“Poor Man Cry"
Soul Fire 7" (1978 - supposedly)
We start with a rare roots demi-classic that has recently been touched up by the reissue brush (but we're pulling from the original pressing, boys & girls!). It's another filing under the "little-known singer" category, though a recent brief interview with Reid - now Baba Ras Marcus - revealed his inspiration at the time. Mind you, the lyrics speak for themselves in the end. Recorded at Randy's Studio with Errol Thompson at the controls and the Barrett brothers on rhythm section, we also hear a young Augustus Pablo's melodica throughout. The B-side instrumental version, in fact, features a spoken intro that includes a plainly jejune Pablo agreeing that this rhythm is "too hot." Well, he's right you know.
Coxsone pre 7" (1966)
We've not featured all too many Higgs songs, though several dozen are well worth review and wider listening. Recorded at Studio One during the last days of ska, this rare track warns against excessive gossip - carry go bring come, if you will. In his capable musical hands, Higgs manages to lift the song above the ordinary, despite the seemingly mindless subject matter. Indeed, there is a whole line of gossip-themed songs through reggae's history, suggesting the omnipresence and annoyance of it all. Higgs was a song writer extraordinaire, but little acknowledged is how his songs are sung in the clearest of diction to ensure the message gets across, and likely to generate wide appeal. From pre-ska shuffle & boogie in the late '50s, all the way up to sparse rub a dub in the early '80s, Higgs' catalog proves worthy of a box set containing nothing but top drawer material. It's a shame it'll likely never happen.
-Rice & Peas
“Live and Learn”
Clancy Eccles Presents His Reggae Revue
Heartbeat (1990) (1968)
Clancy Eccles would have turned seventy-five this June and his measured and artful presence is missed. His early reggae productions have a cruiser-weight quality to them that stands apart from that era's more jaunty styles of, say, Lee Perry or Bunny Lee. With Wilson's cut, we are witness to yet another one-and-out singer from the "country" (Buff Bay, if you're counting). It's an effort that was supposedly recorded at the "Don't You Brag, Don't You Boast" session - vintage early reggae, in every way. Wilson's singing is plaintive and reflective, and strongly represents an early example of a "struggler's" motif. It is sad to think that struggling must've seemed halcyon once pure suffering soon followed in its wake.
“Echo (Feel Like Crying)”
Trojan (2002) (1968)
Rocksteady-Psych, my people! Collectors collectively roll out the drooling tongue about ten seconds into this rare track, and if you don't believe me, look up the copy that last found its way to Ebay. But let's leave the quotidian aspect of loving this music behind and instead focus on the arranging of a paean to heartbreak that managed to sound like this. It's a fairly mind-blowing and mold-breaking approach that Lynch & Co. (and we don't know who "Co." was) went after. Most of the rocksteady songs by men complaining of women leaving them elicit crocodile tears in these quarters, but Lynch… he was hurting fe true. Good for him.
Hitbound 10" (1983)
Don't know if this brother Lion Melody is another artist using a new moniker or if this is a true random chatter, but whoever it is he's doing his thing in a Little John style, all over a wicked Roots Radics rhythm. As a warning to rude boys it doesn't really cover any new ground, but instead it uses tried and true dancehall lyrics and presentation to cork the dance. Honestly, the really interesting element is the lively mix, perhaps from Soljie or Maximillian, though it's not clear who controlled the Channel One board in 1983, as Scientist had moved on and Niney was no longer around. Regardless, it's a cool slice of bad boy dancehall music.
-Rice & Peas
“Think Twice (12-inch)"
Rockers 12" (1979)
It's an Augustus Pablo bookend, as we close this month's mix with a side from one of the all-time majestic Jamaican 12" releases. Williams had already had some notable singing footnotes prior to reaching Pablo's Rockers stable in 1977. As member of the Madlads, Williams found success with that vocal trio's massive "Ten To One" hit for Coxsone Dodd. Once he set off on his own, multiple sides were recorded for Pablo, whose production sound - melodica and toy xylophone just for kicks! - is simply all over this sublime track. For a song that preaches caution, the relaxed yet heavy instrumentation functions as the perfect backdrop. This one is already timeless, ten times over.
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