Sunday, September 25, 2016
Gonna keep it short today because I want the music to do my talking... that and I'm so backed-up working on finalizing the 2016 Spooktacular that I am stretching myself pretty thin. Anyway, let's switch things up a bit to start this week. Let's go with a little dub track called "Resignation Dub" by the great Michael Campbell AKA Mikey Dread. This one comes from his 1979 album African Anthem - The Mikey Dread Show Dubwise originally released on the Dread At The Controls label. "Resignation Dub" features a wicked sampling of Mikey Dread's trademark "jingles" that endeared him to so many when he took the helm of Jamaica's first all reggae program on the JBC in 1976. The guy was a Jamaican radio pioneer and legend who is sorely missed.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Short and sweet today... yet another Studio One classic. This is "I May Never See My Baby" by the great Horace Andy and was originally recorded with the Soul Vendors doing the backing and released in 1972 on Dodd's Money Disc label. While a lot of Studio One's stuff blurs the line between rocksteady and reggae this is definitely pure and sweet reggae music. Horace Andy has got a smooth voice that I could listen to all day and this sad song about a love gone wrong has been a favorite of mine for many years. Happy Saturday folks! Be sure to stop by today and pickup the latest uninterrupted weekly mix in just a few hours... we're counting 'em down now!
Friday, September 23, 2016
Keeping the Studio One vibes going with one from The First Lady of Song, Hortense Ellis. When Hortense was just eighteen she tried out for the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour, a talent contest that ran of RJR radio, and met with immediate success. During the 60's Hortense Ellis toured with Byron Lee & The Dragonaires and even recorded with some of the island's greatest producers including Ken Lack, Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd. Dodd at the time was also producing her older brother Alton and decided to capitalize on the family relationship by putting together a handful of "female" adaptations of Alton's hits for Hortense to record and even teamed them up for a couple duets. In 1970 the Ellis' toured Canada together and the following year Hortense got married and had five children but still found time to get into the studio. Throughout the 70s she recorded for Lee Perry, Gussie Clarke, Bunny Lee and even worked with Sly & Robbie during the advent of the "Lovers Rock" sub-genre. Sadly Hortense Ellis passed away at the age of 59 in October of 2000. But this one, "I'm Just A Girl," co-written with Alton and serving as the female response to his "I'm Just A Guy," riding the classic Vanity riddim and released circa 1967, is a top-notch tune! A great soulful voice that we lost way too soon. Of note... as far as I an ascertain this is the original version which features the Sound Dimension doing the backing and is not this is one that Dodd recut in 1979 using the Brentford Disco Set. Both takes are nice but this one seems to really capture Hortense Ellis' voice at its finest!
Thursday, September 22, 2016
We could do Bobby Babylon to finish off the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge but I definitely wouldn't think of doing that to you good people. If you've stuck with me since November 1st 2015, you know I've tried to mix things up and have only gone on a riddim tangent a couple times. And besides, today, Thursday September 22nd is the first day of autumn and it gives me the perfect opportunity to break out one of the two reggae autumn songs I own. And while the riddim and mood have changed for today's track we're still dealing with a Studio One production... this one is "Autumn Sounds" by the late great Jackie Mittoo and the Soul Vendors and it comes from the 1968 Coxsone LP called Evening Time. This track really emotes the feeling of fall; an upbeat rhythm and a good bit of melancholy from Mittoo on his Hammond. Goodbye Summer 2016... you will be missed.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
I'm still feelin' the Bobby Babylon as this 324th track will attest so let's give the riddim's namesake a spin. Like yesterday's tune this one originally appearing as a 7" on Studio One in 1978 and became the title track to his Coxsone produced debut album the following year... here is Freddie McGregor's timeless "Bobby Babylon." In my opinion, this track is one of the tuffest tunes to ever chant down Babylon and Freddie's voice is both melodic, smooth, calm and collected while expressing lyrics built from pure outrage, pain and anger. "You brought us down here in captivity, feed us with your brutality. Turn your back on humanity, you've got no love or no I-nity." Pure wickedness!
