Thursday, December 29, 2005

Meditations For the New Year

The trio of Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson, known as the Meditations, are in my opinion, some of the most overlooked talents to ever emerge from Jamaica. The Meditations formed in 1975 and recorded singles for producers such as Dobbie Dobson and the Upsetter Lee Perry. The trio even remained active throughout the advent of dancehall and continued to release music to favorable review.

If you’ve had limited exposure to the Meditations I highly recommend checking out these 2 tracks that I’m sharing today. The first track “Turn Me Loose” was originally released on their 1979 album “Wake Up.” The second is “Tricked” from their 1976 LP “Message From the Meditations,” featuring a great rhythm section consisting of Sly Dunbar on drums, Flabba Holt on bass and Bingy Bunny on guitar – Sly Meets the Roots Radics!!

These 2 songs and 18 others are featured on Heartbeat’s 1994 “Deeper Roots: the Best of the Meditations," which I recommend highly! I also recommend the 1983 Linval Thompson produced “No More Friend” on Greensleeves to get a taste of their dancehall era sound.

I'm planning on starting off the new year with some Rocksteady so check back next week!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Quest For "Smoke Ganja Hard"

Now that the holidays are over, well Christmas is over and we still have this business with New Years to finish up, I thought I’d get back to posting a little early. Sit right back while I tell you the tale of this record…

I first heard this track about 13 years ago while listening to a taped radio broadcast of an unfortunately short-lived reggae program hosted by RAS Records’ Doctor Dread. But on this particular evening former RAS employee and super nice guy Tim Harris was selecting the tunes. I had met Tim at a local record convention and was absolutely floored that while digging through his bins I discovered nothing but reggae music. Usually you’d be lucky to walk away with one reggae record at these conventions and I was nearly at the point where I considered abandoning my fruitless searches and contemplated collecting KISS and Led Zepplin records that seemed to be everywhere (just kidding). I snatched up about 25 LPs and got to talking… I told Tim that I was really looking for early 80’s dancehall in particular rare stuff from Yellowman, he took my address and about a week later sent me 4-5 cassettes full of stuff I’d never heard before – as well as some print-outs from a Japanese catalog that showed his entire discography from that point and showed an album cover of each release and a few Yellowman promo pieces from RAS. I was floored!

We kept up correspondence from that point on and I listened to “Night of the Living Dread” religiously. Then I heard it that one evening in June of ’93… Little John singing over a hardcore rub-a-dub rhythm track that had me near tears… it was one of those songs that just reaffirmed everything I love about Jamaican music! I had to have a copy of this record! I called Tim and asked him what it was, he said it was called “Smoke Ganja Hard,” and he played it from a 10” in his personal collection. He told me it was a hard one to find and that if I ever came across it I should expect to pay some big bucks for it.

Well fast-forward 6 months to December. I had been a regular buyer from a guy out in Washington who used to run a mail-order reggae business called Outernational Records. He used to send you a listing of all the records for sale separated by label and would occasionally list harder to find vinyl up for auction. I made it a habit of scanning the first come first served section and racing to the phone to try for any Volcano or Greensleeves singles he had in the list. This was before early dancehall had gained real popularity and prices were always cheap - $3 - $4 a piece. But while I’m scanning through the latest list I’m listening to the cassette Charley would throw in with your packet that included :30 snippets from all the records up for auction and I heard the familiar strains of my Little John track! I nearly flipped! I ripped through the zeroxed sheets and found it almost immediately… Little John – Smoke Ganja Hard 10” on the Channel One label! I placed a bid for $145.00 – and worried about how I was going to come up with the money when I surely won the auction! But it was all in vain… I didn’t win.

So eventually I figured I’d settle for any vinyl copy of this song, this was long before a lot of reggae was available on CD, and I came across the track on a clash LP with Little John and Frankie Paul called “Showdown Volume 6” that I tracked down and bought from Ernie B’s Reggae. I was satisfied that I now owned Smoke Ganja Hard but a little disappointed I couldn’t groove to the dub version

So about 4 years ago I contacted Outernational again, this time via the web and scanned through his list of first come-first served and saw a 7” record called “Work Us So Hard” by Little John on the Hitbound label. I was quite familiar with the ongoing practice in Jamaican music of giving one song many different titles and I knew I had struck gold! I had finally found the single that I had been searching for for nearly 10 years! The price? Four dollars! I was giddy when the Outernational packet arrived and tore it open at the mailbox and there it was. Not too pretty looking a record but nonetheless I raced to the turntable and dropped the needle… and those familiar strains delighted my ears at long last.

