UK reggae labels came and went in the 80s and 90s, especially those that made tracks, rather than buying them in. Two, however, flourished for years: the Mad Professor’s Ariwa in Thornton Heath and, a few miles west in Clapham, Fashion. Umbilically attached to the Dub Vendor shops, Fashion and its subsidiary Fine Style pumped out lovers rock, roots and ragga, and enjoyed numerous smashes in the reggae chart – and occasionally beyond.
This score of top tunes traces its development from its opening salvo, Dee Sharp’s elegant Let’s Dub It Up (1980), to Cutty Ranks’ ballbreaking The Stopper (1991). Aashion’s studio enjoyed visits from reggae royalty such as Alton Ellis and Frankie Paul (his A No Nutten is a gem), but Fashion also loved local talent, and much of the best of this excellent selection comes from Londoners such as Winsome (an unhurried lick of Barbara Acklin’s Am I The Same Girl before the song became trendy), Janet Lee Davis (Two Timing Lover), and Nereus Joseph (Guidance). Best of all is Request The Style, Top Cat’s genre-busting 12”, alas represented only by its junglist mix, which falls short of the original cut. That grumble aside, however, this is the 80s and 90s in truly Fine Style.