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Let's again ride the Bobby Babylon riddim for today's tune! This one is by Lone Ranger and it's called "Big Match" and was originally released on the Studio One label circa 1978. The lyrics recount Ranger taking in a big football match between the Natty Dreads and the Baldheads. Of course, as one would expect, the Dreads completely kick the ass of their follicly challenged opponents! And with a score of 500 to 5 you couldn't exactly call this an upset.
Monday, September 19, 2016
We're gonna zip ahead quite a few years while remaining anchored with the Soul Vendors again... the backing track for today's tune, "So So Bandolo" by the artist Clive "Snowball" Brown, was originally done by the Soul Vendors in 1968 and released on their Studio One LP Evening Time under the title "One Step Beyond." In 1979, during the early stages of the Studio One "riddim mining" and refurbishment era, Coxsone stepped right into the fray by having Freddie McGregor record "Bobby Babylon" on the rocksteady riddim from eleven years prior. It was a huge hit and almost immediately "One Step Beyond" became known as "Bobby Babylon" and spurred an enormous amount of versions by nearly every dancehall producer from the era. Now that's not even taking into account the short time the riddim was known as Hi Fashion when it was rehashed by Dillinger for his Christmas tune "Hi Fashion Christmas." I'm not able to figure out which one came first but you ask anyone who pays attention to riddims and they'll probably call it Bobby Babylon. So let's get to the tune, trying to decipher the chronology is making my head hurt... released as a 7" on Studio One sometime after 1979, this is one hell of a catchy tune. I find myself singing the Bandolo refrain in my head for hours after I listen to this one.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
What the hell, let's do Studio One this week! We're gonna start the 47th week of the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge with a little something by the Soul Vendors! The Soul Vendors were the reincarnation of Studio One's house band The Soul Brothers during the rocksteady era and featured a line-up that reads like the veritable who's who of Jamaican music; Jackie Mittoo, Hux Brown, Denzil Laing, Joe Isaacs, and Brian Atkinson with sit-ins like Roland Alphonso, Bobby Ellis, Headley Bennett, Vin Gordon, Dizzy Moore, Lenox Brown, Lester Sterling and David Madden! Obviously an impressive array of musicians and an even more impressive sound that makes their recording absolutely timeless. According to what I've read, the Soul Vendors recorded a minimum of twelve songs a day for five days a week from 1966 to 1968 - that's some serious studio time! Take for instance today's track "Swing Easy," in my opinion it is one of the smoothest tunes to ever come out of Brentford Road. "Swing Easy" originally appeared in 1967 on the flip of The Bassies "River Jordan" on the Coxsone label and while I enjoy the vocal tune well enough the Soul Vendors track is an absolute scorcher! And, you wanna hear something wild? Dizzy Moore's trumpeting throughout "Swing Easy" was borrowed from the violin melody in the song "Tradition" from... wait for it... the soundtrack of the 1964 Broadway musical Fiddle On The Roof! How's that for obscure?
Saturday, September 17, 2016
The 46th Week Mix is here... finally! Sorry I've been slacking today. Here's what you're gonna hear!
1. Roots Radics - Lovers Rock
2. Big Youth - Love We A Deal With
3. Michael Scotland - Love Is A Treasure
4. Larry Marshall - Can't You Understand
5. Sharon Black - Struggling
6. Earth & Stone - Wicked A Fe Dress Back
7. Little Roy - Rich Man Laugh
Earl Lowe AKA Little Roy had his first hit "Bongo Nyah" for producer Lloyd Daley in 1969. "Bongo Nyah" holds the distinction of being the first Rastafari oriented song to meet with commercial success in Jamaica and lead Little Roy to recording with the Wailers in 1970 and Lee Perry in 1972. Little Roy continued to work with a string of producers before self-producing his debut album Columbus Ship on the Copasetic label in 1981. It would have been easy for me to feature my all-time favorite Little Roy track "Tribal War" but if memory serves me correctly I already did John Holt's cover of the song a few months back so I decided to dig deeper. Originally titled "Boof And Peng" when it was pressed in 1975 as a 7" on the Earth label, today's track "Rich Man Laugh" as it became known, is one helluva roots tune. Now I could lie and tell you that I've known this one forever but I honestly owe my discovery of Little Roy to Pressure Sounds' excellent 1995 compilation Tafari Earth Uprising. A must-own for any roots reggae fan!
