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.
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
Moving out of the Studio 1, (before it threatens to consume the WHOLE theme), and into a cut from one of the other notable players in the development of Jamaican musicology…Cecil Bustamente Campbell who along with Sir Coxsone, Duke Reid, Justin Yap and King Edwards had a major impact on the Ska.
Prince Buster, (so named because of his boxing prowess), was a security man for Downbeat in the early 60’s but turned his talented hands to recording and producing in 1962 after leaving Coxsone. Today’s 1964? cut is a piece from the ‘Golden Age’ paying tribute to the legend known then as Cassius Clay. Note the innovative Reverb technique employed by Buster which at the time must have been well and truly ‘modern’. The musicians backing the man were known as Buster’s All Stars and included legends Val Bennet, Raymond Harper, Baba Brooks, Junior Nelson, Rico Rodriguez, Earnest Ranglin, Jerry Haynes, Gladstone Anderson and Arkland Parks.
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
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.
Stepping up the pace with this majestic piece of Jamaican musicology, (a tribute to Marcus Garvey), from the vaults. Recorded at Coxsone’s Brentford Road powerhouse, Studio 1 for Justin Yap and released on his top ranking Top Deck label.
Penultimate cut of the Downbeat Tribute selection. Just like to make clear that for themusicologist Sir Coxsone’s Studio 1 is the Number 1 sound which is obviously a reason for paying a two week tribute to the musical legacy he laid down. Of course without the musicians, singers, producers and engineers who contributed it wouldn’t be. So even though this is a tribute to Downbeat it’s just as much a tribute to all who participated in delivering some of greatest music ever made and I hope the last two weeks have been as enjoyable for you as it has been for me.
Tomorrow I will be releasing part two of ‘The Project’ that has occupied an ever growing part of my heart and mind for more than 20 years and as always would appreciate your feedback/critique/opinions on it.
Today though it’s time for a slice from Mr Delroy Wilson who begun his career with Coxsone at the tender age of 13. Born in 1948 Delroy first enjoyed ‘success’ with his musical attacks on Dodd’s one time employee Prince Buster, ( ‘Joe Liges’), which I was going to lay down, but it was during the Rocksteady period, (and after), that his star truly shone with cuts like I’m Not A King, Dancing Mood, Riding For A Fall, Keep On Trying etc, (all of which almost made it onto the tribute), At the tail end of the Sixties Delroy and Sir Coxsone parted ways and he drifted between various producers such as Bunny Lee, Gussie Clarke, Niney The Observer and the Hookim Brothers Channel 1 but as with many of Jamaica’s foundation artists the 80’s weren’t kind to him and his star begun it’s descent into almost obscurity by his untimely death in 1995.
So if you’re listening Delroy…this one’s for you….a top ranking slice of the Ska pie from 1965 originally released as a 45 on the Studio 1 label featuring, (unless my ears are deceiving me), what sounds like The Wailers on backup.
Day 7 of the Downbeat selection is a roasting piece of Ska featuring Harmonica player, producer and original member of Bobby Aitken’s Rocksteady pioneers The Caribbeats, Charles Cameron. Anytime you hear a harmonica played on a slice of Jamaican music, (especially Ska and Rocksteady), more than likely it’s the ‘Organaire’ blowing on sessions for the likes of Coxsone, (of course), Prince Buster, Duke Reid and King Edwards as well as many others.
This cut is also likely to feature the musical talents of Lloyd Brevett on Bass, Lloyd Knibb on Drums, Jah Jerry Haynes, on Guitar and Jackie Mittoo on piano the musical backbone apoun which the Studio 1 sound and success was built.
Today’s cut is from one of THE greatest Jamaican vocalists never known, (outside of the Reggae community)..one of music’s many mysteries to me is how Ken Boothe has never had the global recognition that his talent deserves. Time after time, year after year from the earliest days right up until the present this Cat has delivered. In truth his Studio 1 output alone could have easily filled this theme to overflowing. His ‘cup certainly runneth over’ as they say and todays slice should illustrate why.
I love Alton Ellis as well you know but I would have to say that in my humble opinion Ken Boothe is ‘Mr Soul Of Jamaica’.
Born and raised in Kingston Mr Boothe was a foundation stone in the Coxsone empire as important to the Label’s success as the Miracles were to Tamla Motown who stuck by Downbeat until parting company in the early Seventies. Without further delay hold this, The original Ska version of his later ‘hit’. Look out for A Ken Boothe special on themusicologist sometime in the future.
This week’s theme is a tribute to Sir Coxsone Dodd’s Jamaican musical powerhouse..Studio 1. Clement Seymour Dodd was a genuine music lover who set up his sound system ‘Downbeat The Ruler to play Rhythm & Blues after returning from a trip to America in 1954. It wasn’t until 1963 however that he setup the first Recording studio to be owned by a ‘Man on the street’ the legendary Studio 1.
Almost every Jamaican singer or musician of note has at one time passed through the Brentford Road studio and although many were unhappy with the financial arrangements I hope that none would argue that the man was a Giant in the progress of Jamaican musicology.
So without further delay hold this 1963 cut from the majestic and already featured on themusicologist, Jackie Opel with a piece from the earliest days of Studio 1 featuring The cream of Jamaica’s musicians The Skatalites.
