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."

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