Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Roots an' Culture

I discovered Culture late in the summer of 1993. At the time I had been obsessing with buying the latest dancehall singles and discovering how to mix songs on the same riddims together as seamlessly as possible. My friend Nick and I, as we were often known to do, were spending some quality time in a store that had a pretty substantial selection of reggae CDs. I picked up a couple decent things but Nick got the gem that day when he bought Culture’s "The International Herb." Since we had made a considerable drive to get to this store we had quite a while to listen to our new purchases on our way back home. This was before the days of decent CD players in automobiles so we had hijacked Nick’s little sister’s purple and pink CD boom box, that was about the size of a storage trunk, so we could enjoy CD quality sound in my ’86 VW Golf. Instantaneously we were blown away by what we were hearing and kicking ourselves for letting this awesome piece of conscious roots reggae slip through the cracks! So to make a long story short we spent the rest of the summer buying every Culture release we could dig up either at a decent record shop or via mail order from RAS Records! My departure from listening to then-modern dancehall at that time was probably one of the reasons my interest in Jamaican music started to gravitate toward the more instrumental based sound that was more distinctly "reggae" than the electronic drum patterns that were so prevalent with early 90’s dancehall. Within a couple months my interest in keeping up with the "latest" sounds outta J.A. had waned and I was back into the roots and Culture.

Well enough about me, Culture is a vocal trio led by songwriter Joseph Hill with Albert "Ralph" Walker and Kenneth Paley (aka Kenneth Dayes) providing the harmonies. Joseph Hill started out at Studio One with the group the Soul Defenders and even released a solo single "Behold the Land." Eventually Culture went on the record for Joe Gibbs and Sonia Pottinger and almost immediately attracted a large following with reggae listeners outside of Jamaica with their strong lyrics and even stronger roots sound. Their real breakthrough was with the Joe Gibbs’ produced single "Two Sevens Clash" in 1977, which found a "sympathetic ear in the emergent punk audience." Hill eventually split with the Walker and Paley and has continued using the moniker Culture as a solo act – though I could have sworn that when I saw Culture in 2000 it sure looked like Albert Walker alongside him on stage.

I’m sharing a few Culture songs today… nothing rare but some damn fine music regardless! If you’ve had limited exposure to Joseph Hill and Culture let this sampling serve as your notice to buy some of their music. Don’t be like me and let this music slip through the cracks in your music collection for too long!

1. "Behold I Come" from the 1978 album "Baldhead Bridge"
2. "Too Long In Slavery" from the 1979 album "The International Herb"
3. "Babylon’s Big Dog" from the 1982 album "Lion Rock"
4. "One a We" from the 1987 album "Culture At Work"
5. "Outcast" from the 1997 album "Trust Me"

All these CDs are available where finer reggae music is sold and even available for download in their entireties from both Emusic and Itunes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Wilson Pickett 1941-2006

It's odd how thing pop up when you're not even looking for them! Last week I wanted to post a reggae cover of one of Wilson Pickett's greatest hits as a mini tribute but I didn't have the right one! Today I had the Ipod on a shuffle of rocksteady songs and up popped "Midnight Hour" by the Silvertones - I completely forgot about this one! So here it is, my tiny tribute to Wilson Pickett inna rocksteady fashion!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Toyan Inna Dancehall Style

Here's a couple tracks from one of early dancehall's best and unjustly overlooked DJ's! Toyan, or sometimes called Ranking Toyan, started off in the mid 70's DJing for some of the biggest soundsystems in Jamaica. He scored a hit in 1978 with the track "Disco Pants" on the Roots Tradition label. In the 1980's he hooked up with Junjo Lawes and really hit his stride releasing the fantastic album "How the West Was Won" and a stack of impressive singles! When the digital era took hold Toyan's output slowed considerably and unfortunately he was murdered in 1991.

