Monday, January 28, 2008

The Enduring Versatile Talents Of John Holt

John Holt, born 1947 Kingston Jamaica, was a regular at various talent contests by the age of 12 and in 1963 he cut his first single "I Cried A Tear" for Leslie Kong's Beverley's label. Between 1965-1970 he was the lead singer for the Paragons, who recorded countless hits for Duke Reid, and eventually set off on a solo career that has now spanned nearly 40 years. He is one of the few artists to successfully crossover into the world of pop music with love songs that appealed to the masses while continuing to record cultural music that continued to appeal to his fans at home in Jamaica. This is best exemplified with two songs in particular, both included in the mix, in 1974 he had a huge hit in Europe with the tune "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and just two years later scored big at home with the massive roots hit, "Up Park Camp" which is also in the mix. The man is versatile and in my opinion highly underrated so today I've decided to pay homage to this great singer by providing a sampling of some of his music. Read on...

We start off the mix with one of John Holt's biggest hits "A Love I Can Feel" which was originally recorded by Coxsone Dodd at Studio One in 1970. It comes from the Heartbeat CD The Best Of Studio One.

Next up is a Junjo Lawes produced update of another timeless John Holt classic called "Stealing Stealing" and is taken from the 12" on the Volcano label circa 1983-84.

The next song is called "This Old Lady" and is from a 10" on the Chart Sounds label featuring the backing riddim talents of Sly & Robbie.

The fourth song is "No Man Is An Island" from the greatest hits CD compilation called Holt Like A Bolt on the Burning Bush label.

We follow that up inna Rockers style with "My Desire" produced by Augustus Pablo and lifted from the CD called The Great Pablo on Music Club.

"Left With A Broken Heart" from the 1971 LP Still In Chains is the sixth tune in our mix.

Back to the eighties with Junjo Lawes and the Roots Radics at the helm with a killer uplifting tune, originally released in 1982 as a 7" and 12" on the Volcano label, called "Sweetie Come Brush Me."

We follow that up a song called "Love Like Yours" from a various artists compilation on the Jamaican Gold label called From GG's Reggae Hit Stable produced by the great Alvin Ranglin.

Up next is an absolutely classic tune "Ali Baba" available on a multitude of releases but this time borrowed from the 2002 Trojan CD re-issue of a 1969 various artists LP called Tighten Up Volume 2.

Our tenth track "Man And Woman" is also from a 2002 various artists CD of Rupie Edwards productions on the Trybute label called Rupie's Scorchers.

The aforementioned pop hit "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" in next and is available on the 2003 Trojan 12" Box Set. A nice sampling of Holt's pop abilities, not to mention how a good indication of how "pop" reggae that may have been un-listenable when it was released has aged pretty well. I guess with the Aggrovators doing the backing it's hard to come up with a song that doesn't sound decent!

We jump back to the turntable with another 80's era 10" single which though not credited sounds a lot like a Junjo production called "Not Leaving" on the Holt label. Some nice Roots Radics backing on this track!

Falling back to 1973 and the album 1000 Volts Of Holt also on the Trojan label... this one sounds a lot poppier than "You'll Never Find Another Love..." and to my ears includes some Country-Western influence if you can hear beyond the string arrangements. It's called "Help Me Make It Through The Night."

We'll stick with the strings for another tune, this one is called simply "Tonight" and is ripped from the 1984 re-issue of a 1970 Coxsone LP that was originally released on the Bamboo label.

Getting a little more conscious with the next song, "Last Train From The Ghetto," taken from the classic 1983 Police In Helicopters album on Greensleeves... also done up right by Junjo and the Radics.

Another selection for your listening pleasure follows that, it's called "Don't Give Up," and to be honest with you I have no idea where it came from. I found it floating around my hard drive and decided to throw it in. It's a good song.

We start winding down the mix with "Up Park Camp" from 1976. It's also from the Holt Like A Bolt compilation but originally appeared on the album of the same name on the Channel One label. Obviously this is where Cocoa Tea got the inspiration for his 1991 single, "Riker's Island."

Be prepared to be electrified by the next tune "Let The Wicked Run Away" from the 2003 re-issue of the 1977 Trojan LP 3000 Volts Of Holt.

The second to last track is a classic Duke Reid early reggae hit "Wear You To The Ball." Oddly enough I hadn't listened to the original version of this tune in so long that I found myself adding the missing U-Roy parts... "Did Ya 'ear watta man say baby?" Perfectly on cue I might add.

We wrap up the John Holt mix with an absolutely wicked tune originally recorded by Little Roy called "Tribal War" and it comes to us from a 12" on the Channel One label. One of my all-time favorite reggae tunes!

I hope you enjoy the mix!

John Holt Mix

Thursday, January 17, 2008

King Jammys Sleng Teng'n Into The Digital Era

Like all royalty, King Jammys (born Lloyd James, Kingston, Jamaica) began his reign as a Prince by building amplifiers and repairing electrical equipment in the Waterhouse area of Kingston and eventually running his own sound system. After a brief hiatus in Canada, where he concentrated on doing studio and sound system work for others, he returned to Jamaica with the intention of creating his own recording studio. The young prince got his big break by joining forces with the reigning King - King Tubby. It was under Tubby's tutelage where he received his education in mixing and by the late 70's he began releasing his own productions including the debut album from Black Uhuru. It has been written that since Jammy was in touch with the artists in the burgeoning dancehall scene and a keen sense of what was going to be popular.

