Saturday, October 22, 2016

The 51st Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

A full week's worth of spooky ska is what you'll get when you download and enjoy the 51st Week Mix... here's what you're gonna hear!

1.  Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - Frankenstein
2.  Prince Buster - Hard Man Fi Dead
3.  The Wailers - Jumbie Jamboree
4.  Danny Hill - Annie Palmer
5.  Clancy Eccles - Sammy No Dead
6.  Justin Hinds & The Dominoes - Satan
7.  Desmond Dekker - Dracula

Day 357 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Desmond Dekker - Dracula

Here is another spooky ska side... this one is called "Dracula" by Desmond Dekker and it was recorded at Beverly's in 1964 and released on the Black Swan label.  I went back to steal some of what I wrote about this track on a previous Spooktacular when I made the shocking discovery that I hadn't ever used this one!!  Oh well, I guess it can add it to the 2017 playlist right now.  And while this has little to do with the actual Transylvanian vampire, Dekker's tale of falling in love with a girl who can best be compared to that of the monstrous bloodsucker, is a lot of fun and of course... seasonally appropriate.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Fifteen - The Ghost

Ethan Yukna is a big fan of reggae music and someone that I have known for years, even though we didn't realize that we actually knew each other in a roundabout way in what seems like a lifetime ago.  Ethan and his wife Jenn, have been the biggest supporters of Reggae Spin Cycle, our monthly deejay gigs at Waverly Brewing Company here in Baltimore, and when I put out a call for volunteers who would be willing to take a turn at guest blogging for the 2016 Spooktacular, I definitely wanted him to be included.  It took a bit of convincing but thankfully he agreed.  Ethan may be a fan of reggae and a varied array of musical genres but above all he is an enviably amazing Superdad!  It's obvious his sons are his very soul and in my life I have never met two happier boys!  Thanks again Ethan... see it wasn't so bad was it?

"In the mid-1970s Winston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, was one of the most outspoken champions of Marcus Garvey's Pan-Africanism vision, and Garvey is even regarded by some Rastafarian followers as a prophet. "Marcus Garvey," the title track from Burning Spear's third album (Marcus Garvey, 1975), implores people to heed Garvey's prophecies and lessons and try to live a good life. (It's interesting to note that "The Burning Spear" was a Kenyan military award and was the original the name of Rodney's group. In late 1976, Rodney split from the group and started using the name Burning Spear for himself alone) This was the first album the group recorded for Island Records and it was produced by Lawrence Lindo, aka Jack Ruby. Ruby was regarded as one of the best roots reggae producers of the 1970s, and he was known for his catchy, punctuating horn arrangements. The backing musicians, whom Ruby named the "Black Disciples," had been assembled from the Soul Syndicate and the Wailers. 

The album Garvey's Ghost was released some 3 months later and each track is a dub version of its correspondent song from the album Marcus Garvey. Even in its remixed form, which somewhat lightened Jack Ruby's deeply dread production, the riddim laid down by the Black Disciples on this album remains as fat as a trick-or-treaters bulging candy sack. Some believe that "dub" could derive from "duppy" a Jamaican patois word for ghost; appropriately enough, today's track, "The Ghost" is the dub version of the song "Marcus Garvey." But instead of dubbing straight from the track as most dub songs were made, "The Ghost" was instead replayed and made to design itself to be the official dub of the tune. The riddim remains, of course, but some of the more lively, even jazzy, horn melodies are replaced with more dark and ominous organ riffs redolent of a night spent in a Jamaican graveyard with Garvey's ghost and some of his duppy followers."

Day 356 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Justin Hinds & The Dominoes - Satan

Let's close out the work week with one more creepy track...well, this one is more creepy in title than it is in content because it's a criticism of the military than it is about the goat-legged, Prince of Darkness.  Obviously it's called "Satan" and its by Justin Hinds & The Dominoes, recorded in 1965 at Treasure Isle and released on their namesake label in Jamaica and on Island records in the U.K., and its yet another one of the "good ones!"  But of course, I've always been a bit partial to anything Duke Reid.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

RIP Bobby Ellis (1932-2016)

