SEP pre 7” (1964)
The Skatalites and Lord Tanamo were a bit of a team, since Tanamo - nee Joseph Gordon - was a frequent singer for their live performances. What you got with Tanamo was that lilting mento/calypso-influenced delivery, with the tongue in cheek, both thematically and in its physical delivery. A favorite topic in Jamaican cautionary tales was the comeuppance of the young braggart, and we can all enjoy that now and again. As Tanamo chides: "all your tricks will turn to licks." Teach them, Tanamo!
“Rudies All Around”
Fabulous Songs of Miss Sonia Pottinger Vol. 1
Rock A Shacka (2007) (1966)
Early Stranger Cole and Gladdy Anderson vocal duos were credited to the Seraphines. Whether that was a reference to the reed-like quality of the vocals or a guardian angel of sorts is hard to say. What makes Cole so interesting and compelling is that his success in the ska era didn't necessarily foretell how his singing would adapt to rocksteady and early reggae. He has a subtle emotive quality for what is a fairly raw singing style, and together with Anderson he was able to create some of the loveliest duets of the rocksteady and early reggae era. A Lynn Taitt arrangement accompanies this gentle chiding of the rude boys.
“Bun A One”
Jan-Disc 7" (2013) (2007)
This one is a bit of a mystery. Though just made available, it apparently was recorded in 2007 with a collection of musicians from the Aggrolites, Hepcat and the Vessels. Right there this makes it unlike any other tune that we have or probably ever will write up. However, listen to that sound. That’s pure Studio One Sound Dimension vibes…someone finally was able to recreate it. I’m not saying it’s the same level of musicianship, but the sound of the instruments is a pretty spot on re-creation of that distinct late '60’s vibe from Jackie Mittoo and the fellas. As for the man Jah Faith, he’s apparently the resident DJ for a club in Los Angeles, and does an apt job here with a nod to the ganja. Pick this up now while it’s around.
-Rice & Peas
Unity Is Power
Pressure Sounds (2013) (1979)
Higgs’ recordings do not number in the hundreds, and the liners suggest that in part this was due to being seen as a black sheep of the recording business. Perhaps equally true is that Higgs’ artistic eye ranged into territory that didn’t easily fit into the flavor of the day. His masterpiece album “Life Of Contradiction” was de facto rejected by Island Records, and the follow-up that Pressure Sounds has now also reissued fared little better. As ever, there are several tracks of uncommon beauty and arrangement on “Unity Is Power.” Higgs worked with musicians that many times operated outside of the normal studio grapevine, maintaining his identity just slightly beyond the demotic. In his fierceness also lay his pleas for more understanding, and this track’s lament at a love lost reveal a complex man torn up on the inside.
“Love Is the Song"
Wildflower 7" (1974)
Upful vibes from Laxton Ford on this mystical tune from 1974. Laxton Ford, who only recorded a few records, shines on this one. The rhythm section chugs along, with bursts from the horns, while Laxton spreads his message of joy and love for the world. The tune is a later cut of the Soulites' "Rise and Shine," which was featured in this space and on the 2011 Soundclash anniversary mix. Jamaican roots music at its finest.
Drummie & Pablove Black
“Redemption Rock/Jumbo Jet (Discomix)”
Jahlovemuzik 7” (1975)
Fred Locks released his immortal hit “Black Star Liners” in 1975, which became something of a sensation on the island, for all its then-fashionable trumpeting of repatriation to Africa. The rhythm behind it was, of course, a killer slice of mid-70s roots. It has to me the same feel of the Burning Spear outings for Jack Ruby, both bright and hopeful, coming before the darker roots period a couple years after this. I could listen to those guitar hooks all day. These two songs are rare next versions of that rhythm, and live up to expectations. There's no info on who Drummie was, but his spoken approach – I wouldn’t call this deejaying or chanting – works wonderfully over the core of the stripped down track. Twelve Tribes devotee and session keyboardist Pablove Black handled the melodica duties for the flip side, and I wonder if that’s also him on the vibraphone. Both instruments combine for an atypical and fully satisfying outing. If you don’t know the Fred Locks tune, look it up to complete the picture.
-Rice & Peas
EM Records (2012) (2006)
I’ve threatened on more than one occasion to put together a set-list of “dubby post-punk,” in answer to the punky reggae provocation by Lee Perry. In the UK alone, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s saw many Jamaican-inspired reinterpretations and adaptations by the DIY underground scene. Brenda Ray and her partner Sir Freddy Viaduct concocted their own impressive set of recordings in that time, and through that Ray managed to eventually meet Jamaican producer Roy Cousins. If you recognize the rhythm here then you’re familiar with one of Cousins’ most famous productions by the Royals, a group he also sang in. This particular track even came out on Cousins’ “Wambesi” label at one point. Cousins has always impressed me as a figure of flexibility and intelligence, and I think he recognized Ray’s talent for experimental pop rather well.
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