In celebration of the first Saturday of summer we're gonna step back to rocksteady to round out the week with this one by The Kingstonians called "Fun Galore" and it comes from a 1968 7" on the Doctor Bird label! Produced by J.J. "Sir JJ" Johnson and featuring his house band the Sir JJ All Stars, what absolutely makes this tune is the impassioned and heartfelt vocals of the late great Jackie Bernard. Pure rocksteady niceness... I hope you dig it as much as I do!
I have been remiss in not giving Dennis Alcapone the limelight in these 7 months since I started this "adventure" but I am remedying that today. Dennis Alcapone, born Dennis Smith, is a true Jamaican deejay legend who got his start in 1969 when inspired by other big sound systems and started his own El Paso Sound. What makes Alcapone so legendary is the fact that his deejaying style had such a huge influence on generations of up and comers... Big Youth, Trinity, Jah Stitch and Dillinger all owe a great deal to his unique chanting or spoken-word style. With that said, let's get to today's track... this one is called "Ba-Ba-Ri-Ba" or sometimes "Ba Ba Ri Ba Skank" and was recorded by Duke Reid in 1973 and originally released as a 7" in the UK on the Pyramid label and eventually on the Trojan album Soul To Soul - DJ's Choice the same year. On this track Dennis (and Lizzy) ride Ken Parker's original 1970 version of "I Can't Hide," a riddim that would eventually be refurbished by multiple producers and used multiple times all the way into the 90s! My partiality to I Can't Hide is probably a good indicator of why I chose this track but Dennis Alcapone's discography as a whole is a thing of beauty. Nuff respect Alcapone!
You know what is amazing about Jamaican music? Regardless of how much you immerse your ears in the various sub-genres, artists, labels, producers and sounds of this music you always come across something you've never heard before or perhaps overlooked and it is so damn good you don't know how you ever lived without it! Take for instance today's tune, the 234th in the 365 Day Challenge, "Give It To Him" by The Hot Tops. Last week in preparation for a live gig we had lined-up for last Saturday I got to work putting together a playlist. I was in a rocksteady mood and once I had gone through the record boxes and dug for what seemed liked forever I had a healthy stack of vinyl ready to hit the turntables but I had a couple holes in the set that needed filling. I rifled through my LPs and CDs as well but still felt something was missing. Finally as a last resort, I cracked open the Spooktacular vault, a case in which I keep all my coveted 7" "duppy" tunes which I utilize every October, and went to exploring the b-sides (or sometimes the a-sides) of the records inside. I came across the 2001 repress of Derrick Morgan's 1968 song "Father Killam" on the Hop label, flipped it over and saw on the ridiculously mangled label what you are about to hear. The Hot Tops were in actuality The Viceroys and this tune "Give It To Him" recorded in '68 for Derrick Morgan and featuring Lynn Taitt & The Jets is absolutely killer! It just goes to show that undiscovered or forgotten treasures abound in Jamaican music... some which you can devote hours locating and laying out the cash to obtain and some just sitting idly in your own record collection right now! Ya dig?
Bobby Ellis received training on the trumpet and flugelhorn at Alpha Boys School and upon his leaving became the horn arranger for Studio One. He did the same for producer Jack Ruby and was a member of Ruby's studio band The Black Disciples before working with Peter Tosh, The Revolutionaries and Burning Spear, with whom he toured with for twelve years. Today's tune, the 233rd in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge, is by Mr. Ellis and the Desmond Miles Seven and it's called "Step Softly," originally released as a 7" in 1967 on Derrick Harriott's Crystal label."Step Softly" combines sweet horns and a smooth rhythm to make for a fantastic tune! Enjoy!
There's something about the fact that today's tune, "Take It Easy" by the late Hopeton Lewis, is now being used in a Corona beer ad on television that kinda makes me uncomfortable. Yes, the vibe feels right with the tropical/beachy imagery and because it is such a great song it's one of the very few that doesn't have me reaching for the mute button on the remote when it pops up but at the same time it kinda pisses me off... a tune that was released as a single on the Merritone label in 1967, will finally get the international recognition it deserves in 2016, 49 years after it was originally recorded and two years after Hopeton Lewis died. It annoys me like you wouldn't believe that Jamaican music is so exclusively synonymous among the general public with warm weather and good times that it only ever comes to the forefront when it is picked up by some ad agency in late May as a catchy jingle for a warm-weather product. Sure it's great that this wonderful song will finally be heard by a larger segment of the population but then it will become relegated to taking up space in between Jimmy Buffett tracks on some tool's poolside iTunes playlist. "Take It Easy" deserves more than forever being called "The Corona Song" and Jamaican music as a whole deserves more than being used as an occasional jingle in the summertime. This music is good year-round! I could go on and rant about this for hours but I will shut my mouth... simply because I don't want to derail the good vibes of such an upbeat classic.
