Archive for the ‘Junior Murvin’ 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.

Jah Lion

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Listen: Soldier & Police War / Jah Lion

Next time you scan a list or read an article spotlighting reggae’s masterpiece recordings, guaranteed you’ll find COLOMBIA COLLY by Jah Lion omitted. Despite being amongst Lee Perry’s most revered Black Ark productions during ’76 – ’77, along with albums such as The Congos HEART OF THE CONGOS or The Upsetters SUPER APE, it really is surprising this one is consistently overlooked.

My recollections of 4am listens, waiting for Corinne to get home from her night shift all those years ago, are as plain as day, or night, I suppose I should say. COLOMBIA COLLY was probably the most haunting record in my possession. At times, even in an only slightly paranoia state of pot and speed combination, my regular cocktail as a college kid, I’d seriously need to suddenly take it off the turntable. Combined with the eerie stillness coming through our un-air conditioned windows during those summer nights, the album occasionally gave me the creeps. It was, and still is, that powerful.

I was both shocked and thrilled when Howard Thompson included a newly released Jah Lion single in one of those early Island packages he’d regularly send from his London office. I mean, who exactly thought Jah Lion would sell singles? Chris Blackwell is my guess. God, those were the days, weren’t they?

So hot off the heels of the Lee Perry produced ‘Police & Thieves’ by Junior Murvin came this, his dub variation of that original track, retitled ‘Soldier & Police War’ and released as a British A side by Jah Lion.

But wait, there’s more. Island’s US reggae subsidiary, Mango, also issued this non-LP track as a single. Now this was surely not destined for big things on American radio, but instead released to serve the small but active Jamaican music buyers pocketed in various US cities.

In fact, I’ve never seen another domestic copy, bar the one pictured above, accidentally discovered in the New York Island mailroom amongst a long buried and very dusty 25 box of assorted US Island and Mango reggae 7′s during my years in A&R at the label, late 80′s. Yes, I froze in that discovery position for a good minute or two. And it wasn’t only this record that nearly had me leaving on a stretcher.

Apparently, for US consumers, the somewhat easier to remember title of ‘Police And Soldier’ was afforded it’s very own pressing.

In some ways though, this only further confused the situation, one whereby despite Lee Perry being pictured as the artist on the aforementioned COLOMBIA COLLY album, was indeed not. Jah Lion was actually Jah Lloyd, as Duane taught me. Apparently, as with artist identities, Lee Perry often shuffled songs titles as well.

Justin Hines & The Dominoes

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

JustinHinesCarryUKA, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesCarryUK, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesCarryUS, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Carry Go, Bring Come / Justin Hines & The Dominoes

Back in ’76, when Howard Thompson was still a junior A&R scout at Island UK, we struck up a quick friendship. Well it happened quick but it’s still going today and as strong a friendship as one can have. The first package he sent over, and a big one at that, included the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). His accompanying note implored me to listen, citing the ‘almost psychedelic’ nature of the songs and their production. More accurate words have never been written. That sampler changed my life.

I couldn’t get down the phone fast enough to him. The call was quickly followed by a box, a fucking box, jammed with full length LP’s from just about every act on that comp: Aswad, Jah Lion, Burning Spear, Junior Murvin, Max Romeo & The Upsetters and Justin Hines & The Dominoes’ JEZEBEL – plus a slew of 7 and 12″ singles from all the above and more (Lee Perry, Fay Bennett, The Skatalites, Leroy Smart, Rico, Lord Creator, Millie, Dillinger, Augustus Pablo) each with that vital dub B side. A treasure trove if ever, ever, ever there was one. I’ll never forget ripping that one open. Can you imagine how it blew my mind and my friend’s minds too? Well it did.

There were a couple of singles in there from Justin Hines & The Dominoes. A then current reggae remake of his very own decade old Jamaican ska hit (then listed as Justin Hinds & The Dominoes) ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. This newer version being my preferred choice.

