Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Distinctly Jamaican Sounds Has Gone 21st Century!

I had a request from a friend about making the Christmas mixes available for streaming and I have gone and done just that!  If you'd like to stay in touch with Distinctly Jamaican Sounds and have access to future mixes, when I get off my lazy ass and put some together, be sure to check out DistinctlyJASound on Mixcloud! I am in the midst of re-upping all the Christmas mixes and until I get a firm grasp on how it all works will be taking requests for any re-ups that you would like to hear again!  I hope the good people who have supported this blog over the years will enjoy my next foray into sharing the love for Jamaican music.  No longer will you have to navigate your way through some less-than-legitimate-feeling sharing site to download the music, you can listen to it directly through your phone, tablet, laptop, etc. by using the free Mixcloud App.  Give it a try and let me know what you think about this "new direction."

Sunday, December 04, 2016

By Request... The Distinctly Jamaican Sounds' 2006 Jamaican Christmas Mix

Seasons Greetings!  Had some requests for re-ups of the Jamaican Christmas Mixes and I am always happy to oblige!  Here's is the 2006 edition...

1. Carlene Davis – Santa Claus (Do You Ever Come To The Ghetto)
2. King Stitt – Christmas Tree
3. Johnny Osbourne – Christmas Stylee
4. The Joe Gibbs Family – We Three Kings
5. Gregory Isaacs – Christmas Behind The Bars
6. Yellowman – Where Is Santa Claus?
7. Eek A Mouse – Christmas A Come
8. Cocoa Tea - Christmas Is Coming
9. The Aggrovators – Santa Claus Dub
10. Ras Pidow – Winter Storm
11. The Wailers – White Christmas
12. Toots & The Maytals – Christmas Feeling Ska
13. Alton Ellis & The Lipsticks – Merry Merry Christmas
14. Jacob Miller – On The Twelve Days Of Ismas
15. Trinity – Video Christmas
16. Eek A Mouse – The Night Before Christmas
17. Michael Palmer – Happy Merry Christmas
18. The Granville Williams Orchestra – Santa Claus Is Ska-Ing To Town
19. Tiger – Tiger Claus
20. Freddie McGregor – O Come Let Us Adore Him
21. Dillinger – Hi Fashion Christmas
22. Jacob Miller – Deck The Halls
23. Trinity – All I Want For Christmas
24. The Ethiopians – Ding Dong Bell
25. Rico And His Boys – Silent Night

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Complete 2016 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular!

It has been a long and spooky month and as the big day arrives it is time to provide you with one last treat before October ends and the doldrums of early winter begin to set-in.  Like last year, I want to take a moment and thank all the good guys who contributed to this years Spooktacular but writing-up a good number of the tracks.  So thanks goes out to Reverend Tom Frost, Toby Gohn, Mark Williams, Nick Jones, Nate Taiapa, Gordy Robertson, Ethan Yukna, Teddy Dosdedos Garcia, Bobby Bobson and Sam Votsis!  You guys are awesome!  So without further ado... here it is.  The Complete 2016 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular!  Enjoy!

1.  King Tubby - The Dark Destroyer Dub
2.  Derrick Morgan - You've Got To Beware
3.  Linval Thompson - Blood Gonna Run
4.  The Aquarians - Medusa Parts 1&2
5.  Stone Brothers - Duppy Story
6.  The Upsetters - Taste Of Killing
7.  Bunny Lee's All Stars - Devil's Playground
8.  Willie Francis - I Am Not Afraid
9.  Dillinger - Obeah Bath
10.  Ranking Joe - Burial
11.  Cornell Campbell - Speak No Evil
12.  Lord Sassafrass - Yorkshire Ripper
13.  Ernest Ranglin & The Moodies Allstars - Dark Shadows
14.  Bibby & The Astronauts - Wicked Men
15.  Burning Spear - The Ghost
16.  Living Truth - Afraid
17.  Jackie Mittoo - Dark Of The Moon
18.  The Frightnrs - Zombieland
19.  10 Ft. Ganja Plant - Death Waiver
20.  Augustus Pablo - Satan Side Version
21.  Eric Donaldson - Duppy Know Who Fi Frighten 

The 52nd And Final Weekly Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

Here it is folks!  The 52nd and final weekly mix for your uninterrupted listening pleasure!  It has been fun putting these together and I hope you enjoyed listening to them over the last year!  I hope you collected them all!  Take care my friends, stay in touch and I'll see you all over on Facebook.

1.  Roy Richards - Death Rides A Horse
2.  King Horror - Loch Ness Monster
3.  Carl Bryan - Walking The Dead
4.  Charles Hannah & The Graduates - Dark Shadows
5.  Lloyd Charmers - Bone Yard Skank
6.  Murphy Romeo - Ghost Affair
7.  Lloyd & Devon - Wolf Out Deh
8.  Leo Graham - Voodooism
9.  The Melodians - Last Train To Ecstasy  

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Twenty One - Duppy Know Who Fi Frighten

First and foremost, Happy Halloween!  The month of October as usual has been extremely busy but like always a lot of fun also!  I have thoroughly enjoyed putting together these Spooktacular for the past eleven years from digging for and selecting the tunes to sitting at the computer with Garageband for countless hours dropping thunderclaps, werewolf howls or Me Tie Doughty Walker's into the mix at the perfect moments.  It is a very gratifying experience!

