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.