Here it is… From 1982… Little John’s “Smoke Ganja Hard” or “Work Us So Hard” if you prefer, on the Hitbound label.

Unfortunately since the advent of online music the track is now available from Itunes on a various artists compilation. Oh well… their version doesn’t include those nice pops and clicks or the b-side version! Enjoy!

Little John - Work Us So Hard 7"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Have Yourself A Merry Reggae Christmas II

I wanted to share a few more palatable reggae Christmas tracks before my holiday hiatus and here they are...the Eek-A-Mouse is a little bizarre to those unfamiliar with his "singjay" style but it's cool nonetheless! Have a very Merry Christmas everyone and I'll see you again in 2006!

The tracks are...

1. Eek-A-Mouse – The Night Before Christmas
2. Carlene Davis – Little Drummer Boy
3. Johnny Osbourne – Christmas Stylee
4. Dillinger & the Brentford Harmonics – Hi Fashion Christmas
5. Joe Gibbs Family – We Three Kings

Various Artists - Reggae Christmas 2.Zip

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Jacob Miller & Ray I - Natty Christmas

Here’s another Christmas present… this is from the album by the late Jacob Miller (accomplished solo singer and former frontman for Inner Circle who died in a car crash on March 23, 1980) & DJ Ray I called “Natty Christmas.” All in all a decent reggae Christmas release but to the untrained ear the vibes are definitely more hardcore reggae than Yuletide. I would assume the messages of suffering, poverty and struggle so prevalent in roots reggae and on this album, though presented in a light-hearted manner on these tracks, don’t really work well in making the season cheerful. Before the advent of online music sharing this late 70’s Joe Gibbs release was rather hard to locate. It was eventually made available to a wider audience when RAS Records re-packaged it in 1987. A repackaged gift that reggae fans didn’t mind finding underneath their Christmas trees. The whole album is available for download from Itunes and Emusic to name a couple…

Jacob Miller & Ray I - Deck the Halls MP3

Monday, December 12, 2005

Have Yourself a Merry Reggae Christmas

There have been a lot of Reggae Christmas albums released over the last 20 years and the vast majority have in all honesty sucked. There are a few gems on some of the albums but most tracks really come off as sounding cheesy and even I, with a great appreciation of reggae and Jamaican music, wouldn’t want to listen to the crap around the holidays. I have decided to compile all the decent reggae Christmas tracks into one mix and provide them in the hopes that the mix will make an appearance in your holiday playlists to add a bit of Caribbean warmth to the Yuletide season. One Love and Merry Christmas.

The tracks are…

1. Toots & the Maytals – Christmas Feeling Ska
2. The Wailers – Sound the Trumpet
3. The Wailers – White Christmas
4. Alton Ellis – Christmas Coming
5. Joe Gibbs Family – Winter Wonderland
6. Freddie McGregor – O Come All Ye Faithful
7. Yellowman – Where is Santa Claus
8. Anthony Malvo – Reggae Christmas

Various Artists - Reggae Christmas Mix

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Reggae From America - The Blue Riddim Band

I was never a fan of American reggae but years ago when I "borrowed" the Blue Riddim Band's 1984 LP "Alive in Jamaica" from my college's radio station, that all changed! These guys did reggae just as well as any Jamaican band! Again because of time limitations I'm directly quoting this write-up about Kansas City's preeminent reggae band written by Mike Warren and originally published by The Pitch Aug 29, 2002...

"Twenty-three years ago, Bob Marley played Hoch Auditorium at the University of Kansas. Local fans knew and loved Marley's music, but their regular exposure to roots-reggae came from the opening act, Pat's Blue Riddim Band, and that group's frequent visits to KC's Parody Hall and Lawrence's Off the Wall Hall. Kansas City's PBR, as it was, and frequently still is, affectionately known, held its own with the king of reggae that night.

