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X Amount Crew – “can’t do it alone” [unreleased, 1993]

Some of you will know I’ve been planning to write this for some time…

I was inspired in part by fellow contributor Droid, who linked on Subvert Central about this fascinating article on reggae & acid house in the late 80s

LONDON ACID CITY: When the Two 8’s Clash — John Eden

Basically it’s time to post about this amazing unreleased tune I’ve had on tape for many years, that turned up recently (ish) on dubplate!

It comes from this radio recording I have of Brockie on a sunday evening, alongside MC Dett & Navigator, which I later narrowed down to a date of 5th Sept 1993. For the last tune of the night, Brockie drops from the top this pretty awesome ‘hardcore’ stomper, with clattering breaks and massive bass, and as it starts, Navigator on the mic says: Coming from the X Amount Crew… and it’s done by me the Navigator… 10"  dubplate pressure… And it goes out to the Flinty Badman — requested this one.

Later, on picking up the “The Victory” 12" and discovering it was something else, I assumed it was probably some other release I wasn’t aware of yet… With the advent of the internet, it wasn’t long until I stumbled upon the details of this, which finally solved the mystery, I thought:

Eventually, making an effort to track down a copy, and eagerly getting it on the decks at home, to my disappointment I discovered it was not on it! — although, not for long because turns out it’s four slices of top-notch tunage that, amazingly, I’d never heard before (does anyone know of any sets they appear in?)

X Amount Crew — Wild And Free EP
Close-up of Wild & Free EP

So, what does the Uncarved article cited above have to do with this unreleased tune? Well, it’s a fascinating insight into the intersection between reggae sound culture and the emergent rave scene in 1988, in particular going into detail about the north-east London based Unity Sound — and brought to my attention the fact that Navigator and Flinty Badman were both originally a part of.

This was somewhat of a revelation to me, and intrigued, I hit upon this article Navigator — The Evolution Of A London MC (and associated video) — which amongst other things revealed whilst on the sound he originally went by the name Specky Ranking "The" Navigator — explaining the credit on the Wild & Free EP (not two people like I had originally assumed!)

In addition, having risen to some notability with Unity Sound, and finding himself at a crossroads on how to continue as a vocalist, Navigator goes on to tell about hearing Lenny De Ice “We Are I.E.” for the first time, and the impact it had on him (a story he also relates in the documentary “A London Somet’ing”)

Rare image of Specky Ranks “The” Navigator toasting on the mic, with Unity Sounds

Then all of a sudden, I hear this track called "We Are Ie",
and I hear this b-line…
and I’m like yeah — that’s a proper b-line…
and that was the point when I was like, yeah — that’s what I wanna spit over

MC Navigator — from "The Evolution Of A London MC" [2012]

It’s interesting because when you listen to this unreleased tune (and the tracks on the Wild & Free EP), you can definitely tell an influence taken, that sort of – very saturated, enveloping bass, and crisp breaks right at the forefront, very much with a similar force of impact.

By the time of mid to late 1993 though, that prominent four-to-the-floor given as a counterpoint, reminiscent of “We Are I.E.”, was finding it’s way out of vogue, and with a change in the popular form of the music one can only guess a release was decided against, in favour of the more ‘jungle’ styled “Get Your Body” and the anthemic “The Victory” by DJ Dextrous.

It’s a shame in some ways that the music never stayed like this. On the other hand, we were given the classic jungle sound that became such a phenomenon that it’s hard to complain too much.

Of course, other members of Unity Sound would also play key roles in the development of jungle/drum & bass. Flinty Badman went on to form Ragga Twins with Deman Rocker, Peter Bouncer would lend his vocals to a number of important tracks, and even Ribs, the traditionalist founding selector of Unity Sound, would go on to receive credit for a tune on the celebrated “Champion Jungle Sound” compilation.

victory champion
The Victory 12″, and insert of Champion Jungle Sound LP

Interestingly, there may be a bit more to the story than this. One of the unusual things about the “The Victory” / “Get Your Body” release is there are two different catalogue numbers associated — side A is etched ‘XA002’, and the other – marked ‘XA001’ – has been gone over to make into a ‘2’. This suggests the possibility that this unreleased tune was infact the original intended ‘A’ side of this release, and that maybe some as-yet-undiscovered test press could well exist!

This is something borne out by the aforementioned dubplate having the “Get Your Body” tune on the flip – which, allegedly from Grooverider’s collection, moved surreptitiously on ebay into the hands of a nameless collector for a princely £££ sum…

So, without further ado, and incidentally making use of a choice sample taken from Philly-soul classic “At Peace With Woman”, I present to you my cherished clip, as broadcast live on Kool FM, late summer 1993. Enjoy!

NB. You can read more about UK sound culture, and the amalgamations pioneered by those such as the Ragga Twins, and indeed Shut Up & Dance, here:

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