We're wrapping it up with a nice one from Eric Donaldson called "Duppy Know Who Fi Frighten" from his 2005 album 100% Love on the Roots & Culture label.  The song is based on the Jamaican expression which means that a ghost (or a person) with evil intentions will only attack those who they're confident they can subdue or hurt.  So basically, Donaldson is proclaiming that he's not easy prey and that the duppies (or those with ill will) need to be wary of haunting him; it's essentially a song of defiance!  I of course had to "boo things up" a bit with a plethora of ghostly sounds, whispers, evil laughter, etc. and I think it wraps up the entire mix in a cobweb encrusted, blood and grave dirt soiled bow; fashioned from a mummy's wrapping of course.  

This year, like always, I will be in charge of the trick or treating duties tonight.  My kids, especially my son, are both at the age where I fear that they will lose their interest in Halloween and that they're too old to be dressing up in costumes but so far they have not show any sign of slowing down.  This year my son is going as the classic 70s Super Friends era Aquaman and my daughter is going as the white-robed Princess Leia from the original Star Wars and I of course joyfully took it upon myself to put them together.  I wouldn't miss trick or treating with my kids for the world!  So to everyone out there I say have a safe and happy Halloween and to those parents on the prowl tonight with their little ghosts and goblins may the weather be warm, your shoes be comfortable and the candy mountain at the end of the night be plentiful... with zero mini-bags of nasty-ass candy corn taking away prime space from a fun-sized Snickers!


Day 366 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Melodians - Last Train To Ecstasy

We are at the end or a very long journey and though I wanted to commemorate Halloween with the last track I also wanted to put the wraps on this project appropriately.  Sure, I could have gone another day but God knows I'm about done with doing this for a while and I figured I would go with a song that has always been to me that perfect closer.  From 1967, The Melodians give us a sweet rocksteady side called "Last Train To Ecstasy" originally released on Treasure Isle.  And as you board that train I bid you all a fond farewell... Distinctly Jamaican Sounds in its Blogger capacity is now officially closed.  It has been a great ride.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Day 365 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Leo Graham - Voodooism

Holy shit!  I can't believe I'm just one track away from having completed this yearlong Jamaican Music Challenge, when I first started doing this thing on November 1st of 2015 I had doubts at whether I could keep it up.  At first I figured I'd give it a month and if it was getting to be too much trouble and interfering with everyday life I'd pull the plug but... here we are at track 365 and because of the leap year, just one last track from the final stop.  But anyway let's get to today's tune, this one is called "Voodooism" by Leo Graham, produced by Lee Perry and originally released on the Black Art label as a single in 1974, it came to my ear's attention in 1996 on the Pressure Sounds album of the same name.  Featured as the last track on the very first Spooktacular in 2006, I have always loved this one!


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Day 364 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Lloyd & Devon - Wolf Out Deh

Lloyd & Devon, Lloyd Robinson & Devon Russell, who had previously recorded as part of the vocal group The Tartans in the late 60's, had a couple hit songs in the early reggae era before going on to record and release "Wolf Out Deh" for Lee "Scratch" Perry in 1977.  It was originally released as a 7" on the Black Art label.  While the Wolf in the track is more of a metaphor for those who are looking to do harm to the innocent, but with only two days to go until Halloween, it's easy to imagine the werewolf variety instead.  "Wolf Out Deh" was originally featured here in the 2013 Spooktacular.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Twenty - Satan Side Version

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 exotica, surf guitar and 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 on Augustus Pablo's "Satan Side Version."  Thanks again Sam!


"Augustus Pablo is one of the first names you discover when you start digging into Jamaican music. Pablo (b. Horace Swaby, 1954-1999), known in no small part for his exotic and plaintive melodica riffs, could also go big, as evidenced here. He lays a blanket over this excellent Keith Hudson track, then proceeds to take a sledgehammer to it all. Keith Hudson, by the way, might need a little introduction: He was a producer responsible for some of the finest reggae tracks in the first half of the 1970s. Often described as “eccentric,” Hudson certainly had a sharp point of view — and got some great work out out of Jamaica’s top talent at the time. Singers like Ken Boothe and Horace Andy, as well as DJs like Dennis Alcapone and U Roy, cut major and minor masterpieces for Hudson, who also released quality instrumentals and dubs. Check out “The Hudson Affair” collection and his “Pick a Dub” LP."

Day 363 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Murphy Romeo - Ghost Affair

Quoting from the 2009 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular... "This one is by an artist named Murphy Romeo and the song is called "Ghost Affair" and comes off a 1975 7" single on the World Wide label and tells the tale of a woman being haunted by a ghost and the trouble that ensues after she hires an Obeah man to rid her home of the spirit... it would probably be correct to say that the Obeah man is the one who meets the most trouble."  A real nice duppy tune, perfect for your pre-Halloween listening pleasure!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Nineteen - Death Waiver

Without further ado... go to it Bobby! 

"10 Ft Ganja Plant started out as an offshoot of Boston Massachusetts’ John Brown’s Body.  The group was formulated from J.B.B.’s engineer Craig Welsch. Welsch has worked with bands such as the Aggrolites, Destroy Babylon, and Giant Guerrilla Dub Squad; all heavy hitters in the modern reggae game. Welsch started off T.F.G.P. as a studio group shrouded in mystery to pay tribute to the golden era of reggae from the 1970’s which was one of the most productive periods of Jamaican music as tunes were flowing from the radio dial. Producers evolved singers and vocal groups into legends at Studio 1, Channel One, and Black Ark.

10 Foot Ganja Plant featuring this single on their second volume of funky reggae groove instrumentals called Deadly Shots, released in 2012.  Roger Rivas from the Aggrolites is behind the organ and grounds this tune in particular, doing his best Jackie Mittoo. “Death Waiver” and most of the album is a tribute to 70’s Kung Fu movies.  Keeping with the horror theme one can picture a crimson masked grim reaper skeleton slipping a piece of paper to an unsuspecting victim."