So…the day has finally arrived when ‘The Project’ is revealed. (Imgs Below)
Allow me to elucidate..Ever since I first clapped eyes and ‘pulled up’ for my first ‘statement Tee’, (shirt), back on a stall in Greenwich market as a sixteen year old, (1984), I have harboured a dream to design and produce screen prints that communicate a message. The one that spoke to me was the classic, (UK), Red and White Studio One Label, blown up and screen printed onto a plain white t-shirt. Nowdays it is not uncommon to see ‘Label Tees’ for all different genres but back then, (at least in London), it was fresh and new.
That Tee went everywhere with me and I always wore it with pride, connecting myself with the music and message of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. I still own and cherish that same Tee even though it has almost disintegrated and can’t be worn. So last year I decided to take the plunge and learn the art of screen printing. Essentially I am an ‘ideas man’ and my head and heart are full of tributes to Artists, Producers, Genres and even Songs, (among others), so the actual process of printing was neceesary to learn as I wanted to design, produce and provide authentic Tee Shirts that encapsulated the passion I have for Culture without dilution from external economic influences.
After 8 months I feel ready to share these ‘Tribute Tees’ with you and what better place to start than with the legendary Wailing Wailers who have had a major impact on themusicologist from my earliest days…
Available to order in Four ‘cuts’ and, (for now), Three Sizes, (Small / Medium / Large)
The 45, (Plain WhiteTee), 33, (Long Sleeve), Dubplate, (Bamboo&Organic Cotton), and The Sweat Shirt.
At the moment I am working on the most effective way to provide them online but for now the only way to make the transaction will be via my ebay account. It is more of a passion than a business but as we all know a man needs to make a living !! and this is the way I aim to do it by sharing a genuine passion for music, originality, style and culture wrapped up in the humble Tee or Sweatshirt…Feedback and Critique is most welcome, appreciated and valued.
The cut featured today is a song probably better known for the version on Marley’s Rastaman Vibration. But for themusicologist there is no comparison with this 1964? cut featuring the Wailers at their most effective and original. No doubt that as great as Bob Marley was he in no way overshadowed his two partners Bunny and Peter. This cut bears witness to that. Listening to this Trinityof cats harmonizing brings not only tears to my eyes but also joy to my ears and heart. The only downside is that it finishes….but at least it can be enjoyed for free and the message be spread far and wide.
Day one of the Christmas selection. I’m just going to lay them down without much ‘commentary’. First up is a slice from Jamaica..proof, if needed, that it doesn’t require snow, reindeer or Jack Frost nipping at yer nose to generate the Christmas spirit. Early sixties cut from the Legendary Maytals.
the boxnet audio widget is not working as well as I would have hoped so I’m going to have to make
some changes and find a more effective way to digest the music.
for now though I’m sticking with the duets and another one from Jamaica but this time it’s a 1965 Ska classic from one of Jamaican music’s foundation vocalists, Jackie Opel about whom Alton Ellis once said:
“to see Jackie Opel was a life affirming event – he was a performer in the style of young Jackie Wilson whose act was a predominate influence. Opel would spin and fall to the ground in a crescendo of legs drooping and flailing arms, a small man in stature but a big man in heart and personality”
and from the pen of music critic Al Gilkes:
“On stage Jackie forced his way into the hearts of his audience to make them share his experience. His tears were their tears, his joy theirs …….. Jackie was a prodigy, a rare blend of pure, raw voice and composing ability … what captured you about his singing was its utter savagery: the apparent unlimited range to his voice: … when he sang, every word that came out seemed to come from deep inside with an eternity of pain which life forever bought him ……”
partnered on this one by Doreen Schaffer and to top it all…backed by the mighty Skatalites..an early Studio1 production from right out of the top drawer. a UK release on the top ranking R&B label
this prime slice of Jamaican musicology comes from the King Edwards stable and features many of the best proponents of the Ska style. Baba Brooks, Arkland ‘Drumbago’ Parks, Lester Sterling and tenor sax king, Roland Alphonso.
Recorded and released on the King Edwards label in 1965 at the height of the genres popularity, (it would only be a year before Rock Steady became the ‘in thing’), this is Ska at it’s finest.
penultimate slice of musicology on the six/six/six and one from Jamaica’s most famous vocal group, The Wailers.
Not sure whether this had a UK release at the time? the one we are hearing is taken from the Coxsone Import 45. But with a title like ‘Rude Boy’ it wouldn’t have got much promotion on these English shores. As we all know the Wailers went on, (certainley Marley anyway), to become a household name. Jackie Mittoo on the other hand didn’t receive anywhere near the recognition that he deserved for all the musicology he brought to each and every Studio1 session from 1963 up to his emigration to Canada in 1969? which is, unfortunately, an all too common story when it comes to the cats who played the instruments.
Arranger, Piano player session leader and all round musicologist it would have been Jackie, (as much as any single artist), that drove the music towards the Spaghetti Western influenced, Gun Man Style that was to become more popular as the times got tougher and the rudies got ruder in Kingston, Jamaica.
for themusicologist Jamaican music is still the ‘voice of the people’….how long will it last? only time will tell but from 1962 to today it has always reflected and communicated the thoughts and feelings of the ‘man on the street’ .. and this one is no exception.