Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mutabaruka's People's Court I & II

Mutabaruka (Allan Hope, 1952) was born Catholic but discovered Rastafari at an early age. Around that time he also got involved in the Black Awareness movement that had taken hold in Jamaica in the late 60’s and quickly regarded himself as a young revolutionary. His poetry, written in the dialect of the common people, first received recognition in 1971 after being published in a pop music magazine called Swing. Writer John A.L. Golding Jr. summed up his poetry pretty succinctly, “They tell a story common to black people born in the ghetto… and when Muta writes, it’s loud and clear.”

After nearly a decade of performing his poetry live he finally put his words to music in 1981 when the single “Every Time A Ear De Soun’” was released on the High Times label. He followed that up in 1983 when Alligator Records released his first album “Check It” in 1983. You can read a lot more about Mutabaruka's discography, his poetry and his philosophies on his excellent official website.

I could go the easy route and share “Check It” but I think most people already have the album… if you don’t be sure to pick it up – in my opinion it’s one of the best reggae albums, regardless of subgenre, ever recorded. Instead I’m going to share two pretty long tracks on the same riddim, that I was listening to last night. The songs are “The People’s Court Part 1 & 2” and are actually more dramatic presentations set to a rhythm than mainstream poetry. Both tracks are available on the Shanachie Records sampler called “The Ultimate Collection” but originally appeared on Muta’s albums “Blakk Wi Blak…K…K…” and “Melanin Man” respectively, in the early 90’s.

Hey, it might be only 2 tracks but it's a good 13 minutes of enjoyable listening here! Enjoy!

The People's Court Part 1 & 2

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Couple Tunes From Dennis Walks

After reading the write-up about Dennis Walks on Schrikdraad I combed through my collection to come up with a couple more tunes from this sadly underrated and virtually unknown singer.

I came up with 3 tracks that I'm going to share with those who got a taste and wanted a little more! The first track is from an awesome CD from Heartbeat called "The Mighty Two - Joe Gibbs & Errol Thompson" and the track is "Navel String" - which gets a mention in the text beneath the photo which originally appeared in Jamaica's Week-End Star on September 17, 1976 (and was reprinted inside the CD booklet). The second track was produced by Junjo Lawes and released as a single circa 1982 on the Jah Guidance label. The third and final track is an absolutely killer version of Lee Perry's "Roast Fish and Cornbread" again with Junjo at the controls and released as a Greensleeves 12" in 1982.

Hope you dig 'em!

Dennis Walks

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bob Andy Retrospective

Gonna go a little more old school with this post… Bob Andy (born Keith Anderson 1944) was one of the original members of the legendary Studio One group the Paragons. He is one of those Jamaican artists who is relatively unknown to those outside of the “reggae circle” and it’s quite frankly, a damn shame!

So because time is limited and instead of having me waste a lot of space trying to compose a decent well-deserved write-up about the man, I will refer you to Bob Andy's official website. It provides you with all the information and background you could ever hope to compile on Mr. Andy in one central place.

I’m sharing today Bob Andy’s “Retrospective” - an album released on Heartbeat Records in 1986 which compiled some great tracks originally recorded between 1970-75. If you’re vaguely aware of his work give it a listen and I think you’ll agree that the man is sadly underrated. If you’ve never heard Bob Andy I think this should serve as a nice introduction to a talented singer and songwriter! Enjoy!

Bob Andy - Retrospective

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Papa Briggy Takes The Mic

Brigadier Jerry (born Robert Russell) got started DJing, as many with a similar cultural fashion did, on U-Roy's King Stur Gav Hi-Fi. In 1978 he joined the Twelve Tribes of Israel and began spreading the message of Rastafari on the affiliated Jah Love sound system. Around the same time he did some work at Channel One and released a few singles but nothing that really shot him up the charts - he was more concerned with doing live appearances and spreading his gospel on vinyl wasn't his top priority. In 1982 he recorded for producer Delroy Stansbury and the single "Pain" was released on the Jwayanza label and became a massive hit. But as was his work ethic, Briggy didn't immediately follow it up with another hot selling single, he went back to work with a handful of sound systems.

