Friday, October 30, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Twenty Two - Darkness

And it all comes down to this... the twenty second and final track in the 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular... it's a little number by the Revolutionaries called appropriately enough, "Darkness."  This song and the album called Phase One Dubwise Volume 1 & 2 is a collection of dub sides cut by the Revolutionaries at Channel One and/or Joe Gibbs' studio and exclusively mixed by Channel One's Ernest Hookim circa 1978.  The album is basically dub versions to a heap of tunes produced on Roy Francis' Phase One's label and released in one big delicious lump.  

Now I decided to go all out on this final tune... what you're going to hear is the "extended version" of "Darkness" complete with Basil Rathbone's complete reading of Edgar Alan Poe's classic The Raven. I wanted to end the tenth annual Spooktacular with a bang and this one I think fills the bill rather nicely and clocking in at 10 minutes, it is definitely the longest track I have ever spookified on here.  I hope you enjoy it!

And with the last track just a mouse click away, I wanted to thank my friends and contributors here for a job well done!  So to Teddy Garcia, Reverend Tom Frost, Sam Votsis, Bobby Bobson, Brian "Uncle Fee" Schaffer, Nate Taiapa, Toby Gohn, Mark Williams, Nick Jones and Gordy Robertson, I can't thank you guys enough for humoring me and providing the facts for this yearly wacky project!  You guys definitely made it a lot easier for me and it was great getting varying perspectives on the tunes contained within!  I also want to thank my man Roger Wilkerson for doing the covers again - I can't thank him enough for the effort he put into these works of art and a Spooktacular wouldn't be complete without your visual embellishments!  Finally, I want to thank those of you who left comments and likes over on Facebook... it's your appreciation and kind words that makes this major undertaking seem worth the effort!  It truly is a labor of love and I hope that shows!

Tomorrow is the big night and again I am taking on trick or treat duties and again I wouldn't want to do anything else!  We've got a Martian, a Dracula and a Guy Fieri this year (lol)... sadly my oldest daughter has aged-out and is no longer a part of the Halloween night mob.  So whatever you've got going on this Halloween be sure to have a great time and please for the love of God be safe!  Much love my friends and Happy Halloween!!

Revolutionaries - Darkness - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Twenty Two

Oh and before I forget... the complete unedited Spooktacular will be up at midnight, just in time for repeated playing all-day on Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Twenty One - Mad Man Party

The thin line between sanity and insanity is one that hopefully many of us never step over.  In this day and age, treatment of mental health disorders is not a laughing matter and since I'm not a trained psychiatrist or even a licensed therapist I won't get into specifics because quite honestly, that goes beyond my scope of understanding.  God knows how I was able to bullshit my way through Sociology when in college because trying to understand the human mind and the dysfunctions of such is enough to personally drive me insane.  Regardless, where would the modern horror film be without homicidal maniacs?

Let's get to today's tune!  "Mad Man Party" is the twenty-first, and second to last track in the 2015 Spooktacular and it's from one of my favorite early to mid-80s DJs Peter Metro.  Recorded and released as a single in 1986 on the 10 Roosevelt Avenue label and produced by Harry "Harry J" Johnson.  This tune, like a good deal of Peter Metro's early work, is definitely meant to be comical and takes a decidedly lighthearted tone in describing the unsettling behavior exhibited by some of the patients at Kingston's notorious Bellevue Hospital...

"I sight a mad man drinking ink and glue
who wears two plastic bag and say them shoe
I sight a mad man who eat bamboo
it look like cane but it hard to chew...
Search through the garbage when you feel hungry
eat a rotten mango and a dirty patty
Sleep anywhere when you feel sleepy
talk to yourself when you get lonely
Wear up your clothes until they get dirty
walk naked inna Kingston city..."

The introduction and the "maniacal laughter" embellishments on this track are courtesy of one of Amicus Studios' best horror anthology films, Asylum from 1972.  I discovered this film last October when I scooped up as many of the Amicus films on DVD for some marathon viewing and this was one of my favorites and I had filed away the bit of dialog in the back of mind for a future Spooktacular that required something madness related.

Peter Metro - Mad Man Party - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Twenty One

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Twenty - Public Enemy Number One

Gordon "Big Gordy" Robertson, based in Barnsley England is a top-notch selector and DJ of Jamaican music from Ska to Reggae, as well as Northern Soul and even R&B!  Gordy has an extensive knowledge of damn good music and a completely enviable record collection.  Gordy has helped out with other Spooktacular tracks in the past by providing me with an MP3 of the "Adams Family Theme" by the JJ Allstars, a tune in which I had been fruitlessly trying to locate for years but never actually had an opportunity to wrap my ears around.  When the spirit hits him he updates his DJ GreedyG's Foundation Selections Podcast - you can check it out here! Thanks Gordy!!

"Max Romeo - Public Enemy Number One. Released on "Truth" in 1971 in Jamaica. An early roots outing for Lee Scratch Perry and Max Romeo, who would work together many times over the years (resulting in tunes like the great Chase The Devil and Melt Away). Riddimwise it's a very close relation of Eric Donaldson's "Cherry Oh Baby". Max "buns fyah pon Satan" and hints towards the final battle between good and evil in the lyrics."

Max Romeo - Public Enemy Number One - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Twenty

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Nineteen - Wishes Of The Wicked

Aside from growing up on the same dead end street here in rural Maryland and being a life-long friend, Nick Jones is a huge reggae fan, record collector and a devout member of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Nick is also a highly talented illustrator and DJ for his Napthali Sound and though he doesn't get a chance to "play out" often, he and I have been known to nice-up a few Jamaican Independence Day celebrations in my suburban backyard every August.  Once facing charges for "telephone misuse" Nick had to serve 40 hours of community service for making a prank phone call to our high school's vice principal... and there was the time with the pickle jar and the old dude in the mobile home but I'll just stop right there.  Thanks Nick, you're like a brother to me!

