Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Aside from being known for his contributions to dancehall in the early 80s as both a producer and a singer, Linval Thompson's earlier roots work is absolutely golden. Take for instance today's track, and the 267th in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge, "Ride On Dreadlocks" from his 2000 Blood & Fire compilation of the same name... produced by Bunny Lee and featuring that trademark flying cymbal "flyers style" reggae sound that personally delights my ears more than I can possibly explain, it is an absolute killer! The dub-wise take following the vocal is worth the price of admission alone! Pure unadulterated reggae joy!
Monday, July 25, 2016
Jah Ruby, born Everald Metcalf, started his musical career in the early 60s as a member of The Schoolboys who recorded for Prince Buster. He went solo for a couple years using his real name until he switched to the Jack Ruby moniker in 1966 and soon after transformed from a singer into a deejay and worked with a number of sound systems for the next ten years. Soon after, following an article in the press which featured an interview with Metcalf and a stock photo of the Ocho Rios producer of the same name, Jack Ruby became Jah Ruby. But instead of being content with being just another deejay, Jah Ruby branched out to form the dance group The Black Invaders who were considered among the best in Jamaica all the way until the early 80s and landed himself and the troupe an appearance in the 1978 classic film Rockers. Jah Ruby emigrated to the United States in 1983 and remains sparingly active today in the New York reggae scene. Today's track "Friend And Company" comes from his lone 1977 LP release Dread Affairs on the Dynamic label. Check it!
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Before Errol "Flabba" Holt took on a full-time gig behind the bass he recorded a couple solo releases which I have enjoyed for years and today's track "Happiness" comes from one of those albums. Holt's album Visions Of Africa was released in 1978 on the Dread & Dread label and featuring backing by The Revolutionaries, The Soul Syndicate and the Mighty Cloud Band was recorded at Channel One, Randy's and Joe Gibbs and produced by Prince Jammy and it is pure niceness! Lots of beautiful echo and reverb that I have always loved about this era's sound.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
Yes folks, it's here in all its uninterrupted glory! Yes, you are just mere moments away from the 38th Week Mix and this is what you're gonna be hearin'!
1. Burning Spear - Not Guilty
2. Beres Hammond - One Day At A Time
3. Frankie Jones - Haul & Galong
4. Leroy Smart - Bank Account
5. Sly & Robbie - Lecturer Version
6. The Tamlins - Baltimore
7. Junior Delgado - Fort Augustus
Let's wrap up this week with one more Taxi production! This one is "Fort Augustus" by Junior Delgado. The late Junior Delgado got started in music in the early 70s as part of the group Time Unlimited who recorded for Lee Perry and Duke Reid. By the middle of the decade Delgado had begun recording solo material for Rupie Edwards and even continued on with the band before eventually deciding to step away permanently to pursue his solo efforts. Dennis Brown's DEB label was where Delgado found success and after a string of hits he recorded "Fort Augustus" for Sly & Robbie in 1980. Of course it was originally released as a single on the Taxi label in Jamaica as well as a multitude of foreign imprints and on a handful of compilation albums including the excellent various artists compilation called Sly & Robbie Present Taxi released on Island Records in 1981 and where I first heard the tune many years ago. Of note; It's blatantly obvious when you listen to the lyrics that Delgado is making reference to the living hell of being confined to a prison but I am assuming the prison he is making reference to is the Fort Augusta Prison in St. Catherine Jamaica which is notorious for sub-human, desperate, miserable conditions because the only other Fort Augustus I am seeing is a settlement in Scotland and that wouldn't make much sense!
Friday, July 22, 2016
While we're on Sly & Robbie let's do a couple more! The 263rd track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge is "Baltimore" by The Tamlins. The Tamlins, composed of Carlton Smith, Junior Moore and Derrick Lara, got together in the 1970s most noticeably serving as back-up singers for Peter Tosh, John Holt, Marcia Griffiths, Pat Kelly and Delroy Wilson. At the same time they recorded their own material with minimal success until they released "Baltimore," a cover of a song originally written by Randy Newman, for Sly & Robbie in 1979. Now I don't know if it's because Baltimore is my "hometown" or because this song has such a melancholy and downbeat feel but it is absolutely timeless and powerfully and unfortunately still relevant today. Any time I've played "Baltimore" while spinning in Baltimore I always get huge props from someone in the audience who feels it like I do and who completely "gets it." Originally released as a 7" on the Taxi label, it has ended up on a heap of releases over the course of the last 30+ years.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
How about one more? This time we're gonna go with Sly & Robbie's "Lecturer Version" and even without any vocals, except for the intermittent echoey drops from Tuesday's Frankie Jones "Haul And Galong," it is just a damn sweet track! Sly Dunbar's early usage of the electronic drum kit may be considered crude by today's standards or even passe but listening back to that beat with the synthesized "clap" is completely badass in my book. It's the kind of riddim I wish would never end!