In 1985, "Jamaica Jamaica," the first official Brigadier Jerry LP was released by Jah Love Musik - and it remains one of my personal all time favorites! Afterwards Brigadier Jerry began recording on a more consistent basis - voicing for Techniques and even producer George Phang around 1986. Sadly, for me personally, he never recorded for Junjo Lawes - that would have been wicked!

Brigadier Jerry may not have recorded as prolifically as other DJs of the era but what he did record was always great! His follow up album "On the Road" which he cut for RAS Records is often overlooked but a great set of tunes that seem to get better with age. His work with Tappa Zukie in the early 90's was also top notch and resulted in the album "Hail H.I.M." (even though the rhythms were all electronic)

Briggy is undoubtedly one of the most influential and beloved DJs of the 80's and beyond and his rise to fame mainly through the circulation of sound tapes and bootleg recordings goes to prove that cultural/spiritual/reality lyrics carry you a lot farther than a truck load of vinyl.

Now on to the music... I'm sharing 5 Brigadier Jerry selections today! But unlike previous posts I'm not staying with one era - we're ranging from '82 all the way up to '93 here! I'm starting off with the 7" single "Pain" on the Jwyanza label (please excuse the hiss - I got my copy from a guy who told me he found it inside a jukebox that was loaded with 80's era reggae vinyl!) Next in honor of Briggy's time spent with the sound systems, I'm sharing about 6-7 minutes worth of the live LP "Live At the Controls" recorded with the Jack Ruby Sound System. The third track is from the various artist compilation album on the Techniques label called "Stalag 17, 18 & 19" and the song is called "What Type of World." The fourth track is "Lyrics of Mine" taken from Briggy's 1990 RAS release "On The Road." The fifth and final track is the track "Jah D" produced by Tappa Zukie which I'm borrowing from CD instead of ripping from my vinyl copy - I've included a scan of the 7" label because it's a lot cooler than the lame cover on the CD! Hopefully there are some tracks here everyone doesn't already have - let me know what you think.

I'm not even done writing this and I'm already remembering a bunch of other music I wanted to share!! Oh well - maybe we'll have to go back to Papa Briggy at a later date and when I've got more time to get in depth! Soon Come!

Brigadier Jerry

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Nuff Respect" From Nicodemus

Nicodemus (born Cecil Willington, 1957) started his DJ career in the late 70's/early 80's on the Socialist Roots Sound System alongside selector Danny Dread. His style had been compared to that of Prince Far I and Prince Jazzbo and he went on to record at Channel One with the Roots Radics. Of course he then went on to do some work for Junjo and it resulted in the DJ Clash album versus Toyan which was widely circulated thanks to Greensleeves. He also went on to record the massive hit "Bone Connection" or sometimes referred to as "Boneman Connection."

As the years progressed Nicodemus continued recording and as the 90's approached he suddenly became widely appreciated for being a DJ Veteran and was treated with the respect he was due. His recordings with Supercat and Junior Demus in the late 80's for the album "Cabin Stabbin'" were in my opinion, some of the best material he had ever recorded and it was obvious Nicodemus had re-invented himself and made the smooth transition to the prevalent digital rhythms of the day. Sadly Nicodemus died on August 26, 1996 from diabetes complications.

I could have shared a bunch of singles but when I was driving home from work the other night, the track "Mr. Fabulous" popped up in shuffle mode on the Ipod and I suddenly remembered how much I liked this album. Nicodemus recorded "Nuff Respect" for producer Kenneth Black on the Skengdon label in 1986 and includes his hit "Suzy Wong" - all backing tracks provided by the Fat Man Riddim Section. I'm nearly positive this album has never been released on CD or made readily available with a re-issue so I hope you enjoy it.

