Archive for the ‘Toots & The Maytals’ Category

Burning Spear

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Listen: Lion / Burning Spear
Listen: Lion / Burning Spear

Most consider MARCUS GARVEY and the accompanying dub version, GARVEY’S GHOST, both from ’76, to be the ultimate introduction to Burning Spear. Not me. The ’77 followup, MAN IN THE HILLS, takes the prize hands down.

Blame it on the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). Howard Thompson sent a copy with a bunch of Island punk and reggae releases in his very first mailing that began our friendship. It was known as a care package in those days, the kind you’d load a new pal up with when you worked at a record company. Just go over to the cupboard and pull one of anything remotely good, then ship it off. And the cupboards at Island were bursting with good stuff back then.

I dare call it life changing. Sure, that sounds way over dramatic. But no, it’s actually not. The records in that big box did just that, not only to me, but to my closest friends and Corinne as well. She for one, dove head first into a reggae addiction from the get go. Took her years to shake, to find a normal balance between it and everyday life, but not before up and going to London to see Burning Spear and Aswad at the Rainbow, with Karen. I think they had some unfinished Eddie & The Hot Rods business on that particular journey as well.

The box. Yes. I can still recall every record in it:

Various Artists THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3)
The Upsetters SUPER APE
Toots & The Maytals REGGAE GOT SOUL
The Heptones NIGHT FOOD
Derek & Clive LIVE
Max Romeo & The Upsetters WAR INA BABYLON

Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Writing On The Wall’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Wooly Bully’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Teenage Depression’
Lee Perry ‘Roast Fish & Cornbread’
Dillinger ‘Cokane In My Brain’
Aswad ‘Back To Africa’
Aswad ‘Three Babylon’
Junior Murvin ‘Police & Thieves’
The Heptones & The Upsetters ‘ Sufferer’s Time’
The Heptones ‘Book Of Rules’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Fire’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Carry Go Bring Come’
Kevin Ayers ‘Falling In Love Again’
Sparks ‘Big Boy’
Sparks ‘I Like Girls’
Ultravox ‘Dangerous Rhythm’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘One Step Forward’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘Chase The Devil’
Trevor White ‘Crazy Kids’
The Dwight Twilley Band ‘I’m On Fire’
Fay Bennett ‘Big Cockey Wally’
Leroy Smart ‘Ballistic Affair’
J.J. Cale ‘Travelin’ Light’
The Jess Roden Band ‘Stay In Bed’
Rico ‘Dial Africa’
Agusutus Pablo ‘King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown’
Burning Spear ‘Lion’

Might as well get this over with now: the 7′s were all promo copies. Sorry.

Yeah, go ahead. Take a breather. I tell you what. There was no preparing for that package in real life either. I wasn’t expecting a box, maybe a few records, but not a box. Howard had rung me from his office shortly after receiving a letter I’d sent off to Island, written on WITR stationary. We talked for a bit, he filled me in on Eddie & The Hot Rods, who were my original reason for writing, suggested we trade some records and that we should stay in touch. Little did I know both his package and that phone call would change my life forever.

A week or so later, I just found this large box from Island Records UK in my apartment building’s lobby. Cost something like £40 to ship, a fortune in ’76. Hoisted it upstairs and into our place, could not open it fast enough. Fuck me, a shock to the system indeed, like my heart froze. Yet somehow I’ve lived to tell.

We poured over these records, the bunch of us, for weeks. You couldn’t wait for whatever was playing to end, so you could begin another. Corinne worked nights back then, and I vividly recall staying up until dawn, those first two days in a row, eating white crosses and just playing them, waiting for her to come home. Wow, what a fantastic flashback.

Every track on THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC became anthems to us, every one a badge of honor, knowing we’d found some of the best music of our lives, suddenly a whole new world opened up, and that album did it.

Burning Spear was little known to me at that point. Saw the US copies of those first two albums occasionally, but hadn’t heard either, or even tried to. Reggae had not entered my life. Once this compilation arrived, I became insatiable for it though.