"Title: Wishes of the Wicked.  Artist: Lee Perry.  Release Date: 1965.  Label: Ska Beat.  Producer: Clement Dodd at Studio One.

With an inspired sense of independence from the English crown in 1962, arose a new sound from the island of Jamaica - an upbeat rhythm known as Ska.  In the late 1950s, traditional American rhythm and blues was losing its hold on the dance floor.  Young producers like Clement "Coxsone" Dodd and Duke Reid began recording their own 'version' of R&B, utilizing local talent.  With a few years, the American 'shuffle' style morphed into a new beat characterized by guitar chops on the off-beat.  With screaming horns sprinkled into piano or organ riffs, complete with  drumming to keep everything in time - this new sound had a true celebration vibe.

Enter Rainford Hugh Lee Perry AKA 'Scratch' - a handyman and shop keeper for the then leading sound system owned by Sir "Coxsone" Dodd, know as Studio One.  Over time, Perry proved to have a keen ear for sound.  After graduating from handyman to soundman under Dodd's tutelage, Perry tried his hand as a vocal performer - cutting scathing warning to rival producers and sound systems.  Perry prided himself on "upsetting" the status quo - hence his chief moniker - The Upsetter.

In 1965 Perry explored new ground with his cut Wishes of the Wicked.  No longer was he directing his cryptic warning to unscrupulous producers.  This one is directed to all wayward thinkers and workers of iniquity, as the opening verse declares:

"The wishes of the wicked shall never prevail.  The more they try, the more they fail."
Perry does not give specifics as to what these "wishes" are - he just seals the statement with: 

"What is to be must be."
The declaration is then back up with a stern Scriptural warning directed to would-be thieves: 

"It was written by the Prophet.  That the seed you sow, that's what grow.  If you sow good seed, you will reap good seed."
Perhaps the prophet being referred to is King Solomon, chief compiler of the book of Proberbs: 

"The wick worth a deceitful work: but to him that south righteousness shall be a sure reward."  (Proverbs 11v.18)
Following the "words of the prophet," we are treated a a horns arrangement complete with saxophone wailing over the upbeat tempo.  This paves the way for Perry to reiterate his previous warnings as the horns take over again.  The musical ride then fades to a reluctant close with horns blaring.

This musical excursion captures the raw essence of original Jamaican music.  It more importantly captures an early glimpse of the man responsible for a musical revolution - Lee "Scratch" Perry.

"Everything starts from Scratch" 
So, if you find yourself to be an unfortunate target of the "wishes of the wicked" this season, don't take the law into your own hands - just blast this tune and watch the wicked flee!!!"

Lee Perry - Wishes Of The Wicked - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Nineteen 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Eighteen - Now That You're Dead

Mark Williams AKA The Kaiser, is the driving force and one of the originators of Washington DC's preeminent reggae oldies night, DC Soundclash.  Mark is as knowledgeable as they come in regard to Jamaican music but his scope of musical appreciation stretches far beyond the Caribbean, he can often be found spinning his musical wares at the Marx Cafe and whether it's an obscure ska tune or a wicked piece of psychedelic pop, Mark is the man to get your feet moving!  Check out the latest scheduled Soundclash or any of the multitude of other shows Mark has got going on by checking out DC Soundclash here!  Thanks Mark! 

"It's hard to say if "Snappin" Beckford is singing about death literally or figuratively here, though one suspects the latter. We might have indirect duppy contact, in other words. I was initially going to assume that Beckford was lashing out at his erstwhile employer Coxson Dodd, who vampirically sucked him dry for his song-writing talents and rewarded him sparingly. But a woman and ex-prisoner are sourced into the lyrics, and those mercurial and beguiling saxophones playfully conjure up a sauntering ride that is more bemusement than anger or fear. No, this is actually a warning to the foolish, buried or alive."

Theophilus Beckford - Now That You're Dead - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Eighteen

Friday, October 23, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Seventeen - Who Pick De Pumpkin

 Toby Gohn, AKA Rice & Peas, is one of the originators and key contributors to the fabulous DC Soundclash!  Toby has a deep appreciation for all eras of Jamaican music and obviously, though I've not seen it, a completely jaw-dropping record collection.  It never fails at Soundclash that Toby will reach down deep in his sound box and pull out something that will leave you in awe, shock or disbelief but will have you making a b-line to the dancefloor even though you may look like a complete idiot in front of the Marx Cafe regulars... believe me, I know.  Toby also puts together a podcast called Soul Shake that is educational, enjoyable and always completely kick-ass!  Thanks Toby!

"Jamaicans will sing about anything.  I’ve heard songs about ducks, getting gas for a car, snow (in Jamaica, riiiiight), collecting paychecks, pretty much anything is fair game.  Once on a visit to JA, I listened one morning as a man sang about sweeping his yard, as he was sweeping his yard (before launching into a spot on rendition of Red Rose for Gregory, but that’s for another time.)  This here song probably isn’t into that stratosphere of anomaly but a lyric about someone stealing your pumpkin is still pretty unique.  And the singer seems like he REALLY wants to know, since he keeps asking about it.  However, he also doesn’t want a cemetery at his residence, that’s also clear.  Not sure if he means his family is going to starve without it, or if he’s going to kill the motherfucker who did it.  Either way, serious thing.  In addition, he’s declaring war on duppies (ghosts).  Maybe he has some inside info and believes a duppy stole the pumpkin?  Dunno.  But Jamaicans take duppies very seriously.  They will not approach any area or person they suspect of being occupied by a duppy.  Well, except for this singer.  He’s bringing the fight to the duppies.  I bet it’s the last time they mess with a man’s pumpkin crop, to be certain.  Regardless of all this, the singer is delivering frustrated pumpkin and duppy lyrics over a great piece of horns-led, early 70’s toughness, laid down by the heralded Zap Pow band.  Fully appropriate for the Halloween Spooktacular!"