In the fourth grade my parents coerced me into playing the trumpet in the elementary school band.  I really wanted to play the drums and was encouraged by my Dad who had spent a good part of his youth providing the beat for a couple cover bands on his Ludwig jazz set he got for a steal at a pawn shop in 1963, my Mom wasn't too sure.  She suggested the saxophone or the clarinet but after doing some investigating by digging into the encyclopedia, I decided on the trumpet.  So to make a long story short, I absolutely hated it.  So much so that at that young age I realized that I was not a musician; practicing was torture, my lips hurt, I couldn't for the life of me bother to learn the notes and the valve positions and I hated lugging it around back and forth on the school bus.  The final straw, and the end to my short-lived career as a trumpeter came when November rolled around and my band teacher asked that I not participate in the Christmas concert and even sent a note home to guarantee that I wouldn't attend.  Most kids back then would have taken that as an opportunity to really practice and show that "goddamn teacher" a thing or two but I took the easy way out... I quit.  Besides, I didn't want to play the stupid trumpet anyway!  But, little did I know at the time that this bad experience with the trumpet would make me appreciate the instrument and those who play it so much more.  I love Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Prima, Nat Adderley and most of all, I love Bobby Ellis.

Ellis attended Alpha Boys School playing both trumpet and the flugelhorn.  The school's band played classical, waltzes and marches and it was there that Bobby learned his timing, harmony and form.  Afterwards he became the horn arranger for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One before playing on countless releases for a plethora of producers, labels and releases.  He even played with Burning Spear's Burning Band and toured with them worldwide for twelve years.  In 2014 Bobby Ellis received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to Jamaica's music.  I had heard rumors earlier in the week that Bobby Ellis had died and it was then that I started picking out some of my favorites and putting together a tribute mix.  Sadly, the news was confirmed this morning by the Jamaica Observer in this short obituary

Here is what I have put together in this mix...

1.  Stormy Weather w/The Crystalites
2.  Psalms 9 To Keep In Mind w/Tommy McCook
3.  Dollar A Head w/The Crystalites
4.  Shank I Shek
5.  The Emperor w/The Crystalites
6.  Determination Skank w/Don Drummond Jr. and Glen Brown
7.  Weather Report w/Deadly Headly
8.  Step Softly w/The Crystalites
9.  Green Mango w/Tommy McCook
10.  James Ray
11.  Kojak w/Tommy McCook
12.  Militant Salute w/The Professionals
13.  Ska Baby w/The Upsetters
14.  Glorious Lion w/Tommy McCook
15.  Bad Cow Skank w/Tommy McCook

Rest in peace Bobby Ellis.  Your contributions to music and the enjoyment you have provided myself and countless others is immeasurable.  You will not be forgotten.

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Fourteen - Wicked Men

Gordon "Big Gordy" Robertson, based in Barnsley England is a top-notch selector and DJ of Jamaican music from Ska to Reggae, as well as Northern Soul, R&B and even Gospel!  Gordy has an extensive knowledge of damn good music and a completely enviable record collection.  You can catch him on TGM Radio and he updates his DJ GreedyG's Foundation Selections Podcast - that you can check it out here - often enough to keep you rockin' and swing for days at a time!  I am forever indebted to Gordy for hooking me up with an MP3 of the JJ All Stars' "Adams Family" tune a couple years back... thanks again man!

"Wicked Men - Winston & Bibby aka The Astronauts. This came on a JA Astronaut label and Bluebeat in the UK, it's BB Seaton and Delano Stewart as a duo, pre-Gaylads era. They pour scorn upon all wicked evil doers over a driving ska beat, especially the police. Also one of the first instances in Jamaican music where the police are referred to as "babylon."

Day 355 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Clancy Eccles - Sammy No Dead

It's the 355th track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge and I'm throwin' down yet another spooky ska number for ya!  This one is by Clancy Eccles was originally recorded and released on the Ska Beat label in 1965 and it's called "Sammy No Dead."  Based on the Jamaican sing-along folk song "Sammy Dead" or sometimes referred to as "Sammy Dead Oh," it was first recorded during the mento era and rehashed a few times when ska took over.  I have to admit that my favorite ska version was done by Eric "Monty" Morris with backing by Byron Lee & The Dragonaires but I figured I'd mix it up since I have never featured Eccles' take in a Spooktacular before.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Thirteen - Dark Shadows

Nate Taiapa AKA Nate Ness Monster, born and raised in Hamilton New Zealand, is the man behind GO FEET! Radio, a excellent weekly program on FreeFM  featuring the best in ska, rocksteady, reggae, roots and dub.  Nate also showcases modern bands throughout New Zealand and the world!  You can check out his broadcast streaming online via online stream here or you can download and listen to his podcast on his accompanying blog Go Feet Radio! And... Nate holds the distinction of being the contributor from the farthest distance away and what I wouldn't give to visit New Zealand!  Mauruuru koutou Nate!