Nicodemus - Nuff Respect

Friday, March 10, 2006

Club Paradise Review An' Soundtrack Highlights

Now to take a complete 180 from yesterday's post... today I'm finally getting around to posting something I promised about a month ago, music from the 1986 film "Club Paradise" starring Robin Williams and Jimmy Cliff. I was hyped up because this movie that I loved so much as a relative newcomer to reggae music was finally being made available on DVD.

It had been years since I'd seen "Club Paradise" and I quickly snatched it up at the local Mega-Mart the weekend it was released and was eagerly anticipating the grand unveiling of a seemingly lost gem after the kids were put to sleep that night! But sadly, it wasn't as good as I remembered. Sure there were a lot of funny parts - I still loved all the scenes with the two Barrys (Rick Moranis and Eugene Levy) trying to score some weed. Levy's lines inside the cab (pictured below) - "So let me get this straight. The deal is that we’re riding in a car with a guy we don’t even know, he’s wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night, taking us up into a jungle. Some godforsaken… nice deal, good negotiating. Why don’t we just hand him our wallets and slit our own throats?" was still good for a laugh.

I wouldn't say the movie in its entirety is all bad but there are still good scenes that make the dull parts worth sitting through. Besides if you don't like the plot line you can just soak up the beautiful backgrounds - it was filmed in Port Antonio and some of the locales are absolutely stunning! Sure "Club Paradise" is not a real Jamaican movie like "The Harder They Come" or "Rockers" but it's still enjoyable when you're enduring a seemingly endless winter like I am.

If you've never seen it before I recommend renting it or buying it second hand but if you're like me and kinda grew up on this film it's worth owning for old-times sake.

After a good month of half-hearted searching I finally unearthed the soundtrack LP
in the basement and am sharing 4 tracks for your listening pleasure. I was actually tempted to put up the whole album since it's been out of print for quite some time but like the movie... it's not as good as I remembered it.

I've got 2 Jimmy Cliff tracks - "The Lion Awakes" and "Club Paradise." Also included in the zip is Well, Pleased and Satisfied with the best track on the LP called "Sweetie Come From America" produced by Sonia Pottinger. Finally there is a tune from the U.S. based Blue Riddim Band - a track called "Love People." Hope you enjoy them - have a great weekend!

Club Paradise

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Churchical Chants Of The Nyahbingi

I'm not a Rastafarian and I know I've only got a small inkling about what the faith entails so in an effort to save a lot of inaccurate reinterpretations I’m going to quote directly from the excellent website Rhythmweb and a very concise explanation of Nyahbingi written by Bektemba Nnamdi…

“In Rasta overstanding, Nyahbingi is the mystical power of the Most High to mete justice throughout the universe. Although the genuine origin of the word that means “she possesses many things” is Ugandan, as a concept and theology, Nyahbingi has come down to the Rastaman to signify “death to the oppressors, both black and white.” Therefore, it is through prayer, music and biblical reasonings that the Rastaman chants bingi, calling on the forces of nature to destroy the powers of wickedness.”

“Lyrics reflect the want for universal justice, the Pan-Africanist’s estrangement from the Motherland, his yearning to establish a New Jerusalem in Africa and ultimate wrath of Jah upon Babylon, the present-day Euro-colonialists and white supremacists.”

Did you get all of that? Good. Now here’s where it starts getting tricky and if you don’t have an interest in discussion of musical patterns or the drums involved you can skip ahead to the shares below but, I find that by getting a crash course in what makes Nyahbingi sound the way it does, you’ll have a more enjoyable listening experience…

Mr. Nnamdi continues… “The musical accompaniment consists of a heartbeat rhythm, played in 4/4 time on a trinity of drums. Only Rastamen are allowed to play drums at Nyahbingi. Anyone may play shaka, or shekere.”