I'm sharing an absolutely scorching Volcano release on the Mad Mad Riddim called "Stylee," circa late '82/early '83. I was also going to share "Disco Pants" but it's not on the hard drive and being that time is limited... I've decided to share a track from the 1982 Joe Gibbs produced LP called "Superstar - Yellowman Has Arrived With Toyan" - the song is called "Talk of the Town." Give 'em a listen - good stuff!

As an added bonus I decided to include "She's Gone Away" by Cocoa Tea which is the A-Side of the Volcano 12" and also on the same rhythm. You might already know this track as "Lost My Sonia" but as is the case with most of Junjo produced 12 inch singles it also includes the wicked Roots Radics instrumental versions!

I'm gonna do something a little more rootsy for the next post and then by the end of the week I'll post a couple tracks from the Club Paradise soundtrack by Jimmy Cliff, Well Pleased and Satisfied, the Blue Riddim Band and an extra single by Yellowman that was in the movie but never made it to the soundtrack!

Friday, January 20, 2006

More Music Coming Soon...

Luckily I made it through this hellacious week but as you can see I haven't had time to post anything new... stay tuned, I should be back up and running by next week!

Of note - I was going to post a tribute to Wilson Pickett but the only reggae cover of one of his most famous songs I have is "In the Midnight Hour" by John Holt and I didn't want to use one of his tracks like I did with Lou Rawls. I know Ken Boothe did a version of "Mustang Sally" and George Faith had a great Upsetter produced rendition of "Midnight Hour" but I don't own either of them.

Next week in honor of the upcoming DVD release of the cheesy but surprisingly enjoyable 1986 Harold Ramis comedy "Club Paradise" - starring Robin Williams and Jimmy Cliff - I'm going to share a couple of tracks from the soundtrack LP and attempt to justify why this movie is so entertaining!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lillian Allen - Revolutionary Tea Party

I know technically today is Thursday but I figured I’d post this today so I won’t have to mess around with posting again tomorrow morning… I’m starting the weekend early – woohoo!

Lillian Allen was born in Spanish Town Jamaica in 1951 and moved to North America in 1969. She studied in New York and Toronto, where she eventually settled. She is known as a pioneer in the reggae sub-genre of dub poetry and a true ground-breaker for women in the field. She has won countless awards including 2 Juno awards for her albums “Revolutionary Tea Party” and “Conditions Critical.” She is still active today and has gone on to write stage plays, radio programs and even helped make a documentary on Mutabaruka called “Blak Wi Blakk,” which I’d love to see! So without further ado… here is Lillian Allen’s “Revolutionary Tea Party.”

Thursday, January 12, 2006

By Request... Frankie Paul!

By special request and a popular demand! Frankie Paul, born Paul Blake,1965, was blind at birth. After having his vision partially restored as a youth he was inspired when his school was visited by Stevie Wonder and decided to make music his career. In 1983 he first appeared on record alongside veteran singer Sugar Minott on Channel One's clash album "Show-Down Vol.2" and from that point on he became one of dancehall’s most popular artists. The hits he recorded for Junjo Lawes "Pass the Tu-Sheng-Peng,” "Dem a Talk ‘Bout” and "Hooligan” were some of the best he’s ever recorded and quite possibly signaled the arrival of an enduring and prolific star.

I am sharing two tracks from F.P., as he often refers to himself, and I think you’ll dig ‘em!

From the "Show-Down Vol.2" LP on the Channel One label – Frankie’s original "Worries in the Dance" which he later updated with a slightly lighter tone for Junjo and became a massive hit.

And the Volcano 12” "Hooligan,” complete with wicked Roots Radics extended version at the end!

Lillian Allen tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

African Dub All-Mighty Chapter 3

I've got my turntable up and running and today presented here in its entirety is African Dub All-Mighty Chapter 3! Produced by Errol Thompson and Joe Gibbs at Joe Gibbs Recording Studio and released in 1978 this is a pretty decent album. I could go and spend a lot of time trying to paraphrase what is written about this series of important dub albums in Steve Barrow's excellent resource "Reggae the Rough Guide," but it would take a while to get it down as succinctly as he does...