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Because yesterday's tune was so good I've decided to stick with the George Phang/Powerhouse/Lecturer vibes for one more day! This time we're going with the Leroy Smart track "Bank Account" which was originally the title track of his 1985 album on Powerhouse. Bank Account is one of my most beloved Leroy Smart albums and though most don't give it the same credit as his earlier work it's a damn good record! Good vibes... again!
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
I was looking through the 259 songs in the "playlist" thus far and came to the realization that I didn't have enough George Phang representation! The music that Phang produced throughout the mid 80s and released on his Powerhouse label with Sly & Robbie doing the backing are some of my favorites and for the most part don't get the credit they deserve. Right at the dawn of the digital era, Sly & Robbie made music that had all the feel of the fast approaching "computerized" tracks which for the most part put a lot of studio musicians out of work but still maintained a sense of roots. Their reworking of the Studio One and other classic riddims remain in the same bloodline as what Channel One, Jah Thomas, Linval Thompson, Junjo Lawes and The Roots Radics had done just 5 or 6 years earlier. To me, the stuff that came out of Powerhouse can best be compared to rub-a-dub on Red Bull because the tempos are noticeably faster than what came before but, the heart is still there. It still keeps its human element before digital made dancehall sound like Q*Bert. Now don't get me wrong, I have an appreciation for digi but nothing can compare to reggae before studio economics and cost effectiveness ripped the drummers, the bassists, the guitarists. the percussionists and the horn sections from behind the mics and out on the streets of Kingston on their collective asses. But enough about that let's get to today's tune! "Haul And Galong" by singer Frankie Jones, who got his start in the late 70s at Channel One, was originally released on his 1986 album Old Fire Stick on Powerhouse. Riding the Taxi Gang's take on the Lecturer riddim, this is one smooth tune!
Monday, July 18, 2016
Sticking with the same era but in a completely different vein we roll along to Day 259 in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge! This one is by Beres Hammond riding a 1992 Donovan Germain reworked take on the 3 Blind Mice riddim and it's called "One Day At A Time." This one has got it all; positive lyrics and one of the only riddims to ever make the leap from the page of childhood nursery rhyme to upbeat, foot-moving, dancehall classic! "One Day At A Time" wasn't a particularly huge hit for Beres but in my heart it ranks up there as one of his best! Dig it!
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Some Burning Spear for a Sunday and mostly because I am loading the kids in the car and lugging them downtown to see him performing live at Baltimore's Artscape this evening. I have never taken them to see a concert before and I look forward to the opportunity to expose them to live reggae. Sure they are well aware of Dad's obsession with Jamaican music and they have been listening to Bob Marley and Studio One long before they were even born, but I am hoping that once they get to experience first-hand the beauty and the joy that is real reggae, their peripheral interest in this music that they know means so much to me will be strengthened. I hope that one day my daughter will be asked, "what was the first concert you ever saw?" and her response will be, "Burning Spear with my dad." Today's track is called "Not Guilty" and it comes from Spear's 2003 album Free Man on his own Burning Spear label.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Here it is! The completely uninterrupted 37th Week Mix! And here is what you're about to enjoy!
1. Lyn Taitt & The Jets - Bring It On Home
2. Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - 7-11
3. Carl Malcolm - Mek It Tan Deh Version
4. Stanley Beckford & The Starlights - Boderation
5. Michael Rose - Guess Who's Coming For Dinner
6. Gregory Isaacs - Easy
7. Colin Roach & Bunny General - Sylvia
Picture this... West Indian Record Mart, Takoma Park Maryland, on a Saturday much like this, summer 1992. My buddy Nick and I had just begun buying current records fresh from Jamaica mainly because we had finally been able to track down where we could get them. It was long before the advent of the internet where records could be tracked down and purchased with a few mouse clicks, we actually had to put in 2 hours of drive time just to get to them. Popular at the time was King Jammy's Muslim riddim and when I bought the cassette copy of Boom Shots #11, West Indian's latest store-produced mix, I got quite an earful of a plethora of tunes on a multitude of riddims but today's track "Sylvia" by Colin Roach & Bunny General was definitely one of my favorites! A minimalist digital dancehall rhythm coupled with the "Sylvia's Mother" lyrics originally written by Shel Silverstein and made popular in the 1972 single by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, this was a helluva combination! Unfortunately the record store didn't have any copies of the Jammys single when we returned the next week and it wasn't until until twenty years later that I finally tracked down a copy and added it to my collection. And while we don't usually explore much of the music from the early 90s, this one still kicks ass!