Zap Pow - Who Pick De Pumpkin - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Seventeen

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Sixteen - Mrs Palmer

Nate Taiapa AKA Nate Ness Monster, born and raised in Hamilton New Zealand, is the man behind GO FEET! Radio, a excellent weekly program featuring the best in ska, rocksteady, reggae, roots and dub.  Nate also showcases modern bands throughout New Zealand and the world!  You can check out his broadcast streaming online via online stream here or you can download and listen to his podcast on his accompanying blog Musical Occupation. And... Nate holds the distinction of being the contributor from the farthest distance away and what I wouldn't give to visit New Zealand!  Mauruuru koutou Nate!

 "'Mrs. Palmer' was produced and performed in a dancehall style by Rankin Roger (not to be confused with The English Beat's Rankin Roger) on VEA Records and released during the late 70s or early 80s. It uses the popular Jamaican riddim, I Can't Hide, which has been used by many great artists including Dennis Alcapone & Lizzy on "Ba-Ba-Ri-Ba-Skank," King Tubby & King Jammy on "Drums Of Africa," Horace Andy on "Freedom," and Barry Brown on "Trod On" to name a few.
According to the legend, the spirit of "Annie Palmer" haunts the grounds of Rose Hall Plantation near Montego Bay. The story states that she was born in Haiti to an English mother and Irish father and spent most of her life in Haiti. When her parents died of yellow fever, she was adopted by a nanny who taught her witchcraft and voodoo. She moved to Jamaica and married John Palmer, owner of Rose Hall Plantation. Annie murdered Palmer along with two subsequent husbands and numerous male plantation slaves, later being murdered herself by a slave named "Takoo". A song about the legend called "The Ballad of Annie Palmer" was recorded by Johnny Cash. Well you can believe it or not, that's up to you, but let me tell you a true story about a ghost I once saw.

When I was about 15 years old some friends and I decided to walk home to my house after a late movie in town (Hamilton, New Zealand). As we came through some alleyway shortcuts we were heading up the last stretch of road before my house. I was familiar with my neighborhood and many of the people living there. Only two weeks earlier, an elderly man had passed away in the house up ahead of us and many of his family and friends had come to visit and stay at his house for about three days (an old Maori custom) before they buried him. As we came around the bend we could see his house in front of us. Standing there, with a walking sticking and dressing gown on, overlooking his garden, was the old man I knew had passed away only two weeks earlier. Even though I was with several friends I felt afraid and slightly shocked. I whispered to my friends, 'do you see that old man over there?' Still walking, they looked over, and almost in unison, replied, 'what old man?'

"The old man standing over there looking at his garden."

"We don't see any old man, there's no one there."

"Yes, he's standing right there," I said as I pointed towards his garden.

Tired and wanting to get home, my friends just kept walking and not another word was said.  As we reached the last alleyway before home, I turned for one last look.  He was gone.

To this day I have always maintained that I saw the ghost of the elderly man taking one last look over his garden.

Do ghosts exist?

They did for me that night."

Ranking Roger - Mrs. Palmer - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Sixteen

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Fifteen - Vampire

What Halloween season would be complete without an appearance by our old blood sucking pal, Barnabas Collins?  Well... at least when it comes to our cover for today's terrifying tune.  Unfortunately there is no tribute tune to Barnabas in this years Spooktacular but I still wanted to see Jonathon Frid's frightening face.  I brought it up to Roger and this is the end result!  Thanks Roger!

Today's track is by Henry James AKA Peter Broggs (born 1954, Hanover Parish, Jamaica) and it's appropriately titled "Vampire" or sometimes referred to as "Vank Out" and originally pressed on the Quarter Mile label.  

 In it James/Broggs warns those who stray away from their spiritual beliefs and convictions and the evil forces that await to corrupt them instead of actually mentioning an outright fanged fiend.  I have been sitting on this tune for years and after the hell I went through to get this record and the ridiculous amount of money I spent only to have the song re-pressed and readily available two years later for a minuscule fraction of what I paid for the original, it has always kinda left me with a bad, or perhaps that's bloody, taste in my mouth.  Regardless, don't let my record buying experience ruin the tune for you.  It's a good one!

Henry James - Vampire - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Fifteen

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Fourteen - Spooky Pt.2


Baltimore's own Bobby Bobson had so much fun writing up Cliff & The Organizers' Mr. Brown that he volunteered to do another one for us all!  Thanks for going above and beyond Bobby!  You can check out his podcast Mobtown Ska Sounds by clicking here!

"An organ drenched instrumental by producer, singer, and organ player Lloyd Charmers.   Charmers is probably best known for this period of heavy organ instrumentals like “In the Spirit” and his risqué skinhead reggae venture credited as “Lloydie and the Lowbites.”   This tune is an instrumental version of The Royals’ “Down Comes The Rain.”   Charmers was a solid session player and appeared on various essential ska, rocksteady, and reggae tracks such as “Everything I Own” by Ken Boothe.   On this month of hallowed evils one has to attribute the rain as the perfect backdrop for creatures in the night to hide.   This song may not invoke a sinister mood, but those are usually the best moments."