Thunder: This is the bottom of the bingi ensemble; there are rarely more than two thunder players at a gathering. It is a typical looking double-headed bass drum, played with a mallet. An open tone on “1” and a dampened stroke on “3”. Occasionally, the thunder player will syncopate the rhythm.

Funde: Although the funde often resembles a requinto, the smallest conga used in Afro-Cuban music, the funde is actually the middle drum used in Nyahbingi; it maintains the dominant heartbeat rhythm as the funde player makes steady, dampened stokes on “1 & 3”; it is thus dually known as the heartbeat and has the least improvisational role.

Repeater: The repeater, or akette, is the smallest and highest pitched drum. It is somewhat of a single elongated bongo. The drummer tends to play around “2 e & a” and “4 e & a”, with a syncopated, rather than a backbeat feel. These beats are important to overall feel of the Nyahbingi rhythm, but the repeater has a very improvisational role in bingi because it is seen as the carrier of the spirit.

Shaka: The shekere, which is commonly found throughout Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, has a place in Nyahbingi. The shekere player has a somewhat flexible role: He/she has been know to play on “1”, “1&”, “1” and “3” or “1&”… “3&”…”

Phew! Hopefully you got the gist of that… I’m not a drum player in any real respect and I don’t read music but I found the explanation pretty helpful even to a layman. Now enough classroom time… here’s what I’m sharing…

Taken from the 1983 Heartbeat LP “Churchical Chants of the Nyabingi” – which was recorded at a seven day Nyahbingi held in 1982 when Ronald Reagan visited Jamaica. I hate to do this again but it is so concisely written and so visual - quoting directly from the back of the LPs sleeve… “While the President of the United States was carrying out the affairs of state and enjoying the accolades of “establishment” Jamaica, the hills of upper Trelawney, on the fringe of the famed Cock-pit Country, were ringing with the sound of the Nyahbingi drum while the Rastafari Judgment fire blazed through the night.”

I’ve posted the first four tracks from side one of the album – the chants “Got To Move,” “Tell Them Wherever I Go,” “Weeping And Moaning” and “I, I, I.” Have a listen!


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Principal - Charlie Chaplin

Charlie Chaplin (born Richard Bennett) first arrived on the DJ scene when he picked up the mic for U-Roy’s King Stur-Gav Hi-Fi around 1980. Chaplin quickly emerged as one of Jamaica’s most popular entertainers and like Josey Wales he was also a serious threat to King Yellowman’s throne. His initial recordings were done for Roy Cousins and resulted in the excellent album “Red Pond” which also featured another up and coming DJ named Jim Kelly who was unfortunately murdered shortly after the album was recorded. Within a year or two he did a short stint recording for producer extraordinaire Junjo Lawes and the collaboration resulted in the LP “Sound System” and a few popular singles as well. But his popularity really exploded when he recorded a strong string of hits and albums on George Phang’s Powerhouse label. Phang’s slightly digital reinterpretations of Studio One riddims were just the right thing for Chaplin’s delivery and fans often consider that material some of his strongest.

Chaplin was/is renowned for his cultural, non-slack lyrics and is still respected for actually paving the way for DJs to chat conscious lyrics even when it strayed beyond the popular subject matter of the day. The current new wave of culturally aware DJs owe a great deal to Charlie Chaplin.

Now to answer a question that many often pose when they’re exposed to reggae’s Charlie Chaplin for the first time and I’ll quote directly from my well-read copy of the 1984 book “Reggae Inna Dance Hall Style”…

“…So we asked the final question we knew everybody wanted to know: How did you get your name – Charlie Chaplin?
‘Well back in school in the old days they called me Charlie Chaplin… and the name kinda stuck. Everybody calls me Chaplin…’
Well serious in his thoughts and works buy yet a true entertainer while performing – like his world famous predecessor, this Charlie Chaplin. Two of a kind?”