Friday, September 16, 2016
The vocal duo Earth and Stone, not to be confused with Hell & Fire which I do all the time, was made up of Albert Bailey and Clifton Howell. In 1972, they auditioned for Studio One but quickly grew tired of not getting anywhere as far as recording anything so they went to see the Hookim brothers at Channel One. Ernest and Jo Jo quickly saw their potential and released a couple big tunes including "Jah Will Cut You Down" and "Three Wise Men" as singles on their Hitbound label. The successful singles continued for Earth and Stone and in 1979 their album Kool Roots, which compiled all of the good stuff they had recorded at Channel One was released internationally on the Cha Cha label with high acclaim. Unfortunately when the Hookim's pulled up stakes in 1980 and move their operations to New York, Earth and Stone called it a day. Today's track "Wicked A Fe Dress Back" was a tune produced by Ossie Hibbert and put out on the Ossie Sounds label in 1977 and it is a badass tune! Smooth conscious harmonies over a horn-rich, joyful take of the Please Be True riddim, this is some seriously tuff stuff! Check it!
Thursday, September 15, 2016
While I'm unable to find any background information regarding today's artist Sharon Black, it's a tune like this that makes me wish I could. "Struggling" was produced by Sonia Pottinger and released on the High Note label in 1977 and it is as much a tune about struggling as it is about rising above those struggles and fighting for justice. I first heard "Struggling" back in 1996 when I was doing my college radio show and received a promotional copy of the Heartbeat various artists compilation Reggae Songbirds which featured a nice sampling of female vocalists at High Note. A nice roots tune with a sweet vocal performance by Ms. Black and some pretty tuff guitar licks throughout.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Since I expressed so much love for Carlton Patterson and Black & White yesterday, let's give 'em a little more; this one is "Can't You Understand" by Larry Marshall and it was originally released as a single in 1975. Marshall got into music in the early 60s, recording minor solo hits for a plethora of producers including Coxsone Dodd. He stayed with Studio One when he teamed up with singer Alvin Leslie to form the duo Larry & Alvin and they hit it big with "Nanny Goat," a song that many regard as one of the first to make the transition from rocksteady to reggae. Not only did Larry Marshall record for Dodd he also served as assistant studio engineer, writer, arranger and dub-plate seller before setting out on his own in 1974. Today's tune is a great example of Larry Marshall's soothing vocal capabilities and like yesterday's track on Black & White, another shining example of some top-flight reggae! Oddly enough, "Can't You Understand" was repressed on at least four different labels with the production credits going to Patterson on two, a question-mark on one and Marshall on the other... slightly confusing but completely commonplace in Jamaican music as many of you know.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
According to sources I've read online, today's featured track, and more importantly the man doing the singing on said track, Michael Scotland, is the stage-name used by Carlton Patterson. Now if you're not particularly versed in reggae history you may be asking yourself, who is Carlton Patterson? Mr. Patterson was the producer and driving force behind a little label out of Jamaica called Black & White (who unlike the name would suggest print their labels in bold yellow, red, white and blue) that put out one fantastic tune after another in the late 70s, each with an equally fantastic dub cut by King Tubby on the flip. It is an absolute travesty that Patterson is not as well known as his contemporaries in roots-era reggae because the guy had a hell of an ear for quality music. Years ago I came across a Black & White single at a record fair in New York, "Mr. Music Man" by U-Brown to be specific, and though the condition was fairly rough, when I got home and gave it a listen through the scratches and pops I could hear something great. The next year when I attended the same record fair I enlisted my girlfriend to dig alongside me in the boxes offered up by Deadly Dragon and to keep her eye open for anything on Black & White, with their trademark yellow, red, white and blue labels. But I'm getting off track here... let's get to today's tune by Michael Scotland. This one is "Love Is A Treasure," a cover of the rocksteady tune originally recorded by Freddie McKay in 1967 on an updated pure-reggae instrumental track. I am going to come right out and admit it... this is my favorite version of "Love Is A Treasure" and Tubby's dub on the reverse doesn't hurt matters much either. Nuff respect to Carlton Patterson, King Tubby and Black & White - this is great reggae music!