"This track reminds me of an experience with Dark Shadows that scared the heck out of me back in 1987. I was living in a hostel for trade trainees, I was learning the trade of carpentry at Te Puna O Te Ora in Frankton, Hamilton, New Zealand while enrolled at Waikato Polytechnic under the Maori Affairs trade training scheme. It was a Thursday night, we got paid that day and I had been to Frankton for a weekly treat of fish and chips at Greasy Joe’s. Upon returning to my room I decided to retire to bed. Life for me had taken a turn for me, in a good direction, but it seemed at times that there was a dark force, a power that was trying to draw me back to ‘the dark side’ so to speak. 

I remember this night feeling a little uneasy about something, I was feeling somewhat anxious, and I can’t quite remember what was on my mind. I eventually drifted off to sleep, or so I thought. I remember opening my eyes as if something startled me. I only saw complete darkness. I blinked my eyes to see if there was any light in the room, at first it remained black, and then I started to make out the layout of my room. The foot of my bed was by the entrance door to our two bed room, it was a small room. I remember trying to move but couldn’t. OK, now this starts getting freaky from here. I really wanted to move but couldn’t and I remember feeling desperate to move. Inside I was trying to yell out ‘Help!’ but my mouth wouldn’t work. My mind could work but my body couldn’t. I felt myself getting really hot, I knew I was sweating. Then I tried to raise my right hand up but it wouldn’t move, it was like something heavy was weighing it down. I then felt a forceful pressure in the centre of my right hand and I tried to move my head to look at it, and of course my head didn’t turn but the pressure in the centre of my right hand became really intense. At this point I was the most afraid I can ever remember being. I felt overcome by a power that seemed stronger than me. With everything I had within me – from strength, sound, brain power, spirit, fear, desperation, everything – I forced my right hand up as I had remembered being taught and tried with everything I could to call out to Jesus to help me. 

When I tried to mouth words it felt like I had just been to the dentist, like my mouth was all numb from the effects of a local. I tried, in the name of Jesus Christ, to cast out what was over powering me but it seemed pointless, nothing was changing, this power had me bound. Then, like a life buoy being thrown out to someone about to drown in the ocean, the thought came to my mind to pray because I still had control over my mind despite having no control over my physical body. So in my mind I cried out to Jesus to help me and to cast the devils out of my room. At that moment, I distinctly remember the pressure on my hand ceasing and my hand slumping in to the bed with the rest of my body and it was as if the dark power that was over me left out through my hand and it seemed to go down the side of my bed to the base of my bed. I then remember being able to move and at that same moment I saw the figure of a man, in the form of a dark shadow but I couldn’t make out any distinguishing features like hair, facial features etc, it was happening very quickly and I was still somewhat stunned from my paralysis. The figure was standing at the base of my bed facing away from me and it slowly moved away from me and it seemed to disappear through the door. I now had all my senses returned to me but I was so scared I lay still staring at the door hoping to heck that whatever just left wasn’t going to come back. 

I needed light. Now! But that meant I had to get out of bed to switch the light on. Aw heck! So with all the courage I had left, and with a prayer in my heart, I got out of bed and walked quickly towards the light switch. I couldn’t get to that switch fast enough. I’m not even sure I was breathing. It was like I had been under water for the longest time and now I needed to take a breath, NOW! I switched on the light in the room and honestly, it was so amazing, so comforting. I still felt scared in the light but it was like a huge warm blanket had been placed on my shoulders and it felt like it was going to be alright. My story doesn’t end there but that’s all I’m going to share at this point. I don’t know what Ernest Ranglin and Harry Mudie’s All Stars had in mind when they recorded this massive track, ‘Dark Shadows’, but as for me, I don’t ever want to ever be in the presence of that Dark Shadow I experienced back in 1987. From here on I want to be in the light."

Day 354 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Danny Hill - Annie Palmer

The story of Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, has been discussed here a multitude of times and no one did a better retelling of this legendary tale than Danny Hill.  Now Gloucester "Danny" Hill was no folklorist or orator who gathered people around a blazing bonfire to tell the story while listeners sat bug-eyed and quivering in rapt attention, he was a musician.  A self taught musician who started playing in a mento band in the 1950s before recording "Annie Palmer" in all its exuberant ska glory for producer Neville Foo Loy in 1964.  I love this one!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Twelve - Yorkshire Ripper

