Archive for the ‘Black Uhuru’ Category

Wally Badarou

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Listen: Theme From Countryman / Wally Badarou

This single sits front of the 7″ soundtrack section in a wall shelf that I pass everyday of my life, when I’m in town that is. Suddenly it occurred to me, I had no idea what it sounded like. Well that’s all changed. If ‘Theme From Countryman’ had lyrics, I could sing you every last one at this point, that’s how many times it’s been on repeat. One of many lessons learned: never dump a record, you just can not predict know when it may become a cornerstone in your collection.

As an unofficial member of Level 42, Wally Badarou held little interest to me, and his endless studio involvements somehow the same. Boy, was I stupid.

Firstly, his accomplishments are an eye opener: a member of The Compass Point All Stars with Sly & Robbie, Barry Reynolds, Mikey Chung and Sticky Thompson, the in-house recording team of Compass Point Studios responsible for a long series of albums by Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Black Uhuru, Gwen Guthrie, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Robert Palmer, Marianne Faithfull, Herbie Hancock, M, Talking Heads, Melissa Etheridge, Manu Dibango and Miriam Makeba. Yeah, gasp.

Secondly, a gifted composer of incidental film music, possibly even harder to do well than calculating a Top 40 hit.

The single lead me to pull out the full length COUNTRYMAN double album soundtrack, thereby discovering, upon a typical credit scour, that Kwaku Baah played a big part in the musician lineup. Currently obsessed with his annoyingly under appreciated and extremely scarce TRANCE album from ’77, credited to Kwaku Baah & Ganoua, I rabidly advise finding a copy. And while you’re at it, both the COUNTRYMAN soundtrack and it’s accompanying 7″.

Ray Lema

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Listen: Kamulang (Single Edit) / Ray Lema

In the late 80′s, just starting a five year run at Island, I became pretty obsessed with World Music. We never called it that there or then, but the industry termed the genre as such around the time. It was easily a normal expansion of Island’s musical reach, well, normal to those of us in-house at least.

Chris had noticed my love of the genre, and at one point, suggested I leave the pop side of the company to concentrate exclusively on Mango, Island’s World and Reggae imprint. In some ways, I wish I had, but hey, you can’t do everything. At least, I can’t.

During the process though, I made a few trips to the UK and France, where several of the African acts either resided or performed regularly. One such being Ray Lema. His Mango debut, NANGADEEF, was produced by Paul ‘Graucho’ Smykle, infamous in my world for an identical feat on Black Uhuru’s ANTHEM.

Graucho may as well have lived at Island’s 22 St. Peter’s Square office in London, where we became fast friends. And I loved NANGADEEF. Was I ever pleased to see ‘Kamulang’ on the UK’s single release schedule, which in those days meant a 7 as well as a 12.

It was in Paris, during November ’89, that Ray Lema played to a jammed house inside the Virgin Mega Store. The whole freaking day reeked of romantic. Never one to have a soft spot about Paris nor France, I must admit, hanging around, as excited to meet Ray Lema as I had been about The Rolling Stones a decade and more earlier, with the Eiffel Tower in clear view, was pretty memorable. Musicianship, not volume, being the ultimate asset here, and Ray Lema had both. If you know his work, or simply listen to this track, I can verify, the music was flawlessly reproduced live with an added spiritual euphoria.

Despite the period’s sonic trappings, now all rather dated, there was always a streak of The Soft Machine in there instrumentally. What’s not to like about that?

Nowadays, ‘Kamulang’ holds up just fine for me. Regardless of if I can stretch my World 7″ collection to 50 plus or not, this will always be Top 5.

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Listen: Di Black Petty Booshwah / Linton Kwesi Johnson LKJBlackPetty.mp3

I recollect LKJ’s FORCES OF VICTORY and BASS CULTURE albums suddenly being of great interest amongst our whole crowd. For whatever reason, they seemed like the first full lengths after that initial introductory (to us) influx of ’76 and ’77 releases (Max Romeo & The Upsetters, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Peter Tosh, The Mighty Diamonds, Jah Lion, Dillinger), and they were both non stop favorites for months. It never occurred to me some singles might actually be pulled from them, given they were such ‘album’ albums. I still thank the decision makers who chose to proceed otherwise.

The Sly & Robbie Taxi productions combined with acts like Steel Pulse and Inner Circle that raced toward a clean, syndrum, soul-less era of early 80′s reggae was just about to begin. FORCES OF VICTORY and it’s follow up, BASS CULTURE, bar a few others like Black Uhuru, basically ended my hardcore infatuation with most reggae music that followed, due to this new sound twist, uncomfortably merging expensive modern equipment with one of the only non flash earthiest genres left.

From BASS CULTURE, ‘Di Black Petty Booshwah’ was a nice example of LKJ’s countless A1 tracks. I still don’t get why so many songs ended up gracing 7″ singles that seemed to have no hope for airplay. I’m guessing in the case of reggae, the pockets of Jamaican communities around London might have been the target – but they weren’t exactly singles buyers like in the 60′s, where they?

My money would’ve been ‘Inglan Is a Bitch’ as the choice. If you’re going to end up being struck down at BBC playlist music meetings, you might as well make an unsettling statement.

But I’m well content to own the promo and stock of ‘Di Black Petty Booshwah’, complete with custom sleeve. It sounds just that tiny bit better than the album, given the nice wide grooves and the revved up speed of 45.

Listen: Straight To Madray’s Head / Linton Kwesi Johnson LKJBlackPetty Dub.mp3

Misleading title for the actual dub of this A side. I double checked via INDEPENDENT INTAVENSHAN – THE ISLAND ANTHOLOGY, a comprehensive double cd encompassing his work for the label, complete with dub versions of just about every song. And guess what – this isn’t included. So to the best of my knowledge, one needs to track down the 7″ if adding it to the collection is required.

While on the subject earlier of mischosen LKJ A sides, it’s worth wishing history had dictated a 7″ release of ‘Independent Intavenshan’ and it’s priceless extented dub version which can be found on the above anthology.

Carl Malcolm

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

carlosfattyusa, Carl Malcolm, UK Records, Jonathan KIng

Listen: Fatty Bum Bum / Carl Malcolm CarlMalcolmFatty.mp3

carlosmalcolmwire, Carl Malcolm, UK Records, Jonathan King

Listen: Miss Wire Waist / Carl Malcolm CarlMalcolmMissWireWaist.mp3

Despite the one hit wonder tag, his #8 UK singles placing from ’75 is a perfect pop-reggae classic. Produced by Clive Chin, not only famous for his work with Augustus Pablo, Black Uhuru and The Wailers, but is self credited as having made the very first dub album. Pretty nice.

This pop hit, further categorized as ‘maybe not so credible’ due mostly to becoming popular, but also because it’s release on Jonathan King’s rather fantastic UK Records imprint meant it was considered mainstream and polished. Like that’s bad – even if the song is great? Jonathan King had impeccable talents for spotting hits as well as recording them. Well I loved this song – from the first listen.

And in a perfect marketing ploy (get all the girls big and small), Carl Malcolm and UK Records released ‘Miss Wire Waist’ as the hopeful, and deserving followup single. It really should’ve been a hit and brought Carl to a higher career plateau. It wasn’t meant to be – well not as recording artist. Year later, you can find him drumming solidly for the Melodians.