"We were the first guys down the pike -- we had that opportunity," longtime Blue Riddim drummer Steve "Duck" McLane says, warm memories audible in his voice. "What was really cool [in our career] was having a chance to open for Bob Marley, Sly and Robbie, and Black Uhuru. Every night we'd get clobbered by them, but we'd climb up another notch. It was a real chop-builder."

In its earliest incarnations, PBR consisted of friends who graduated from Shawnee Mission East in '67 and '68. "We were born out of that late-'60s Kansas City scene -- the Vanguard, the Aquarius -- places where people were hanging out," McLane says. "We'd all played jazz and R&B together, in all different kinds of aggregations." McLane, who started hearing reggae when he played in New York and south Florida in the early '70s, immediately knew it was something he wanted to do.

"I came back to KC and said, 'We really ought to try to play some reggae music,'" McLane explains. "It was big-time dance music, and we all love dance music, so we started experimenting. By '74, we had something that was workable, a band called Rhythm Funkshun. That band, basically a rhythm section version of what became PBR, broke up because it was a little bit ahead of its time.

"About a year and a half later, we started PBR," McLane continues. "We were playing 10 percent ska, 10 percent calypso, maybe 25 percent straight-up R&B, and the rest of it would be reggae. People were just everywhere, on top of each other, dancing."

During the early '80s, PBR toured nonstop, burning through two vans and 42 of 50 states. "We just had our nose to the grindstone and never stopped," McLane says. "We really should have taken more time out to record, but it was 'dollar a day, give us what you can' and keep moving. When it got to the point where we could actually play it good, we made a record [1981's Restless Spirit]."

PBR made several trips to Jamaica, where it learned from the genre's best practitioners. "Jamaican musicians are really approachable, and we'd hang out with them -- a cultural exchange," McLane explains. Equally accessible were Jamaican DJs. "When I flew down there in late '81, I brought a box of 25 records, and I thought, What the hell. I'll drive them up to [Kingston radio stations] RJR and JBC. While I was driving to JBC, I heard the song come over RJR -- and I just about drove off the road. I thought, I'm driving around Jamaica, and I'm hearing my own music on the radio!"

Six months later, Blue Riddim became the first American band to play Sunsplash in Jamaica. "We were voted co-'Best Band' of the entire festival," McLane says. "It blew me away that we blew them away. I was expecting pineapples and cantaloupes thrown at us. We're playing these old songs, and we're also from America, and we're also white. It's five o'clock in the morning, and they're going, 'What in the ... ?'"

The track is "Nancy Reagan" and being that I absolutely love some brass in my reggae, this one is my favorite song on the whole album! Enjoy!

Blue Riddim Band - Nancy Reagan Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Roots of Reggae: Mento (No, not Mentos the Fresh Maker!)

After failing to come through with a couple tracks for Thanksgiving I really feel as if I've been neglecting my duties here in providing a well-rounded sampling of Jamaican music but today I'm gonna try to make up for that. I'm going to touch on a genre of music that was an important predecessor of what we know today as reggae. The music is Mento, the Jamaican variant of Trinidadian Calypso, that was popular in the 1950's. Mento was first recorded music to appeal to local Jamaican ears but due to the lack of record pressing facilities on the island it reached them in a round-about way. Producers would record the tracks in Jamaica and would send them to London to have them pressed on fragile 78 RPM discs which accounts for their scarcity.

I could go into more about Mento but I'll let the excellent website give you all the info you'll ever need!

I present the track "Country Gal" by Charlie Binger and His Quartet from a great Mento sampler called Mento Madness. Surprisingly this album is available for download in its entirety from Itunes! If you like what you hear this is a great place to start... so pull out your rhumba box, don your favorite straw hat, pour yourself a tasty rum punch and transport yourself to sunny Jamaica circa 1952! If you don't dig it don't worry, I'll be back with some more familiar sounding music soon!

Charlie Binger & His Quartet - Country Gal Sorry I had to use Rapidshare for this but I've been trying to upload to Yousendit for 45 minutes!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Lee Perry Stays Dread

Enough has been written about the genius that is Lee "Scratch" Perry and being that time is limited I'm not going to recap. I've been so busy this week I haven't had a chance to post as often as I would like but I wanted to share a couple Lee Perry/Upsetters tracks that should keep you groovin' this weekend. The tracks Stay Dread and Kingdom of Dub were given to me on a wicked CD of Upsetters' singles ripped from vinyl so I don't have the details concerning label or year released. See you next week with some "Thanksgiving" tracks!