In all my years doing the Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular and this blog in general, I never had such a hard time doing a write-up for one song.  "Yorkshire Ripper" by deejay Lord Sassafrass is based on the very real and very vile crimes committed by serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, who was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper by the media in 1981, this one is straight-up vulgar.  Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering thirteen women and attempting to murder seven others and Sassa takes it to a ridiculous level.  Believe me, I am well aware of the history of "slack" or offensive lyrics and subject matters that have been on the underbelly of Jamaican music since "Big Bamboo" and "Night Food" back in the mento era all the way though the embarrassingly sexually explicit and nauseatingly gory "gangsta" dancehall of latter years and I avoid featuring them on this blog.  So you may be asking yourself, then why bother going there with this one?  And to be honest with you, if it wasn't a reggae song about a serial killer which obviously fits with the theme I wouldn't have bothered.  So instead of going into detail about the lyrics contained within "Yorkshire Ripper" I'll just let you hear them and interpret them for yourself.  This one comes from Lord Sassafrass' 1982 album Horse Man Connection with the Aggrovators doing the backing,  Bunny Lee doing the producing and Prince Jammy doing the mixing and released on the Starlight label.  And I am going to leave it at that.  Listener discretion is advised.

Day 353 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Wailers - Jumbie Jamboree

The Wailers recorded "Jumbie Jamboree" for Coxsone Dodd and had it released on Studio One in 1965.  Based on the classic "Zombie Jamboree" AKA "Back To Back" which has been featured on multiple Spooktaculars over the years in its multitude of incantations, and originally recorded by Calypsonian Winston "Lord Invader" O'Conner in 1953, this ska version by Bob, Bunny and Peter (on lead vocals I might add) is one of the best.  


Monday, October 17, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Eleven - Speak No Evil

Aside from growing up on the same dead end street here in rural Maryland and being a life-long friend, Nick Jones is a huge reggae fan, record collector, great dad and a devout member of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Nick is also a highly talented illustrator and DJ for his Napthali Sound and as you have probably heard me mention once before, one of the key contributors to this little monthly thing we have going on called Reggae Spin Cycle.  Once facing charges for "telephone misuse" Nick had to serve 40 hours of community service for making a prank phone call to our high school's vice principal... and there was the time with the pickle jar and the old dude in the mobile home but I'll just stop right there.  Thanks Nick, you've always been like a brother to me!

Artist: Cornell Campbell 
Track: Speak No Evil 
Label: Starlight Records 
Release Date: 1982

"Whether it be Ska, Rocksteady, or Reggae- Cornell Campbell has lent his voice to the Infectious beats of Jamaican music for over 50 years. Born on November 23, 1945 in Kingston, Jamaica, he began recording at a very young age.  When Cornell was eleven years old, his friend Rico Rodriguez (an aspiring trumpet player) introduced him to Clement Dodd, owner of Studio One. Dodd, impressed with Cornell's style, cut several tunes which quickly made their way to the dance massive. These initial tunes made Cornell a local celebrity in the sound system arena.

Cornell would then begin recording for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle Studio, forming a group with Jimmy and Buster Riley called The Eternals.  When the group disbanded in 1962 Cornell linked up with producer Bunny Lee; reestablishing himself as a solo artist. I make several number one hits that really shook up the whole thing, y'know!stated Cornell in a recent interview. Originally billed as Don Cornel ( the first Don in Jamaica), Bunny Lee mistakenly spelled Cornel (correctly spelled with one ‘l’) with two L's- the mistake stuck and “Now the world knows me as Cornell Campbell! Love and Honor. Respect.”

In 1982 the smash album Boxing was released on Starlight records. On Track #4 entitled Speak No Evil, we hear Cornell’s sweet voice issuing a plea for the love in his life not to allow rumors of unfaithfulness to come between them.  “Let no one tell you that I've been untrue. Don't say you believe them baby. Don't break my heart in two.”  As the rhythm sails along, Cornell explains things are not always as they seem. The chorus implores his true love: “Don't you hear...Don't you speak...Don't you see no Evil.”  In defense of his character, Cornell offers another humble plea; Cover your ears to all those lies about me, don’t say you believe them, baby” Cornell’s pitch, delivery, and timing meshes perfectly with the rub a dub style riddim.

Cornell Campbell, 76 years young- still continues to perform regularly to sell out crowds all over the world. He continues to record material- usually in combination with younger talents; exposing yet another generation to his legendary voice and humble vibes. Much like the cycle of life, Cornell Campbell finds himself, yet again, in great demand by countless sound system operators, wanting his unique voice on their exclusive dub plates- just like those formative days at Studio One.