I'm sharing 5 tracks from Charlie Chaplin today and I think they represent a nice sampling of the man's ability and cultural content. All but two of the tracks are directly from vinyl that I borrowed from my friend Nick who owns quite an impressive if not complete collection of Chaplin's catalog. The first track is from Chaplin's debut album "Red Pond" and features Don Carlos on vocals - "Unity Is Strength." The second is from the LP "Quenchie" and features Jim Kelly - "Walk With Jah." The third is an Arrival 7" that I have in my Junjo collection and the song is called "International Robbery." Staying in the Junjo vein, which I've been known to do, is "We Hot" from the LP "Sound System" Finally I have a nice selection from Chaplin's time spent with George Phang - the track is called "Ram Dancehall." This track was available on one of Charlie's solo LPs but I have lifted it from a Powerhouse LP called "Yellowman Meets Charlie Chaplin." Enjoy!

Dig the spelling on that one!

Charlie Chaplin

In the continuing effort to present a well-rounded sampling of all of Jamaica's musical heritage...tomorrow I'm gonna take a break from the popular and give everyone a taste of the anthropological - got a couple Nyahbingi tracks from the LP "Churchical Chants of the Nyahbingi" that I'm gonna share. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 06, 2006

In Praise Of The Cool Ruler

I got the rare opportunity to see Gregory Isaacs live last night and it was one hell of a show! Actually this was the second time I've seen him perform and I loved every minute of it just like the first time. He's not like a lot of artists who insist on pushing their new material down an audience's throat - he did all the old songs that everyone knows and loves and the crowd went absolutely wild when he seemlessly went from one hit to the next nonstop! Sadly he was only on stage for an hour but I definitely felt as if I got my money's worth... the moment I walked out of the club I was already making plans to see "The Cool Ruler" the next time he makes it to the area - whenever that may be.

I'm sharing a few Gregory Isaacs tracks... a bunch of stuff that everyone's probably familiar with, unless you've never really given the guy a listen! All the tracks come from the CD/vinyl pictured except "Tune In" which I swiped off a CD because the vinyl 7" is pretty rough (the African Museum label was too cool to pass up though)

I highly recommend anyone with limited experience with Mr. Isaacs give these tracks a listen on a free trial basis - send no money now! If you're not completely satisfied, the tunes are yours to keep and you'll not have any future obligation to download MP3 shares of Gregory Isaacs' music. Enjoy!

Cool Ruler Sampler

Of note - To keep up with my continuing efforts to present a little sampling of all the big names in early dancehall, I'm ripping a bunch of Charlie Chaplin and will be posting a profile and some tracks later this week!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"A No Any Man Can Test Nancy" - Sister Nancy Part 2

In conjunction with Schrikdraad I am presenting a few more Sister Nancy tracks in an attempt to give the woman the respect she's due... Enjoy!

The first three tracks are from the 1982 Heartbeat releases, "A Dee-Jay Explosion Inna Dancehall Style" and "Special Request And A Popular Demand." The first two tracks are "Chalice A Fe Burn" and "Boom Chaka Laka" from the first album... the third is from Part 2 of the series, a tune we all know well "One,Two" with Lee Van Cleef.

Following that, I'm reintroducing "Papa Dean" on the Techniques label, "King & Queen" with Yellowman on Amco, "Can't Test Nancy" on the old style GG's Volcano label but oddly enough produced by Junjo Lawes. The seventh track is "Bang Belly" from the awesome Greensleeves release "The Yellow, The Purple, The Nancy." Finally, I've thrown in another track for good measure... this one is a little more digital but it's a single called "Spread Rumour" on the Jah Life label and Nancy is going by the title Muma instead of Sister. Take note of the lyrical content of this record - it's pretty sad that she had to defend herself from such an awful rumour in the first place.

I couldn't find an image online for "Special Request..." I don't have time to take pics and besides that I can't find my original vinyl copy, damn!

Sister Nancy Part 2.Zip