Lloyd Charmers - Spooky Pt.2 - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Fourteen

Monday, October 19, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Thirteen - St. Thomas Duppy

The subject of Copie the Font Hill Duppy is one that we have discussed many times here.  I have provided a link to the complete article "The Foul Mouthed Duppy of Font Hill" which appeared in The Jamaica Daily News on June 23, 1974 and thankfully provided by long-time reggae aficionado Luke Ehrlich way back in 2008.  To get a quick background for those who aren't familiar with the story I will revert back to the concise explanation Luke provided on Ebay (of all places) when he had offered up the 7" single of Count Lasher's "Font Hill Duppy" for sale on the site.
"Font Hill Duppy" is a humorous look at a sinister haunting that occurred in eastern Jamaica, in mid-summer of 1974. At Font Hill, a rural village in the parish of St. Thomas, elderly Mr. Isaac Brown and his wife Adina began experiencing alarming supernatural events in their house including unpleasant poltergeist activity. The ghost, known in Jamaica as a "duppy" or "jumbie", called himself Copie and spoke to the Browns, Font Hill townspeople and curiosity-seekers, never sparing use of the foulest language."
 So here we are in 2015 with yet another tune devoted to Jamaica's most infamous gutter-mouthed ghost.  I initially posted Lasher's "Font Hill Duppy" and three years later followed it up with Max Romeo's track "Copie Duppy" after a hard-fought battle to finally obtain the record.  Fast forward to this summer when again I'm on my yearly online quest to restock the duppy record box and I come across the single "St. Thomas Duppy" by Fitz Walker on the R&S Oney label.  I was completely psyched that I had uncovered another piece of the Copie puzzle but unfortunately the condition of the vinyl left a lot to be desired and I regretfully had to pass it up.   I dug some more, hitting up the usual haunts on the reggae record bookmarks on my browser and came up completely empty-handed  I spent many a morning in bed staring at the ceiling wondering how I could get a clean copy of "St. Thomas Duppy" to include in the 2015 Spooktacular.  And as fate would have it, in stepped Dave from Dave's Jukebox.  I had seen back in July of 2010 he had posted this record online and I approached him to see if he would be interested in selling it or at the least rip me an MP3 to use in the mix.  Dave responded quickly and though he wasn't in the market to sell this one he went through the trouble to fire me off a virtual copy via email!  Thanks Dave!

On a pretty badass melodica driven rhythm, Fitz Walker covers all the bases.  He starts by taking a jab at "iniquity workers" or practitioners of Obeah, who I believe he initially blames for releasing the Copie into being by messing with black magic.  He then succinctly covers the complete Font Hill duppy story...
"Don't you hear
What is going on
In the east
In St. Thomas
Duppy talking
And that man can hear
Duppy talking
To Mr. Brown, Miss Brown
People from all about
Went on the scene
To hear when Copie
Talk to Mr. Brown
People come from all about
Went up to Font Hill
To hear when Copie
Talk to Mr. Brown..."
Unfortunately I couldn't find any background info on Fitz Walker aside from the fact that he released a couple singles in the early 70s and may or may not be the same Fitzroy Walker who produced some digital dancehall in the late 80s but I soon found that Fitzroy Walker is a name that is not hard to find in Jamaica.  So to Fitz Walker, wherever you may be, thanks for another enjoyable piece of the Copie legend!

Fitz Walker - St. Thomas Duppy - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 Track Thirteen

Friday, October 16, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Twelve - Hell Below

Derrick Harriott (born February 6, 1939) is one of Jamaican music's living legends.  Getting started in the music biz in 1955 when he teamed up with Claude Sang Jr., the duo went on to win multiple talent contests and eventually record for Jamaica's recording pioneer Stanley Motta.  In 1958 he formed the Jiving Juniors with Eugene Dwyer, Herman Sang (Claude's younger brother), and Maurice Winter and recorded for both Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd.  After some time spent in New York, Harriott returned to Jamaica and went solo, releasing his first single "I Care" in 1964 and went on to have a string of hits including such classic songs as "The Loser" and "Solomon."  In 1970 Harriott tried his hand at production with his newly assembled band the Crystalites and released the album The Undertaker, in a style very reminiscent of the Upsetters at the time and which proved to be enormously popular.

Now, from what I've read, the Crystal Generation was an amalgamation of players from The Crystalites and Harriott's other studio band the Now Generation and the song "Hell Below" has a strong early 70s soul vibe.  It comes from a recent issue of a soulful Derrick Harriott tune called "Let Me Down Easy" on the Crystal/Dub Store label out of Japan.  I have embellished by adding the sounds of hell for your listening pleasure and I think you'll dig it!  

Crystal Generation - Hell Below - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spookacular Track Twelve

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Eleven - John Crow Skank

Brian "Uncle Fee" Schaffer was born in Wales and relocated with his family to London when he was 4.   In the early 1960s with the influx of Jamaican immigration, Fee was exposed to a completely different culture and had his eyes opened to Jamaican music as well.  In 1968, a friend gave him a box of rocksteady records to play at his 16th birthday party and he was completely hooked, spending the entire evening and much of the early hours of the following morning playing these tunes over and over.  Today Fee is the Master Selector and the Pure Revival Soundman for Black Harmony Sounds UK and loves this music as much today as he did 47 years ago!  Thanks Uncle Fee!

"The name John Crow is associated in Jamaica with the Jamaican vulture which itself was often called carrion crow or turkey vulture and according to Frederic G. Cassidy and R.B. Lapage, the term "John Crow" was first used in 1826.  They also concluded that the term was or could have been taken from the US term Jim Crow although subsequent research by others has not been able to conclude this statement.  In fact Jim Crow, a term that was not used for at least two years John was used to describe racial segregation

The John Crow has long been a part of Jamaican folklore and is associated with ugliness, blackness, evil and disgrace.  It is believed that if John Crow sits on a rooftop that a death of someone in the household is imminent.  Seeing John Crow in dreams is also an omen of death and possible destruction.

To further illustrate how much John Crow is used in daily life in Jamaica, her is an extract from internet site Pancocojams...