Friday, July 15, 2016
It has been a while since we've had some Cool Ruler so let's give a listen to a 1994 revamp of a tune he originally recorded nine years earlier. "Easy," riding Bobby "Digital" Dixon's take on the Hot Milk riddim and originally released as a 7" on the Digital B label, is in my opinion one of the smoothest of all tunes from the early 90s. I have Gregory's 1985 album Easy on the Tad's Records label and was never overly impressed with the original version but this is one of those rare circumstances where the remake blows the first take out of the water... and speaking of water, the smooth riddim and Gregory's laid-back delivery especially the line "like a ship sailing on the ocean, do it inna slow motion" just brings to mind a calm sail on the Caribbean sea on a sunny day; it feels super mellow! Perfect tune for a summer weekend - happy Friday! And as an added bonus, today marks what would have been Gregory's 65th birthday. RIP Gregory, you are missed!
Thursday, July 14, 2016
Switching up the vibe a bit for the 255th day... this one is "Guess Who's Coming For Dinner" by Michael Rose. Recorded in 1976, a year before Rose joined up with Black Uhuru, this is one that we can all agree can be labeled a reggae classic. Sure some would say they prefer the version Michael Rose recorded with Duckie Simpson and Puma Jones and released on the 1980 self-titled LP Black Uhuru and eventually as the title track of the revamped version of the same album three years later, but to me I'm diggin' the solo version even more. But being that I've never been a big Black Uhuru fan to begin with I guess that's understandable.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Day 254 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Starlights Featuring Stanley Beckford - Boderation
Plain and simple, I love the hell outta Stanley Beckford. You see, Stanley Beckford (1942-2007) had one of the most distinctive voices in Jamaican music, especially during the reggae era and mainly because it hearkened back to mento. His high-pitched, nasal timbre that was prevalent in a lot of singers years before ska ever hit the Jamaican audience's ears, did not work for his first foray into music with the band Soul Syndicate in 1968 and he was quickly replaced. Beckford in turn had to take a job as a night watchman at the telephone company and one night in 1973 while witnessing an arrest by the local police he wrote the song "You Are A Wanted Man." The lyrics so impressed Alvin "GG" Ranglin that he gave Beckford an audition and when it was recorded, with the Starlights doing the backing, the record's distinctive mento flavor differed so much from the then current wave of reggae sweeping the island, it shot up the chart to number one. After a string of hits, Beckford parted ways with Ranglin over a financial dispute and sought out another producer, eventually lending his talents to Barrington Jeffrey at Dynamic Sounds with a new band called The Turbines. He spent the rest of the decade recording mento-influenced tunes until the dawn of the digital era when his output waned. In 2001 Stanley Beckford recorded Stanley Beckford Plays Mento a straight-up mento album backed by The Blue Glaze band which covered a diverse catalog of songs, including an absolutely beautiful cover of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," and it immediately became one of my all-time favorite albums! His follow-up release Reggaemento in 2004 was just as good! Sadly when Stanley Beckford passed away of throat cancer in 2007, Jamaican music lost a true living link with its past and I for one am grateful for what he did for me in opening my ears to mento music. RIP Mr. Beckford, you will not be forgotten. And with that said, let's get to the 254th track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... this one is called "Boderation" and it comes from an excellent 1993 Starlights compilation on the Heartbeat label called Soldering. Pure niceness!
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Carl Malcolm originally started playing the piano at his local Methodist church and after moving to Kingston and working as a shoe salesman and serving as a reservist in the Jamaica Defense Force, he joined The Volcanoes, his first band, in 1965. He recorded briefly as a solo artist for Coxsone but soon after moved to the United States. Upon his return to Jamaica in 1975, some of the material he had recorded a couple years earlier were beginning to chart in the UK so he immediately went back to the recording studio where he continued far into the late 70s before he hung up the mic and went to work as a percussionist instead. Today's track is the b-side version of Malcolm's 1972 tune "Mek It Tan Deh" originally released on the Randy's label. And while I like the vocal side well enough, I think I like the version even more. The Youtube video of course includes both sides of the disc so you can give 'em both a listen and judge for yourself!
Monday, July 11, 2016
When I came across this song by Tommy McCook & The Supersonics a couple years ago I was more delighted than you can imagine... you see, today is 7/11 or as my kids now affectionately call it "Free Slurpee Day." And while our consumption of mass quantities of free sickeningly sweet semi-carbonated frozen drinks is being curtailed by my return to work this morning but this unofficial "holiday" created by the 7 Eleven convenience store chain ranks right up there with Christmas on their calendar. But let's get to the music... this one is called "7-11" by the aforementioned Tommy McCook and his band and it comes from the excellent 2009 Pressure Sounds compilation of tracks cut at Duke Reid's called Pleasure Dub! "7-11" is actually a pretty badass organ-heavy instrumental version of Alton Ellis' "Girl I've Got A Date" and it sounds as sweet as flavored frozen high fructose corn syrup! So avoid the "brain freeze" and just give this a listen instead!