I'm offering a public service here... I'm saving everyone the trouble of having to look at the calendar and figuring out what today represents! Monday June 20, 2016 is the Summer Solstice or the first day of summer here in the northern hemisphere and I for one couldn't be more delighted! We're going to kick off the summer in style with a sweet, sweet 1968 rocksteady rendition of the 1934 George Gershwin classic "Summertime," originally released as a 7" on the Coxsone label. It's by Roy Richards and the Soul Vendors and comes from a beautiful Studio One repress on the Dub Store label acquired on the quick by the good folks at Deadly Dragon! And while it is an instrumental complete with that trademark Roy Richards harmonica you know you're always welcome to sing along at home, or in the car or wherever you may be. And if you say you don't know the words I say you're lying! Summertime and the living is easy... indeed!
It's Father's Day and as expected I wanted to dedicate today's tune, the 231st in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge, to all the Dads! I know that for the most part, Father's Day is secondary on the list of parental honoring holidays created by Hallmark in an effort to help fill the monetary divide between Easter and Christmas, but my Dad deserves the recognition! He is the guy who I have always depended on when things needed fixing, when I need solid advice or when I need a helping hand. And while he doesn't show affection the way a mother does, his love speaks through his actions and his willingness to do anything to help anybody in need. Today's tune is "Song For My Father" by Roland Alphonso and The Beverley's All Stars, recorded and released in 1967 on the Beverley's label in J.A. and on Pyramid in the UK and of course produced by the great Leslie Kong. And while it is a ska song, released right at the start of the rocksteady era, it has a jazzier feel than most "runaway train" ska records. I love you Dad! Happy Father's Day!
The Tidals were a vocal trio made up of Winston Cleveland, Eupert Reid and Aston Pryce who started out in the 60s. They made their first foray into recording in 1973 with producer Phil Pratt before cutting today's track "(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am" two years later for Alvin Ranglin. "How Glad I Am" originally appeared as a single on the Boss Disco label in Jamaica and Attack in the UK and the various artists LP Atlantic One released on the Horse label that same year. The album is an absolute classic with tracks by Gregory Isaacs, The Maytones, The G.G. Allstars, etc. and today's tune by The Tidals is one of the best! A perfect tune for a Saturday I might add...
I have seen it mentioned before that the life story of Winston Brown AKA Ranking Dread would be perfect material for a gangster movie and once you hear it I think you'll agree... musically Ranking Dread came up through the ranks of the Ray Symbolic sound system in Jamaica but once he settled in the UK he took up residence with London's Lloyd Coxsone sound. He had a minor hit in the UK with his Junjo produced single "Fattie Boom Boom" but by the time the mid-80s rolled around he found his past trouble with the law catching up to him.
You see it seems he was involved with Jamaican Labour Party don Claude Massop, was wanted in connection with as many as thirty murders and was labeled by the British press as "The most dangerous man in Britain and the number one Yardie Godfather." Brown was also being investigated as the head of a drug-dealing and armed robbery gang and was wanted in connection to charges of prostitution, rape, murder and dealing in crack cocaine. During the time he lived in England under as many as twenty different aliases and when the police finally arrested him in 1988 with drugs in his possession at his own illegal drinking club, he was deported back to Jamaica on a charge that he had entered the United Kingdom illegally but a short time later he fled to Canada. Eventually he was recaptured and sent back to Jamaica where he spent the remainder of his days in prison where he died in 1996.
Now mind you, this is just the short version... I didn't even go into the story of the Nigerian rival drug dealer who attempted to pass off fake cannabis and was thrown to his death from his apartment window to the street below with his TV remote still in his hand or the belief that rival gangs had that Ranking Dread and his posse were protected by black magic and obeah... if you want to read more, or possibly start writing the screenplay check out this excellent blog London Street Gangs which goes into a lot more detail about the life or the musician turned crime world boss. But you may be asking yourself, "what the hell does all this have to do with the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge?" Today's track is by the man known as Ranking Dread and it comes from his 1979 album Kunta Kinte Roots on the Burning Sounds label.
Quoting from a Spooktacular post way back in 2013, "Barry Dunn AKA Militant Barry originally
got his start in the music business with the vocal group The Thrillers
before branching out as a solo artist under the guidance of producers
Phil Pratt and Al Campbell. Militant Barry was not heavily recorded,
most likely due to his involvement in production and promotion when he
relocated to London in the mid-70s, but he did have a knack for
recording timely songs with timely subject matter... he even recorded a
song called "Pistol Boy" in tribute to Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious,
questioning whether he was actually responsible for killing his
girlfriend Nancy Spungen - how's that for crossover?!" Well now that I've copy, pasted and shared the biographical info, we'll get to today's tune. I actually had to dig deep for this track but as you'll soon hear it was worth
the effort... today's track by Militant Barry is called
"Buzzing Bee" and it comes from the very last track on the b-side of the
late great Keith Hudson's 1979 album From One Extreme To Another on the Joint International label. Dig it!
