“For Your Desire"
Treasure Isle pre 7" (1970)
We begin with a small tribute to King Sporty, aka Noel Williams, who passed away last week. There are many faces to the Jamaican expat experience, with Florida - and Miami specifically - being little-talked about overall. Sporty settled there in the late sixties. Prior to that he'd enjoyed a relatively successful DJ stint during the Soundsystem era's ska heyday. He sparred with Count Machouki and many others in those heady days. Sporty's delivery on this rocksteady number suggests a microphone talent that could've sustained itself over multiple recordings. Instead his Jamaican outings are few and far between, but then he did quite well for himself in Miami. RIP.
“Music Is the Key"
Amalgamated 7" (1968)
Fans of this space should know by now that one of our impeachable mascots of Jamaica's golden musical era is Brother Roy Shirley. This track has long been a Rice & Peas favorite and I fully join him in swooning over it. If you had to pick one fully emblematic Shirley song, this probably would be the one. Who exactly was threatening to take away the music is perhaps academic, since in the face of Shirley's pleas, a wave of overwhelming support could but only follow. It's also the usual brilliant arrangement by Lynn Taitt, whose guitar motif at the intro sets the emotional tone throughout.
-The Kaiser (for Rice & Peas)
One Way Sounds pre 7" (1972)
This track is a coming together of a borrowed rhythm (Marley's "Soul Rebel") and a clever repurposing of an old nursery rhyme into an affirmation of Rastafarian ideals - not eating "no fat" becomes the vitally ital message, obviously. Someone needs to ask Family Man who likkle Black Skin actually is, because it's the former who produced and played on this tune. We can only sit here and marvel at this spare and heartfelt track, which feels dialed in from an early seventies Jamaican arts and cultural movement that was finding its voice in bold, barely funded strokes. Hear it now, because it'll likely disappear from posterity's gaze.
Junior Ross & the Spear
I Can Hear the Children Singing
Blood & Fire (2001) (1976)
Clifford Palmer, aka Junior Ross, passed away recently, and at a far too early age at that. He was the last of the three Palmer brother to leave us; each of his other siblings had been accomplished roots vocalists. It was Ross who was given a break at Tubby's studio one day to display his youthman's potential. A series of 45s produced by Tapper Zukie resulted, who eventually compiled them onto an LP many years after the fact. There's a vibe in these recordings that goes down into that Jamaican roots reggae well about as far as you can dig. To call these recordings uncompromising is almost too rhetorically safe; there is a sense of purpose, calmness and spiritual reckoning that feels every bit the sea change it no doubt was for many individuals on the scene at the time. Go deh, as we say.
Jah Lloyd & Prince Heron
King Rock 7" (1975)
The label credits Prince Heron with this one, but it's really Jah Lloyd doing the heavy vocal lifting while Heron's screams interject as needed. Meanwhile, underneath it all, the Harry Mudie-produced original from 1969 called "Got What You Want" by Trevor & Keith chugs away. Got that straight? Good, because don't also fail to notice the fact that the original rhythm was recorded at Studio One. And finally, for good measure, we're also treated to a King Tubby's dub mix here that leaves us with a breathless and rather irresistible experience. Top tune, this.
Buster All Stars
Rock-A Shaka reissue 7" (2014) (1965)
If the tune doesn't follow the original slavishly enough, the title is one further clue to the fact that we've made contact with another jazz original converted into a boss ska cut. It's the melody line from Art Blakey's "Moanin" that we're hearing, though the re-titled version here also seems to pay homage to Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A-Train." Jamaica's hornsmen loved their jazz, plainly. This is a mightily rare cut that's been unearthed from a collector's dubplate. The mind always boggles at the number of killer one-offs left to languish or perish in soundsystem battle coffers. What next? Who knows.
Hitbound 10" (1983)
We know now that by 1983, the heyday of Jamaican studio recordings were reaching their end - the digital revolution was around the corner and the music would change significantly. At Channel One studios, the Hookim Brothers still maintained a presence on troubled Maxfield Avenue, and the odd gem could emerge from inside its barely protected walls. What immediately strikes you with this track is how dreamily it functions - that languid bass line, those bedroomy vocals, and that un-Caribbean'esque keyboard line. Dancehall at its finest, sure, but pop-ful and oddly alienated from Kingston's violent exteriors. Someone had to dream in this way.
-The Kaiser (for Rice & Peas)
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