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Yes, we made it home and yes there is no rest for the weary... headed down to Waverly Brewing Company for the July edition of our monthly Reggae Spin Cycle this afternoon and thanks to my forward thinking before we left for the beach, all I have to do is grab the records (and the speakers, and the stands, and the amp, and the cables) and head out the door. It will be nice to ease back into home and the usual routine by spinning some reggae this afternoon before the dreaded first Monday returning to work is hanging over my head and I'm having a hard time staying positive about that. But oh well, you're not here to listen to my complaining... today's track is a slick number by Lyn Taitt & The Jets called "Bring It On Home," and like yesterday's Mittoo it is also a cover. Lyn and company give us a rocksteady take on Sam Cooke's 1962 minor hit "Bring It On Home To Me." Featuring the vocals of The Kilowatts and originally released as a 7" in 1968 on the JJ Records label and will eventually be making its way to the weekly mix via the 2005 Trojan CD set Hold Me Tight Anthology 1965-73.
Saturday, July 09, 2016
Here it is! The completely uninterrupted 36th Week Mix! And here is what you're going to enjoy!
1. Cedric Brooks - Sea Breeze
2. The Revolutionaries - Sweet Version
3. Ruddy Thomas - Everyday Is Just A Holiday
4. David Isaacs & Jah Thomas - Just Like A Sea
5. Dillinger - Racing Pool
6. Zap Pow - Sunshine People Dub
7. Jackie Mittoo - Summer Breeze
The inevitable sadness that accompanies the end of summer vacation is completely understandable but the one thing that keeps it from being downright depressing is the fact that there's still a whole lotta summer left. And while I dread the prospect of packing up today and hitting the road for the long trek home, I can rest easy knowing that tomorrow will be warm and in all honesty that's good enough for me. With that in mind, I'm going to keep up the sweet summer vibes for one more day with the 250th track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... this one by the great Jackie Mittoo is called "Summer Breeze" and it comes the 2000 Soul Jazz release The Keyboard King At Studio One. Yes, it's a cover of the Seals & Crofts "harmony-rock" hit from 1972 but Mittoo's version has all the "easy-listening" charm as the original with just the perfect amount of Jamaican flavor that in my honest, yet completely biased opinion makes his version far superior. And yes, it's also a rare opportunity to hear Jackie Mittoo's singing voice!
Friday, July 08, 2016
Zap Pow got together in 1969 and played together for the next decade. Started by Dwight Pinkney, Max Edwards, Mike Williams, Glen DeCosta, Joe McCormack and David Madden and eventually including the lead vocals of Beres Hammond when he joined the band in 1975. According to Williams, Zap Pow got its name from a comic book he just so happened to be reading at the time. Today's tune "Sunshine People Dub" comes from their LP Reggae Rules on the Rhino label. As a side note, Reggae Rules has got one of the best cartoon covers ever; a musclebound superhero punching a disco dancing, John Travolta from Saturday Night Fever lookalike right out of his white suit. Enjoy!
Thursday, July 07, 2016
I came across today's tune completely by chance a couple months ago. I was looking for more thematic summer songs for my collection and was delighted to come across this record that pays tribute to the good ol' chlorinated swimming pool, of all things! The 248th track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge is by the great deejay Dillinger and it's called "Racing Pool," produced by Joe Gibbs and Errol T and released as a 7" on the Belmont label in 1979. So grab your swim trunks, a towel and the waterproof sunscreen before you take a dip! Come on in... the water is fine!
Wednesday, July 06, 2016
In keeping with the seaside theme, I offer you the next selection in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge. Today's tune by David Isaacs and Jah Thomas is called "Just Like A Sea" and it comes from a 1979 discomix 12" on the Cartridge label... it has that mellow vibe that I'm trying to maintain while the kids and their seemingly non-stop chaos here at the beach keep my blood pressure near the boiling point. But there's hope, once the afternoon rum drinks have kicked in I become far more agreeable and a lot less stressed but before then... all bets are off. Enjoy!
Tuesday, July 05, 2016
"Everyday Is Just A Holiday" is a Jamaican classic... originally recorded by the Sensations for Treasure Isle in 1968, it is one of those rocksteady tunes I loved the first time its seemingly melancholy strains reached my ears many years ago. It's the kind of song that gets stuck in your head long after the needle has been pulled or the CD has been stopped and with that in mind I decided to mix it up a bit by not using it for the 246th track... instead I decided to go with a 1978 reggae cover by Ruddy Thomas from a 12" discomix on the Errol T label. Today's tune also features the deejay stylings of Trinity with a little ride on the same riddim called "Natty Dread On The Go." Most importantly "Everyday Is Just A Holiday" sticks with the little summer vacation thing we've got going-on this week because I swing and dine, I joke awhile, play awhile, 'cause everyday is just a holiday... at least this for week. Dig it!