Being a Christian, I dedicate myself to a certain type of life, y'know?- an appropriate lifestyle...because I believe all the time while I was growing up that you must practice what you if your singing a song 'love your brother, love your sister'- you can’t sing a song like that and go outta street with a big ratchet knife inna your waist...some artists sing a way to the public and them live another life...but, true me have a nice family surroundings...that’s me.”

- Cornell Campbell. France 2013. Interview with Irie Ites record label" 

Day 352 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Prince Buster - Hard Man Fi Dead

Like many, I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great Prince Buster in September and though I wish I had shown my respects by creating a tribute mix like so many other had, I have to admit that I am not very well versed in the man's music and attempting to do so would have seemed amateurish and shallow.  Case in point, while others have been justifiably raving about the many amazing records and productions the man had his fingerprints on and exposing me to many that I was regretfully hearing for the first time, I have to admit that "Hard Man Fi Dead," one of Buster's most popular songs, has always been my favorite.  Now I could have bullshitted everyone, did some background research, dug deep into his discography and pulled out something obscure and made a loud proclamation that this was my personal favorite Prince Buster record but that's not me... I'm all about keeping this blog honest and I will gladly admit when I am ridiculously outmatched on knowledge about the late great Buster.  Well enough about that, let's get to today's track!  

Quoting from what I wrote in the 2013 Spooktacular... "Hard Man Fe Dead" tells the tale of a man who won't stay dead.  Unlike a domestic house cat that only has nine lives, this cat has ninety-nine lives!  What makes this song so distinctively Jamaican, aside from the smoking hot ska beat,  is its reference to nine-night which is a funerary custom practiced throughout much of the Caribbean.  Nine-night, which is rooted in African tradition, was originally an extended wake that lasted for nine nights and where friends and loved-ones would gather at the home of the deceased to share condolences, sing hymns and eat together.  But, as time as passed, this tradition has become less mournful and more celebratory.  These days attendees don't just arrive with sad expressions and heart-felt remembrances, they arrive with food, drink and music. 

It is believed that on the ninth night, right before the bodies procession to the church service the next morning, that the spirit of the deceased will pass through the party, gather food and say their final goodbyes before continuing on to its final resting-place.  Customarily the food (usually fried fish, bammy and 100 proof rum) are set up under a tent and must remain undisturbed until after midnight when the spirit has eaten their fill.  It is also customary that the bed and mattress of the deceased will be turned on their side against the wall in order to discourage the duppy from staying around and encourage them to proceed to the grave."


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 351 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - Frankenstein

Changing gears but not necessarily changing themes... it is of course still October around here and I figured we'd devote this week to the "scarier side" of ska.  We're gonna get this week rolling with a little number by Byron Lee & The Dragonaires called "Frankenstein" or sometimes "Frankenstein Ska."  This one was recorded and released on the Soul label circa 1963-64 and it does a pretty stellar job at conveying the subject matter all while keeping the beat moving.  Now I could go on and complain about how I spent a ton of money a few years back in finally obtaining this record only to see it re-pressed a couple years later for considerably less but I won't.  What has always driven me crazy about this one is that the melody in "Frankenstein Ska" sounds familiar and is obviously based on the theme song from a Frankenstein movie but I can't for the life of me pinpoint which one in particular.  And considering there have been as many as 80 films made about Dr. Frankenstein and the monster that bears his name, there's a long list of potential inspirations.  


Saturday, October 15, 2016

The 50th Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

This week has been pretty much one long "Conversation."  Here's what you're gonna hear when you download and enjoy the 50th week mix!

1.  Culture - Outcast
2.  Simple Simon - Christopher Columbus
3.  Jah Thomas - Cricket Lovely Cricket
4.  Lone Ranger - Barnabas Collins
5.  Yellowman - Mi Kill Barnie
6.  Dillinger - I Thirst
7.  Errol Scorcher - Paulette You A Fret 

Day 350 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Errol Scorcher - Paulette You A Fret

One more Conversation for this week before we stomp down the clutch and switch gears next week and this one is venturing back away from the spooky for one more day.  Yes, we're going to wrap-up the week with a little number by Errol Scorcher called "Paulette You A Fret" taken from the Roach In A De Corner album he self-produced with Tippa Irie and released on his Scorcher label in 1980.  This is a sweet deejay tune and the little echoey samples of Cornell Campbell's cover of "My Conversation" only add to the niceness.  Have a great Saturday!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Ten - Burial