"The name John Crow appears in a few Jamaican proverbs.  "Every John Crow tink him pickney white."  This means that everyone thinks that their own children or possessions are the best in the world.  "John Crow she him a dandy man but same time him hab so-so feather."  Here the John Crow is a symbol of someone who is being vain or pretentious.  "John Crow a roast plantain fi yup."  Depicts someone who is very meager and emaciated who may soon die.  "If yuh fly wid John Crow yuh mi nyam dead meat."  Expresses the idea that a person is capable of doing the things that are done in the company that her or she keeps.  
 Two popular folksongs also exist which speak about the John Crow.  They are "Peel Head John Crow" and "John Crow Seh."  Whatever the John Crow represents or however the name originated, it is one of the most significant birds underlining the culture."

Incredibly enough I remember as a very small child growing up in Wales, a nursery rhyme that my Mam sang and even to this day we still sing on occasion that references Jim Crow.  If it has any connection to the U.S. one I have no idea.  Here in all its glory with an interpretation. 

Dacw mam yn dwad, ar ben y garreg wen
Rhwybeth yn ei ffedog, a phiser ar el phen;
Y fuwch yn beudy, yn brefu am y llo,
T llo'r ochr arall, yn gwaeddai 'Jim Cro'
Jim Cro crystyn, one, two, four
Mochyn Bach yn eistedd, yn ddel ar y stol.

There's mamma coming, over the white stile;
Something in her apron and a pitcher on her head;
The cow's in the byre, lowing for her calf,
The calf is on the other side, shouting 'Jim Crow'
Jim Crow crust, one two four;
The little pig is sitting, pretty on the stool.

This was published in 1895 so it could well have been influenced from abroad and remember there are a lot of Welsh names in Jamaica.

So when listening to Derrick Morgan's "John Crow Skank" why do we hear no reference to the bird itself unless of course that "chwaki chwaki" we hear throughout is possibly a reference to its call?

Interestingly enough, I did buy this record on release from the R&B Record Shop, Stamford Hill, London in I think 1971 and it was a popular play out tune at the time and had a great organ lead version of "Let The Power Fall On I" (my favourite side) on the flip.  It also uses the same rhythm of "Cherry Oh Baby" which was a massive hit for Eric Donaldson both in JA and in the UK.  Which came first?  I can't remember doh!!

"John Crow Skank" was also the title of a Clancy Eccles tune that was predominantly just the rhythm track with someone squawking (pun intended) "John Crow Skank" repeatedly."

Derrick Morgan - John Crow Skank - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Eleven

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Ten - Death In The Arena

Next up in our fright-fest is a little tune by Rupie Martin & The Hippy Boys called "Death In The Arena" which was recorded at Dynamic Studios in 1969 and released as a 7" on Martin's Modified label in Jamaica and in the UK on Punch and Ackee months later.  Luckily the copy I've got was a lot easier to locate thanks to a relatively recent repress on the Drum Beat/Reggae Fever label.

There is something about the early upbeat reggae that lends itself so perfectly to Spooktaculars... in the 10 years I've been doing this mix I've always had a lot of fun mixing them with horror movie trailers and other wacky audio.  I can't exactly explain why that is but when I sit down and mix these behemoth projects the early/skinhead reggae tracks usually come together quickest and always elicit the biggest smiles when my bleary eyes are staring at a computer screen at 3:30 in the morning during a late-night editing session. 

Also,  Roger outdid himself on this cover!  This may be my favorite from this years batch!

Rupie Martin & The Hippy Boys - Death In The Arena - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Ten

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Nine - Duppy Dance

Herman Chin-Loy first got involved in the music business by working for his cousin Leslie Kong at his Beverely's record shop in the early 60s.  In 1969 he, in collaboration with his brother Lloyd, opened the Aquarius Record Store in Half Way Tree and quickly transitioned into producing a string of instrumental tracks such as "African Zulu," "Reggae In The Fields" and "Invasion."  His early recordings featured Lloyd Charmers and the Hippy Boys as well as the Barrett Brothers, undoubtedly the hardest working siblings in early reggae, and I think it would be safe in assuming that the Aquarius Soul Band, the name credited on the record, are actually some variation of the aforementioned personnel working under Chin-Loy's assigned name.   And now that we've got the band covered, let's move on to today's track.

The next track up in the 2015 Spooktacular is a an early-reggae instrumental by the Aquarius Soul Band called, "Duppy Dance" and it comes from a 1971 7" on UK based Punch Records label.  This is in fact the b-side to Herman's "To The Fields" oddly titled on this release as "Hold The Ghost."  Regardless of whatever potential miscommunication that lead to this incorrect labeling back in '71, its supernatural moniker is good enough to welcome it with open arms into the blood-curdling vault of terrifying Jamaican records tucked away in my seemingly nondescript bedroom closet.  "Duppy Dance" is pretty much a stripped down and simplified version of the much-beloved African Beat riddim minus the horns and it chugs along nicely with its occasional organ embellishment and some haunted house mayhem courtesy of yours truly.

Aquarius Soul Band - Duppy Dance - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Nine

Monday, October 12, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Eight - Mr. Brown

Bobby Bobson was part of the DC Soundclash crew for many years and was quite adept in knowing how to make the dance bubble and pop.  Currently he is teaching the youths of Baltimore to avoid the evils of Babylon and when the mood hits him in the right way, he'll occasionally update his podcast Mobtown Ska Sounds.  Check him out here - good stuff!

"Cliff and the Organizers “Mr. Brown” is credited to be recorded in 1971 released as a B-Side to the 1969 cut Jah Fender’s  “Sweet P.”   The A-side is a DJ version to Prince Buster’s “Shaking Up Orange Street.”  Both songs were recorded and released by Buster.     In Jamaica the tune was released and pressed in ’71 on Prince Buster (JA) and Fab (UK).   