Monday, September 12, 2016
Speaking of love... let's get a little love from deejay originator Manley Augustus Buchanan AKA Big Youth and his tune "Love We A Deal With." This one comes from his album Isaiah First Prophet Of Old released in Jamaica on his own Nichola Delita label in 1978 and internationally on Virgin Front Line the same year. This is one of my favorite Big Youth albums, right behind Dreadlocks Dread, and this song in particular has been a steady, uplifting, reliable source of musical joy in my life since the first time I heard it. Dig it!
Sunday, September 11, 2016
While today's date will always remain somber in the eyes of many, myself included, it's important to keep on keeping on with the 365 Day Challenge. Originally I unsuccessfully searched for a song that would channel the sorrow that 9/11 and the 15th anniversary of such represents but I decided to just keep it positive and light. God knows there are enough reminders of this horrific day on every other media outlet to keep you heartbroken and tearful well into next week but not here. I want to put a smile on your face with some sweet reggae music! This one is called "Lovers Rock" by the Roots Radics and it comes from a various artists album produced and featuring Prince Far I called Showcase In A Suitcase, released in 1980 on the PRE label. This is the dub-wise take on a tune called "How Love Divine" with the Wailing Souls and Far I and it's basically just the Radics laying down another melodic, yet wickedly bass-heavy taste of what they did best.
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Yes, it's the 45th Week Mix in all its uninterrupted glory... here's what you're gonna hear...
1. Edi Fitzroy - First Class Citizen
2. Badoo - Working In A Factory
3. Mother Liza - Joy To Your Soul
4. Wayne Wade - Little Suzie
5. Don Carlos - Dance Gate
6. Cornell Campbell - Confusion On The Land
7. Robert Ffrench - Bad Boy Posse
Gonna stick with the same riddim this Saturday and a great record by the man Robert Ffrench. Ffrench recorded his first singles in 1979 at the age of seventeen and really hit his stride in the 80s when he hit the charts with a couple combination tunes like "Bun & Cheese" with Clement Irie in 1985 and "Modern Girl" with Courtney Melody in 1989. And while both those tracks hold a lot of fond personal memories of the early days of my reggae explorations, it is his stuff that he voiced during the early dancehall era that really shine. Take for instance today's song "Bad Boy Posse" from 1983, produced by Ossie Thomas, riding the Boops riddim and originally pressed as a 7" in Jamaica on the Ganja Farm label before making its way north to Canada as a 12" on EAD... pure badness!
Friday, September 09, 2016
Speaking of sweet voices, you can't get any sweeter than the great Cornell Campbell. His falsetto is so flawless and smooth and works so beautifully with love songs you'd think that when he tackles subject matter that goes beyond affairs of the heart it wouldn't work but you'd be completely wrong. Take for instance today's tune, "Confusion On The Land" taken from his 1982 album Boxing produced by Bunny Lee and released on the Starlight label, a song urging people to come together to overcome the everyday shit that separates us and turns us against one another. Like Cornell says, "We need more love universally," and while that's a sentiment I think we can all agreed upon, it's that pleasing delivery that makes it all seem so sincere and heartfelt.
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Saddened to hear of the passing of the great Prince Buster... one of Jamaica's all-time greatest talents and a man whose contributions will be forever appreciated and loved. And while it would be impossible to properly pay tribute to him and all he has done in his lifetime, it's the song "Enjoy Yourself" which has touched my life the most... this may not be the rarest Prince Buster tune because almost everyone has heard it in some capacity but it's a piece of wisdom that we all should heed. I never cease to get a tear in my eye or a lump in my throat while attempting to sing-along with "Enjoy Yourself" because as you and I know, life is too damn short and you need to live it fully while you can. Thank you Prince Buster.
