Thursday, December 25, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is A Reggae Santa Claus!

Just like Santa Claus, I've pulled through the frigid winds, drifting snow and near blizzard like conditions and pulled off the seemingly impossible! I honestly didn't think I would be able to do it this year with the bullshit I've got going on outside this blog and I definitely didn't want anyone to think I was terminally ill or anything so I did it anyway! Distinctly Jamaican Sounds has become like the mafia to me... every time I think I'm out it keeps dragging me back in! And all of the warm wishes from those of you out there who take the time to read and listen to the things I post are my inspiration for keeping this Yuletide tradition alive... hold on I think I've got something in my eye. :)

Let me tell you... this was a marathon! But I got it done on a whim over the course of the last two days and I hope it is as well received as previous year's installments! To save valuable time I didn't split it up this year and now you can get the entire Distinctly Jamaican Christmas Mix 2008 with one download!

Here's what you're gonna hear...

We start off with the man Nigger Kojak AKA Floyd Perch and a wicked tune called "Christmas Style" taken from a 1978 7" on the Joe Gibbs label and riding the classic "Still In Love" riddim.

Bunny and Skully follow it up with their version of "White Christmas" borrowed from a various artists Christmas CD called Vintage Christmas on the Sonic Sounds label. They don't do it like Bing either, it's more in the classic Drifters doo-wop style; a real nice interpretation.

We then take a turn for the calypso with Lord Nelson and one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, regardless of genre, called "Party For Santa Claus." It was originally released as a 7" in 1963 on the Jump Up label and I got it off a CD called Mas! A Caribbean Christmas Party on Rykodisc.

The Wailers, with Peter Tosh doing the lead vocals, are up next with "Go, Tell It On The Mountains" from a generic Best Of The Wailers compilation CD featuring a nice sampling of music recorded for Leslie Kong at Beverly's circa 1969. The song's lyrics have been modified from the traditional versions we usually associate with Christmas but nonetheless it goes with the Christmas vibe we've got goin' on!

Frankie Paul is up next with the song "Merry Christmas" from the 1985 various artists Rub-A-Dub Christmas LP on the Black Solidarity label and recorded at Tuff Gong.

It pains me to say this but... the late great Alton Ellis is up next with the song "Christmas Coming" taken from the Heartbeat CD Reggae Christmas From Studio One.

Glen Adams follows it up with a nice rockin' organ driven tune called "Xmas Rock" and it comes from a 7" on the Gem label.

The DJ duo of Papa Michigan and General Smiley give us the next tune... it's called "Little Drummer Boy" and comes from the 1984 LP RAS Records Presents A Reggae Christmas. Not exactly comparable with their best non-holiday work from the same era and even before that at Studio One but a decent reggae interpretation of a Christmas classic.

Slipping out of the reggae groove completely with the next tune... Desmond Dekker And The Aces give us "Christmas Day" originally released as a 7" on the Pyramid label in 1968 and lifted for our purposes from the crucial Trojan Christmas CD boxset. You might get to this track and think that I've tried to slip in some R & B but I guarantee you that it's Desmond Dekker!

Up next we've got "Natty Dread Christmas" from the group Iron Phoenix and backed by the Revolutionaries and it comes from a late 70's 45 on the Thing label. This is an absolutely killer roots tune regardless of the holiday subject matter and I've also included the B-side version "The Rise And Fall Of The South African Regime" for your skanking pleasure.

Gregory Isaacs gives us "It's Christmas Time Again" a mid-80's King Tubby's digital production released on the Taurus label. Not one of my favorites but since I used my favorite Gregory Christmas tune last year when I gave you "White Christmas" so this will have to suffice.

Following that up we've got Johnny Clarke and his smooth adaptation of the song popularized by Jimmy Boyd in 1952 and actually commissioned by the department store Neiman Marcus to promote their Christmas cards designed by New Yorker magazine's artist Perry Barlow. The song is "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and the version you're gonna hear was produced by Bunny Lee and released on the Total Sounds label in 1975.

Winston Groovy is up next with an early reggae tune appropriately titled "Merry Christmas" and lifted from the 2005 Pulse various artist CD The Reggae Christmas Collection.

The fourteenth tune in the mix is from the classic Jacob "again not to be confused with Jacob Marley of Christmas Carol fame" Miller album Natty Christmas (alongside DJ Ray I) originally released on the Jamaican Top Ranking label in 1978 and eventually made available to a larger worldwide audience by RAS Records in the 80's. The song is "Silver Bells" and as Miller has been known to do with all his holiday interpretations he strays far from the originals lyrics but stays miraculously dead-on with the original melody. I think I probably said this in years past but I'll say it again... if you're in the market to buy one reggae Christmas album in your lifetime, this is the one to get!

