musicology #533

Jamaica #13

(Dobby Dobson – Your New Love)

As 1968 came to an end so the Rocksteady evolved into the early Reggae retaining the essential flavours, (walking bassline and one drop percussion), but from my observations between 1969 and 1971 two, (almost), seperate identities emerged due, (as far as I am aware), to commercial pressure.

First there was the local sound system/dancehall market, (the lifeblood), to satisfy but also there was the export market which at the time meant England. Certain Mod/ernist’s, (or whatever you want to classify them as), took to Jamaican music straight away as early as 1962/3 and for some, (Steve Barrow for example), it turned into a lifetime’s commitment. These same hipsters seemed to embrace and recognise not only the musical quality but also the authenticity that for me is a critical aspect of Jamaican musicology. In many ways ‘Reggae’ has always been a commentary on the life and times of the sufferer and for some, (me included), that is magnetic. When I say sufferer I don’t just mean financial but also the emotional and just as importantly the social..

In England the Reggae captured a younger generation who had watched and listened as Soul, (and ‘Mod’), went overground which resulted in a look towards Jamaica for fresh inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, (and I have it on the authority of young Cats who were there), racism was not as much of an issue as has been portrayed. The universal language crosses all boundaries and the music of Jamaica spoke to both brown, black, pink and white as young kids connected through it.

I’m not sure about other parts of London but I do know that Reggae was BIG on the streets South of the River Thames in places such as Camberwell, Peckham, Brixton, New Cross, Deptford and Lewisham where Jamaicans settled. (Not forgetting Notting Hill, Shepherds Bush, Willesden and Harlesden of course). Was Jamaican music as prevalent in East and North London? I have no idea but for sure it reached out to many areas and not only in the Capital. Again I have no personal connection with Cities outside of London so I can’t comment but one look at the charts of the time shows that Jamaican music certainly had the potential to explode…

Feels a bit like I’m losing the focus so I’ll step out of the writing and on with the music otherwise i’m in danger of getting sidetracked by social history which as important as it is doesn’t really affect the quality of the music.

First up is an absolute classic from a singer who has already graced themusicologist with the original cut of ‘Loving Pauper’..Dobby Dobson. Can’t lay my hands on the 45 to credit the producer right now but I know it’s on Punch and the year of release was 1969

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musicology #527

Jamaica #7

(The Techniques – Love Is A Gamble)

So what could have happened in 1966 to change the beat from the frenetic Ska to the laid back sound of the Rocksteady? Rumour and word has it that it was a combination of things that conspired..First of all popular information/knowledge has it that a heatwave swept the island forcing the dancers and musicians to slow the tempo..secondly as is often, (if not always), the case the time had come for the islands musicologists to evolve and in my experience slow follows quick. Thirdly, (and I’m guessing here), the Ganja may have influenced proceedings…

By 1966 many of the protaganists of the Ska were ‘Beardmen’ and were likely to have been ‘licking chalice’ Up Warika Hills with the legendary Count Ossie. I’m not suggesting that the Ganja was the chief reason for the shift..only one of many.

As for outside influences we only have to consider how Soul and the Vocal Group sound became dominant in America around this time and how much influence the likes of the Impressions subsequently had in Jamaica.

Finally and perhaps of most significance was the Skatalites splitting into two groups after the incarceration of Don Drummond in 1965…The Soul Brothers led by Roland Alphonso, (at Studio 1), and the Supersonics led by Tommy McCook, (resident at Treasure Isle). Notably Lynn Taitt is widely recognised as ‘Inventing’ the Rocksteady with the Hopeton Lewis cut ‘Take It Easy’ but other early pieces included Alton Ellis’s ‘Girl I’ve Got A Date’ and Derrick Morgan’s ‘Rougher Than Rough’, (all of which featured Lynn Taitt’s guitar).  Whatever the reasons for the emergence of Rocksteady it was at this junction that ‘Reggae’ began to take shape with the Bass rising to prominence and it must be said, (at least from my perspective), that Duke Reid wore the Rocksteady Crown.