Lee Perry - Stay Dread & The Upsetters - Kingdom of Dub Zip

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sister Nancy DJ Pioneer

Shame on me for not mentioning any of the talented ladies of reggae yet! I’ve decided to share with you today one of my favorite DJs of any sex, Sister Nancy. Sister Nancy born Ophlin Russell in 1961 (in the parish of St. Andrew) was one of fifteen children, most noticeably the sister of Brigadier Jerry. Nancy was the first female DJ of note to get her start on the Chalice sound system in 1977. She went on to work with a number of big sounds and later scored a top hit in the early 80’s with “One, Two” which she recorded for Winston Riley’s Techniques label. She followed that up with more hits including “Transport Connection,” “Bam Bam” and “Dance Pon the Corner” (for Junjo Lawes) to name a few. She still remains partially active today but her earlier music was the stuff that I’ve always enjoyed! Today I present “Papa Dean,” her first single. Good stuff!

Sister Nancy - Papa Dean 7"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Barry Brown - I Can't Hide

Barry Brown (born 1962) was one of the greatest underrated vocalists of the late 70’s on… His conscious lyrics and topical subject matter earned him the nickname “Jamaica’s Bob Dylan.”

“Barry Brown penetrated the early dancehall scene of the late '70s with a slue of durable roots records that today stand as evergreen gems. Like Clarke, Thompson, Sammy Dread, Rod Taylor, Sugar Minott and other popular vocalists of the day, Brown brought an immediate, street-level atmosphere to his records. His passionately raw delivery wasn't candy-coated sweet or silky smooth. It was simple, direct, amicable and real. Listening to records like "No Wicked Shall Enter The Kingdom Of Zion" and "Politician" you knew this young brother wasn't from uptown.” Full Watts Vol. 3 Number 2.

Unfortunately Barry Brown died May 29, 2004, at the Soundwave Recording Studio at Ivy Green Crescent in Kingston where he reportedly fell and hit his head. He will sadly be missed…

I have decided to share a great 12” he recorded for Junjo Lawes on the Jah Guidance label (circa 1983). Backed by the incomparable Roots Radics the song is “I Can’t Hide” and includes the wicked dub version. Enjoy!

Barry Brown - I Can't Hide 12"

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Cool Ruler at Sunsplash

Gregory Isaacs is single-handedly responsible for taking up an entire shelf in my record collection! Ever since he started recording in the early 70’s, the man has released a ton of music for every producer under the sun as well as some real treats on his own African Museum label and I unfortunately for my shelf space I have liked the majority of it… But instead of yanking a track that everyone has probably heard I decided to provide a track off a various artists live album entitled Sunsplash Live. The album was recorded at the Bob Marley Performing Center in Montego Bay in July 1983. The album was mixed at Tuff Gong Studios and released on the 56 Hope Road label. Surprisingly this LP featured an extremely diverse sampling of music from Third World, Michigan & Smiley, Sugar Minott, Gil Scott Heron and of course Mr. Isaacs. The song “Love is Overdue” which was originally produced and released by Alvin “G.G.” Ranglin in 1974 on his G.G. label and was a monster hit. Here it is performed 9 years later and judging by the crowd’s reaction, it was still a favorite! Enjoy!

Gregory Isaacs - Love is Overdue (Live!)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Michael Smith - Mi Cyaan Believe It

More dub poetry... I've been looking for this album for years and after listening to it all weekend I decided it was too good not to share! Thanks Kerppu!

“Born in 1954 to a working-class family, after attending various schools, Mikey Smith in 1980, graduated from the Jamaica School of Drama with a diploma in theatre arts.

In 1978, Michael Smith represented Jamaica at the 11th World Festival of Youth and Students in Cuba. That year, saw the release of his first recording, a single titled, Word, followed by perhaps his most famous piece Mi Cyaan Believe It and Roots.

In 1981, he performed in Barbados during CARIFESTA and was filmed by BBC Television performing Mi Cyaan Believe It for the documentary From Brixton To Barbados.

In 1982, Smith took London by storm with performances at the Campden Centre for "International Book Fair of Radical Blacks and Third World books". And also at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton for "Creation for Liberation".