Jamaica’s fascination with topics of the macabre include numerous songs about mysterious duppies.   The folklore of Mr. Brown is one stitched into the fabric of Jamaican music.    As legend claims, there was a story of a three legged coffin being guided around town by three John Crows (vultures).  The coffin and the birds were searching for the mysterious Mr. Brown.  

The symbolism of three can be traced to Obeah belief that the earthly spirit waits around the body for three days.   This track sets up the story and even includes a stop over at “Spanish Town”, which happens to be the home of the Prince Buster.

This version of Mr. Brown may not outshine Perry’s unique production and varied instrumentation of the Wailer's cut of the same name.   However, the overall groove and bridge does make this standout.  The arrangement of this tune definitely has that chunky early 70’s reggae groove.    The bigger mystery may be the musicians on the cut.

This is the only single (I could find) crediting Cliff and the Organizers.  After some initial digging the name Clifton Smith came up crediting the singer as Cliff.    Smith is known for recording a one off with the Tennors in 1968 titled “I Am Gonna Make It” on WIRL.   

To go further into this I consulted with a more well versed reggae guru.   Mark “The Kaiser” Williams did some digging and through a post on Pama revealed the Cliff connection on this track.  This singer on this track is also known to be the same one from the seminal Cliff and the Diamonds.  Their version of “Mother Benge" may be one of those tunes on everyone’s top must-have list when I win the lottery and can spend obscene amounts of money on eBay.  Some speculation online claims Cliff to possibly be Delroy Denton.   One can definitely hear similarities between these Cliffs and Delroy.    Maybe the identify of Cliff does not matter, but one can argue this song’s mysterious origin only adds to its appeal.   Maybe one day we will know where Mr. Brown or Mr. Cliff is."

Saturday, October 10, 2015

King Horror - Ruler of Creepy Reggae

As any long-time follower of my blog can attest, I have been a huge fan of King Horror and his spooky brand of music for years!  And though there is no definitive proof regarding the true identity of the man behind the shrieks, growls and shouts over the boss reggae rhythms that found their way into my horror-loving heart years ago, Halloween just wouldn't be Halloween without a little King Horror!  I have received requests on Facebook regarding putting together a mix of King Horror's "monster" hits and I am happy to oblige by putting together this mini (16 minute) Spooktacular.  If you are familiar with King Horror this compilation will feel like familiar strangling hands around your neck and if not, you are in for a welcome treat!  

Enjoy and play at loud volume... I'll never forget the shocked looks I got from people sitting beside me at a stoplight when Horror's bloodcurdling scream leading into Loch Ness Monster exploded through my cars speakers.  Try it for yourself and see!

Here's how they fall into place...

1.  Dracula Prince of Darkness - Joe 7" - 1969
2.  Loch Ness Monster - Grape 7" - 1969
3.  Ghost Hour - blank 7" - 1969
4.  Frankenstein - Nu Beat 7" - 1970
5.  The Vampire - Grape 7" - 1969
6.  The Hole - Grape 7" - 1969

ENJOY...if you dare!

Friday, October 09, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Seven - Got To Hide Dub

It's a recurring theme in horror films… a young couple basking in their postcoital bliss are set upon by a sadistic and usually supernaturally indestructible killer and whether that pointy-object wielding slayer is Jason Vorhees, Freddie Krueger or Michael Meyers, they always attempt to run and hide.  As an audience we root for them to get away and once they find a seemingly secure spot to cower and you think they will be left unscathed the music builds to a nerve-rattling crescendo and they receive their blood-soaked comeuppance… which brings us to the next track in the 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular.

Linval Thompson and either the Roots Radics or the Revolutionaries give us a tune called "Got To Hide Dub" and it comes from the album Phoenix Dub released in 2002 on the Motion Records label… and much like the Upsetter tune from a couple days ago, this release rose up from the depths of Crystal Lake to reek its unstoppable horrible vengeance on mankind!!  Well not exactly… it was a set of tapes recorded sometime in the mid-70s and early-80s that were believed to have been lost and later unearthed by Linval Thompson.  With mixing at King Tubby's Studio by either Tubby, Scientist or Prince Jammy, it's an all-around wicked release.  "Got To Hide Dub" showcases the skills of Prince Jammy behind the controls and with the trailer for the shocking double feature The Velvet Vampire and Scream Of The Demon Lover, it may make you want to run and hide!  Why neither of these films was ever nominated for an Oscar is a complete travesty!  See you on Monday!

Linval Thompson - Got To Hide Dub - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Seven

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Six - Obeahman

Sam Votsis AKA Sammy Gong is one of the founders and a frequent contributor to the illustrious DC Soundclash.  Aside from digging for vinyl he is an avid fan and collector of comic books, in fact I discovered that Sam and I are what you may call kindred spirits when it comes to horror comics and an appreciation for obscure surf guitar/Halloween music.  Sam was late hopping aboard the Distinctly Jamaican Sounds guest spot train but as I expected he came through for us with his write-up about Clint Eastwood's 7" Obeahman from 1979 on the Bucktown International label.

"A scathing indictment of the Jamaican medical system of the late ‘70s, Obeahman is a rockers track sniffing at the dancehall revolution lurking right around the corner. Deejay Clint Eastwood aka Robert Brammer tells the harrowing tale of depraved lengths he must go in order to get help for a sick friend. While Clint’s style is more chatty than that of his older brother Trinity, who was a master of the dread chanting style popularized in the roots era by Big Youth, Clint’s message is clear: Conventional healthcare is unavailable to the common man, so he takes his friend to an Obeah man, a sorcerer who utilizes magic and medicinal lore smuggled to the New World from Africa during the slave trade. 

 Mostly considered taboo, obeah can be used for good or ill. It seems Brammer and his friend have stumbled onto a less-than-savory practitioner. IN fact, his friend’s skin boils after the Obeah Man’s balm is applied to it. What horror! 

Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to his friend, whose identity remains unknown. (Does Clint refer to him as “great man?” The strain is obviously taking its toll on his diction!) However, the friend could be his future musical partner, fellow deejay General Saint. 

Teaming up on wax in 1981, the pair were bonafide stars of the rub-a-dub era, recording a number of hits that scored on the UK charts and touring internationally. So, despite a terrible experience with medicine and mysticism, it worked out OK for young Mr. Brammer."

Clint Eastwood - Obeahman - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Six

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Five - Graveyard Bully

From the dank and gloomy depths of former Upsetter keyboardist Glen Adams' vault arises the latest entry in the 2015 Spooktacular.  This one is called "Graveyard Bully" and it was recorded sometime in the early 70s and features future Wailers Carly and Family Man Barrett on drum and bass.  Glen Adams unearthed these tapes back in the early 90s, remixed them and introduced them in 1995 on the Heartbeat Records release Upsetters A Go Go.   A nice spooky slice of early reggae... at least after the embellishments.

The track features the trailer of the 1974 Amicus horror anthology film From Beyond The Grave, one of my Halloween Month favorites and starring the late great Peter Cushing as the proprietor of Temptations Ltd., an antique shop whose items come back to terrify those who knowingly cheat the shopkeeper.  It comes highly recommended by yours truly and I believe it works well with the groove laid down by Glen Adams and the Upsetters Crew!

Upsetters - Graveyard Bully - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Five

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Four - Evil Spirits

Reverend Tom Frost is a musician, a singer, a songwriter and his blog Spread The Good Word, along with his bone-chillingly superb Halloween mixes were a huge inspiration in getting me started in doing my own ten years ago.  Reverend Tom lives in Paris France and aside from his skill in compiling great mixes, he performs and records his own brand of blues, rock, country, gospel that really kicks ass.  Often compared to Tom Waits and a "young, belligerent and drunk Jerry Lee Lewis," Reverend Frost is the real deal!  He's got a new release coming out this month called "The Lame Shall Enter First," and he promises, it’s gonna be good. And groovy. And weird.  Check him out here!

"Hello, I’m Reverend Frost. The mighty John asked me, on a dark and stormy night, to write something for his annual mighty Halloween Spooktacular mix, while I was doing my bloody annual Halloween mix, and believe me, I was bloody honored. Well, a little bit of history here, The Mighty Invaders were a bloody popular reggae band on the Baltimore music scene in the bloody early eighties. They even opened for the mighty Clash. I knew the album for years, and ‘Evil Spirits’ is the kind of song that almost got me haunted by Reggae. So, - I knew you were going to ask me -, if you’re in the midst of evil spirits, the best way to get rid of them is to say "get thee hence behind me Satan", plus, chant a Psalms (a sea chanty for example, or John Zacherley’s ‘Happy Halloween’), and don’t forget to read your Bible a chapter a day, Gen 1 - Rev22 - evil spirits have a harder time getting to those who are under the teachings of the most High. But try not to be TOO high. It’s illegal. Anyway, don’t miss this Halloween Spooktacular, ‘cos it won’t miss you! Thanks John! MUWUHAHAHAHAHA!"

The Mighty Invaders - Evil Spirits - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Four

Monday, October 05, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Three - Vampire

Welcome back!  We're moving along with our first full week of Spooktacular treats and up next is a good one!  

First a little background… Black Uhuru was originally formed in the Waterhouse District of Kingston in 1972.  Original band members Garth Dennis, Don Carlos and Derrick "Duckie" Simpson were unsuccessful in breaking onto the charts and quickly disbanded; Dennis going on to join the Wailing Souls and Carlos pursuing a solo career.  In 1978, Simpson recruited Michael Rose and Sandra "Puma" Jones and with the masterful Sly & Robbie at the helm, they recorded a string of hits including "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner," "Shine Eye Gal" and "General Penitentiary."   In 1980 Black Uhuru was signed by Island Records and their album Sinsemilla, released in July of that year on Island's subsidiary label Mango, reached a world-wide audience and was met with huge acclaim.   They later went on to win the first ever reggae Grammy in 1984 for their album Anthem.  After a falling-out and the subsequent departure of Michael Rose and the sad untimely death of Puma Jones in 1990, Duckie Simpson had to shuffle the lineup once more.  And amazingly he still does so today… Black Uhuru even with its seemingly non-stop revolving door of members remains active.

The track we're gonna hear is "Vampire" and it comes from the aforementioned Mango release Sinsemilla.  Listen as Duckie, Michael Rose and Puma fight against the wretched wrath of the demonic bloodsuckers!  An epic battle of good versus evil that would leave Dr. Van Helsing breathless!  I of course added my usual Hammer film embellishment at the top because it ain't Halloween around Distinctly Jamaican Sounds unless we get to hear an educational vampire snippet!

Black Uhuru - Vampire - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Three

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktaculars of Yesteryear... Collect 'Em All!

I've had a couple requests to hear previous Jamaican Halloween Spooktaculars and now is your chance to complete your collection!  Just click on the pic and it'll take you to the archive post from last year with functional download links!  Be sure to collect 'em all!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track Two - Black Cup

Teddy "Dosdedos" Garcia is originally from Mataró Spain, he relocated to Granada and formed Los Granadians Del Espacio Exterior, soon after he moved to London and formed The Delegators. Relocating to the Washington DC a few years ago, he now divides his time teaching at a local Montessori school and managing aforementioned ska originators Roy Panton and Yvonne Harrison.  Like Glen Adams, Teddy loves the sweet sounds of the electric organ and has had the opportunity to play with Jamaican music legends Derrick Morgan, Dennis Alcapone, Dave Barker, Rico Rodriguez, Big Youth, Laurel Aitken, Carl Dawkins and many more.  

