“Mr Phang Mr Wong Mr Chin"
Micron 7" (1976)
Lee Perry made more than his share of tunes that didn’t have any real hit-making chances, and here's a perfect example. Four decades on, this track remains a silly but charming piece of Black Ark-inspired weirdness that could only be justified by a producer who owned and operated his own house studio, and who felt no real pressure to make every session a hit making venture. I can very much see Clarke and Perry toying with the words here, talking about how the Chinese-Jamaican population were the gatekeepers to many jobs on the island, and the pressure to get their acceptance and therefore employment, and it turning into something to which Perry let the tapes roll. It’s never gonna be uninteresting, this Black Ark shit.
-Rice & Peas
Various: Matador's Arena: 1968-1969
Jamaican Gold (1994) (1968)
We've chosen a Matador production to honor Lloyd "The Matador" Daley and his wife Deanna's 48th Anniversary. We could extend the July month into a Matador marker in general, since he turned seventy-six on the 12th. Those in the know point to Daley's productions from 1968-72 as a lesser-known high watermark in Jamaican song-craft and expressions of local flavor. Of the Coasters vocal trio, we know that lead singer Dalvy Morris used to sell ornaments for tourists at Stony Hill. Inspiration sometimes is quotidian, but what the musicians and Daley's attention to detail brought forth exceeded the mundane by quite a ways. Superior early reggae is how you file this one.
Triumph blank 7" (1968)
This is the song that gave an early PAMA Records compilation its name. If you're looking to bone up on that signature vocal mannerism of the Rocksteady era, this is the tune you practice to - 'tchyyaaaaa'. Embedded in that idler's corner expression is some hyped-up languor, born out of the realization that guitarist Lynn Taitt and his band of rocksteady minstrels had hit upon the new expression of cool. Renting a tile officially began here, I'd venture to guess. Naturally, you can expect women to roll their eyes at all this, but it's okay boys, because this is Rocksteady Cooolll. Tchyyaaaa.
Bunny & Skitter w/Buster's Group
Buster Wild Bells 7" (1961)
There is wide ranging speculation as to who Bunny and Skitter were. It seems many have settled on Zoot Simms being Bunny, with either George Dudley (who later recorded a few tunes for Coxsone) or Vernon Allen (responsible for the fantastic song ‘Babylon’) being Skitter. So that’s that, and while it’s a shame we don’t have watertight verification on the singers, the results speak for themselves. This song was apparently part of that first and now legendary recording session when Prince Buster brought Count Ossie and crew into the studio to record "Oh Carolina" by the Folkes Brothers. I can’t recall where I read it now, but the story goes that Buster and his band of ghetto vocalists went to the hills to rehearse for a couple of days before descending back on Kingston to record. While "Oh Carolina" went on to become an all-time anthem of modern Jamaican music, "Chubby" did not receive similar acclaim, despite being very much in the same vein. Perhaps the vocals and tempo are a bit too laid back, but the overall impact is just as heavy. They don’t make music like this anymore, anywhere.
-Rice & Peas
Prince Tallis & the Israelites
"Pressure Down On I"
Tombstonian 7" (1978)
For this somewhat obscure later period roots track, we are left to assume that producer/song-writer "K. Crooks" is the princely Mr. Tallis. In true one-off fashion, every musical component is nailed down perfectly, leaving you to wonder what else he might've recorded that is this good. The themes of a place to lay the sufferer's weary head and coping with poverty’s pressures are ever-present for those willing to listen outside of themselves. Until more do, these hauntingly beautiful distress signals from the ghetto will press on in their dignity mostly unheard and forgotten.
“Pocket Money dub"
While Prince Tony Robinson’s work with the Gladiators and U Roy isn’t underrepresented by any stretch, the dubs remain relegated to the used bins and eBay auctions. It’s a damn shame; when Errol T was inspired, he produced work of beauty and thunder. This dub pulled from the Gladiators’ “Pocket Money” / U Roy’s “Evil Doers” is just that, and it once again begs the question, “Why isn’t there a collection of Prince Tony’s dubs?” His best for Robinson is every bit as good as his work for Joe Gibbs and deserves to see the light of revive.
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