‘Man In The Hills’, the title track, opened Side 2 of the comp. It was instant. Immediately tore through that pile of 7′s, sure I’d seen a Burning Spear single amongst them. The whole day was a blur, it was hard to process this all at once. Yes, there it was. ‘Lion’ / ‘Door Peep’ by Burning Spear

‘Lion’ defines my very favorite style of reggae, where the chorus keeps getting sung over and over and over. Just a lazy, hypnotic swirl that’s hard to fight. The genre has many a unique voice, but Winston Rodney’s, well it’s one of the greatest.

Eddie & The Hot Rods

Friday, December 13th, 2013

AT THE SOUND OF SPEED / Eddie & The Hot Rods:

Side 1:

Listen: Hard Drivin’ Man / Eddie & The Hot Rods

Listen: Horseplay / Eddie & The Hot Rods

Side 2:

Listen: Double Checkin’ Woman / Eddie & The Hot Rods

Listen: All I Need Is Money / Eddie & The Hot Rods

There were few better live bands in the world than Eddie & The Hot Rods around the time of this EP. Depending on the moment, probably no better one.

They are seldom credited with putting the bpm’s back into sluggish radio rock, the type of poisonous stuff Lee Abrams was about to turn into a successful US format, proceeding to keep punk off of America’s airwaves for two decades. By then, bands several generations younger were glorifying or respectfully copying the original idea. Regardless, most of punk’s, and in the case of Eddie & The Hot Rods, pub rock/pre-punk bands never got the massive exposure they deserved.

AT THE SOUND OF SPEED EP followed it’s predecessor LIVE AT THE MARQUEE during the summer of 1977, almost exactly one year later. The former reintroduced the EP format to the UK singles charts after a solid decade, peaking at #43.

As a result, Island did a short series of EP’s at the time, including those with new music from by The Jess Roden Band and Michael Nesmith, as well as reissue four song jobs by Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, The Spencer Davis Group and even Heads, Hands & Feet.

They’re a nice series to collect.

Marianne Faithfull

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Listen: Sister Morphine / Marianne Faithfull

Seeing Mark Miller Mundy’s name mentioned on a Facebook friend’s page today, combined with the chill of Fall setting into New York’s weather, brought on the idea of a BROKEN ENGLISH listen. Chris Blackwell once mentioned during a company retreat that Marianne Faithfull was the perfect example of an Autumn/Winter artist, siting Toots & The Maytals as being more adapted to Spring/Summer releases. The concept always stuck.

Fact is though, a thick UK 7″ pressing sounds better than any album, any day. Disagree? Don’t even. A/B ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ or ‘Broken English’ against their album counterparts and see for yourself. Most of humanity probably wouldn’t notice but to me, it’s blatant. So over to the singles shelf I went, and in the process, realized it’d been way long since the Island version of ‘Sister Morphine’, re-recorded during those BROKEN ENGLISH sessions, had made it’s way out my speakers.

Okay, so this clearly didn’t stand up to the rest of that album, despite the obvious logic that it’s subject matter might perfectly fit. When you think about it, the song was always anchored by a clunky blues arrangement. God love The Rolling Stones, but they’re basically boogie woogie to the bone. So whether it be their version or Marianne’s original with them on backing, the songwriting blueprint was hard to shake.

Mark Miller Mundy clearly couldn’t find a way round it either and this was therefore relegated to the outtake mausoleum at the time. Luckily, the scorn in her delivery made it a worthwhile B side not long later, in ’82, when ‘Broken English’ got a UK re-release, thus providing the single with it’s own little corner of history. And the picture perfect sleeve didn’t hurt.