Albert Griffiths founded The Gladiators as a vocal group in 1966 with childhood friends David Webber and Errol Grandison. Supposedly the band's name was suggested by a fellow passenger on a bus when they were on their way to their first recording sessions. Two years later they scored their first hit with "Hello Carol," which was recorded at Studio One. Soon after illness caused Webber to leave the band to be replaced by Clinton Fearon and Grandison too went his separate ways in 1972 being changed-out for Dallimore Sutherland. Like the vast majority of reggae artists during the 70s the band cut records for a wide variety of producers and labels before releasing Trenchtown Mix Up for Virgin Records, a reworking of a heaping handful of previously released singles. And that brings us to today's tune, the 227th in the 365 Day Challenge, "Looks Is Deceiving" from the aforementioned album. What is interesting about the Gladiators and what separates them from a lot of groups in the roots era was the fact that they played their own instruments, whereas a lot of the music at the time was driven by a vocal group backed by a studio band. Virgin suggested to the group in 1980 for their album Gladiators to leave the musicianship to someone else and it was a huge flop which resulted in their recording contract with the company being terminated. But the Gladiators picked up their instruments and continued on, cutting as many as 18 albums in the decades that followed. But let's get to the song!
Up next is a nice tune by Tabby & The Heptones called "Red Hot" and it comes from a 7" on the Moses label produced by the great Winston "Niney" Holness in 1978. The Tabby in question is in fact Donald "Tabby" Shaw from the Mighty Diamonds and this collaboration is pretty damn sweet! And best of all, with summer quickly approaching, it's yet another perfect way to ring in the "most wonderful time of the year" and the rising mercury! Stay cool folks!
Today's tune is a landmark! No, I'm not talking about the fact that it's the 225th day in a row I've been doing this challenge, I'm talking about the record itself. You see, today's tune "Truly" by The Jays and Ranking Trevor, released on vinyl in 1976 on the Channel One offshoot label Disco Mix, was the first Jamaican twelve-inch hit single! While the first Jamaican 12" is credited to Lloyd Charmers and his song "Rhythm In Rhapsody" also released in '76 on the Wildflower label, it wasn't successful. Today's track is the first to really have an impact. And while the "extended mix" was fairly common with dance or club deejays at the time outside of Jamaica, the Jamaican take was to include both the vocal and deejay takes on the same riddim on the same side and an extended dub-wise version on the b-side. The 12" format was not intended for the Jamaican buyer but used as a vehicle to export reggae outside of the island and believe me, my three sagging shelves in the living room packed with discomixes, can attest to the fact that they were pretty successful in doing so. As a collector I love the hell outta my 12" singles! So here it is, a truly groundbreaking record for your listening pleasure!
I can't believe it has taken me eight months to get to the Meditations! The trio of Danny Clarke, Ansel Cridland and Winston Watson got together in 1974 and after a couple years of recording and crediting their releases to the individual artists, they started going with the Meditations name in 1976 and soon after scored a huge hit with "Woman Is Like A Shadow" and their first album Message From The Meditations. Throughout the 70s they recorded for producers Dobby Dobson, Joseph Hoo Kim and Lee Perry, as well as providing backing vocals for Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, Jimmy Cliff and The Congos on their Black Ark masterpiece Heart Of The Congos. It would be easy for me to pick one of their better known tunes from the 1970s but I've decided to go with something from their 1983 dancehall friendly album No More Friend produced by Linval Thompson and pressed on Greensleeves. Today's tune is called "Forcing Me" and while the lyrics tell of a relationship gone bad the cool backing of the Roots Radics coupled with some damn sweet horns and vocal harmonies it is definitely a "feel good" track!
Up next for the 223rd day in our little yearlong marathon is a smooth discomix for your Saturday enjoyment! This one is from 1984 and it's called "Deep Mediation" featuring a great uplifting horn riff, some sweet singing from the man Derrick Lenroy and the slick deejay stylings of the great Ringo AKA Johnny Ringo and it was lifted directly from a 12" on the Body Music label. Kick back and enjoy this one!