No heavily worded write-up today, just a great song by Don Carlos! This is one of those records I came across just a couple years ago and was amazed I hadn't it heard before. The copy I have is a 7" on Kris Disk and after doing a quick bit of research I discovered that it was released in 1983 and also pressed as a 12" on the Rusty International where credit is also give to Don's long-time vocal partner Goldilocks. Just a nice rhythm, Don Carlos' sweet voice and some sweet vibes.
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Another day, another milestone for the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... we have reached the 310th day of this project and the tunes just keep on comin'! In all seriousness, I could probably continue this track-a-day thing for the rest of my natural life. There are so many great songs and artists that I'm afraid I have missed over the last 10 months that I am now concentrating my efforts on trying to cover as much as possible. But no one cares about the inner-workings of my brain, you want to hear some music so let's get to it! Wayne Wade got his start in the mid 70s recording for the great Yabby You and had almost immediate success with the single "Black Is Our Colour" and his first album of the same name in 1976. This lead to a string of three more albums in the next couple years and Wade branching out to record for Joe Gibbs and Linval Thompson. Today's tune "Little Suzie" AKA "Suzie" was one of the records he did for Thompson and was originally released as a 12" in 1980 on the Down Beat label. Pure jilted-lover lyrics over the monster riddim track that Linval had used on his epic "Curfew," which we featured back in February. Tuff stuff!
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
We're already into September and as you know with October fast approaching that means my thoughts quickly turn to Halloween. And with that said, I am happy to announce that yes, there will be yet another Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular coming at you on October 1st! The duppy box is running thin on spooky selections but there is still enough quality tunes in there to warrant giving this a go for at least one more year. And like years before, it's gonna be one tune for every weekday in October with an immediate download link. All the howling wind, clapping thunder, werewolf howls, movie clips and wacky tidbits you've come to expect from Distinctly Jamaican Sounds every time Halloween approaches, will be available once again - as well as Roger Wilkerson's custom comic book covers for each track! Now, since I'm involved in this yearlong project of posting a song a day for 365 days I was conflicted on how I would proceed but I have decided to keep the 365 Day Challenge going in harmony with the Spooktacular. I figure with the yearlong project October will give me a chance to select a bunch of songs from previous Halloween mixes and present them in their unaltered glory while giving you a completely new mix for 2016, one track at a time. Like last year, I'm going to see if I can recruit some guest bloggers so I don't lose my job for spending hours of time at work writing up music. So if anyone wants to take a stab at contributing to the 2016 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular, shoot me a message and I'll gladly open the floor to you when the song you pick falls in the mix. Thanks everybody for your continued support!
When people speak about female deejays you often hear the names Sister Nancy, Lady Ann, Sister Carol, Shelly Thunder and Lady Saw but one that usually slips beneath the radar is the great Liza AKA Mother Liza. I had read that Liza, who was best known for her work inna combination style with deejay Floyd "Nigger Kojak" Perch, was actually two different women Beverley Brown and Jacqueline Bolan, so there is no definitive way in telling which is which. That's not saying that she didn't have a chance to cut her own tracks when she worked with Kojak because she did. Take for instance today's track "Joy To Your Soul" produced by Bunny Lee, mixed by Prince Jammy and taken from the album Chant Down Babylon on the Gorgon label... none of the call and response you know and love from such hits as "Sky Juice" and "Hole In The Bucket," just a badass riddim and Mother Liza chatting on the mic! Mother Liza went on to record a "clash" album for Striker Lee with Papa Tullo appropriately titled Mother Liza Meets Papa Tullo that remains one of my favorite deejay albums from the early dancehall era. Unfortunately, Mother Liza's short 4-5 year recording career probably explains why her name is often overlooked by casual reggae fans, but I personally respect the hell out of her and her work! She was one of the first female voices in dancehall when the scene could best be described as a "boys club" and her records show that she could more than hold her own. Respect due Liza!