Day 362 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Lloyd Charmers - Bone Yard Skank

While today's track has really little to do with "Bone Yards" aside from the ghostly introduction and its title, "Bone Yard Skank" is actually Lloyd Charmers' instrumental version of his Marvin Gaye "Let's Get It On" cover.  And while it settles into a smooth groove and leaves the spookiness behind, it is a welcome addition to the spooky library.  Originally released in 1974 on the Harry J label and featured in the 2009 Spooktacular, I've always "dug" this one... if you'll pardon the pun.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Eighteen - Zombieland

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 is one of the three selectas, sound-men, contributors and promoters along with Nick "Napthali Sound" Jones and my own Suburban Hi-Fi, for Reggae Spin Cycle held each month at Waverly Brewing Company here in Baltimore.  And because Bobby is such a "team player" he decided he would write-up two consecutive tracks in the 2016 Spooktacular, so Bobby... the blog is yours!  Thanks again man!

"Use of the word Zombie or zombies goes as far back as the 8th century.  The origin of the word itself many believe comes from the word “nzambi”, which in Kongo means “spirit of a dead person.”  The zombie trope also develops from both Louisiana Creole and Haitian Creole.  Zombie represents a person who died and was brought back to life without speech or free will.  Voodoo folklore contends that Voodoo priests were concerned with the study and application of black magic.  They possessed the ability to resurrect the deceased from an oral powder.  Some people even theorize that the Mayan civilization was destroyed by zombies.  Bones found in and around Mayan cities show signs of being violently ripped from their sockets, and chewed to bits on the spot.

These zombie stories from Haitan voodoo were sensationalized in 1929 in George Seabrook’s The Magic Island.  Hollywood quickly responded with a few movies around the voodoo creature, the Zombie.  Starting in 1932 with White Zombie this entry starred Bela Lugosi as voodoo priest “Murder” Legendre.  The 1932 film’s sequel was the inferior, slow-moving Revolt of the Zombies (1936), about a Cambodian sorcerer-priest with a secret formula to create hypnotized zombies. George Romero revolutionized the concept of zombies in the 1968, Night of the Living Dead. 2010 saw the TV adaptation of the Walking Dead.  Mostly what we know about zombies is a myth but some of it is based in fact.

In Jamaican music from the 50’s early Calypso and Mento make reference to these voodoo beings where the dead comes alive due to black magic (“Zombie Jamboree”). The zombie has been a timeless subject of Jamaican witch doctor culture (“Obeah”) that at times makes use of voodoo and black magic (Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry).

“Zombieland” showcases Brooklyn’s finest vintage reggae group the Frightnrs.  The band latest release on Daptone Records is charting on the Reggae Billboard charts. The album is a posthumous release for their lead singer Dan Klein who passed away months ago. He was diagnosed with a terminal disease but continued recording music while his health was quickly deteriorating.   The band was building up contemporary and mainstream success with their releases on Daptone.   Much can be said about how Dan Klein spent the final months of his life recording the band’s latest album.   For more information about Klein and the band click here.

This track was on their self-titled EP released June 2012. The Frghtnrs’ “Zombieland” starts off Klein pleading for people to think for themselves and use their senses. It opens with a skinhead reggae breakdown and transitions into sweet Studio 1-esque harmonies.  Klein, in almost a trance-like state, chants his lyrics.  The deep groove from the rhythm section and vintage organ sounds like these musicians are from “the Land of Wood and Water” not a sweaty basement in Brooklyn.  Victor Axelrod recorded the track with Agent Jay mixing, mastering, and engineered the track."

Day 361 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Charles Hannah & The Graduates - Dark Shadows

This one has always been one of my favorite Halloween appropriate reggae tunes... a little number by Charles Hanna & The Graduates which pays tribute to Barnabas Collins and Dark Shadows years before Lone Ranger took up the subject matter.  The tune is called "Dark Shadows" and is in fact a reggae remake of the theme song that was originally done by the Robert Cobert Orchestra.  This was recorded some time in the early 70s and released on the Graduates label.  Dig it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thanks For 11 Great Years!

Yes, all good things must come to an end and after much consideration and reflection I have decided the time has come to end the Distinctly Jamaican Sounds blog.  No, I'm not giving up on my love of reggae music or my desire to share this music with those who want to listen but I believe it's time to shutter the blog here on Blogger.  

As with any "specialized" music I have learned a hard lesson the last eleven years that no matter how hard you try to promote and expose this beloved music to the masses, it will never develop into anything more than what seems like broadcasting to an empty room.  I had contemplated what the intention was with Distinctly Jamaican Sounds earlier this month with the end in sight for the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge and I decided that I have done all that I can do because it's obvious these efforts I have made to keep the blog informative and interesting have fallen on deaf ears.  Over the course of 365 days, actually 366 because of the leap year, I have gotten exactly six comments.  The 2016 Spooktacular elicited three.  It's obvious no one is checking out the blog anymore and instead of torturing myself wondering why no one is commenting or responding to anything I post, I have decided to just let it go.  

If you want to stay in contact with Distinctly Jamaican Sounds you can always look us up on Facebook, Twitter or even Youtube.  Maybe its a reflection of the societal changes in "social media" and the days of a reggae music blog which takes time and space to expand upon a subject that only a select group actually understands, appreciates or cares about is a thing of the past.   

I will finish off the 2016 Spooktacular and this little project I started last November before I convert my love of Jamaican music to a different platform and an easier, less-labor intensive smaller scale.  And yes I will leave the blog as-is for anyone that may happen across one of my posts months or perhaps even years from now and learn something they had been wondering about a genre, a song, an artist, a producer, a musician, a culture and a people that I have loved and still love with all my heart. 

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Seventeen - Dark Of The Moon

I have said and written much about the great Jackie Mittoo over the years and have in fact included a bunch of his songs in Spooktaculars over the years, this year is no different.  This one is called "Dark Of The Moon" featuring Jackie and the Sound Dimension and it comes from a 1970 7" on the Bamboo label.  And when Jackie hits the Hammond, you are always guaranteed of a top notch performance... and even though the upbeat rhythm would lull you into believing that everything is fine, the organ on this one definitely has the feel of something hiding in the shadows.  Maybe it's just me but with instrumental music I tend to get a mood and a vibe dependent on the title and this one obviously feels at home in our distinguished anthology of spooky tunes.  

I have embellished this one with audio I have blatantly stolen from Gayle House's "The Haunting" record.  If you are anywhere near my age and had a thing for comic books as a kid you'll remember the ad with the captivating headline of "Invite your friends over for a... Haunting" and the cloaked, fanged monster with the claws beckoning you to give it a try.  Of course at the time who had $1.00 to throw into the mail to send away for a record?  Sure I was curious about what was on the record, half expecting the second you dropped the needle the room would go dark and be alive with swirling malevolent spirits much like when the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  As a kid, I figured it was best not to unleash a nightmarish horde into the family's living room so I quickly tried to forget the ad which was harder than I hoped considering it seemed to have inundated every comic book at the time.  Years later the miracle of the internet allowed me to finally hear "The Haunting" and it is so awfully campy and cheesy it quickly became a Halloween favorite right up there with Mi Tie Doughty Walker.  I have to admit, in the back of my mind I was happy that I was finally able to give it a listen without the paranormal catastrophe my 10-year-old mind had envisioned.  And just like the overly-dramatic narrator on side A who just so happened to have "come from the world of the unliving" to warn us of the Blood Banshee (whatever the hell that is), I need to let you know... "It is too late!  The banshee is already here!  You are doomed!  Doomed!"

But we're not done... 

 Teddy "Dosdedos" Garcia is originally from MatarĂ³ 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.  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.  So who better than to speak about this one by the great Jackie Mittoo?  Take it away Teddy!

"Just after the first man landed on the moon and we thus concluded one of the most ambitious episodes in the history of mankind, all kinds of questions related to the universe and its exploration started to emerge.  While NASA, NKA and CNSA were seeking ways to reach one of the most mysterious corners of our nearest satellite, in little studios on earth musicians and singers wondered and imagined what would be the sounds of the hidden side of the moon.  No space agency dared to venture any of its men to the cold and dark side of the moon.  Communications were lost, satellite signals could not reach and the legend grew.  There were debates on lunar constructions and extraterrestrial life, all the way to conspiracy theories about intelligent life settled on that side of the moon which our governments allegedly didn't want to expose.  At the same time, both in Jamaica and the other nations, the sounds were clear, the signs powerful and engineers well prepared for this journey to space and into the unknown, a cold war between nations to conquer the far side of the moon.

Pink Floyd tried it, perhaps the ultimate reference on such an undertaking.  But their dark and fearful interpretation did not intimidate the Jamaicans.  The crew was Sound Dimension, commander in charge of the ship was Jackie Mittoo, and whose captain, Clement Dodd, used the base path from the Maytals' "Monkey Man" and the Pioneers "Mama Look Deh" as a gateway to that lunar hemisphere.

As always, the particular vision of the Jamaicans on those new challenges made them interpret things in a more positive way.  In this interstellar journey, we can see how Jackie leads his men in an ambitious and determined manner, but with positivity and joy.  The Sound Dimension landed on the far side of the moon in 1970.  Since then, many other have tried without obtaining the positive results that Jackie Mittoo did with Sound Dimension."


Day 360 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Carl Bryan - Waking The Dead

We're only five tracks away from wrapping up this yearlong challenge and it's another one featured in a past Spooktacular... this one is called "Waking The Dead" by saxophonist Carl Bryan and it was originally recorded for Harry Mudie and released on his Moodisc label in 1969.  The copy I have is on the UK Gas label and is incorrectly identified as "Walking The Dead."


Monday, October 24, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Sixteen - Afraid

The late singer Leroy Ridgway AKA Living Truth got his start singing in the church choir at an early age.  When he turned 16, Ridgway entered a talent contest in May Pen Jamaica and placed third with a song called "Red Sun" that he wrote himself.  Afterward, he auditioned for Bunny Lee and recorded the track "Dreadlocks Man" which achieved local chart success and earned him additional studio time but soon after Living Truth emigrated to the United States where he continued his career in New York.  Between 1977 and 1980, Living Truth entered and won a few talent contests with songs like "Write It Down," "Come One Come All" and "Ring The Freedom Bell."  Sadly, Ridgway passed away just last year at the age of 70 after a brief illness.  He may not have had the name recognition and commercial success of bigger named reggae artists but Living Truth recorded some great songs.  

Case in point... today's sixteenth track in the 2016 Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular, called "Afraid."  Released in 1979 as a 7" on the Lyric & Sound label, this is a sweet tune!  With some nice horn riffs and some sweet backing vocals, Living Truth heeds a warning to all evildoer who are afraid of what will happen when the time comes that they meet their maker.  He also urges anyone listening to do good and help your fellow man which is something the world always needs and appreciates.

Day 359 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - King Horror - Loch Ness Monster

What can I say about King Horror that I haven't already said over the last eleven years?  A Calypsonian who went by the name Baldhead Growler goes into the studio to shriek, scream and bellow horror-themed lyrics over early reggae tunes and becomes a mysterious figure shrouded in mystery ever since.  His tunes have become holy grails for me because no one before or since has taken horror and reggae and blended them together so brilliantly!  Take for instance today's track "Loch Ness Monster" recorded in 1969, produced by Laurel Aitken and released on the Grape label... it is a Halloween masterpiece regardless of genre!  In fact, I was amazed to find King Horror's "Loch Ness Monster" on a various artists compilation album alongside mostly surf and garage bands called Wavy Gravy - Four Hairy Policemen on the UK Beware label, which very much in a Spooktacular style puts a bunch of wacky audio clips in between tracks to make for some fun listening.  So let's get to it!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Day 358 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Roy Richards - Death Rides A Horse

"Death Rides A Horse" by Roy Richards may be my number one early reggae instrumental.  Originally recorded at Beverley's and released on the Crab label in the UK in 1969, most people recognize this as the backing track for Derrick Morgan's cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" but Roy Richards and his harmonica take the song in a completely different direction.  The melody is absolutely infectious and most of the time it gets stuck in my head for hours after spinning this one.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The 51st Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

A full week's worth of spooky ska is what you'll get when you download and enjoy the 51st Week Mix... here's what you're gonna hear!

1.  Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - Frankenstein
2.  Prince Buster - Hard Man Fi Dead
3.  The Wailers - Jumbie Jamboree
4.  Danny Hill - Annie Palmer
5.  Clancy Eccles - Sammy No Dead
6.  Justin Hinds & The Dominoes - Satan
7.  Desmond Dekker - Dracula

Day 357 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Desmond Dekker - Dracula

Here is another spooky ska side... this one is called "Dracula" by Desmond Dekker and it was recorded at Beverly's in 1964 and released on the Black Swan label.  I went back to steal some of what I wrote about this track on a previous Spooktacular when I made the shocking discovery that I hadn't ever used this one!!  Oh well, I guess it can add it to the 2017 playlist right now.  And while this has little to do with the actual Transylvanian vampire, Dekker's tale of falling in love with a girl who can best be compared to that of the monstrous bloodsucker, is a lot of fun and of course... seasonally appropriate.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Fifteen - The Ghost

Ethan Yukna is a big fan of reggae music and someone that I have known for years, even though we didn't realize that we actually knew each other in a roundabout way in what seems like a lifetime ago.  Ethan and his wife Jenn, have been the biggest supporters of Reggae Spin Cycle, our monthly deejay gigs at Waverly Brewing Company here in Baltimore, and when I put out a call for volunteers who would be willing to take a turn at guest blogging for the 2016 Spooktacular, I definitely wanted him to be included.  It took a bit of convincing but thankfully he agreed.  Ethan may be a fan of reggae and a varied array of musical genres but above all he is an enviably amazing Superdad!  It's obvious his sons are his very soul and in my life I have never met two happier boys!  Thanks again Ethan... see it wasn't so bad was it?

"In the mid-1970s Winston Rodney, aka Burning Spear, was one of the most outspoken champions of Marcus Garvey's Pan-Africanism vision, and Garvey is even regarded by some Rastafarian followers as a prophet. "Marcus Garvey," the title track from Burning Spear's third album (Marcus Garvey, 1975), implores people to heed Garvey's prophecies and lessons and try to live a good life. (It's interesting to note that "The Burning Spear" was a Kenyan military award and was the original the name of Rodney's group. In late 1976, Rodney split from the group and started using the name Burning Spear for himself alone) This was the first album the group recorded for Island Records and it was produced by Lawrence Lindo, aka Jack Ruby. Ruby was regarded as one of the best roots reggae producers of the 1970s, and he was known for his catchy, punctuating horn arrangements. The backing musicians, whom Ruby named the "Black Disciples," had been assembled from the Soul Syndicate and the Wailers. 

The album Garvey's Ghost was released some 3 months later and each track is a dub version of its correspondent song from the album Marcus Garvey. Even in its remixed form, which somewhat lightened Jack Ruby's deeply dread production, the riddim laid down by the Black Disciples on this album remains as fat as a trick-or-treaters bulging candy sack. Some believe that "dub" could derive from "duppy" a Jamaican patois word for ghost; appropriately enough, today's track, "The Ghost" is the dub version of the song "Marcus Garvey." But instead of dubbing straight from the track as most dub songs were made, "The Ghost" was instead replayed and made to design itself to be the official dub of the tune. The riddim remains, of course, but some of the more lively, even jazzy, horn melodies are replaced with more dark and ominous organ riffs redolent of a night spent in a Jamaican graveyard with Garvey's ghost and some of his duppy followers."

Day 356 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Justin Hinds & The Dominoes - Satan

Let's close out the work week with one more creepy track...well, this one is more creepy in title than it is in content because it's a criticism of the military than it is about the goat-legged, Prince of Darkness.  Obviously it's called "Satan" and its by Justin Hinds & The Dominoes, recorded in 1965 at Treasure Isle and released on their namesake label in Jamaica and on Island records in the U.K., and its yet another one of the "good ones!"  But of course, I've always been a bit partial to anything Duke Reid.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

RIP Bobby Ellis (1932-2016)

In the fourth grade my parents coerced me into playing the trumpet in the elementary school band.  I really wanted to play the drums and was encouraged by my Dad who had spent a good part of his youth providing the beat for a couple cover bands on his Ludwig jazz set he got for a steal at a pawn shop in 1963, my Mom wasn't too sure.  She suggested the saxophone or the clarinet but after doing some investigating by digging into the encyclopedia, I decided on the trumpet.  So to make a long story short, I absolutely hated it.  So much so that at that young age I realized that I was not a musician; practicing was torture, my lips hurt, I couldn't for the life of me bother to learn the notes and the valve positions and I hated lugging it around back and forth on the school bus.  The final straw, and the end to my short-lived career as a trumpeter came when November rolled around and my band teacher asked that I not participate in the Christmas concert and even sent a note home to guarantee that I wouldn't attend.  Most kids back then would have taken that as an opportunity to really practice and show that "goddamn teacher" a thing or two but I took the easy way out... I quit.  Besides, I didn't want to play the stupid trumpet anyway!  But, little did I know at the time that this bad experience with the trumpet would make me appreciate the instrument and those who play it so much more.  I love Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Prima, Nat Adderley and most of all, I love Bobby Ellis.

Ellis attended Alpha Boys School playing both trumpet and the flugelhorn.  The school's band played classical, waltzes and marches and it was there that Bobby learned his timing, harmony and form.  Afterwards he became the horn arranger for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One before playing on countless releases for a plethora of producers, labels and releases.  He even played with Burning Spear's Burning Band and toured with them worldwide for twelve years.  In 2014 Bobby Ellis received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government for his contribution to Jamaica's music.  I had heard rumors earlier in the week that Bobby Ellis had died and it was then that I started picking out some of my favorites and putting together a tribute mix.  Sadly, the news was confirmed this morning by the Jamaica Observer in this short obituary

Here is what I have put together in this mix...

1.  Stormy Weather w/The Crystalites
2.  Psalms 9 To Keep In Mind w/Tommy McCook
3.  Dollar A Head w/The Crystalites
4.  Shank I Shek
5.  The Emperor w/The Crystalites
6.  Determination Skank w/Don Drummond Jr. and Glen Brown
7.  Weather Report w/Deadly Headly
8.  Step Softly w/The Crystalites
9.  Green Mango w/Tommy McCook
10.  James Ray
11.  Kojak w/Tommy McCook
12.  Militant Salute w/The Professionals
13.  Ska Baby w/The Upsetters
14.  Glorious Lion w/Tommy McCook
15.  Bad Cow Skank w/Tommy McCook

Rest in peace Bobby Ellis.  Your contributions to music and the enjoyment you have provided myself and countless others is immeasurable.  You will not be forgotten.

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Fourteen - Wicked Men

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, R&B and even Gospel!  Gordy has an extensive knowledge of damn good music and a completely enviable record collection.  You can catch him on TGM Radio and he updates his DJ GreedyG's Foundation Selections Podcast - that you can check it out here - often enough to keep you rockin' and swing for days at a time!  I am forever indebted to Gordy for hooking me up with an MP3 of the JJ All Stars' "Adams Family" tune a couple years back... thanks again man!

"Wicked Men - Winston & Bibby aka The Astronauts. This came on a JA Astronaut label and Bluebeat in the UK, it's BB Seaton and Delano Stewart as a duo, pre-Gaylads era. They pour scorn upon all wicked evil doers over a driving ska beat, especially the police. Also one of the first instances in Jamaican music where the police are referred to as "babylon."

Day 355 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Clancy Eccles - Sammy No Dead

It's the 355th track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge and I'm throwin' down yet another spooky ska number for ya!  This one is by Clancy Eccles was originally recorded and released on the Ska Beat label in 1965 and it's called "Sammy No Dead."  Based on the Jamaican sing-along folk song "Sammy Dead" or sometimes referred to as "Sammy Dead Oh," it was first recorded during the mento era and rehashed a few times when ska took over.  I have to admit that my favorite ska version was done by Eric "Monty" Morris with backing by Byron Lee & The Dragonaires but I figured I'd mix it up since I have never featured Eccles' take in a Spooktacular before.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Thirteen - Dark Shadows

Nate Taiapa AKA Nate Ness Monster, born and raised in Hamilton New Zealand, is the man behind GO FEET! Radio, a excellent weekly program on FreeFM  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 Go Feet Radio! 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!

"This track reminds me of an experience with Dark Shadows that scared the heck out of me back in 1987. I was living in a hostel for trade trainees, I was learning the trade of carpentry at Te Puna O Te Ora in Frankton, Hamilton, New Zealand while enrolled at Waikato Polytechnic under the Maori Affairs trade training scheme. It was a Thursday night, we got paid that day and I had been to Frankton for a weekly treat of fish and chips at Greasy Joe’s. Upon returning to my room I decided to retire to bed. Life for me had taken a turn for me, in a good direction, but it seemed at times that there was a dark force, a power that was trying to draw me back to ‘the dark side’ so to speak. 

I remember this night feeling a little uneasy about something, I was feeling somewhat anxious, and I can’t quite remember what was on my mind. I eventually drifted off to sleep, or so I thought. I remember opening my eyes as if something startled me. I only saw complete darkness. I blinked my eyes to see if there was any light in the room, at first it remained black, and then I started to make out the layout of my room. The foot of my bed was by the entrance door to our two bed room, it was a small room. I remember trying to move but couldn’t. OK, now this starts getting freaky from here. I really wanted to move but couldn’t and I remember feeling desperate to move. Inside I was trying to yell out ‘Help!’ but my mouth wouldn’t work. My mind could work but my body couldn’t. I felt myself getting really hot, I knew I was sweating. Then I tried to raise my right hand up but it wouldn’t move, it was like something heavy was weighing it down. I then felt a forceful pressure in the centre of my right hand and I tried to move my head to look at it, and of course my head didn’t turn but the pressure in the centre of my right hand became really intense. At this point I was the most afraid I can ever remember being. I felt overcome by a power that seemed stronger than me. With everything I had within me – from strength, sound, brain power, spirit, fear, desperation, everything – I forced my right hand up as I had remembered being taught and tried with everything I could to call out to Jesus to help me. 

When I tried to mouth words it felt like I had just been to the dentist, like my mouth was all numb from the effects of a local. I tried, in the name of Jesus Christ, to cast out what was over powering me but it seemed pointless, nothing was changing, this power had me bound. Then, like a life buoy being thrown out to someone about to drown in the ocean, the thought came to my mind to pray because I still had control over my mind despite having no control over my physical body. So in my mind I cried out to Jesus to help me and to cast the devils out of my room. At that moment, I distinctly remember the pressure on my hand ceasing and my hand slumping in to the bed with the rest of my body and it was as if the dark power that was over me left out through my hand and it seemed to go down the side of my bed to the base of my bed. I then remember being able to move and at that same moment I saw the figure of a man, in the form of a dark shadow but I couldn’t make out any distinguishing features like hair, facial features etc, it was happening very quickly and I was still somewhat stunned from my paralysis. The figure was standing at the base of my bed facing away from me and it slowly moved away from me and it seemed to disappear through the door. I now had all my senses returned to me but I was so scared I lay still staring at the door hoping to heck that whatever just left wasn’t going to come back. 

I needed light. Now! But that meant I had to get out of bed to switch the light on. Aw heck! So with all the courage I had left, and with a prayer in my heart, I got out of bed and walked quickly towards the light switch. I couldn’t get to that switch fast enough. I’m not even sure I was breathing. It was like I had been under water for the longest time and now I needed to take a breath, NOW! I switched on the light in the room and honestly, it was so amazing, so comforting. I still felt scared in the light but it was like a huge warm blanket had been placed on my shoulders and it felt like it was going to be alright. My story doesn’t end there but that’s all I’m going to share at this point. I don’t know what Ernest Ranglin and Harry Mudie’s All Stars had in mind when they recorded this massive track, ‘Dark Shadows’, but as for me, I don’t ever want to ever be in the presence of that Dark Shadow I experienced back in 1987. From here on I want to be in the light."

Day 354 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Danny Hill - Annie Palmer

The story of Annie Palmer, the White Witch of Rose Hall, has been discussed here a multitude of times and no one did a better retelling of this legendary tale than Danny Hill.  Now Gloucester "Danny" Hill was no folklorist or orator who gathered people around a blazing bonfire to tell the story while listeners sat bug-eyed and quivering in rapt attention, he was a musician.  A self taught musician who started playing in a mento band in the 1950s before recording "Annie Palmer" in all its exuberant ska glory for producer Neville Foo Loy in 1964.  I love this one!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Twelve - Yorkshire Ripper

In all my years doing the Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular and this blog in general, I never had such a hard time doing a write-up for one song.  "Yorkshire Ripper" by deejay Lord Sassafrass is based on the very real and very vile crimes committed by serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, who was dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper by the media in 1981, this one is straight-up vulgar.  Sutcliffe was convicted of murdering thirteen women and attempting to murder seven others and Sassa takes it to a ridiculous level.  Believe me, I am well aware of the history of "slack" or offensive lyrics and subject matters that have been on the underbelly of Jamaican music since "Big Bamboo" and "Night Food" back in the mento era all the way though the embarrassingly sexually explicit and nauseatingly gory "gangsta" dancehall of latter years and I avoid featuring them on this blog.  So you may be asking yourself, then why bother going there with this one?  And to be honest with you, if it wasn't a reggae song about a serial killer which obviously fits with the theme I wouldn't have bothered.  So instead of going into detail about the lyrics contained within "Yorkshire Ripper" I'll just let you hear them and interpret them for yourself.  This one comes from Lord Sassafrass' 1982 album Horse Man Connection with the Aggrovators doing the backing,  Bunny Lee doing the producing and Prince Jammy doing the mixing and released on the Starlight label.  And I am going to leave it at that.  Listener discretion is advised.

Day 353 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Wailers - Jumbie Jamboree

The Wailers recorded "Jumbie Jamboree" for Coxsone Dodd and had it released on Studio One in 1965.  Based on the classic "Zombie Jamboree" AKA "Back To Back" which has been featured on multiple Spooktaculars over the years in its multitude of incantations, and originally recorded by Calypsonian Winston "Lord Invader" O'Conner in 1953, this ska version by Bob, Bunny and Peter (on lead vocals I might add) is one of the best.  


Monday, October 17, 2016

Jamaican Halloween Spooktacular 2016 - Track Eleven - Speak No Evil

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, great dad and a devout member of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Nick is also a highly talented illustrator and DJ for his Napthali Sound and as you have probably heard me mention once before, one of the key contributors to this little monthly thing we have going on called Reggae Spin Cycle.  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've always been like a brother to me!

Artist: Cornell Campbell 
Track: Speak No Evil 
Label: Starlight Records 
Release Date: 1982

"Whether it be Ska, Rocksteady, or Reggae- Cornell Campbell has lent his voice to the Infectious beats of Jamaican music for over 50 years. Born on November 23, 1945 in Kingston, Jamaica, he began recording at a very young age.  When Cornell was eleven years old, his friend Rico Rodriguez (an aspiring trumpet player) introduced him to Clement Dodd, owner of Studio One. Dodd, impressed with Cornell's style, cut several tunes which quickly made their way to the dance massive. These initial tunes made Cornell a local celebrity in the sound system arena.

Cornell would then begin recording for Duke Reid's Treasure Isle Studio, forming a group with Jimmy and Buster Riley called The Eternals.  When the group disbanded in 1962 Cornell linked up with producer Bunny Lee; reestablishing himself as a solo artist. I make several number one hits that really shook up the whole thing, y'know!stated Cornell in a recent interview. Originally billed as Don Cornel ( the first Don in Jamaica), Bunny Lee mistakenly spelled Cornel (correctly spelled with one ‘l’) with two L's- the mistake stuck and “Now the world knows me as Cornell Campbell! Love and Honor. Respect.”

In 1982 the smash album Boxing was released on Starlight records. On Track #4 entitled Speak No Evil, we hear Cornell’s sweet voice issuing a plea for the love in his life not to allow rumors of unfaithfulness to come between them.  “Let no one tell you that I've been untrue. Don't say you believe them baby. Don't break my heart in two.”  As the rhythm sails along, Cornell explains things are not always as they seem. The chorus implores his true love: “Don't you hear...Don't you speak...Don't you see no Evil.”  In defense of his character, Cornell offers another humble plea; Cover your ears to all those lies about me, don’t say you believe them, baby” Cornell’s pitch, delivery, and timing meshes perfectly with the rub a dub style riddim.

Cornell Campbell, 76 years young- still continues to perform regularly to sell out crowds all over the world. He continues to record material- usually in combination with younger talents; exposing yet another generation to his legendary voice and humble vibes. Much like the cycle of life, Cornell Campbell finds himself, yet again, in great demand by countless sound system operators, wanting his unique voice on their exclusive dub plates- just like those formative days at Studio One.

Being a Christian, I dedicate myself to a certain type of life, y'know?- an appropriate lifestyle...because I believe all the time while I was growing up that you must practice what you preach...like if your singing a song 'love your brother, love your sister'- you can’t sing a song like that and go outta street with a big ratchet knife inna your waist...some artists sing a way to the public and them live another life...but, true me have a nice family surroundings...that’s me.”

- Cornell Campbell. France 2013. Interview with Irie Ites record label" 

Day 352 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Prince Buster - Hard Man Fi Dead

Like many, I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great Prince Buster in September and though I wish I had shown my respects by creating a tribute mix like so many other had, I have to admit that I am not very well versed in the man's music and attempting to do so would have seemed amateurish and shallow.  Case in point, while others have been justifiably raving about the many amazing records and productions the man had his fingerprints on and exposing me to many that I was regretfully hearing for the first time, I have to admit that "Hard Man Fi Dead," one of Buster's most popular songs, has always been my favorite.  Now I could have bullshitted everyone, did some background research, dug deep into his discography and pulled out something obscure and made a loud proclamation that this was my personal favorite Prince Buster record but that's not me... I'm all about keeping this blog honest and I will gladly admit when I am ridiculously outmatched on knowledge about the late great Buster.  Well enough about that, let's get to today's track!  

Quoting from what I wrote in the 2013 Spooktacular... "Hard Man Fe Dead" tells the tale of a man who won't stay dead.  Unlike a domestic house cat that only has nine lives, this cat has ninety-nine lives!  What makes this song so distinctively Jamaican, aside from the smoking hot ska beat,  is its reference to nine-night which is a funerary custom practiced throughout much of the Caribbean.  Nine-night, which is rooted in African tradition, was originally an extended wake that lasted for nine nights and where friends and loved-ones would gather at the home of the deceased to share condolences, sing hymns and eat together.  But, as time as passed, this tradition has become less mournful and more celebratory.  These days attendees don't just arrive with sad expressions and heart-felt remembrances, they arrive with food, drink and music. 

It is believed that on the ninth night, right before the bodies procession to the church service the next morning, that the spirit of the deceased will pass through the party, gather food and say their final goodbyes before continuing on to its final resting-place.  Customarily the food (usually fried fish, bammy and 100 proof rum) are set up under a tent and must remain undisturbed until after midnight when the spirit has eaten their fill.  It is also customary that the bed and mattress of the deceased will be turned on their side against the wall in order to discourage the duppy from staying around and encourage them to proceed to the grave."


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 351 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires - Frankenstein

Changing gears but not necessarily changing themes... it is of course still October around here and I figured we'd devote this week to the "scarier side" of ska.  We're gonna get this week rolling with a little number by Byron Lee & The Dragonaires called "Frankenstein" or sometimes "Frankenstein Ska."  This one was recorded and released on the Soul label circa 1963-64 and it does a pretty stellar job at conveying the subject matter all while keeping the beat moving.  Now I could go on and complain about how I spent a ton of money a few years back in finally obtaining this record only to see it re-pressed a couple years later for considerably less but I won't.  What has always driven me crazy about this one is that the melody in "Frankenstein Ska" sounds familiar and is obviously based on the theme song from a Frankenstein movie but I can't for the life of me pinpoint which one in particular.  And considering there have been as many as 80 films made about Dr. Frankenstein and the monster that bears his name, there's a long list of potential inspirations.  


Saturday, October 15, 2016

The 50th Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

This week has been pretty much one long "Conversation."  Here's what you're gonna hear when you download and enjoy the 50th week mix!

1.  Culture - Outcast
2.  Simple Simon - Christopher Columbus
3.  Jah Thomas - Cricket Lovely Cricket
4.  Lone Ranger - Barnabas Collins
5.  Yellowman - Mi Kill Barnie
6.  Dillinger - I Thirst
7.  Errol Scorcher - Paulette You A Fret