Jah Wobble is the name given way back in the ‘70s to John Wardle, a friend of John Lydon’s, by the singer’s Sex Pistols bandmate Sid Vicious.
He came to prominence in 1978 with Lydon’s post-Pistols band Public Image Limited, and has been an active musician ever since, apart from a spell as a London tube train driver.
Though his work has been collected before, it’s never been done as well as this, with 92 tracks in a sumptious six-CD boxset, spanning more than 35 years of recordings.
Wobble himself penned the sleeve notes which accompany the set, and reading them while listening to his music, which spans several different genres, is an treat in itself.
His dub-influenced bass playing was one of the cornerstones of the PiL sound, and the trio of their early tracks here - Public Image, Poptones, and Careering - are the highlights of disc one.
He left after just two albums, and formed his own band, Invaders of the Heart, in 1983, and much of the work here is with them, dipping a toe into jazz and world music as well as his beloved dub.
Disc two, which concentrates on the ‘80s, is the only one I found disappointing, as much of it sounds a little dated, though that’s perhaps more to do with production techniques of the time rather than the music.
World Roots, on disc three, is a real treat, and shows just how eclectic Wobble can be, featuring some wonderful work with the Chinese Dub Orchestra, and the Nippon Dub Ensemble.
Collaborations are something he’s done regularly, and very well, and those with Julie Campbell (aka LoneLady) and former PiL and Clash guitarist Keith Levene are also standout moments.
Not being a big jazz fan, I was wary of disc four, but it was a pleasant surprise, and disc five, featuring ambient and spoken word material, was also better than I expected - real mood music.
The sixth and final disc is an all-new album of cover versions, with Wobble turning his unique style to tunes such as the theme from TV’s The Sweeney, the cult film Get Carter, and the skinhead reggae classic Liquidator.
For fans of old there’s plenty of new material, including a new single, Merry Go Round, the excellent B-side Let’s Go Psycho, and special Redux versions of hits Visions Of You and Becoming More Like God.
But there’s so much music here it’s hard to pick out favourites, and even if you’ve never heard Jah Wobble before, you’ll find something to love every time you listen. 8½/10. GW