The story goes that in 1985 Jammys discovered a new riddim by altering one of the pre-programmed rock rhythms from a Casio digital music box. The rock beat was slowed considerably and when he recorded a young singer named Wayne Smith and his tune "Under Me Sleng Teng" he forever changed the course of Jamaican music. The new digital riddim was christened Sleng Teng and instantaneously became massive. Before long there were over 200 varied versions of the riddim by every producer in Jamaica and probably three times as many artists lining up to take a lyrical ride. What made Sleng Teng so important was that it eliminated the need for expensive studio musicians and studio time and put the ability for creating affordable music directly in the hands of independent producers and artists nationwide.

Today we're paying tribute to Sleng Teng with a mix I put together. There are 24 songs in total, (25 if you count the King Jammys version that floats in and out throughout the mix) all dating back to the dawning of the digital era in 1985, and if you're a fan of early dancehall this should give you a nice sampling of one of the most revolutionary riddims ever created and one of my personal all-time favorites. If you're more of a roots fan or don't really care for the Sleng Teng itself I highly recommend not downloading this one - you'll have yourself in a Casio induced coma within 3 minutes! This is probably as current as you're ever going to see me get here on Distinctly Jamaican Sounds but this has been in the works for months and I finally got the time to finish it up! I hope you enjoy it!

Here's the tracklisting
1. Wayne Smith - Under Me Sleng Teng
2. John Wayne - Call The Police
3. Echo Minott - Hand Pon The Key
4. Nicodemus - Eagle Feathers
5. Papa Faith - Maniac
6. Screechie Nice - Understand Me
7. Tenor Saw - Pumpkin Belly
8. Eccelton Jarrett - Dancehall Music
9. Pad Anthony - Cry For Me
10. Tonto Irie - Every Posse Come In
11. Cocoa Tea - Hey Bobby
12. Shinehead - Know Fe Chat
13. Sugar Minott - Jam In The Street
14. Mr. Lee - Crisis
15. Shelly Thunder - Sting Mi Sting
16. Woody Noble - Ram Jam Session
17. Tappa Zukie - Big Things
18. Tony Asher - Our Teng
19. Johnny Osbourne - Buddy Bye
20. Hugh Griffiths - Medley Ride
21. Super Morris - Under Mi Peter Green
22. Echo Minott - Original Fat Ting
23. Singie Singie - Tell Us What You Know
24. Supercat - Trash And Ready

Sleng Teng Megamix

Friday, January 11, 2008

Alton Ellis - Praising A Living Legend

I'm keeping it short and simple today... when I first read that Alton Ellis was about to undergo cancer treatment in London I immediately said a prayer for the man who has been revered by many as the "Godfather of Rocksteady." I then went to my music and put together an Alton Ellis mix. For once I wanted to give someone the praise they deserve while they are still among us instead of waiting until they're gone. Best wishes to Alton Ellis, his family and friends in this difficult time and I pray for a speedy and full recovery.

Here's what you're going to hear...

First we're going to hear "Cry Tough" from the 1992 Heartbeat various artists compilation set Duke Reid's Treasure Chest. Next is the tune "You Make Me Happy" from Ellis' 1967 debut album on Treasure Isle "Mr Soul Of Jamaica." Up third is another big tune borrowed from Duke Reid's Treasure Chest and its the timeless, "Girl I've Got A Date." The fourth track is "Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream)" from the Alton Ellis CD compilation called Arise Blackman on the Moll Selekta label. The next tune we're gonna hear is called "We Need Love" from the Studio One LP called Showcase from the mid 70's. Taking a turn for the rub-a-dub next with the Junjo Lawes produced "Skateland Girl" from a Volcano 7" - one of my all-time favorites. The next track is "Willow Tree" lifted from the double CD set The Story Of Treasure Isle on the Metro Music label. Returning to the Arise Blackman set for the next song, it's a good one called "Sun Of Man." Our ninth tune in the mix is "Remember That Sunday" from the Trojan various artists sampler Moonwalk - Treasure Isle Skinhead Reggae Anthems. We follow that up with "How Can I" also from Arise Blackman. "La La Means I Love You," another outstanding Alton Ellis classic, lifted from The Story Of Treasure Isle set, is the next tune. "Stronger Than Before" taken from the Abraham Records LP Slummin' is the twelfth song in the mix. Going back to Studio One we've got "Can I Change My Mind" from the Heartbeat release The Best Of Studio One. We're heading back to Africa with the song "Back To Africa" from the 1992 Heartbeat various artists compilation called Lloyd Daley's Matador Productions 1968-1972. Getting toward the end we're going to hear "It's A Shame" from Blood & Fire's excellent 2001 compilation Darker Than Blue - Soul From Jamdown. Finally we wrap it up with "Loving Mood," Alton's take on Delroy Wilson's hit "Dancing Mood" from the 2005 Moll Selekta various artists CD called The Bunny Lee Rocksteady Years. Enjoy!

Alton Ellis Mix