"When we talk about Jamaican music, we all know what that implies; getting into a spiral of musicians, singers, producers, labels, wives and occasionally children claiming the rights of those that are no longer.

But Glen Adams does not do things by halves.  Singer?  Yes.  Composer?  Yes, that too.  What about musician?  As well.  It would be difficult to name the big hits of Jamaican music without naming Glen Adams.

From the time of the Sound Systems, Glen Adams already got himself noticed by launching a number one hit in the dancehalls together with his sister Yvonne Harrison, another solo artist about whom we will be speaking momentarily.  That recording where Glen and Yvonne sange "Wonder Thirst" together has never been found.  It was the song through which Coxsone Dodd established relations with the siblings.  Back then, all the pressings were records made of wax which lasted only a few sessions, so that the Sound System had to buy them again.  That was the beginning of Jamaican music and the first appearance of many musicians and singers on the island.

Ken Boothe was the first singing partner with whom Glen rose to fame.  Under the name "Ken and Glen," they enjoyed great success and participated with Stranger Cole in what was the first appearance of the three together: "One, Two, Three" a catchy ska reminiscent of the island's Spanish heritage.

But there is something that many of us wonder:  when did Glen move to playing the piano and organ and away from vocals?  Whoever has had a chance to visit Jamaica knows that nothing goes as planned.  The island has its own pace and trying to fight it is like swimming against the tide, only you get tired and end up in the place where you started.  And that's how Glen, on an October afternoon in 1968, recorded over eight themes in just one afternoon which are still praised and danced to on all specialized dance floors.

Half of the musicians that were scheduled for the session that afternoon did not turn -up due to a lack of payment by the producer for another recording.  So Glen took the seat at the piano.  However when it didn't work out, he changed places with Lloyd Charmers on keys that afternoon and recorded Lester Sterling's "Bangarang" and Slim Smith's "Everybody Needs Love."  At that moment, Glen Adams fell in love with this powerful instrument and went on to record with the Hippy Boys, Slim Smith, The Reggae Boys and the great Upsetters.

We mentioned Yvonne above, Glen's sister Yvonne Harrison.  A few months ago I had the good fortune to stay with Roy Panton and Yvonne Harrison at their home in Toronto Canada where they currently live.  That night we talked at length about Glen.  They told me that when Glen was ill, he asked that they bring him a portable keyboard to the hospital so that he could play while he was recovering from the illness that eventually took him to the grave in 2010 after visiting Jamaica.

In 1977, Glen recorded "Black Cup," the instrumental theme with which we honor him today.  To the rocksteady rhythm on "Why Did You Leave Me" by the Heptones, Glen gallops with a harpsichord sound which is impossible to escape and makes one think of the dark and bloody times of the 18th century.  It could well be the soundtrack for a Victorian zombie feast.  The percussion appears like breaking bones unable to withstand such a heavy riddim.  Hopefully tonight his spirit will conquer and dominate us, converting us into slaves for life to reggae music.  AMEN."

Glen Adams - Black Cup - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track Two

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2015 - Track One - Dubbing In The Rain

Welcome back again friends for the 10th Annual  Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular!  I've got a twenty-two track helping of creepy, bone-chilling and downright scary tunes for you this month, done-up in the same style in which longtime visitors have become accustomed!  If you're new here, I bid you welcome and I hope you will enjoy what you're going to hear this October on Distinctly Spooky Jamaican Sounds!

Here's how it works… I post an individual song for each weekday during the month as well as a short or if my mind starts to wander, long-winded bit of information about the artist, the song, the theme, etc. and a custom comic book cover for each segment!  Each track will stand on its own individually but once reassembled will create a seamless mix which will have you cowering under the blankets at night and get your heart pounding during that frenzied dash up the darkened basement steps moments before some unseen evil force grabs your ankle and drags you back down.

As usual, it promises to be a hair-raisingly good time.  And to mix things up a little, I have relinquished some of the writing duties to a group of guys who have generously volunteered to take some time and share their perspective and knowledge about the track in which they selected beforehand.  I can't thank them enough for volunteering and like you, I look forward to hearing what they've got to say!  I reached out to a bunch of other reggae outlets hoping they would want to contribute with no response and in the end the people who stepped up are the ones who I consider friends!  Thanks guys!

I also want to take a moment to thank my pal Roger Wilkerson who so generously volunteered to modify existing horror comic book covers to suit our Jamaican Spooktacular needs.  Roger tends to personally favor pre-code comics from the 1950s but this year I asked if he wouldn't mind moving it up a couple decades and refurbishing covers from DC, Charlton and Marvel instead… he agreed and the results are fantastic!  Even he agreed that the late 60s - mid 70s feel of these covers really work well with the era of music that we so readily explore here.  Thanks again Roger!

So let's get this thing rolling!

We start off the 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular with a nice little dub attributed to singer, musician and producer B.B. Seaton.  The track is called "Dubbing In The Rain" and it comes from the album Gun Court Dub Volume Two, released on the Soul Beat label in 2007.  Once you hear this tune you'll probably say to yourself, "wait a minute…2007?"  I assure you, your ears aren't deceiving you.  The album was originally released in 1976 and the band actually performing this number are The Conscious Minds, a band that Seaton himself formed in 1969 with Ken Boothe, former members of the Gaylads and a whole heap of extremely talented musicians.  Mixing and engineering are capably handled by the legendary Errol Brown. 

Though not a straight up "spooky title"… hell, "Dubbing In The Rain" might be perceived by some as dubbing during an April shower or dubbing during a late summer afternoon downpour but not me… dubbing in the rain means a violent, midnight thunderstorm of Frankenstein proportions or one that happens when the world is tossing and turning in its fitful sleep and the forces of malevolence roam the night seeking warm human blood… But hey, that's just me.  Give it a listen!
B.B. Seaton - Dubbing In the Rain - 2015 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular Track One