Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Halloween Spooktacular 2008... The Prologue

At the offset of the upcoming festivities I wanted to provide to those of you who are either new here or have stumbled across this blog looking for "seasonal entertainment" an explanation of what I've got going on this month. For the third year in a row, I have prepared a Halloween mix containing 23 individual spooky themed Jamaican tunes from various eras complete with creepy sound effects, horror movie trailers and other obscure sound bytes. The mix is prepared as one seamless track and my goal is to provide a completely enjoyable and unique listening experience not just a bunch of songs thrown together haphazardly. I hope the "Spooktacular 2008" reaches that goal!

Now here's the catch... once I got the entire 1 hour and 26 minute mix complete I chopped them back into individual tracks for you to download and enjoy throughout the month of October. If you download them all and put them together in order, either on your computer or MP3 player, it'll play like one uninterrupted mix.

Honestly, I blog more for this then I do all year and it makes my life a little harder than it needs to be but, I have loved Halloween and horror movies forever and this project gives me the opportunity to combine that with my other passion which is obviously Jamaican music. By doing it this way I don't just throw up the mix on the 1st and be done until November, I have the opportunity to add a little anticipation on a daily basis as we countdown to the 31st.

Now you might be thinking, "A reggae Halloween mix? How is that possible?" The answer is relatively simple... there are a large amount of Jamaican tunes that go beyond the stereotypically perceived themes of reggae; peace, love and ganja smoke. There is also another reason I do this every year... I enjoy an odd juxtaposition. To add familiar sounding vintage American horror movie trailers to something so distinctly Jamaican, and for the most part unfamiliar to those who don't listen to this music on a regular basis, it creates an in-point and hopefully it can lead to developing an appreciation of a genre that is definitely not given the proper credit it is due. This is a vibrant, living, all-encompassing music and to typecast it as one dimensional, repetitive or inferior to any other artform is close-minded and ridiculous... okay I'll hop off my soapbox now. It was actually in response to that perception that inspired me to start this blog 4 years ago, right around the same time... I had spent a lot of time listening to and enjoying the wealth of obscure Halloween music outside the genre and took it upon myself to focus the attention to the equally scary subject matters coming from Jamaica.

In 2006, I came across the Scarstuff blog and was thoroughly inspired by 2 mixes that Jason had lovingly created in 2000 and 2001 called "Spook Party" and "Ghoul-Arama." Jason had used a multitude of Halloween related audio, either from his massive collection of vintage scary records and VHS movie clips and trailers, and gave a compilation of tunes a spectacular sound-bed that went way beyond what I had thought was actually do-able. I wanted to take this space to thank him for the inspiration and for sharing his Halloween record collection which makes this project so much fun to compile and mix! Thanks Jason!

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hurricane Gilbert... 20 Years Later

While we're in the midst of a very active and deadly hurricane season this year I figured we'd discuss one of the most destructive storms to ever hit the Caribbean. It was twenty years ago this month that Hurricane Gilbert took a direct hit on Jamaica...

Quoting from Wikipedia here…
“On September 3, 1988, a tropical wave emerged off the African coast. Over the next several days, low pressure areas slowly developed from this wave, going on to develop an organized circulation center on September 8. Early on September 9 the storm was designated Tropical Depression Twelve, near the Windward Island about 400 miles east of Barbados. It quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Gilbert that afternoon, becoming the seventh named storm of the season while crossing the Lesser Antilles.

With no inhibiting factors to strengthening, Gilbert quickly became a hurricane late on September 10 and then a major (Category 3) hurricane on the 11th. It moved consistently west-northwest influenced by a strong high pressure system to its north. This movement led to the hurricane’s first landfall in Jamaica. The eye passed completely over Jamaica on September 12 with 125mph winds…”

Aside from the 4 billion dollars in damage, Gilbert also soaked the island with 27 inches of rain and claimed 45 lives. It was the most costly hurricane to directly hit Jamaica since Hurricane Charlie in 1951 – the same hurricane immortalized by Captain Sinbad and Little John in their 1979 hit “51 Storm.” Now some may think it would be wrong of me to try and make light of the serious and deadly circumstances of a hurricane by mentioning something as “trivial” as a reggae record but actually that’s the point of this post. Read on…

Aid organizations came to the island in an effort to provide assistance to the approximately half million people effected by the storm. An estimated 100,000 homes were damaged by Gilbert as it tore off roofs and flooded nearly every inch of the island. Many of Jamaica’s industries, including farming and tourism, were left in total disarray and the resulting damages to hospitals in particular made it difficult for those who were injured to be cared for properly. Simply put, Jamaica was suffering.