Toots & The Maytals

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

TootsA, Toots & The Maytals, Island, Chris Blackwell

Listen: Chatty Chatty / Toots & The Maytals

By the time ‘Chatty Chatty’ was released in 1980, reggae seemed mainstream, at least to us collectors. Although the occasional US ska or reggae radio hit of the 60′s had long ended, and it’s resurgence in the 90′s still being a ways off, college stations were playing it pretty heavily. Plus the touring acts would hit all the punk and new wave clubs, drawing primarily the same audiences.

If ‘Chatty Chatty’ sounds similar to Bob Marley & The Wailers’ ‘Could You Be Loved’ it’s not surprising. Chris Blackwell produced both in that same year. On first listen I was convinced Toots & The Maytals had a mainstream smash on their hands, at least in the UK. Wrong. It never charted. None of his singles did. Seems hard to believe.

‘Chatty Chatty’ serves as the perfect springtime single, April 7, 1980 being it’s exact release date. That was something I learned from Chris. He many times saw a song’s first listen as being seasonal. Toots was spring and summer, Marianne Faithfull definitely autumn or winter.


Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Listen: Groovemaster / Arrow

The Island offices on 4th Street, right above Tower Records, were a real hubbub of activity back in the late 80′s and early 90′s. Seems a day wouldn’t go by when at least someone from the roster would stop by. Julian Cope, Phranc, Toots Hibbert, Bootsy Collins, Melissa Etheridge, Etta James, Third World, Rakim, Marianne Faithfull, Anthrax. Seriously, there was never a dull moment.

Arrow lived locally, and seemed genuinely thrilled to have a group of friends at the company, all of whom attended his many in Central Park or SOB’s shows. He was forever a happy jolt to any workday.

Seeing him live was a quick trip to carnival, there was no way you could have a bad time. For an hour or so, everyone danced and laughed and got rid of all their troubles. Sounds all very patronizing I’ll agree, but it really did happen that way.

Despite some of the sonic trappings of his Mango releases, like those electronic drums for instance, overall I have the fondest memories of ‘Groovemaster’ and those days when it was a current single. Not being one for Latin music, like truly not at all, ‘Grooovemaster’ just slides by unscathed. Hey, after all, it was World Music. Most importantly, it’s only possible to remember the good times associated with all things Arrow.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Arrow

Miriam Makeba

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Listen: I Shall Sing / Miriam Makeba
I Shall Sing / Miriam Makeba

I will forever regret missing Miriam Makeba when she returned to NY in ’88, supporting her then new album, SANGOMA. It reunited her with the Warner/Reprise label, and I was offered some tickets by Julie Panebianco in the label’s college department one floor down from Elektra. I recall spending that whole evening wondering what was happening only a mile or two away, while I sat home doing something completely unmemorable.

Collecting all the US and UK pressings of her singles proved surprisingly hard, so it became a mission.

‘I Shall Sing’ always escaped me for the longest time, until a few weeks back. Oddly the single isn’t even listed in most Miriam Makeba discographies. Like the album from which it came, KEEP ME IN MIND, the attempt was to bring on a more soul and rock approach, and in the case of ‘I Shall Sing’, a Van Morrison cover helped achieve the purpose. Later recorded by both Art Garfunkel and Toots & The Maytals, hands down, it’s her’s that takes the cake in my book.

Rebel MC

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Listen: Street Tuff / Rebel MC RebelMCStreetTuff.mp3

According to DS, lifting the infamously recycled rhythm riff from Toots & The Maytals ’54-46 (That’s My Number), and the toast from Scotty’s ‘Skank In Bed’, resulted in yet another pop hit. This one still gets played here in my house, usually on repeat all these years later. I don’t care who turns their nose up – I mean, really, as if anyone in England can seriously criticize this one.

Let’s face it, UK rap is 100% hysterical. Have you heard The Streets or Dizzee Rascal? Funnier still because they’re meant to be taken seriously. I love it. “Feel the beat, beneath your feet” Is this for real?

Not sure if Rebel MC faded into Betty Boo land or is now credible, but ‘Street Tuff’ is one hell of a teen pop anthem either way. The UK Kris Kross….fine.