While in Britain, together with Oku Onoura, Michael Smith also did a successful poetry tour and recorded the Mi Cyaan Believe It album for Island Records.

Linton Kwesi Johnson recalled how the circumstances of Smith's death was shrouded in controversy…

"As far as I understand the facts, Mikey had attended a political meeting in Stony Hill where the ruling JLP Minister of Education was speaking and [he] had heckled her. The following day, he was confronted by three [persons believed to be] party activists, an argument ensued, stones were thrown and Mikey died from a blow to his head," LKJ said.”

Taken from an article that appeared in the
Jamaica Observer on Friday January 18th, 2002.

Michael Smith - Mi Cyaan Believe It LP

With all this talk of dub poets and serious cultural/societal wrongs and injustices... I promise I'm gonna lighten the mood a little this week! Stay tuned!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Oku Onuora - Dread Times

After seeing an interest in dub poetry I decided to do a request. I know I’ve got Okuora’s album “I a Tell - Dub Wise and Otherwise” on cassette but I can’t find it as of yet. I set to pouring through a few reggae books and wasn’t able to come up with a biography so I borrowed what I found from Wikipedia…

“Oku Onuora (formerly Orlando Wong) came to public attention in the mid-1970s, while incarcerated for robbery, when his poetry, with its sharp description of lower-class urban life, came to the attention of Jamaican writers who arranged for the publication of his first collection, Reflections in Red. Well-known literary and cultural personalities, and students at the University of the West Indies, campaigned for his release, which was achieved in 1977.”

Scouring the various artist collections in my possession I came across this track on the 1986 Heartbeat LP, “Heartbeat Reggae.” (God I’m starting to sound like I must be working for these people!) It’s not the track I wanted to share but it’s better than nothing for those who’ve never heard the man.

Oku Onuora & AK7 - Dread Times

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Ska Circa 1963

When you mention ska to a younger uneducated music fan they automatically think of “The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.” If you mention it to a slightly older but still rather uneducated music fan they think of “Madness,” “The Specials” or any other Blue Beat band that gained a following during the ska revival in London in the 80’s. When I think of ska my thoughts turn to Kingston, Jamaica, 1963; the year the island nation gained its independence from England. I think of early soundsystems, especially Coxsone Dodd and Studio One who started recording Jamaican musicians for Jamaican ears to hear. I think of Roland Alphonso, Don Drummond, the Skatalites, Alton Ellis, Tommy McCook… I could go on but I think you get the idea. To me ska is the sound of a young independent Jamaica moving ahead on a light-hearted up-tempo beat. Now I don’t profess to know everything about ska and its history and my record collection contains very few actual ska LPs (damn they go for some big bucks!) but I do know that I like what I’ve accumulated. And since I’m not going to dig into the stacks for an ultra-rare Prince Buster 7” with a bad warp and continual hiss, I thought I’d share what I do have off CD. I’ve chosen 2 tracks; “Spred Satin” an instrumental by the Skatalites off Heartbeat Records’ 1991 Studio One compilation “Ska Bonanza” and “Strongman Sampson” by Eric “Monty” Morris off Heartbeat’s 1998 Duke Reid Treasure Isle sampler “Ska After Ska.” I hope you dig ‘em! If you do, be sure to pick up copies of these CDs – you won’t be disappointed! Props to Heartbeat for making all this rare music available to the masses – they’ve always done a top-notch job!

The Skatalites - Spred Satin

Eric "Monty" Morris - Strongman Sampson

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

LKJ - Dread Beat An' Blood

“Linton Kwesi Johnson b. 1952, Chapelton Jamaica. Johnson’s family emigrated to London in 1963, and he quickly developed a keen awareness of both literature and politics, culminating in a degree in sociology at Goldsmith’s College, London, in 1973. An interest in poetry manifested itself into two books, “Voices of the Living and the Dead” (1974) and “Dread Beat and Blood” (1975), both written in a style that put on paper the patois spoken in black Britain, often with a rhythm reminiscent of Jamaican DJs. Johnson also wrote about reggae for the “New Musical Experience,” “Melody Maker” and “Black Music,” as well as being writer-in-residence for the London Borough of Lambeth and heavily involved in the “Race Today” cooperative newspaper. Experiments with reggae bands at his poetry readings culminated in 1977’s “Dread Beat An’ Blood recorded as Poet and the Roots, an album that virtually defined the “dub poetry” genre.” The Guinness Who’s Who of Reggae (1994)