JustinHinesJezebelUKB, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesJezebelUK, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

JustinHinesJezebelUS, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Jezebel / Justin Hines & The Dominoes

It’s flip, ‘Jezebel,’ a confusingly titled non-LP track from the JEZEBEL album, stay with me here, is actually a very nice dub of the A side ‘Carry Go, Bring Come’. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

To my knowledge, it’s never appeared on a reissue of any sort.

JustinHinesFireUKA, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Fire / Justin Hines & The Dominoes

‘Fire’ still reminds me vividly of that summer ’76 when Corinne worked the night shift and I had the place to myself, with not a responsibility in the world between semesters but doing a bunch of play whatever you want radio shows. So I’d spend all night spinning records and drinking tea, then sleeping the morning away once she got back home. Ah the joys of being young.

‘Fire’ in particular was the well worn 7″, a perfect song to overlay onto the backdrop of an alarmingly silent city, all asleep, not even a mouse was creeping on the deserted streets – quite eerie. Jack Ruby, the record’s producer, was indeed known for just such a haunting production quality. I still prefer to think of him as Reggae’s Joe Meek. We’d listen to it at least a few times, religiously, every morning before passing out.

JustinHinesNatty, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Jack Ruby, Island

Listen: Natty Take Over / Justin Hines & The Dominoes

There’s not a bad track on that JEZEBEL album, yet there is a favorite: ‘Natty Take Over’. A most obvious A side to me, yet relegated as a B, I was just happy it was on a 7″ at all.

It fit in perfectly with the Island promo shirts announcing these reggae releases. The shirts came in many colors. I preferred the purple one with sky blue lettering that said quite simply, REGGAE on the front, with that palm tree Island logo on it’s sleeve. What better thing to wear almost daily during a nice hot summer. I still have that shirt.


Friday, July 9th, 2010

Back To Africa / Aswad

Listen: Back To Africa / Aswad AswadBack.mp3

Don’t dismiss Aswad because they were an English reggae band. I can understand you confusing them with the generic Steel Pulse based on origin, but Aswad indeed were roots. And the hits they had years later, well, they were great singles. I still love ‘Don’t Turn Around’.

Howard turned me on to them back in ’76. He put them out with Eddie & The Hot Rods. Remember when reggae and punk happily co-existed? Well that tour may indeed be the one that gave Joe Strummer the idea to take The Clash reggae a year or so later – I mean he was copying everything else so why leave this idea on the table?

I initially had no idea Aswad were English, having been part of those 45 packages Howard would send along from Island: Augustus Pablo, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Max Romeo & The Upsetters, Rico, Burning Spear and Junior Murvin. They sounded so authentic, I couldn’t tell the difference from their initial few singles, of which this was the first.

The Congos

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Listen: Congo Man / The Congos CongosCongoMan.mp3

As with anyone, once you get into a phase, like my recent reggae one, you probably end up trolling through loads of related records. In the case of reggae/ska here at home, they’re all separated into their own shelfs, both singles and albums, unlike any other genre. Reason: Corinne was such a reggae nut, I preferred to keep them separated so as not to have her pawing through all my other records, misfiling and doing harmlessly exactly as every other person would, being a bit sloppy about how they should be housed. Me: I’m immaculately ridiculous. I admit it.

When I stumbled on The Congos (yes it is misspelled on the label) the other day, I had suddenly remembered how extreme, maybe the most extreme ‘Lee Perry at his druggy-ist production ever’ this one and only Black Swan UK single was. And also what apparent controversy surrounded it (coming later).

All that aside, I cranked it, through the big Tannoy speakers. Truth be told, I’m no audiophile, and happily spin singles on either one of the two portable suitcase players I own. Occasionally, I’ll fire up the two turntable, DJ mix set up with all the speakers, either for an evening of playing records with a shortlist of close friends or for reggae. The bass is still amazing on those massive, and probably by today’s current high brow standards, archaic Tannoys.

So out comes ‘Congo Man’, on goes the big system and loud goes the volume. (The house was empty otherwise I’d have not even made it to :20). Wallop. I had forgotten this record’s power. And at 45 rpm, as with all singles, there’s even that much more bite.