So with that in mind the first cut has to go to the Duke and the Majestic Vocal Group known as the Techniques whose fluctuating line up included some of the great Jamaican vocalists; Slim Smith, Pat Kelly and Winston Riley as well as Junior Menz and original members Frederick Waite and Franklyn White. Clearly influenced by The Impressions this one epitomises Jamaican Vocal Group Harmony. 1967? recording on the Treasure Isle label.

musicology #526

Jamaica #6

(The Skatalites – Confucius)

Finishing up Round one of the Jamaican Musical History selection with this piece courtesy of the Chinese/Jamaican producer Justin Yapp who for 3 years, (1962-65) produced and delivered Ska that is as good as anything ever waxed. Yet another piece led and written by the legendary Don Drummond. Of course it’s the Skatalites, (who else !!), providing the impeccable back up. Recorded and released on Yapp’s Top Deck Label in 1964.

musicology #524

Jamaica #4

(Don Drummond – Treasure Isle)

Looking to catch the earlier train with today’s cut otherwise I find myself too far behind the 8 Ball which is no place to be for the I. That and having too many plates up there spinning take too much of my time and energy which I haven’t got to spare. I would rather spend it with my children, listening to, finding and curating music or with my spars.

So on with the journey..day four of the Jamaican Musical History excursion and so far we have heard from two of the foremost producers of the period Downbeat the Ruler  and Prince Buster so today it’s the turn of Duke Reid aka The Trojan whose Soundclashes with Coxsone are the stuff of myth and legend. Of all the islands sound systems It was these two who contested with the most ferocity and passion both musically and physically leading to heated battles between them and their respective followers both in and out of the dance. Pitched battles were fought in an attempt to intimidate and lock off the opposing sound and in part it was out of this culture that the Rude Boy emerged. Combined with Jamaica’s violent and rebellious history as well as the abject poverty and general lawlessness especially in the ghettos of Kingston the ingredients were all there to light the fuse that would eventually blow up in all out political warfare in the 70’s but I’ll get to that later on in the theme when the right time come.

Back to the Ska and Duke Reid..for me what has always distinguished The Trojan’s Treasure Isle sound is it’s sweetness and light. As far as I know Reid never allowed Ganja to be smoked in the studio or entertained any kind of Rasta ideology whereas Coxsone turned a blind eye knowing that not only did it stir the creative juices, (which it does), but that Rasta was beginning to have a major impact in Jamaican ghetto life..Duke Reid was a traditionalist and considerably older than the young and visionary Coxsone but the music produced in his studio, (and he had a speaker wired up in his Liquor store so that he could hear what was being recorded), was as good as anything produced. It was with the Rocksteady that Duke Reid truly came into his own but he was also responsible for producing some BOSS Ska as witnessed with this piece courtesy of the legendary Don Drummond..Original Skatalite, Trombonist supreme and leading light in Jamaican musical history. No one rocked the instrument like the Don and although his story ended in violence and mental illness his music will forever stand as his legacy. Quite Simply..this is Ska

LISTEN TUNE

musicology #522

Jamaica #2

(Jackie Opel – You’re Too Bad)

Various Cats have laid claim to ‘inventing’ the Ska but as far as I can hear it seems to have been more of an evolution. In an attempt to provide a little insight for those who are not clued up on the historicity of Jamaican musicology before Ska there was what’s known as ‘Shuffle’ which to be brutal was more of a home grown version of American Jump/Rhythm & Blues so popular in the dance. Early Operators such as Tom The Great Sebastian and Count Nick were followed by hungrier Cats such as Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd and Prince Buster who needed a constant source of new material to ‘mash up the dance’ and ‘Kill’ opposing Sound Systems. The competition was ferocious and it was this more than anything that fed the emerging scene for home grown talent. Combine such a need for a constant supply of fresh cuts, (Concurrent with the decline of Rhythm and Blues and looming Independence from colonial rule), with Jamaica’s strong sense of ‘national’ pride and identity and the stage was set for ‘Ska’

Coxsone led the way by setting up the legendary Studio 1 recording studio in 1963 and the icing on the cake was a collective of the hottest musicologists on the island coming together in 1964 as the Skatalites. As previously mentioned on themusicologist Jackie Mittoo was Coxsone’s musical director and as such is as responsible as anyone for defining Ska.