Here are two great tracks from LKJ’s first release…

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Dread Beat An' Blood

Linton Kwesi Johnson - Come Wi Goh Dung Deh

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Two Bad DJ and a Duppy

With all this talk of duppies and the Wailers it would have been easy for me to follow up “Mr. Brown” with the classic Wailer’s track “Duppy Conqueror” but I didn’t. I spent the last couple days rifling through the stacks of vinyl looking for one final reggae Halloween track to offer up and in the back of my mind I knew there was another good one I had missed and lo and behold I found it. The song is “Talk About Run” by early 80’s DJ duo Clint Eastwood and General Saint and appears on their 1981 Greensleeves release “Two Bad D.J.” The subject matter deals with a late night encounter with a duppy in a graveyard and though it was never a real hit like “Tribute to General Echo” or “Another One Bites the Dust” it suits this season perfectly.

Jamaican born Clint Eastwood had a few solo successes with British reggae fans in the late 70’s when he teamed up with London’s Front Line International DJ General Saint. The duo became instrumental in introducing Jamaican DJ Style to a wider pop audience and this track should prove why… even if you don’t like “dancehall” I think you’ll dig it! The track was produced by Chris Cracknell and Junjo Lawes and either the Roots Radics or Sly and Robbie provided the rhythm… I really can’t discern because the list of musicians on the back of the cover is surprisingly long. Santa Davis and Chinna Smith also appear in the credits so there is an odd tie-in with the Wailers. How spooky?! Happy Halloween!

Clint Eastwood & General Saint - Talk About Run

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Scary Sounds of Lee Perry and the Wailers

Jamaican society has long been steeped in superstition by way of its aural folklore rooted in ancestral Africa. The concept of the “duppy” or ghost comes from a West African belief that each human holds 2 souls. Upon departure from the living, the first soul goes to heaven for judgment; the second remains here among the living. In order to summon a duppy someone would have to perform an “obeah” or voodoo ritual that involves tossing rum and coins onto a grave. The spirit would then rise from its grave and go out causing mayhem. In Jamaican folklore the breath of a duppy is said to cause disease and its touch causes fits. The duppy is “considered the personification of all the evil found in men.” Often times these evil spirits take the form of an animal, such as a bird.

Now stick with me here, I’m going somewhere with this… in 1969 or ’70 the Wailers who were working with Lee Perry at the time, caught wind of a strange story involving a "John Crow" or what is more commonly known outside of Jamaica as a buzzard. This buzzard was somehow given the name “Mr. Brown” and the story went that he had been observed traveling around Kingston on a coffin on its way to the cemetery. Days later the same John Crow, wearing a shirt and tie, was seen in a courtroom. The general populace was scared stiff thinking that the evil powers of obeah had been unleashed and had even gotten to the point that many were afraid to leave their houses at night. The story was even reported in the Jamaican newspaper the Daily Gleaner and added more fuel to the fire.

The lyrics were mostly written by Glen Adams, the keyboard player in Aston “Familyman” Barrett’s Hippy Boys. Max Romeo of “Wet Dream” and “War Inna Babylon” fame was the Hippy Boys’ vocalist but I digress… The Wailers thought the subject matter would be appropriate material under Lee Perry’s slightly psychedelic control and recorded it. It was originally released on 7” single and because Lee Perry sold the rights to all the material the Wailers recorded over that 2 year period it’s available on hundreds of Bob Marley “Greatest Hits” cassettes and CDs you can pick up at a local gas station near you.

Anyway… I decided to share it because its scary theme works so well with Halloween.
I have also included the instrumental version “Dracula” that isn’t as widely circulated as the omnipresent vocal version… enjoy!

The Wailers - Mr. Brown & Dracula Version

Monday, October 24, 2005

Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires

Here’s another reggae Halloween classic! I can’t believe I almost forgot this one! It’s by Scientist, the superstar of early 80’s dub! It was produced and arranged by my favorite dancehall producer the late Henry “Junjo” Lawes and the tracks were laid by the Roots Radics at Channel One and mixed at King Tubby’s by “Scientist at midnight Friday the 13th June 1981,” at least that’s what the cover says! With tracks such as "The Voodoo Curse", "The Corpse Rises" and "Ghost of Frankenstein" to name a few, Scientist has got all your horror bases covered! The classic Tony McDermott cover is alone worth the price of admission!

Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires

Monday, October 17, 2005

Yellowman Versus Dark Shadows

I hope I can keep the scary tunes up until Halloween, as you can imagine the list of creepy reggae tracks is a little short. But this one goes well for this time of year… the DJ Yellowman’s response to Lone Ranger’s “Barnabas Collins.”

Yellowman, born Winston Foster in 1959, is the albino toaster that many regarded as the King of DJ’s in the 80’s. He faced a tough road growing up because the albino or “dundus” is virtually an outcast in Jamaican society. In 1978 he won the annual Tastee Talent Contest in Kingston, kinda like Jamaica’s equivalent to “American Idol”, and within a couple short years he became one of the most prolific and popular artists in reggae history.

“Mi Kill Barnie” or sometimes-titled “Death of Barnabas,” was Yellowman’s first single and first major hit. I think you’ll dig it!

Yellowman - Mi Kill Barnie

Friday, October 14, 2005

Peter Touch Slays the Vampire

In a similar creepy vein, if you’ll pardon the pun, I present “Dracula” the 1976 dub version of Peter Tosh’s song “Vampire.” This masterful dub track complete with screams, rattling chains, howling wolves and Bunny Wailer’s sinister cackling was released on Tosh’s own Intel Diplo label. The track was originally recorded at Randy’s Studio 17 and was mixed by Tosh and Karl Pitterson. I’d been looking for a decent copy on vinyl for quite a few years now and was pleasantly surprised when it appeared in the Peter Tosh box-set “Honorary Citizen” in 1997. I think you’ll dig it!

Link has been dead for a long time - suddenly it violates some copyright bullshit!

Be sure to pick-up "Honorary Citizen" if you don't already own it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Dark Shadows Inna DJ Style

How could I resist any artist who appears on his record jacket sporting fangs, dribbling blood and wearing what suspiciously like a Rat Fink hat on his head? How could anyone ignore a recorded tribute to Barnabas Collins, the vampyric horror host to a supremely tacky psychotronic TV spook hour called Dark Shadows? How could anyone not curl up into a laughing fit after hearing a line like, “Barney, chew your neck like Wrigley’s” come tumbling from the Ranger’s tangled tonsils? Reggae had suddenly decided to enjoy itself.” Edwin Pouncey 1984

After reading this write-up on the back cover of the 1984 Mango/Island compilation LP “Reggae Greats – DJ’s” how could I resist looking for this illusive album? It happened a few months later while on a bi-yearly record-buying trip to Philadelphia with my friend Nick nearly 20 years ago. I was cruising the stacks at 3rd Street Jazz in Philly and I caught a glimpse of the fangs and knew I had scored! I nearly yanked my arm out of its socket pulling it out.

Lone Ranger (born Anthony Waldron) began his career recording at Studio One and had a couple decent hits with “Love Bump” and “The Answer.” He was a top DJ for the then number one sound system Virgo Hi-Fi in 1980. Later he teamed up with Alvin “GG” Ranglin and his first release was what you see here… “Barnabas in Collins Wood.” The album was released on GG’s Wave label and Sly and Robbie and the Revolutionaries provided the rhythms.

Now as for content… with a novelty track like Barnabas Collins on this disc you’d expect the rest of the content to be more mainstream but Lone Ranger didn’t disappoint. Besides Barnabas Collins you also have “Annie Palmer” a chat about Montego Bay’s notorious White Witch of Rosehall, a tribute to everyone’s favorite movie monster “Frankinstine (sp)”, an extra terrestrial encounter on “U.F.O.” and finally a humorous but serious discussion of Black Magic in the track “Obeah Man.”

I know there have been a number of reggae tracks that deal with the topic of vampires, who serve merely as analogies for downpressers, but Lone Ranger’s “Barnabas Collins” presents the real deal… at least the corny bloodsucker that enthralled America’s daytime television audience in the 1960’s. Happy Halloween!

Lone Ranger - Barnabas Collins

Lone Ranger - Annie Palmer

Lone Ranger - Frankenstein

Lone Ranger - UFO

Lone Ranger - Obeah Man