Well, this is easy, I’ve just found my next post.

Listen: Congo Man Chant / The Congos CongosCongoChant.mp3

Having no recollection of the dub B side, then verifying it was never included on ARKOLOGY, the basically excellent Lee Perry anthology Island did back in the late 90′s, this flashback was no let down. This dub version could either convert or scare anyone.

I had thought Island’s rejection of The Congos album, only the above single was pressed as a promo only, never given a catalog number (which would be four digits and prefixed with WIP) was the reason Lee Perry burned down his infamous Black Arc studio. So I went to the expert, Duane Sherwood, for confirmation. It was not. His reply is below:

“Congo Man’ was the only single Island deemed suitable for release from the rejected HEART OF THE CONGOS album.
As far as I know, it’s the only serious blunder Chris Blackwell made in his stellar career (although some claim this was more about a business dispute than the music), sheparding Jamaican music thru Island and its sub-labels. The Lee Perry produced album is now in the Top 5, if not #1, on many of the most knowledgeable reggae musicoloigists all time lists. In Jamaica, the single was preceded by ‘Row Fisherman’, which came out a while before the album. Also, in Jamaica, at least three other singles were released from the album, two of them as extended, speaker burning, Black Art 12″s.

The trio, Cedric Myton, Ashanti Roy Johnson and Watty Burnett, introduced Perry to the beginnings of his rasta faith. They got him taking better care of his health, and that’s when the pictures of him with tiny dreads spiking up in his hair began to show up. Backing The Congos were the classic house rhythm section The Upsetters: Mikey Boo Richards on drums, Boris Gardiner on bass, Winston Wright on organ and Ernest Ranglin on guitar. The trio reunited and went on tour when the UK Blood & Fire label reissued HEART OF THE CONGOS in the 90′s, and played the entire album in front of enthralled old timers who never thought they’d see it.

‘Congo Man’ is a relic from the golden era of Perry’s Black Ark studio. Perched behind his house in Washington Gardens, the cinderblock and wood structure had become the coolest place in Jamaica in the mid-70′s, basically making it the coolest place anywhere in the universe at that time. Various up and coming singers hung around, hoping to be the closest one when Scratch suddenly got an idea and was looking for someone to sing it. The established stars of Perry’s stable, such as Junior Murvin, Jah Lion, Augustus Pablo and The Heptones were always about, adding harmonies and parts.

But there were also a growing population of ‘blood-suckahs, pimps and ‘ooligans’ frequenting the studio. Heavy hitter rastas came calling, looking to induct Perry deeper into their organization, which he resisted. He got fleeced by a promoter, who he invested with for a broadway musical about reggae and rasta. A lot of women were about too, and Lee Perry was a mover, despite his wife and family being around. Some of the more orthodox stars like Gregory Isaacs stopped coming, on account of “too much farn-i-cay-teen” on the premises.

The whole vibe, combined with the copious amounts of ganga being passed around and the rum being sipped, was a recipe for trouble. As Island started rejecting many of the full length releases Scratch was continually submitting, frustration started to build. Perry used to hold up an actual Island record with the island of Jamaica at sunset in the background on black vinyl. “See? Chris Blackwell surround the island” he used to say.

At some point, his wife Isha began an affair with Danny Clarke from The Meditations and that set the collapse in motion. Scratch decided he was done with all the hangers on and rasta theologians. He started acting crazy, put a sign on his front gate saying “I’m a Batty Boy” (JA slang for faggot). He started putting a huge piece of pork on the antenna of his car to keep the rastas away when he went out. It was always surrounded by flies in the hot Jamaican sun. He had been writing all over the walls of the studio for a while now, but he began drawing ‘X’s over the writing and everywhere, even burning them into the large leaves of the garden with a magnifying glass. Around this time, as the news started coming in about Bob Marley’s worsening condition, Scratch began walking around town backwards, stopping every so often to strike the ground with a hammer.