Keeping it simple today... Joseph Jackson AKA Ranking Joe is up next in the 2016 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular with a track called "Burial" that originally appeared on his 1981 album Showcase on the Tad's label; produced by Jah Screw, mixed by King Tubby and Sylvan Morris and with the Roots Radics doing the backing.  This one features Ranking Joe throwing down some smooth funerary lyrics over a bass and drum heavy version of the Burial riddim and it is completely badass!  Oddly enough, I just discovered this track and the album a couple months ago and I'm glad I did!  It amazes me that after 30 years of digging into this music and thinking you had pretty much covered all your bases in unearthing the real treasures, there is always a discovery that makes you wonder how it has slipped through your fingers for so long.  And by the way, the above comic cover for "Burial" may be one of this years favorites!

Day 349 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Dillinger - I Thirst

It's a regular 2fer Friday here at Distinctly Jamaican Sounds!  Not only did I share the 10th track in the 2016 Spooktacular, "Obeah Bath" by Dillinger yesterday, now I'm gonna hit you with another one... this one is called "I Thirst" and in keeping with all the other tunes we had this week it too is on the My Conversation riddim.  "I Thirst" is also part of the ongoing topic of Barnabas Collins and the goal of keepin' it scary around here.  This one originally came from a 7" on the Shaolin Temple label before showing up on Dillinger's 1980 album Cup Of Tea on the Jamaica Sound label and it is pure unadulterated wickedness!  It was first featured here in the 2008 Spooktacular.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Nine - Obeah Bath

Years ago, one of the write-ups for a track I featured in a Halloween Spooktacular featured an article that originally appeared in the Gleaner concerning Joseph, a practicing obeahman in Jamaica who professed to know not only about obeah but voodoo, Arabic and Kabbalah.  Oddly enough, judging by the replies I got from people wanting to get in touch with Joseph, it was one of the single most popular posts in the eleven year history of doing these Halloween mixes.  Now, I'm not in a position to pass judgement in those who believe in the powers of obeah because in the grand scheme of things what works for others is no concern of mine.  But judging from what I have heard in Jamaican music over the years, it seems that practitioners of this form of spiritual magic have been regarded by many to have developed a reputation for being shysters and charlatans.

Take for instance, Delroy Wilson's tune "Voodoo Man" recorded for Coxsone Dodd and released in 1963 on Black Swan... in the song Delroy concludes that the only thing the voodoo man can cure is the heft of ones wallet when they unscrupulously take advantage of those who place their trust in the black arts.   Fast forward to 1967, Derrick Morgan's track "Father Killam"; an obeah practitioner is sent in to rid a home of an unwelcome spirit and gets his ass kicked by the duppy before being ridiculed and mocked for having no power to actually dispense of him.  How about The Ethiopians 1977 track "Obeah Book" from their album Slave Call;  Leonard Dillon and crew profess their Rastafari faith while expressing their disdain for those who put their trust in obeah.  I could go on but I think you've got the point... for the most part it seems the artists in Jamaican music have little regard, or dare I say, respect for obeah. 

Which brings us to today's track, "Obeah Bath" by the great Dillinger taken from a 1978 7" on the Big Phil label.  Riding a sweet dubbed-out version of Delroy Wilson's "Can't Stop Me" Dillinger tells the tale of Melinda who jumped out the window broke her little finger and immediately went to the obeahman for treatment.  The treatment, and namesake of the song, is an "obeah bath" where a person seeking healing is given a bath in water infused with herbs and potions while receiving incantations and chants.  Without saying so directly, Dillinger ridicules the practice and admonishes Melinda for believing in the ability of obeah to heal something as simple as a broken finger.  He then follows suit, like the artists before him, by boasting that no power of obeah will stop him from forwarding his career, living his life or have him to cowering in fear. 

Day 348 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Yellowman - Mi Kill Barnie

The great Winston Foster AKA Yellowman is up next obviously on the same My Conversation riddim we've been groovin' to so far this week.  It was with this song, "Mi Kill Barnie" or "Death Of Barnabas" that Yellowman captured the attention of fans in Jamaica and which helped him win the Tastee Talent Contest in Kingston, as the legend goes.  This response to Lone Ranger's "Barnabas Collins" is so damn witty it's nearly as good as the original!  Produced by Ruddy Thomas and originally released as a single on his Ruddy T label and as a discomix following the smooth tune by singer Black Skin called "Two Many Women For One Man," in 1982.  So sit back and relax, if you can, as King Yellowman engages in an epic battle against the forces of evil and the sadistic Barnabas Collins!  Now it would be at this point that I would send up a red flag to let you know a "spoiler" was coming but I figured by the title alone you can easily determine the end result.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Eight - I Am Not Afraid