Today’s cut is a prime slice of the Skatalites pie from 1964? featuring the majestic Jackie Opel on vocals and the combined talents of any number of Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Knibb, Lester Sterling, Don Drummond, Jah Jerry, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore and Percival Dillon…in a word..BOSS

musicology #521

Jamaica #1

(Delroy Wilson – Joe Liges)

Right…been waiting, (impatiently), for inspiration regarding the next theme and I’m pleased to announce that it has arrived. Random cuts are all well and good but they have no direction which is something the butterfly mind is prone to suffer from in all honesty. I say suffer because direction is, at least for me, essential when travelling down satisfaction’s long and winding road.

So what is the theme I hear you ask? Obviously the title should  give you a clue…Jamaica and it’s RICH musical heritage. In fact I would go so far as to say that contemporary music owes a HUGE debt disproportionate  to the Country’s size and population. How was it that such a small and as far as many people are concerned, (me most definately NOT being one of them), insignificent island produced such a treasure trove of musicology? I’m not planning on transcribing Jamaica’s history as I don’t know enough about it but at the risk of sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet…I do know about the islands musical historicity. A genuine love affair that stretches back to some of my earliest musical memories starting in the early 70’s and, (along with Soul), stretching up to today. Fact is I truly LOVE Jamaican music with a passion. So much it has given me that I would like to try and repay the debt in the only way I know how and that is by sharing it with youse Cats and Kittens.

For the officionados among you I doubt there will be anything you havent already heard but themusicologist is not in the business of unearthing cuts that nobody has heard rather I’m in the business of playing what I consider to be cuts from the top of the tree and lets face it those are sometimes the best known. That said you won’t be hearing the internationally known ‘popular’ tunes during this theme purely because they are not the ones that I know and love.

I have been listening to and collecting Reggae since the early 80’s from I was a teenager whereas before that it was only what I was introduced to by family members. Just like to give an extra nod to one of my Uncles whose debt I will always be in for introducing me to such profound musicology..

Before we begin I would just like to lay me cards on the table and confess my alliegance to what I consider to be the premier studio and sound system to hail from the land of wood and water none other than Sir Coxsone ‘Downbeat The Ruler’ Dodd’s CHAMPION sound..Studio 1. Above all others it’s the Coxsone sound that has hit me hardest but there have been far too many TOP RANKING artists and producers along the way to namecheck, rest assured I will do my best to represent as many as I can as the theme unfolds over the coming days and weeks.

The format will be linear starting not at the dawn, (the late 50’s), of the Island’s musicology but rather when Jamaican music found it’s own unique ‘voice’ after Independence in 1962. The sound was named ‘Ska’ a term many are already familiar with so I’m not going to get caught up in the why’s, who’s and wherefores of the terminology as I would rather let the music speak. Of course this is only one persons subjective evaluation of the music and I’m sure that others will have their own ‘favourites’ but that’s part of what makes ‘Reggae’ so special…’Every Man Does His Thing A Little Way Different’

Finally..before I begin the sessions proceedings I would just like to add that I may ‘double up’ on some of the cuts that I have already thrown over the preceding 3 years so forgive me if I do…

First up is a cut from 1963..featuring the 13 year old Delroy Wilson singing a piece written by Dodd employee and all round musicologist Lee Perry concerning former Coxsone Sound Man, Enforcer and ‘dance crasher’ Prince Buster who, (thank the stars for us music lovers), decided to step to his own beat…

45 released in England on the pioneering R&B Label.