Disc 2 and the spacey jazz/dub of Disc 3. Very few people will love all the tracks on the compilation, but you have to admire Jah's ability to experiment, genre jump, and draw together great collaborators. I know a purist PiL fan that refuses to listen to any Wobble solo material. That?s a little harsh, despite the strength of the first three PiL LPs. There are only two problems with this compilation. Firstly, someone has allowed Jah to sing on the odd track. Secondly, the sleeve notes need to be written by a critic or fan rather than the man himself.
3 1/2 of 5 stars
Ragudave (courtesy of the Reggae Reviews website)