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Soundclash 6.24

Lord Tanamo
“Come Down”
SEP 7" (1963)

Lord Tanamo
"Pradeial T'ief "
Caribou 78 (1957)

This month we are paying our respects to Joseph Abraham Gordon, aka Lord Tanamo, who died on April 15 in Toronto; he'd been living there many decades. Tanamo's trajectory began in the 1950s, where he made a name for himself on many early Mento recordings, one of which we include here. But tracing the importance of his role takes you beyond mere recordings alone. A key event in ska was around the corner in May 1964, with the official forming of the Skatalites. Tanamo became their first live singer and MC, and thus a bond was born. Those same musicians - and others, always others - would back him on his handful of classic ska recordings. Skatalites chronicler Brian Keyo related a touching anecdote involving Lester Sterling - the only living original member - who upon hearing of Tanamo's passing, immediately broke into "Come Down." Similarly, Jamaican trombonist and band leader Carlos Malcolm's online tribute also highlighted this song, deeming it possibly the fullest, early expression of a quintessentially Jamaican ska sound. And thus we offer these tracks and one more at the end of the mix in honor of the late, great Lord Tanamo.

-The Kaiser

The Delta Cats
“I Can't Re-Live (sic)"
Bamboo UK 7" (1969)

What can I say about this “I Can’t Believe” that hasn’t already been said? Almost nothing, because there is very little out there about this cut and the singers and players behind it (except that they probably aren’t the Delta Cats of “Rocket 88” fame). What is known: The Delta Cats recorded the rocksteady track “Unworthy Baby” for Trojan subsidiary Blue Cat in 1968. It was issued as the B-side on a double-sider with The Thrillers’ “Last Dance;” it’s a rare and pricey find, these days. In 1969, they cut “I Can’t Believe” and “I’ve Been Hurt” for Studio One, which released both cuts on Bamboo in the UK (mistitling the A-side as “I Can’t Re-live”), and issued the song in Jamaica on a blank backed with Lloyd Robinson’s “Time to Pray.” If you know anything about this song, the group, anything, please reach out to us on Facebook.

-Sammy Gong

Lord Laro
“Referendum Calypso”
Kalypso 7" (1961)

The sweet-voiced Laro plays newsman during the high-spirited debate about Jamaica’s possible exit from the Federation of the West Indies, which had been created by the British government in hopes the 10 colonies would become a united, independent state. Jamaican dissatisfaction with the arrangement and impatience with the slow pace of independence gave Alexander Bustamante the political muscle to push Premier Norman Manley into calling a referendum on exiting the shaky union. The September 1961 vote passed 54-46, and Manley and his government were ousted in April of the following year and the Federation was dissolved. Jamaica became an independent country on Aug. 6, 1962 with Bustmente as its first prime minster.

-Sammy Gong

Social Evils
“Madness Is Gladness”
Teem 7" (1976)

One joy of record collecting is discovery of that “one away” artist who comes up with a solitary record that hits strong. In this case we get the added benefit of a killer group name to go along with said music. I had been familiar with this rhythm for years, as it’s my favorite from the Jah Lloyd-produced Herb Dub album, but I never did know if there was a vocal to ride pon it. I was well pleased to stumble on this song a few years ago, and it kind of brought the whole vibe together for me. Interestingly, Bongo Herman gets a nod as the artist on the version side, so I suspect he had a hand in arranging the music. I know he and Jah Lloyd ran tight back in those days. Oh what days those must have been.

-Rice & Peas

Roger Robinson
"Walk With Me"
Dis Side Ah Town
Jahtari (2016)

Here's one of our occasional forays into contemporary recordings, featuring Roger Robinson, a co-founder of London's King Midas Sound. Robinson's received the inevitable LKJ comparisons, given his "dub poetic" vocalizing, and thematically he's plainly mining those same Brixton vibes and goings on. Those events turned into riots in 2011, and the grumbling yet thoughtful mood he performs in feels spot on. That perennial question of how can "roots reggae" remain vital and active finds its answer with this record. If the Grammy's were actually worth a damn, we'd have a potential winner right here.

-The Kaiser

Phillip Parkinson
“Niah Know the Messiah"
Carib Gems UK 7" (1977)

I admit I don’t know the Twinkle Brothers’ music well enough to determine if Phillip Parkinson is another name for lead singer Norman Grant or another dude altogether. Either way, it’s got that Twinkles stamp on it and is for my money the best of the handful of tunes credited to this name (with the 12” of ‘Take Us Home’ a close second.) It’s also unclear if this ever got a JA issue, as the UK-based Carib Gems label is certainly the most common pressing. For good reason, it has that sound that must have slotted in well with the UK sound systems of the time. Well, I gotta say it doesn’t sound too bad slotted into this mix right here, either.

-Rice & Peas

Norman Grant
"Matthew, Mark, Luke and John"
Treasure Isle Revive 7" (2016) (1967)

A few months ago we featured a Baba Brooks tune that had been reissued from the master tapes, and here we offer its companion release, a Treasure Isle rocksteady rarity from the future lead Twinkle Brother himself. When I first was learning about Jamaican music and specific hallmarks of various studios, it was made clear to me that Treasure Isle recordings had the warmest sound during the rocksteady era. Added to that was a mastering that impresario Duke Reid infamously insisted on - bass always well forward. You can hear how lush and seductive the overall effect becomes, and with it that sense that from 1967-68, the Bond Street studio in Kingston put a spell on the island. Fall for it all over again.

-The Kaiser

Lord Tanamo
"I Had A Dream"
Rio UK 7" (1964)

And to close this month's mix, one last Tanamo track, this one recorded for sound system operator George "King" Edwards. When the tributes came in for Tanamo, several people mentioned this as a fave cut. It is a gentle and reflective song, with those little trumpet embellishments throughout working in tandem with a lazy gait of a rhythm, just taking you by the hand, right through Tanamo's dream scape. For me, this track feels almost like a dream, the way some sense of a halcyon past can envelop you in a hazy gauze. It makes you want to stroll, hoping the destination is always in sight but never fully reached. The point is the walk, the dream. RIP Tanamo.

-The Kaiser

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