"African Dub All Mighty Chapters 1, 2 & 3 - "Three albums that decisively helped to popularize dub; the first two within the existing reggae market, and the third beyond it to disparate groups like punks and experimental rock fans. The formula was the same on all three: mainly Studio One and Treasure Isle rhythms updated by the Professionals in the 'rockers' style, and given imaginative mixes by Errol Thompson. The more obvious gimmicks - telephones ringing, toilets being flushed, the odd siren, dogs barking, etc. - became more prominent as the series progressed and reached a wider audience. The perspective of time has treated all three albums well." "Reggae the Rough Guide" by Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton

Tracks are...

1. Chapter Three
2. Rema Dub
3. Tribesman Rockers
4. Freedom Call
5. Jubilation Dub
6. The Entebbe Affair
7. Angolian Chant
8. Zion Gate
9. Jungle Dub
10. Dub Three

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tony Tuff - Down In Rome

You might be starting to tell now that I'm a big-time fan of reggae from the early dancehall era - I've got tons that I'd like to share and since time is relatively limited today I figured I'd make it easy on myself and do some more Junjo material. I hope you don't mind... I'm going to share some full album dub this week (if I get the chance)... I've got 3 great dub LPs that I'm gonna space-out so I don't blow through them within a short period of time and hopefully sometime soon I'll present a dub poetry album from Lillian Allen that I was finally able to track down! Well enough about coming attractions...

Tony Tuff, born Winston Morris in 1955, started his career with the African Brothers alongside Sugar Minott and Derrick "Bubbles" Howard. In 1978 the group broke-up, Sugar Minott went on to record for Studio One and Tony Tuff continued on, becoming the lead singer for the Soul Syndicate Band as well as recording various solo projects. In the early 80's he went on to achieve great success with Henry "Junjo" Lawes' Volcano Hi-Power Sound System and recorded a string of hits including "Come Fi Mash It (or "Come We Come Fi Mash It" as the 12" says)," "Nobody But You" and others. Since I'm still without ripping capabilities I've decided to share a couple of his singles produced by Junjo on the Jah Guidance label that I already have on the hard drive...

Tony Tuff.Zip

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lou Rawls 1933-2006

I don’t often post on weekends but I wanted to pay tribute to someone whose passing the media has tended to trivialize… I’m speaking of Lou Rawls. Now Lou Rawls may be far removed from the world of Jamaican music but he was a great singer and a good man and his influence transcended all genres. His music obviously touched John Holt who recorded his version of Rawls’ hit “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” circa 1976 – I have the track on a John Holt greatest hits compilation and it doesn’t give specifics. So as a small tribute to Lou Rawls I present this track…

Friday, January 06, 2006

Alton Ellis - Skateland Girl

Alton Ellis started his career when he teamed up with Eddy Perkins for Randys and Studio One as Alton and Eddy in the late 1950's. He later went on to record for Coxsone's arch rival Duke Reid over at Treasure Isle as Alton Ellis and the Flames. In the rocksteady era he obtained stardom and his track "Get Ready - Rock Steady" was one of the first records to use the term. In the late 60's he recorded for scores of Jamaica's finest producers before relocating to England in 1972. Surprisingly he must have made a return-visit to JA in 1982 to cut this dancehall track for Henry "Junjo" Lawes' Volcano label.

A great track I think you'll enjoy w/the B-side version courtesy of the Roots Radics.
Have a great weekend!

