Listen: Book Of Rules / The Heptones
Been digging out a lot of reggae stuff lately, combing through the shelves separated out specifically for the genre, well ska and blue beat are on them too.
A Burning Spear post from few years back details my initial introduction to reggae proper, basically via an unexpected crash course box full of seminal records from Howard Thompson when he worked at Island UK in ’76. Fast forward twelve years, I’m employed at Island New York and was given the task of assembling a promotional cd for the label’s reissue series encompassing most of their classic 70′s reggae titles. Both cd and campaign were called 96º IN THE SHADE. It was good fun, and honestly a piece of cake. So this is called a job?
I just started off with Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ and using the Island master printout which chronologically lists every single and album by catalog number, I picked out the gems. It was easy.
And I’m proud to say, the compilation got such good response from the shops that we renamed it GROOVE YARD, changed the cover, squeezed on a few more good ones, and released it commercially. The cd sold well.
Like the rest of the solar system, I don’t use cd’s much anymore. The Airbooks in the house don’t even have disc drives, so most of those compact discs are boxed and in storage, although some I do keep shelved for the car. I grabbed GROOVE YARD on my way out recently and found myself reliving the greatness of quite a few tracks from the era, as well as some sentimental memories of those times.
‘Book Of Rules’ is certainly one of my ten-ish favorite reggae 7′s. Fantastic song, nice clean vocal and lovely production by Chris Blackwell.
Listen: Book Of Rules (Version) / The Heptones
Released as the single’s B side in ’73, ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ seems to have preceded full on dub by a year or two, when instrumentals with decorative sound effects thrown in were still called ‘version’ and always used as B sides. I’ve always wanted ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ to be a bit more exciting or something more moving but it basically isn’t. Regardless, it’s interesting to hear how dub was getting started.
Listen: Sufferer’s Time / Heptones with The Upsetters
By ’76, Lee Perry is at the controls, The Black Arc in full swing and with The Upsetters doing the tracking, The Heptones were in tune with the times. Another classic, ‘Sufferer’s Time’, is basically perfect in every way. I never spin it just once. Can’t. I’ll even be late for something important to hear the song that one extra time.
The real fun bit here being that Island US, like the UK company, issued it as a 7″. I’m guessing there were pockets of Jamaican communities in some of the major US cities that would warrant say a 1000 or 2000 piece run. Those sales figures are again guesses, and as the manufacturing details were very sloppy at Island. I never could figure out a real number on this nor a few others that had been shockingly issued here on 7″, to my disbelief.
This I can tell you. There weren’t many pressed as I’ve never seen another US copy of ‘Sufferer’s Time’. Just happened to stumble on this while going through some deeply buried boxes in the Island New York mailroom, a process of completion that took a month or two, but I managed them them all and it was well, well, well worth the sleuthing, trust me.
Listen: Sufferer’s Dub / The Upsetters
Not only is the A side a heart threatener, but by ’76, proper dub was in serious swing hence this monster example of it on the flip, aptly titled ‘Sufferer’s Dub’. Oddly credited only to The Upsetters despite many Heptones vocal drops, it makes for even more excitement. An American single by The Upsetters. Never been another.
I get very excited by records.
Listen: Party Time / The Heptones
When ‘Party Time’ first arrived in the mail, dependably hot off the presses from Howard, I was mildly disappointed and that was very stupid of me. It’s a gem.
I had the original UK LP pressing too, but now find only the US Mango copy in my wall shelf. Somewhere in the black hole of unfiled records it does lurk.