That brings us to the next tune... from the same album and this time we give Ray I the mic. He gives us a little number called "Natty No Santa Claus" on the same riddim as the aforementioned "Silver Bells" and sounds nearly as wicked. If you're in the market to buy one reggae Christmas album... oh wait! I already told you that! Sorry...

Staying with the DJ stylee... we've got a smooth cut by Jah Walton called "DJ Christmas" and it comes to us from a 1983 Carlton Patterson produced 7" on the Black And White label and riding the Weather Balloon riddim.

The soulful sound of Toots & The Maytals are up next with a tune called "Happy Christmas" and no it's not a rendition of that annoying John Lennon song either. This one comes from the late Byron Lee's Christmas album Christmas Party Time In The Tropics on the VP label. One of the real gems hidden on this release.

Horace Andy gives us his sweet toned rendition of "Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem" and in my opinion, this is one of the best tunes in this year's mix. Horace Andy's voice really does this classic Christmas carol justice and the Joe Gibbs production make it a real killer! This is borrowed from the VP CD reissue of the 1979 Joe Gibbs Family Wishes You A Merry Rockers Christmas originally pressed on his namesake label and at one time featuring a festive ganja Christmas tree on the sleeve. "Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem" was never released on previous pressings of the same album and thankfully came to light when VP got ahold of it.

Up next we've got the Silvertones from the 2002 Heartbeat Christmas Greeting From Studio One CD with a little number called "Bling Bling Christmas." I know what you're thinking... "first he snuck in that Desmond Dekker R&B song and now he's slipping in some hip-hop!?" But no it's not the "bling bling" that popular culture stole from gangsta rap lyrics and adopted a couple years back making it a household expression that even Grandma added to her vocabulary. Believe me, Studio One and the Silvertones weren't hyping up diamond and platinum jewelery.

Sticking with Studio One for the next track... Freddie McGregor follows up the bling with another smooth Coxsone production called "Irie Christmas." This is a nice mellow one and it comes from the other Heartbeat Christmas album; Reggae Christmas From Studio One from 1992.

And yet another Studio One tune! This time from the man named Charley Fresh and its called "Jam Down Christmas," and is taken from the 1993 Studio One Christmas CD called Christmas Vibes. This is not the best Studio One Christmas release and to be quite honest with you aside from a couple classics made available on the Heartbeat releases and Half Pint's title track which I shared last year, the majority of it is un-listenable digital style... definitely not my cup of egg nog.

DJ duo Tippa Lee and Rappa Roberts are up next with a song called "Christmas Is Coming" from a 1986 7" on the Moodisc Records International label and produced by the man Harry Mudie. I'm actually kinda surprised that I like this record as much as I do but Lee & Roberts do a good job delivering the festive lyrics.

The first lady of Jamaican song, Hortense Ellis, gave us her interpretation of the 1940 Irving Berlin Christmas favorite "White Christmas" but hers is a little more in keeping with positive Afrocentric vibes instead of sentimentality. As you've probably guessed by now it's called "Black Christmas"... let's see Bing Crosby wrap his lips around this version! It's from the Top Ranking International LP African Christmas featuring Hortense and DJ Trinity circa 1979-80.

Speaking of Trinity he's up next. He gives us the title track from the aforementioned album "African Christmas" and he chats over the same Black Christmas riddim that Hortense Ellis utilized. Another nice tune!

Finally... we've reached the end! The 25th and final track in 2008's Distinctly Jamaican Sounds Christmas Mix and it is from yet another Studio One Christmas album. This is a funky organ instrumental by the man Richard Ace and it wraps it up on a nice up-note! This is lifted from the Studio One LP Christmas In Jamaica and was recorded somewhere between 1965-1970.

Distinctly Jamaican Sounds Christmas Mix 2008

I hope you enjoy this year's mix! I'm confident that it will add a bit of welcome Caribbean spice to your holiday season and give you a break from the well-worn Christmas music that you're accustomed to hearing since the day after Halloween... man it's so clique to say it but the retailers do start earlier and earlier each year!

I want to thank everyone ahead of time for your comments and I wish anyone who reads this a very Merry Christmas and a healthy New Year... I know right now the world seems like it's on the brink of a major meltdown with all the violence, financial crap, terrorism in India, recessions, suffering, unemployment, wars, etc. But keep your head up, hope for the best, stay strong, remember to tell those you love how much you love them and spend quality time with those people because they are the glue that keeps our sanity in place!

Also, every now and then do yourself a favor and listen to some Jamaican music... because like Bob Marley sang, "one good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain!" Lots of love everyone!


2007's Christmas Mix