Wilbert AKA Willie Francis started his career during the rocksteady era, cutting his first track "Warn The People" for the great Prince Buster in 1967.  When reggae rolled around, Francis became a bit more prolific and soon after started his own Little Willie's label and scored a couple minor hits including "Motherless Child" for Leslie Kong in 1969, "Oh What A Mini" in 1971 and "Ripe Sour Sop" right around the same time.  Today's Spooktacular tune, "I Am Not Afraid" was the b-side to the aforementioned "Motherless Child" originally released in Jamaica on the Tiger label and on Bullet in the UK... a nice soulful, horn-heavy, early reggae shuffler with obviously a seasonally appropriate theme!  

Speaking of not being afraid, a couple weeks ago I got into a conversation with a friend about the scariest films we had ever seen.  He mentioned The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and I agreed but when he uttered Silence of the Lambs it got me to thinking... while my current taste in horror tends to favor the "old school" much like my music, at one point in my life I plopped down my hard-earned cash multiple times a month to see all of the newest scary releases.  I'm talking about some low budget, gory, FX-heavy, crap fests that I would enjoy immensely while gorging on Twizzlers and popcorn.  And my viewing wasn't relegated to the local theaters; I took mental notes on the new release articles in the latest issues of Fangoria and studied the movie listings on the backside of the comics page in the newspapers, tracked them down and drove to wherever in the state of Maryland they were playing.  Sure these weren't exactly high-brow Oscar nominated art films and when Silence of the Lambs hit theaters I was reluctant to add it to the list of "must-see" horror films, mainly because of the unsolicited rave reviews I got from anyone who knew me well enough to understand my taste in cinema.  It seemed a little too mainstream and regardless of the terrifying claims, I refused to believe the hype.  Well fast forward a couple months, Silence of the Lambs had run its course in the full priced theaters and had been retired to the local dollar multiplex and was probably mere days from being pulled before disappearing for a few months and being reborn again on VHS, so I threw down my buck and went to see what everyone was freaking out about.  Bottom line... I absolutely hated it and if I remember correctly it was the first time in my life I ever fell asleep in a movie theater!  Needless to say, the conversation about our favorite horror films ended abruptly... give me Child's Play, Candyman or I, Madman any day over Silence of the Lambs.  I lost a lot of respect for my friend that day.

Day 347 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Lone Ranger - Barnabas Collins

Okay folks I'm taking the easy way out for today's tune by copying and pasting what I wrote about Lone Ranger's "Barnabas Collins" way back in 2006... and I quote, "Barnabas Collins was America's favorite TV bloodsucker from 1966 until 1971, when Dark Shadows aired daily on ABC. Interestingly enough the soap opera began lacking in any supernatural content but when a ghost was written into an episode and proved to be popular the show's producer encouraged the writers to add more spookiness. As the story went, one of the characters was sent into the Collins' crypt in search of treasure and inadvertently unleashed the sleeping Barnabas into the modern world. Anyway, Barnabas discovers his reincarnated long lost love and spends the next four seasons lusting after her, professing his love, traveling back in time and all of the other usual crazy stuff that happens on a daily basis on daytime television.

Now I can't find any definitive written information about Dark Shadows in Jamaica but I "interviewed" my Jamaican friend Ingrid at work and she recalled that Dark Shadows used to air on the JBC late at night throughout the 70's. During this period JBC was the only television station on the island and a lot of their daily airtime was filled with older British and American programs and Ingrid remembered that before the station signed off on Saturday evenings they'd air two episodes of Dark Shadows. Thankfully that information helps explain why this "bizarre" American soap opera became public knowledge in Jamaica.

Anthony Waldron AKA Lone Ranger must have been a real TV fan... firstly because he took his stage name from the legendary Masked Man of black and white television fame and secondly because the song you're going to hear today pays hommage to ol' Barnabas. Regardless, this is probably one of my all-time favorite "rub-a-dub" tunes, bar none! This tune was recorded in 1979 by Alvin "GG" Ranglin and released in Jamaica on the GG label and internationally on Island records where it flew to the top of the reggae charts like a bloodthirsty vampire bat stuck in your hair. With a line like, "Barnie chew your neck like Wrigley's," I'd have been surprised if it hadn't?"