Switching gears now by moving into the 80s and I'm keeping it short because I can't find any background information on Neville Brown, but rest assured the tune is top-notch! This one is called "Trod Along Natty Dreadlocks" and it comes from the 1983 album Scientist Presents Neville Brown With The Aggrovators At Channel One on the Vista label and since the title of the album basically fills in all the slots for background on the personnel involved, I'll let the music do the talking! :)
The late Harry Zephaniah Johnson AKA Harry J was a producer and recording studio owner who got his start by creating his own Harry J label in 1968. Johnson had a deal with Coxsone Dodd to use Studio One's facilities where he produced Lloyd Robinson's "Cuss Cuss," which became his first hit and one of the most popular riddims in Jamaica for decades to follow. In 1969 Harry J hit it big with "The Liquidator," a tune recorded by Ranny Williams and The Hippy Boys which Harry J remixed with Winston Wright's organ and it shot to Number 9 on the UK Singles Chart to became a skinhead reggae classic. A multitude of Harry J All Stars instrumental productions, most heavy on the Winston Wright organ, followed with similar popular appeal. In 1972, Johnson sold his record store, moved out of Studio One and established Harry J Studio where he went on to record an amazing line-up of artists from Bob Marley & The Wailers to Burning Spear to Augustus Pablo to nearly everyone in between. Today's track is called "The Arcade Walk" and it comes from the 2003 compilation CD from Trojan called Liquidator; The Best Of The Harry J Allstars. Dig it! And thanks to my friends at Reggae Fever for the correction on the Liquidator background!
What can I write about the Wailers which hasn't already been written a thousand times before? Luckily that allows me to keep it short when it comes to the biographical info and provides me some space to just discuss how much I have always loved today's tune "Stand Alone." When I first started delving into reggae music I began with the Bob Marley & The Wailers Island releases and because of my minimum-wage paying, high school job assembling skateboards at a surf shop at the local mall, my musical education was kinda stalled. Sure I would rifle through the minuscule reggae section at the neighboring Sam Goody or the Musicland on my lunch break but I didn't want to fork over $10 for cassettes by artists I'd heard of but soon found that I didn't particularly enjoy. Previous buying experiences with Aswad, Third World and Steele Pulse (no offense to anyone who likes these bands) had burned me and I was not willing to take another chance. When I found some budget priced Bob Marley & The Wailers tapes with songs I had yet to hear, I figured I couldn't go wrong. I bought one of the no-named cassette for $5 which included about twelve to fifteen Lee Perry produced tracks, "Stand Alone" included, and eagerly anticipated my ride home that evening. Back then I didn't even have a cassette player in my 1986 Volkswagen Golf so I had to rely on listening to music with a boombox perched on the passenger seat. Well as you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised! I didn't know the story behind this era of the Wailers but it was definitely an important education nonetheless. So here is the 220th track in the 365 Jamaican Music Challenge... "Stand Alone," once available for purchase in cassette racks at gas stations and 7 Eleven's worldwide for a mere $4.99 on less than legitimate compilations, but originally released on the 1973 album African Herbsman when Scratch sold the recordings to Trojan Records without Bob, Peter and Bunny's knowledge.
The Slickers were started in the mid-60s by Derrick Crooks, who was also the creator of The Pioneers, his brother Sidney and Abraham Green. They recorded today's tune "Johnny Too Bad" at Dynamic Studio in 1971 and a year later received worldwide recognition when it ended up on the soundtrack to the classic film The Harder They Come. The Slickers rode the fame from "Johnny Too Bad" for the next few years, touring both the UK and the United States and cutting an album before breaking up in 1979. Years later, today's track, the 219th in the 365 Day Challenge I might add, has been covered multiple times by a multitude of artists from a handful of diverse musical genres ranging from rock to bluegrass and it's really no wonder because it's a great song!
The Viceroys have worked under a plethora of names since they first recorded in 1967 including The Voiceroys, The Interns, The Inturns, The Brothers and The Hot Tops. Originally comprised of Wesley Tinglin, Daniel Bernard and Bunny Gayle they made their debut with Studio One after they were rejected by Duke Reid. Today's track "Shake Up" was one of those early rocksteady tunes and it comes from the 1995 Heartbeat CD compilation called The Viceroys At Studio One: Ya Ho. Guaranteed good stuff for another unwelcome Monday!
Yesterday we had a listen to one of Jamaica's great trombonists, let's give a little time to one of Jamaica's great saxophonists... of course we're talking about the late great Tommy McCook! McCook was one of the founding members of the legendary Skatalites and was the director of The Supersonics, Duke Reid's studio band before branching out and recording for Bunny Lee and The Revolutionaries in the 1970s. Today's tune "Moving Out" with the Aggrovators was recorded for the aforementioned Mr. Lee circa 1975-1977 and eventually released on CD in 1995 as the album Bionic Dub on the Lagoon label. With mixing and engineering by King Tubby... it's a sweet tune! P.S. I can't take responsibility for what's going on in the attached video... a little odd choice for such an upbeat tune...