Rest In Peace Alton Ellis - New Link Added 10/14/08

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Lovindeer & the Lighter Side of Life

In the relatively short history of reggae music there have been a number of artists who have presented hard-hitting subject matter in a light-hearted manner but then you have Lovindeer. He never attempted to address global or overtly conscious subjects, he preferred to deal with the everyday concerns, annoyances and the humor in daily Jamaican life. As a member of a vocal group called the Fabulous Flames he never achieved great success but when he went solo and released a self-produced comical track on the state of public transportation in Jamaica called “The Blinking Bus” in the late 70’s, he went to number one. He followed that one up a string of popular tracks, many in a style that the prudish would consider to be slack, or vulgar. The songs “Kratches,” “Panty Size,” “Government Boops” and “Don’t Bend Down” to name a few were popular but didn’t get the airplay that would catapult them to hit status. In 1988 Hurricane Gilbert ravaged Jamaica and Lovindeer’s track “Wild Gilbert” in his trademark humorous style went straight to number one and remains his biggest hit. A couple years later Lovindeer went with a more calypso/soca inspired sound after the influx of newer dancehall or “ragga” took hold in Jamaica.

Outside of Jamaica Lovindeer never achieved great popularity but I found one of his records at a Caribbean grocery store about 12 years ago when shopping for Ting and Scotch Bonnet peppers, and I was immediately hooked. His music took some research to understand initially because of the use of Jamaican slang but once I understood the subject matter on some of the tracks I appreciated the music for what it was. After buying at least 6 or 7 of his LP’s at the same market over the next couple years I would always enjoy taking a lighthearted break from potent topics when I dropped the needle on a Lovindeer LP.

I present here for your listening pleasure three Lovindeer tracks taken from his Best of CD released on his TSOJ label (The Sound of Jamaica) a bunch of years ago. The LPs present longer versions of each track but I’m unable to rip anything from vinyl until I put my dubbing capabilities back together again. My only annoyance with this CD is the exclusion of some of the slacker tracks, in particular “Kratches” that is without a doubt one of his funniest. I’ll share that at a later date…

The tracks are…
1. De Blinkin’ Bus
2. Wild Gilbert
3. Babylon Boops

Monday, January 02, 2006

Put It On - It's Rocksteady!

No one would be able to exactly pinpoint when Jamaican music took a turn from the sometimes-frantic high tempo ska sound that had heralded in Jamaica’s independence in 1963. But sometime in 1966 the island’s popular music took a drastic turn… rocksteady had a more relaxed tempo, the bass became more prevalent and the use of horns was minimized.

There are many theories on why rocksteady even came into being and combined they make complete sense… one theory says that the Rude Boys wouldn’t dance to ska because the quick-paced music required too much movement. It’s hard to come off looking cool when your feet are moving frantically and to accommodate their desires ska records would be played at half speed to slow the pace. Another theory says that the summer of 1966 was particularly hot and dancers needed to slow the pace to avoid collapsing from heat strokes. Yet a third theory claims that ska musicians had grown weary of the arrangements and rhythms that had remained constant since ska’s inception; they wanted to play in a different style. Finally, as is often the case in gray areas of Jamaican music, some singers from the era have proclaimed that they single-handedly invented this new sound. Whatever theory or combination there of you wish to subscribe to, you’ve got to admit this brief off-shoot of Jamaican popular music was some of the most influential and ear-pleasing ever.

As is the case with ska, I only own a couple rocksteady singles and they’re so battered they’re almost unbearable so I’m going to pull a couple tracks from some great rocksteady CDs to whet your appetites for more. If you’re a reggae fan and haven’t checked out rocksteady you’re missing out on some cool stuff. Give these a listen and I defy you to keep your feet from moving along!

Included in this zip are the following…

1. Derrick Harriott – The Loser (1967) - taken from 2004’s excellent Trojan Records boxset “This is Reggae Music”
2. Duke Reid Group – Soul Style (circa 1966) - from Heartbeat’s 1992 double CD set “Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest.” Essential listening – I highly recommend buying this set!
3. Lee “King” Perry – I Am the Upsetter (1967) - from Heartbeat’s “Explosive Rock Steady From Joe Gibbs’ Amalgamated Label 1967-1973”
4. The Melodians – You Don’t Need Me (circa 1966) - also from “Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest”
5. The Sensations – Everyday is a Holiday (circa 1967) - again from “Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest”