Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day 305 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Eek A Mouse - Operation Eradication

"Operation Eradication" is one of Eek A Mouse's best and like everything else this week it too is lifted from yet another Greensleeves 12 inch that was produced by Henry Junjo Lawes, backed by the Radics and recorded at Channel One.  Why "Operation Eradication" is labeled the b-side on this disc is completely mind boggling because "Wild Like A Tiger" the featured tune of the flip is completely forgettable.  Sure it gives the listener a sampling of the Mouse's sing-jay gimmickry that would be his trademark but it just doesn't have the smooth feel of "Operation Eradication."  Perhaps it has something to do with the A-side being backed by the Hi-Times Band or that it was recorded at Joe Gibbs but it has never been a song that I've ever intentionally went back to listen to again.  It is obvious that Junjo, the Radics and Channel One worked best together when it came to producing tunes that have a tendency to get stuck in your head for hours if not days after hearing them.  But enough of my pondering let's get to the tune...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Day 304 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Bunny Lie Lie & Lee Van Cleef - Mr. Dynamite

Let's keep it cool with another rub-a-dub masterpiece!  This one is by Bunny Lie Lie featuring deejay Lee Van Cleef and it's called "Mr. Dynamite."  Produced by the great Jah Thomas and again with the Roots Radics flawlessly setting the mood, this one was also pressed by Greensleeves in 1983.  Lie Lie's silky smooth voice shines through on a revamped, horn-punctuated take of the Boxing riddim that floats along as easy as the waning summer breeze.  And we haven't even gotten to Lee Van Cleef's performance on the latter-half of the platter... absolutely top-notch!  But it must be said, Lee Van has had previous Boxing experience... a couple years before he was doing deejay duties following Cornell Campbell's "Boxing Around" on the Joe Gibbs label.  Forward Mr. Van Cleef!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day 303 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Winston Hussey - Joe Grine Last Night

Keeping with the "seedy" subject matter for another track... this one is called "Joe Grine Last Night" by the man Winston Hussey.  For those who are unfamiliar, a Joe Grine is a man who carries on an affair with another man's wife.  But when you throw in Junjo at the helm, Flabba Holt's thumping bassline, a spectacular uplifting horn riff and Hussey delivering a smooth scorned-lover vocal that would make even Gregory Isaacs proud, adultery never sounded so goddamn sweet.  Hussey learns the hard way after fleeing the scene on his indiscretion in "borrowed pajamas" with an armed jilted husband in pursuit that it doesn't pay to mess around with another man's woman but as the listener, we're glad he did.  Originally released on Volcano and repackaged in the UK as a 12" on Greensleeves in 1983, it is an absolute killer! 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Day 302 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Clint Eastwood & General Saint - Shame & Scandal

We have definitely reached a milestone in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... today is the 300th track!  We are on the downside of a yearlong labor of love and with the finish line of October 31st now clearly in sight, we've got to keep this train moving down the tracks.   And what keeps my train moving more than some early 80s reggae?  Nothing!  So let's keep going with a track that may be criticized by some for being a little too "poppy" but one that I have enjoyed for decades.  We're jumping right into a favorite by Clint Eastwood & General Saint produced by Chris Cracknell and released as a 12" on Greensleeves in 1982 and later making an encore on their album Stop That Train the next year, we're gonna hear "Shame And Scandal."  "Shame and Scandal" is a reggae take on a calypso song originally written and performed by Lord Melody and Sir Lancelot in 1943.  To quote from Wikipedia, mostly because I don't feel like paraphrasing today, "The story follows a young Trinidadian man in search of a wife.  In each of the verses, the young man asks his father for permission to marry a different woman, only to be told he can not marry the girl as "The girl is your sister, but your mamma don't know".  However, the tables are turned during the last verse, where the young man's mother tells him that "Your daddy ain't your daddy, but your daddy don't know", clearing the path for him to marry any of the girls."  Nothing like a song about rampant promiscuity and potentially horrifying incestuous relationships to liven up a Sunday!!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The 43rd Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

The 43rd Week Mix... just in case anyone still cares.

1.  Prince Jazzbo - School
2.  Trinity - School Days
3.  Sister Nancy - Go To School
4.  Lui Lepki - Go To School
5.  Billy Boyo - Going Back To School
6.  Little Harry - Harry On The Go
7.  Freddie McKay - Another Weekend

Day 301 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Freddie McKay - Another Weekend

Happy Saturday folks!  Let's start another weekend with "Another Weekend" by Freddie McKay, a smooth rub-a-dub number produced by Linval Thompson backed by the Roots Radics mixed by Scientist and released as a 12" on Greensleeves in 1981!  Freddie McKay of course started his career in 1967 recording for Prince Buster and Duke Reid, scoring a hit on Treasure Isle with the classic "Love Is A Treasure."  He went on to spend a considerably amount of time at Studio One where he recorded a couple albums and scored a number of hits including "Sweet You Sour You" and "Talking Love" a duet he did with Horace Andy.  By the mid 70s, McKay had adapted his style to become more in keeping with the prevalent roots reggae sound of the time and released a couple albums before his untimely death in 1986.  This one, recorded at the dawning of the dancehall era is pure niceness!  Have a great weekend - uninterrupted 43rd week mix coming later today!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Day 300 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Little Harry - Harry On The Go

Since it's Friday let's finally get away from school and revisit another track on the DJ Clash Volume Two album that I spoke so highly about yesterday.  This time we'll give Little Harry, Billy Boyo's sparring partner on the aforementioned LP, his chance at the mic.  Little Harry, whose real name I have not been able to ascertain, got his start at around 12 years old on a sound system called Black Lion which lead to a contract with Aces Disco and eventually a strong showing at a talent contest in 1981 in which he went up against Winston "King Yellowman" Foster.  Though Yellow won the competition they became friends afterwards and while it has not been documented it would probably be safe to say that he was the one that introduced Little Harry to Junjo Lawes soon after.  Unlike Billy Boyo, Little Harry continued recording throughout the 80s and early 90s and for the most part is sparingly active today.  But let's get to today's tune, this one is called "Harry On The Go" riding a stripped-down take of the Stop That Train riddim and it is absolutely wicked!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day 299 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Billy Boyo - Going Back To School

Billy Theophilus Rowe, later known to dancehall fans by the moniker Billy Boyo, was one of a handful of child artists to come to prominence in the early 80s.  Kids like Boyo, Little Harry and Beenie Man all received their musical education and encouragement, for the most part, from Henry "Junjo" Lawes and Volcano's stable of artists and it was under their guidance that they had the opportunity to perform and record.  Billy Boyo is regarded as the most prolific of the child M.C.s and scored a hit at the ripe-old age of 13, with the Junjo produced "Wicked She Wicked" in 1982.  He followed it up with his trademark tune "One Spliff A Day" the following year and remained active performing with a heap of sound systems but by the mid to late 80s he had virtually disappeared.  Sadly Rowe died at the age of 31 in October of 2000 after a short struggle with a brain tumor.  Today's tune "Going Back To School," also recorded with Lawes at the helm and released on the 1983 Greensleeves clash album DJ Clash Volume Two which featured five tracks by Boyo and five tracks by fellow deejay Little Harry, is super tuff!  To be honest, the entire album is fantastic!  Once you get away from the novelty of hearing teenagers deejay and pay attention to their lyrics, confident deliveries and amazing abilities to ride a riddim, it stands out to me personally as one of the single-most enjoyable dancehall albums of the entire era!  So let's get to it!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Day 298 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Lui Lepki - Go To School

Up next in Suburban Hi-Fi's Distinctly Jamaican Sounds' 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge's Back To School Extravaganza (yeah that title may be just a tad bit too long) is a nice one by the deejay Lui Lepki called "Go To School" from his 1981 album Late Night Movie on the Joe Gibbs labelAnd while I'm not going to go overboard and address the irrelevant matter concerning the plethora of spellings of Mr. Lepki's first and last name like I did earlier in the year, I am going to feature a nice deejay tune on a revamped, downbeat take of the Swing Easy riddim first recorded by the Soul Vendors on Studio One circa 1967.  This one sounds good and carries some nice vibes regardless of how you choose to spell his name.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Day 297 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Sister Nancy - Gwan A School

Sister Nancy is one of my favorite deejays from the early dancehall era and today's track "Gwan A School" is right up there as one of her best... hell, the whole album One Two produced by Winston Riley and released on Techniques in 1982, is what I consider deejaying at its finest!  Riding a sweet version of the Pressure and Slide riddim, this one obviously remains in keeping with our back to school theme we got goin' on around here.  Dig it!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Day 296 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Trinity - School Days

Handing off the mic to Junior Brammer AKA Trinity for yet another "back to school" tune!  This one is called "School Days" and was originally cut for Jo Jo Hoo Kim at Channel One in 1979 and released on their Well Charge label the same year.  Riding the Freedom Blues riddim, complete with one of the baddest intro horn riffs of any tune from the era, this one will have you skankin' into the school supplies section at your local retailer while you dig for the last remaining pack of #2 Ticonderogas.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Day 295 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Prince Jazzbo - School

I'm dedicating this week to school and while I hate to do it because I find it absolutely ridiculous that kids here in Maryland have got to go back before September rolls around, there are just too many great "back to school" tunes to overlook.  But before we get to the music I need to express my condolences to all the kids out there, who like me when I was school age, dread the start of a new school year.  I was never one of those kids who would anxiously check the mailbox each day in late August for my class assignment, or willingly head-off to the mall in search of school clothes or even worse school supplies.  To me going back to school was without a doubt the single worst thing to happen to kids... to no longer have the luxury of sleeping late or running around all day and half the night without a care in the world and losing the ability to hang out in the living room watching The Price Is Right and downing a half-a-box of Cheerios in a soggy bathing suit before getting your day started, it seriously felt like the end of the world.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that all the way up until high school I would lie in bed the night before the first day of school and tears would come.  Not gut-wrenching sobbing or anything like that but just a few solitary tears and a sadness in my heart knowing that the party was over.  Returning to school felt like you had just been sentenced to a life term at San Quentin and worst of all it always felt like you were losing a friend, and that friend of course was summer itself.  And while it didn't actually become fall until the latter half of September to a kid it felt like it was just a matter of time before you knew you would be standing for an eternity at a cold bus stop on a gray autumn morning and hating life. But enough about that, let's get to some music.  We start off the week with a cool one on the College Rock riddim by the late great Prince Jazzbo.  This song is called "School" and it was originally released as a single in 1972 on Coxsone Dodd's Bongo Man label.  Good stuff!  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The 42nd Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

Here's what you're gonna hear on the uninterrupted 42nd week mix...

1.  Jah Lloyd - African Drums
2.  Phillip Fraser - John Saw Them Coming
3.  Prince Heron - Me Little But Me Talawa
4.  Count Prince Miller - Mule Train
5.  Joe Higgs - Burning Fire
6.  Royals - Pick Up The Pieces
7.  The Uniques - Never Give Up

Day 294 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Uniques - Never Give Up

The Uniques were originally Slim Smith, Roy Shirley and Franklyn White but the line-up didn't last for long when Smith reorganized the band using Jimmy Riley and Lloyd Charmers instead in 1967.  And while they are best remembered for some great rocksteady they recorded for Bunny Lee including the classic "My Conversation," the Uniques continued into the reggae era as well.  In 1977, the Uniques now comprised of Jimmy Riley and Cornell Campbell hopped into the studio with Ossie Hibbert and recorded an album called Give Thanks that was released on the Plant label in 1979 and again on Joe Gibbs the following year.  The album which features both a vocal and a dub cut of most of the tracks and gives both Riley and Campbell a chance to give their voices a go on lead is real nice and today's track, the 292nd in the 365 Day Challenge, is "Never Give Up."  Riley takes the lead on this one and just don't take my word for it, give it a listen and see how sweet it sounds with your own ears.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Day 293 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Royals - Pick Up The Pieces

The Royals were formed in 1964 by Roy Cousins and continued to record in various incarnations all the way until the mid-80s.  They started out unsuccessfully as the Tempests in the studios of Duke Reid, Lloyd Daley and Coxsone Dodd; Dodd of which shelved the original recording of today's tune "Pick Up The Pieces" backed my the Sound Dimension which they recorded in 1967.  The following year Joe Gibbs gave The Royals their break by releasing "Never See Come See" and they were met with moderate success but Cousins decided to disband the group while he continued to work his day-job at the post office in an effort to make and save some money.  In 1971 Cousins started his Tamoki, Wambesi and Uhuru labels with his earnings and later that year when the re-recorded take of "Pick Up The Pieces" had become a hit, Dodd finally decided it was time to release the original, crediting The Tempests (The Royals original name), four years after it was recorded.  Underhanded?  Yes.  Sleazy?  Sure.  But if I were to get into some of the horror stories I've read about musicians and their dealings with Studio One I could go on for days, if not months.  So I'll stop right there.  But "Pick Up The Pieces" became much larger than just a Royals track, it became one of those Studio One riddims that got the dancehall rehab in the late 70s and early 80s and has been used countless times by artists from Barrington Levy to Ranking Joe to Ninjaman.  And from what I've read Dodd wasn't too keen on the do-over treatment his riddims got by other producers that perhaps it was The Royals who got the last laugh on "Pick Up The Pieces" after all.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Day 292 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Joe Higgs - Burning Fire

Most remembered for his tutoring of upstarts Jimmy Cliff and some guy name Bob Marley, the late Joe Higgs is considered by many to be the "Godfather of Reggae."  He cut his first tune with Roy Wilson in 1958, "Oh Manny Oh" and it was one of the first records to actually be pressed in Jamaica and sold 50,000 copies.  Higgs and Wilson went on to work with Coxsone Dodd until Roy Wilson emigrated to America in 1964.  Afterwards Higgs concentrated on his solo efforts by joining forces with Carlos Malcolm and eventually settled into the lead vocalist role with Lynn Taitt's Soul Brothers.  Around that time Higgs was credited with organizing impromptu training sessions for artists looking for an opportunity to prove themselves and he was the one that introduced the Wailers to Dodd in 1963.  By the time the 70s rolled around and reggae was in full swing Higgs continued to release singles on his own Elevation label before cutting his first album for Island in 1972.  But Island's Chris Blackwell thought the album, Life Of Contradiction, was not marketable and shelved it for three years before it finally saw the light of day on Micron Music and was met with critical acclaim.  Eventually Higgs moved to Los Angeles in 1983 after his song "So It Go," a scathing criticism of the political system in Jamaica at the time and subsequently banned from the country's airwaves, resulted in threats and harassment from some dangerous people.  A lot of Joe Higgs' songs talk about the everyday struggles of living in poverty in the ghettos of Trenchtown and reaching beyond those confines and finding freedom both physically and mentally... pretty deep stuff.  Sadly Higgs died of cancer in 1999 and in 2006 the Joe Higgs Music Award was established in his honor.  Today's track "Burning Fire" was released circa 1971 on Rupie Edwards' Success label and Supreme in the UK and while the jilted-lover subject matter of "Burning Fire" doesn't exactly fit the mold of what you'd expect of Joe Higgs, it's still pretty damn sweet!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Day 291 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Count Prince Miller - Mule Train

Sticking with the royalty for another track and this guy is so regal he's got two titles!  I'm speaking of Clarence Linberg Miller AKA Count Prince Miller and his absolutely killer tune "Mule Train."  And yes it's a reggae take on the old west cowboy song popularized by countless American artists from the 1940s including Frankie Laine, Bing Crosby, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Vaughn Monroe... who actually wrote the song is another matter in which I will not delve because I've seen as many as five guys credited as writers on Wikipedia.  But you're probably not here for me to give you a complete rundown on Western songs and their composers so let's get to Count Prince Miller.  Miller initially started in showbiz as a recording artist and today's track "Mule Train" was his first record and biggest hit when it was released on Trojan in 1971.  He stayed in reggae for a few more years, mostly cutting tracks that would be considered novelty tunes, before branching out and becoming an award-winning actor in television, stage and screen in England.  Jamaica made Miller a Commander of The Order of Distinction in 2007 in recognition of his contribution to music.  If you've never heard "Mule Train" you're in for a treat because this tune is fun, a tad bit goofy and completely badass all at the same time!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Day 290 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Prince Heron - Me Little But Me Talawa

Here comes another tune!  This track is by the deejay Prince Heron, a man whose background information I have not been able to uncover, and it is a nice one!  Heron began recording in the early 1970s and released a handful of singles all the way up until 1980.  His songs "Bawlin'" and "Spanish Town Rock" produced and released by Harry Mudie on his Moodisc label are particularly sweet and really served as a showcase for his chanting style.  But instead of going with old personal favorites I'm gonna mix it up by spinning one called "Me Little But Me Talawa," with Dennis Brown at the helm and pressed on the Kim label circa 1978.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Day 289 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Phillip Fraser - John Saw Them Coming

Highly influenced by Slim Smith, Phillip Fraser got his start in music by entering talent contests at the Club Bohemian Nightclub on Maxfield Avenue in Kingston.  In the competitions, artists would often cover foreign tunes and Fraser quickly gained a reputation for being one of the best as doing so and his adaptability was what helped him a few years later.  When the burgeoning dancehall sound started to pickup steam in the late 70's, Phillip Fraser's ability to deliver lyrics to popular songs over drum and bass driven riddims established him as one of the first real dancehall singers.  But Phillip Fraser is more than just a sweet voice, his Rastafari faith has always been a major factor in his life and the strong lyrical quality of his music.  Take for instance today's track, the 287th in the 365 Day Challenge, "John Saw Them Coming" which is lifted off his 1978 album Come Ethiopians originally released on the Freedom Sounds label which Fraser established with producer Bertram Brown... pure roots inna rub-a-dub style!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Day 288 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Jah Lloyd - African Drums

Patrick Lloyd Francis, later known as Jah Lloyd or Jah Lion and a couple other lesser known stage names as well, got started in the mid 60s as a member of the group The Mediators alongside Fitzroy "Bunny" Simpson and recorded a few tunes for producer Rupie Edwards.  In the '70s Jah Lloyd turned his attention to producing and recorded the first sessions of Simpson's new group The Diamonds who would later be renamed The Mighty Diamonds.  Soon after, Jah Lloyd picked up the mic as a deejay and had a couple hits in Jamaica with "Black Snowfall," "Worldclass," and "Beware Of The Flour."  Now here's where the name changes come into play; when he went to cut some tracks for Lee Perry, Perry insisted that he change his name to Jah Lion which he did for his 1976 solo album Colombia Colly originally released on Upsetter and Island Records.  The tune that was included on that album "Soldier And Police War" on the "Police And Thieves" riddim is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite reggae tracks ever recorded but I digress... Jah Lion reverted back to Jah Lloyd when he signed a two album deal with Virgin Records and it was around that same time he decided to concentrate his efforts more on production and established his own Teem label with his younger brother Vincent.  Today's track "African Drums," originally recorded circa 1974 and featuring the drumming of the great Bongo Herman, was released on the CD Final Judgement in 1998 on the aforementioned Teem label, a year before Jah Lloyd's passing. With some Mighty Diamonds vocals dropped into the mix and Herman's badass drumming, "African Drums" is one helluva tuff tune - dig it!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The 41th Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

Yet another uninterrupted mix for your listening pleasure!  Be sure to collect 'em all!  What you're gonna hear on the 41st Week Mix...

1.  Duke Harris - Jamaica Way
2.  Theo Beckford - Walking Down King Street
3.  The Shiners - Romantic Shuffle
4.  Desmond Dekker - Get Up Edina
5.  King Cannon - Daphney Regay
6.  Wailing Souls - Hot Road
7.  Jacob Miller - Westbound Train

Day 287 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Jacob Miller - Westbound Train

Yeah I know, today's track "Westbound Train" was one of Dennis Brown's biggest hits; originally produced by Winston "Niney" Holness and becoming the best selling record during the summer of 1973.  And believe me, Dennis' original is a song that will forever be tops on my chart but I wanted to give another performer a go with such a killer tune and who better than Jacob "Killer" Miller?  Miller recorded his version of "Westbound Train" at Brentford Road most likely less than a year later and what makes it so odd is that he returned to Studio One to record it in the first place.  You see Jacob Miller had gone to Coxsone in 1968 and recorded two songs, one which was released and the other shelved because Dodd didn't care for Jacob's voice.  Regardless, Miller's "Westbound Train" is a near perfect cover, his voice is smooth as silk!  Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Day 286 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Wailing Souls - Hot Road

Short and sweet today... Up next in our yearlong cavalcade of Jamaican tunes is the 284th track!  Getting a little more "contemporary" with the sounds today by going with a little Wailing Souls.  But before I get to that it's interesting to note how I perceive anything done after 1970 as contemporary considering these tunes are 40+ years old but I think that speaks a lot to the timelessness of good reggae and how this music never loses its edge, relevance and vibe.   This one is a smooth, downbeat roots tune called "Hot Road" and it was recorded at Studio One and included on their first album appropriately called The Wailing Souls on Coxsone's subsidiary label Winro in 1975.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Day 285 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - King Cannon - Daphney Regay

Slowing down the pace a little from yesterday's scorcher but still keeping in touch with the mento roots... for your listening pleasure I present Karl "King Cannonball" Bryan with a tune called "Daphney Regay."  This one comes from a 1969 7" on the London based Fab label and in my opinion it is a sweet slice of prime early/skinhead reggae!  But getting back to the mento connection... this song, originally called "Daphne Walking," was written and sung by journalist, broadcaster and musical composer Clyde Hoyte, recorded by Jamaican music pioneer Stanley Motta with the George Moxey Quartet handling the backing and released as a 78rpm 10" on his MRS imprint in 1952.  And while I like Hoyte's original well enough, I have always preferred the take done a couple years later by Lord Composer And The Calypso Champions because their version was the first I ever heard.  But anyway, we'll turn it over to King Cannon and let him do his thing inna reggae style!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Day 284 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Desmond Dekker - Get Up Edina

Desmond Dekker, born Desmond Dacres, got his start singing in church before unsuccessfully trying his hand with Coxsone and Duke Reid and eventually finding a home with Beverley's where he found his first successes.  Once he had established himself as a solo artist with a couple hit records he put together The Aces, the group in which he would become synonymous, by recruiting the talents of the four Howard brothers; Carl, Patrick, Clive and Barry.  It was with this newly formed group that Desmond Dekker recorded today's track in 1963... a real foot-mover called "Get Up Edina" which features one of the most blistering paced tempos and joyous horn sections of the entire ska era, IMHO.  This wasn't my intention when I posted this track but the fevered pace, as good as it is, will nearly make you break out in a sweat just by clicking play... it will serve as the perfect segue into tomorrow's tempo slowdown.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Day 283 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Shiners - Romantic Shuffle

Let's go with some ska and most of all let's keep it simple today... yesterday's long-winded post took it outta me.  Here is a ska number from 1962 by a group that called themselves The Shiners and it's called "Romantic Shuffle" produced by Coxsone Dodd and released on the D Darling label in Jamaica and picked-up in the UK on Blue Beat.  It has the rhythm and blues feel with the vocals and instrumentation but the tempo is pure ska.  Now if I were a musician I could explain that evolution in rhythm pattern a lot more eloquently but to my untrained ears I know ska when I hear it and that, my friends, is ska.  Dig it!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Day 282 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Theo Beckford - Walking Down King Street

If you're new to Jamaican music or really don't have an interest in the era before ska took over, you are missing some great stuff.  Jamaican rhythm and blues or bluebeat as it's often referred, obviously highly influenced by its American counterpart at the time but with just a little more "strut in its step" has always felt to me as it was being restrained.  Not restrained in terms of lyrics or means of expression but more like in tempo and pace, like ska is bubbling beneath the surface and straining to break free.  

Now I could go on a long-winded dissertation on a theory that for the most part, before Jamaica achieved its independence, its musicians and producers were content with trying to assimilate their sound into predefined categories of music that the outside world could easily understand and identify.  They weren't particularly interested in creating something new or expressing a feeling or experience that hadn't been shared before because they couldn't fathom its viability.  But before I spend the next 6-8 hours playing amateur sociologist and theorizing on Jamaica's pre-independence inferiority complex which many would agree stems from a sad history built upon colonialism, slavery, brutality, poverty, classism and racism, I will stop right here.  

Needless to say and to sum it all up succinctly when Jamaica got her independence in August of 1962, the collective artistic-limiters were broken and ska exploded forth.  Ska became a force of change in Jamaican music where catering to the outside markets became a lot less important than pleasing the ears of the local audience and I believe instilled a sense of national pride that they had finally freed themselves from "serving" others by expressing themselves as true Jamaicans.  Now at this point I could go off on a tangent about how this mentality came back full-force during the reggae era when big name foreign record companies wanted to latch onto the next big thing and promised money, fame and stardom to artists only to abandon them when the records didn't sell well in the U.S.  This lead to artists watering-down their sounds and adapting to foreign tastes and trends all in an effort to "break-through" to the wider international audience... but that's a discussion for another day.  

I've rambled enough let's get to today's song, the 280th in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... it's called "Walking Down King Street" by the late great Theophilous AKA Theo Beckford and it has all the elements of pre-ska rhythm and blues, a bouncing piano lead, the accompanying horns, a vocal bordering on the bluesy and the undercurrent of something exciting beneath the surface that was yearning to break free.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Day 281 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Duke Harris - Jamaica Way

Jamaica Duke, Duke And His Jamaican Five and Duke Harris are all one in the same.  And as the excellent website Mento Music notes, many a rocksteady fan may have picked up copies of his records over the years by incorrectly assuming that these were early recordings by producer Duke Reid but unfortunately for them they found that they were not the same person.  Regardless, Duke Harris and his band recorded a few albums during what is considered mento's middle period and like the majority of mento releases from the 1960s they were strongly catered toward the tourist market.  Often times on the albums the music took a backseat to showcasing and hyping-up the hotel or resort where the artists performed poolside for the sunburned, rum imbibing, trying to do the limbo with a bad back, black socks and sandals crowd assembled there.  And like Michael Garnice notes on Mento Music, "judging by the large number of surviving autographed LPs from the decade, the LP was sold at the hotel as well.  The tradition continues, as today's mento bands performing at hotels typically have a CDR for sale."   

Now some of you may be asking yourself, why is Distinctly Jamaican Sounds featuring music that is basically recorded for white, middle-class, mid-westerners escaping the winter doldrums in Minneapolis and who impulsively reach into their wallets to buy an album only after downing 4-5 Planter's Punches?  The answer is simple, it, like any other Jamaican music, sounds good to my ears.  Sure we're not talking about escaping from Babylon or fighting against oppression or poverty but this is all about reaching back to the roots of Jamaican popular music and giving them the exposure and respect they are due.  Today's tune "Jamaica Way," originally from an album called Jump And Sway Jamaica Way on the Kalypso label and made available on Trojan's 2004 CD compilation Trojan Jamaica Box Set, is as tourist-centric as a Jamaica poster hanging in a travel agents office wall on ice encrusted Grand Avenue in St. Paul circa 1965, but it sounds good to me!  I can hear me now, "Yes Mr. Travel Agent, I just heard "Jamaica Way" by Duke Harris and I would definitely be interested in spending eight days and seven nights at the Tower Isle Resort in Jamaica this February... where do I sign?"  Effective advertising that even Don Draper wouldn't comprehend. 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

The 40th Week Mix In All Of Its Uninterrupted Glory!

Here is the 40th Week Mix in its purest, farm-fresh, unadulterated form... dig on these tunes!

1.  Brigadier Jerry - Jamaica Jamaica
2.  Early B - History Of Jamaica
3.  Ranking Devon - Jamaican Style
4.  Jackie Brown - Living In Sweet Jamaica
5.  Eric Donaldson - Land Of My Birth
6.  Jimmy Cliff - Miss Jamaica
7.  The Jolly Boys - Take Me Back To Jamaica

Day 280 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Jolly Boys - Take Me Back To Jamaica

This one never fails to put a smile on my face!  Going back to mento for Jamaican Independence Day itself and this one came nearly a half-century after the heyday of the rumba box, banjo and bamboo saxophones.  Today's tune is called "Take Me Back To Jamaica" by the Jolly Boys and it comes from their 1991 CD release Sunshine 'N' Water on the Rykodisc label.  The Jolly Boys originally grew out of a band called the Navy Island Swamp Boys who used to play for Hollywood star Errol Flynn and guests at exclusive parties on his private island off the coast of Port Antonio called Navy Island.  As can be expected the Jolly Boys quickly became a tourist favorite at hotels and private engagements across Jamaica throughout the 60s and in 1966 spent nearly six months in New Hampshire for several performances.  They continued plugging along for the next couple decades on the tourist circuit, recruiting new members as the original players succumbed to age, illness or death and in 1989 they were approached to record an album for an international audience and in turn raised the awareness of Jamaican mento to levels it had never known before.  They are still active today and I can't tell you how much of a revelation it was for me the first time I heard them twenty years ago, the Jolly Boys were who inspired me to seek out, appreciate and enjoy classic mento in the first place!  But let's get to today's track, I've got rice and peas on the stove that I don't want to stick.  Happy Independence Day Jamaica!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Day 279 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Jimmy Cliff - Miss Jamaica

Here's another tune to keep you rockin' and swing on a Friday!  Jimmy Cliff's ska love letter to Jamaica from 1962, the year of Independence.  Recorded at Beverley's and originally released as a 7" on their namesake label and Island records concurrently, it would be easy to think that "Miss Jamaica" was in fact a love song to a woman but if you pay attention to the lyrics you'll see that Mr. Cliff was expressing his affection for his homeland.  Besides, by announcing to a your love interest that "although you may not have such a fabulous shape" sounds like a one-way ticket to good ol' fashioned beat-down.  

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Day 278 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Eric Donaldson - Land Of My Birth

A couple years back my Jamaican co-worker Ingrid gave me a request.  She wanted me to compile as many Jamaica Festival tunes I could find and put them on a couple CDs so that she could listen to them in her car on her way back and forth to work.  Of course I agreed because I always love a challenge and after a weekend of digging I gave her the CDs.  Ingrid of course loved the CDs but quickly proclaimed today's track "Land Of My Birth" by Eric Donaldson her all-time favorite.  Donaldson started his career in 1964 at Studio One but Coxsone never released any of the material so he went on to form a group called The West Indians who scored a hit with "Right On Time" for producer J.J. Johnson in 1968.  After a short stint with Lee Perry and the band who had been renamed themselves The Kilowatts, Donaldson decided to pursue a solo career.  His trademark tune "Cherry Oh Baby" was the first he submitted to the Jamaican Festival Song Competition in 1971 which subsequently won the award and became a huge hit.   Teaming up with songwriter Winston Wallace, Donaldson scored another contest win in 1977 with "Sweet Jamaica" in 1977 and "Land Of My Birth" in 1978.  Donaldson went on to win the competition three more time but this one full of national pride and patriotism is still revered as the greatest Festival Song in the contest's history.  And it's with this in mind that I dedicate today's tune to all Jamaicans living at home and abroad!  Respect!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Day 277 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Jackie Brown - Living In Sweet Jamaica

Switching it up big time with the 275th track in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge... we're gonna step away from the deejay stuff for an early reggae track from 1971 that also follows the Jamaican theme we're doing this week.  This one is "Living In Sweet Jamaica" by Jackie Brown, produced by Prince Tony and originally pressed on the High School label in Jamaica and on both the Green Door and Pama label in the UK.  Brown started his recording career after a long stint with the Jamaican Defense Force in the early 70s and made a career out of singing "easy listening" styled reggae tracks and performing in New York, where he moved in 1981, and Brazil where he had a large following before his passing in November of last year.  "Living In Sweet Jamaica" is definitely full of contradictions; lyrics concerning how hard life in poverty is on the island with food shortages and the scarcity of employment or money counteracted with an indelible positive spirit that "soon everything is gonna be alright."  But what really makes this tune an absolute killer is Jackie Brown's falsetto that goes from high to nearing the frequency of being only distinguishable to canine ears but yet remaining completely on-point without the slightest indication of cracking.  It's a good one!

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Day 276 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Ranking Devon - Jamaican Style

While there isn't anything in the biography department pertaining to Ranking Devon, there is a healthy stack of singles he recorded in the late 70s and early 80s for a host of varied producers that bear witness to a man who was a damn fine deejay.  With tunes like "Pass The Chalice In The Circle" on the All Nation label, "Trespassing" from 1981 and probably his most well-known single "All Nation Have To Bow" both on Zodiac and both riding the Shank I Sheck riddim, Ranking Devon obviously had some real talent.  Unfortunately, he was not one of the early dancehall artists who eventually found his way to recording a complete LP.  I have read various sources online that claim that Ranking Devon was the deejay persona of the singer Devon "Soul" Russell but I can't confirm or deny those rumors.  If that's true, we're talking about a guy who started out in the rocksteady era by singing with The Tartans, recorded some great roots music for Lee Perry in the 70s, produced Big Youth's album Isaiah First Prophet Of Old in 1978, transitioned into a full-fledged dancehall singer and occasional deejay during the late 70s/early 80s and finished out his career doing a tribute album to Curtis Mayfield in 1996 before sadly passing away the following year.  In my opinion, it doesn't seem feasible but who knows for sure?  Okay enough about that, let's get to today's tune in keeping with the Jamaica theme we've got goin' on this week; Ranking Devon's "Jamaican Style," circa 1977, from a 7" on the From The Top label.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Day 275 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Early B - History Of Jamaica

Don't ever say that Distinctly Jamaican Sounds hasn't ever provided you with something educational!  Take for instance, today's track by the late great deejay Earlando Arrington Neil AKA Early B; with one listen you get a concise, and fairly accurate I might add, recitation of Jamaica's history in three minutes and twenty seconds!  "History Of Jamaica" originally came off Early B's 1985 album Sunday Dish, produced by Jah Thomas, released on the Sunset label and riding the classic Answer riddim.  It's a huge hunk of history in the midst of a reggae record... who could ask for more?