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Seven - Devil's Playground

Mark Williams AKA The Kaiser, is the driving force and one of the originators of Washington DC's preeminent reggae oldies night, DC Soundclash.  Mark is as knowledgeable as they come in regard to Jamaican music but his scope of musical appreciation stretches far beyond the Caribbean, he can often be found spinning his musical wares at the Marx Cafe and whether it's an obscure ska tune or a wicked piece of psychedelic pop, Mark is the man to get your feet moving!  Check out the latest scheduled Soundclash or any of the multitude of other shows Mark has got going on by checking out DC Soundclash here! Thanks again Mark!

"The B-side to one of the biggest selling Jamaican 45s in the UK is bound to have been heard by many, but inevitably it will have fallen into the shadows of Max Romeo's "Wet Dream" on the flip.  And isn't that just appropriate enough, given the devil's appearance in the title, for it is in the shadows that we are told the horned one does his best work. Whether or not Lester Sterling's alto sax meanderings are meant to convey this, it's hard to fully know. The track itself is over a re-working of a classic Jamaican folk song titled "River to the Bank," which itself was sung in accompaniment of a "stones" game. The folkloric is ever cognizant of the devil, as All Hallows' Eve reminds us yearly." 


Day 346 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Jah Thomas - Cricket Lovely Cricket

Okay folks we're easing into something here... and like I said on Saturday, I'm kinda diggin' that the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge is allowing me a chance to vary the subject matter a bit.  Don't get me wrong, I love the hell out of the scary stuff in October but when it comes to today's track "Cricket Lovely Cricket" by the great Jah Thomas, which is an ode to the sport and not the noisy-ass insect of the same name that always seemingly has the ability to find an inaccessible crevice somewhere near your bed and chirp annoyingly throughout the night while you're trying to rest, it's nice to break things up a bit.  And while I'm not going to shock anyone with the direction this My Conversation "riddim road" is going to take us, yes I'm getting to Lone Ranger's "Barnabas Collins" and Yellowman's "Mi Kill Barnie," I figured that we'd take an early exit, refuel, grab a bite to eat and use the rest rooms before putting the pedal down and reaching our final destination of full-on October spookiness.  "Cricket Lovely Cricket" was self-produced and recorded by Mr. Nkrumah in 1979, during what I call the height of the My Conversation riddim frenzy, and released on his Midnight Rock label.  Now don't think for a second I'm just using this record for a filler, this is a smooth tune even though Cricket makes as much sense to my American mind as astrophysics.  So hop in, buckle up and roll up the window if you would...  I'm starting to get a chill.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Six - Taste Of Killing

Toby Gohn, AKA Rice & Peas, has a deep appreciation, respect and knowledge of Jamaican music and is one of the originators and key contributors to the fabulous DC Soundclash and the host of one of the best reggae radio programs I have ever heard called Soul Shake Radio (the first and third Monday of each month from 8:30-10:00pm EST) on WERA FM out of Arlington Virginia!  And due to the miracle of modern technology, you too can tune in via the web after a long day at work on Monday, relax and enjoy an absolutely amazing selection of tunes covering all eras of the music culled from Toby's extensive and enviably stellar collection of Jamaican vinyl.  Thanks again for helping out with the Spooktacular Toby!  Nuff respect! 

"In the late 1960’s, producer and mad scientist Lee “Scratch” Perry must have been spending quite a bit of time in front of the boob tube.  I’m not sure how many hours exist in his day, but considering the number of TV and movie references given to his productions at this time, he must have been a walking IMDB.  At the point in time this present tune was released in 1969, spaghetti westerns were his thing, as many titles bore names connected to that scene.  None was more popular musically than “Return of Django”, of course, but he had many other (mostly organ) led instrumentals with big and small screen titles, such as “Return of the Ugly”, “Man from MI5”, “Night Doctor”, “Thunderball”, “Clint Eastwood”, “High Plains Drifter”, “For A Few Dollars More”, and on and on.  “Taste of Killing” was named after the 1966 movie of the same name, starring Craig Hill.  While the music’s mood isn’t as threatening or dark as the title might suggest, just knowing Scratch was controlling the session ensures he fueled the session with the needed swagger and attitude to bring it the life it needed.  A few years past this he had moved on to kung fu movies, best crystallized with the epic cover art to his quirky and awesome album ‘Kung Fu Meets the Dragon’.  Really one can check the titles of his songs at any phase of his golden period (that is, the entire 60’s and 70’s) and easily spot the odd pop culture reference, despite the music behind the name more than likely being entirely left field.  Scratch probably did have a taste of killing, now that I think about it.  Killing norms."