It’s generally believed that this is when he burned the studio down, but in actuality that happened several years later. He had left to America, made records backed by American reggae-rock bands like The Majestics, and returned. There are a few versions of the fire story, my favorite being the German tourist that showed up and wouldn’t leave. Perry got so frustrated, he grabbed one of the glass bottles of petrol in the driveway and threw it on the roof, then set it ablaze to scare the tourist off, which it did. Perry turned on the garden hose to put the fire out, but the local water had been turned off for the night. Scratch is said to have immediately sent his son out to buy a bottle of rum, saying “If Black Ark a g’waan burn, we haffa keep a party!”

Listen: Fisherman / The Congos CongosFisherman.mp3

Listen: Can’t Come In / The Congos CongosCantComeIn.mp3

In 1980, The Beat’s ska based, and generically visual leaning label, reissued the album, pulling two more tracks from HEART OF THE CONGOS as a single. They are above.

Max Romeo / The Prodigy

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Chase the Devil / Max Romeo

Listen: Chase The Devil / Max Romeo 03 Chase The Devil.mp3

Out of Space / The Prodigy

Listen: Out Of Space / The Prodigy Out Of Space (Edit).mp3

Back in ’76, I was the music director and program director of my college radio station. I’d returned to school after a few years of fucking off in England and working for a one stop record distributor, but remembered the tricks of the trade: get into the radio station pronto, and snag both MD and PD slots if possible (oh yeah, and become the concert chairman while you’re at it as well), thereby insuring ALL the records pass through your mitts first, allowing one’s self to keep the extra (and sometimes the only) copy received. Yes those were some of the brutal measures necessary when plagued by a record collecting addiction. I was very into pub rock then: Ducks Deluxe, Doctor Feelgood and especially Eddie & The Hot Rods. The Hot Rods were signed to Island UK, and because we were playing their LIVE AT THE MARQUEE EP, and it was selling a few at the local record shop, I felt quite justified in writing Island’s London office letting them know of this incredible success story, oh and um….looking for some freebies. Talk about a smart move. The letter, the first one about Eddie & The Hot Rods from the US as it turned out, was handed to the young A&R scout who had signed them, Howard Thompson. He rang me, we began exchanging letters, phone calls, the latest releases and ended up best friends for life. He gave me my first real job at Elektra 8 years later, hence the smart move comment. But back to ’76, I would wait in huge anticipation of his packages showing up, as they were always filled with the latest punk singles and Island releases. A turning point that got me into reggae, was when Howard sent over the Island compilation, THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). It in itself is a classic reggae title. Every act on there being seminal (Lee Perry, Peter Tosh, Justin Hines & The Dominoes, Junior Murvin, Bunny Wailer, Burning Spear amongst them – and all great tracks as well). This was also Lee Perry heavy, as he either performed on, or produced most everything on the comp. And one of the tracks, ‘War Ina Babylon’ was by Max Romeo & The Upsetters. The note that Howard enclosed described this Lee Perry stuff as ‘almost psychedelic’, and no truer words have ever been written. Of course, I needed all the singles and full length albums by each of these acts, which Howard quickly and thankfully supplied (see Max Romeo single pictured above). Fast forward a decade or two, and sampling has started. I remember reading Bowie’s comments on the process, he loved it as long as he got paid. Most artists weren’t as adventurous, not wanting their music altered, chopped, processed etc. But Bowie, not surprisingly, loved the ability of reinterpretation it afforded. Fast forward again to mash ups….which brings me to this record by The Prodigy: ‘Out Of Space’. From their classic and ‘must own’ PRODIGY EXPERIENCE album, this may be the first ever mash up, before they were even called mash ups. If not, then it certainly samples Max Romeo’s ‘Chase The Devil’ generously, mixing their own song with his. From the looks of The Prodigy’s label copy, neither Romeo nor Lee Perry were credited at the time, but I can’t imagine that hasn’t been sorted since. Never mind. Both singles are great and stand up beautifully on their own.