In 1988, reggae music was in the midst of the digital heyday, and assuming when the electricity was eventually restored to Kingston, the producers, singers and DJs got to work creating songs that told of the hardships and despair left behind by the storm; many hoping to call attention to Jamaica’s plight to the outside world and some to light-heartedly lift the spirits of those left in Gilbert’s wake. Just like reggae artists have always done, they latched on to the devastating and timely topic and made it into music. Even though I feel the output was a tad bit limited by the restraints required in making immediate timely music and the minimal digitized productions of the era, the music was as socially and culturally conscious as any in Jamaica’s history. In fact, the music industry had pulled together to fight this battle and whether they were successful in raising awareness or monetary support for relief and rebuilding efforts from elsewhere on the globe remains to be seen… there is no documentation or evidence to prove one way or another. But because these songs they recorded were able to raise smiles and their fellow countrymen’s spirits in a time of absolute despair, their hurried efforts were a complete success.

We start off the mix with a Version take from the B-side of the Juney Star 12" and segue into the lyrics with Mikey Melody's tune "Gilbert Make Yuh Bad So." We then slip into a bit of juggling with 5 songs lifted from the A-side of the King Jammy/Steelie & Clevie produced LP Gilbert Is A Disaster on the Live & Love label. The first tune is by Major Mackrel and Anthony Redrose and it's called "Rough & Tuff Jamaican Way" sung to the tune of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now (Bright Sunshiny Day)." Woody Noble gives us "Disaster Gilbert" followed by Pad Anthony's "What A Thing." The DJ Bingy gives us his take on the hurricane's aftermath with the track called "Flood Out," and we wrap up the "riddim ride" with the Chuck Turner song called "Rough Neck Gilbert." Up next in the mix is the tune I've heard from various sources was the biggest selling single in Jamaican history by the man Lloyd Lovindeer and it's the hilarious tune called, "Wild Gilbert." This was originally released as a 7" on the TSOJ label and the version in our mix is lifted from the TSOJ CD The Best Of Lovindeer. Gregory Isaacs and Josey Wales, from the 1989 Carl "Fitzie Banton" Nelson engineered, King Tubby's various artist production entitled Gilbert released in the U.S. on the Rooney Records label, follow up Lovindeer with a pretty wicked track called "What A Disaster." A little side-note... I had the Gilbert album on cassette and ripped it to MP3 for this project so I hope it doesn't sound too bad. General Trees is then up with "Bad Bad Gilbert" taken from a 12" on Maurice Johnson's Black Scorpio label. We hop back to the Gilbert album for the next two songs; the first is Wickerman's "What A Agony" followed by Conroy Smith and DJ Ashman's "Come Down." Johnny Osbourne gives us "Gilbert Mash Dem Up" borrowed from a King Tubby's Taurus 7". John "Little John" McMorris, again from the Gilbert album, is up after that with a tune "Never Saw A Storm Like This." The King Yellowman steps up inna combination stylee with Derrick Harriott with the song called "Starting All Over Again" from his CD King Of The Dancehall on the Rohit label. Back to the Gilbert collection again... this time Nigga Mikey gives us a wicked tune named "Gilbert Come." Banana Man's "Gilbert Attack Us" is the fifteenth track and it's taken from another 7" Tubby's digital production also on the Taurus label. Grindsman is up next with the tune "Wicked Gilbert" lifted from the Gilbert album. We then switch back into juggling mode with the B-side to the Gilbert Is A Disaster LP and hear the tunes "Gilbert A Say One" by Pompidoo, "Who Can Tell The Tale" by Anthony Malvo, "What A Hurricane" by Super Shine, "Gilbert A Come" by Tullo T and last but not least Chaka Demus' wicked "The People A Bawl." Tippa Lee & Rappa Roberts follow up the 2nd juggle with "Bulletin One" also off the Gilbert compilation. We then hear the Principal Charlie Chaplin with a tune called "Gilbert Disaster Over" from a Juney Star 12". And finally, the last song in our Gilbert mix is by Lincoln "Sugar" Minott's "After The Storm" from the Gilbert album.

I want to dedicate this mix with utmost respect and sympathy to anyone affected by Mother Nature's fury, not only with Gilbert, but with any natural disaster that tragically takes away possessions, property and loved ones.

Get it here!