What new can be said for living life in poverty that can't already be discerned from the lyrics of decades worth of reggae music? The epitome of desperation... of suffering... of misery... of persecution is precisely illustrated to me in the roots and rockers music of the mid to late 7o's. As an outsider, I will never know what it's like to really suffer but this music provides me with a peak at what a hard life must really be like.
It's the odd juxtaposition that really draws me to this sub-genre... the rhythms are harder edged and usually "spaced-out" with lots of echo and effects but they still provide a positive energy and a structural foundation for the serious, and oftentimes downright heartrending lyrics. The instrumentation; flying cymbals, pounding basslines and driving tempos, shine through and add the positive spark that keeps this music from becoming dire and downbeat expressions of hopelessness. There is an optimistic energy here that allows the listener to feel that there is love, there is unity and most importantly there is hope.
Here's what you're going to hear...
Dennis Brown starts it off with the song "Tenement Yard" and it's taken from a 2003 various artists CD called Jah Love Rockers (Revolutionary Sounds From The Rockers And Steppers Era) on the Trojan label. It is quickly followed up with the DJ Ranking Buckers and his tune on the same riddim called "Kill Landlord."
Lightening up the mood after those deadly lyrics is Dillinger with "Out De Light," a 7" on the Jamaica Sound label circa '78.
Trinity is up next with his 1977 tune "Natty On De Banking" and it's taken from a 12" on the Caribbean label, it's followed by the B-side version that really kicks ass, if you'll excuse my language.
Errol Dunkley & I-Roy give us "Created By The Father" a 12" circa 1977 on the Love label.
Augustus Pablo's "Jah Dread" from his 1979 Greensleeves album Original Rockers is mixed up with Jacob Miller's "Who Say Jah No Dread" from the 1992 Greensleeves release of the same name, containing music from 1974-1975.
One of my favorites is up next... Sylford Walker gives us the wicked Deuteronomy from the Blood & Fire Lamb's Bread International release from 2000, which was originally recorded in 1977-78, and I've mixed it up with Welton Irie's "Black Man Get Up Tan Up Pon Foot" from the same CD. King Tubby wraps up with a fantastic driving dub version... crank it up to 11!
Big Joe follows it up with a tune called "Woodcutter Skank" from a 1975 various artists LP on the Cactus label called Quad Star Revolution.
Cornell Campbell's "The Gorgon Speaks" is next and I've mixed it up with the version. It comes from another fantastic 2000 Blood & Fire CD called I Shall Not Remove which compiles a lot of great material from 1975-1980.
We follow up Cornell with Jah Stitch and the tune called "Strictly Rockers" and it has been lifted from a 1976 various artists LP on the Live & Love label called Strictly Rockers In A Dread Land.
The Voice Of Thunder, Prince Far I, gives us the next track. It's called "Same Knife" and it's a 7" on the Crazy Joe label... and it's mixed with "Different Dagger" the version from the B-side.
Another favorite... Johnny Clarke's "Do You Love Me?" from the Pressure Sounds various artists CD release from 2009 Once Upon A Time At King Tubby's mixed up with Tubby's version.
Taking a trip to the Black Ark we've got the Cool Ruler Gregory Isaacs and one of his best known persecution tunes, "Mr. Cop." It is available on lots of greatest hits albums and CDs and I took this one from the Trojan's 2003 Cool Ruler (The Definitive Collection).
Sticking with the Ark for another tune... Winston Heywood & The Hombres give us "Backbiting" from the Pressure Sounds 1998 CD Produced And Directed By The Upsetter.
Prince Jazzbo follows it up with "Prophet Live" from the Clocktower LP called Ital Corner is mixed up with "Prophet Dub - Satta" originally released in 1976 on the album Natty Passing Thru on the Black Wax label.
Big Youth gives us a wicked tune called "Dread Inna Babylon" from the Heartbeat release from 1982 called The Chanting Dread Inna Fine Style... it's the only foray into the 80's but Jah Youth always has this timeless sound anyway. The "Dreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeead" call at the beginning is absolutely wicked!
Junior Byles is up next with "Weeping" and its version of course... this is off the Trojan various artists CD Down In A Tenement Yard (Sufferation & Love In The Ghetto) from 2007. I highly recommend this CD - some real nice music from '73-'80 all in one convenient package.
Linval Thompson gives us the title track to the 2000 Bunny Lee produced Blood & Fire CD Ride On Dreadlocks. This one also comes highly recommended... fantastic!
Sticking with the King Tubby groove we've got goin' on, Tappa Zukie and his tune "Jah Is I Guiding Star" from yet another Blood & Fire release. This one is from the '94 release If Deejay Was Your Trade.
"Girl I Love You" by the man Horace Andy is bringing up the rear in this mix. I was going to use my Well Charge 7" but it has an annoying hiss that I can't overcome. I actually went back and remixed this tune because it really stood out... and not in a positive way. This version, which contains a lot more reverb than the vinyl mix, is from the VP compilation CD set called Channel One Story Chapter Two.
We wrap it up with King Tubby and "Hijack The Barber" and it comes from the 1974 Total Sounds LP Dub From The Roots.
Down In A Tenement Yard