musicology #544

Jamaica #24

(Gregory Isaacs – Financial Endorsement)

Out of the ‘Crown Prince’ selection and into one from the ‘Cool Ruler’…aka Jamaican Superstar Gregory Isaacs..who, (along with the Heptones and Beres Hammond), I will be catching Live at the Brixton Academy next week…

Born and raised in West Kingston’s notorious Denham Town, The Cool Ruler begun his recording career in 1968 with a self produced cut and followed with one for Prince Buster, (apparently under gentle persuasion from the notorious ghetto legend Jim Brown to offer his ‘bredren’ Gregory a platform to record), but amazingly it wasn’t until setting up his own African Museum label in 1973 in collaboration with Errol Dunkley that he began to climb his way up to the top. Why? certainly nothing to do with his immense talent, maybe he was just toorude for the producers to deal with for more than the odd session? anyway thankfully Gregory continued to record and has gone on to deliver some of the finest music to have ever graced themusicologist’s ears.

Today’s 1974 cut was recorded for producer Alvin Ranglin and released on his GG’s Label.

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musicology #529

Jamaica #9

(Larry Marshall – Money Girl)

Moving out of the Derrick Harriott and into yet another fine piece but this time it’s courtesy of producer George Phillips better known as Phil Pratt..a name bestowed on him by Caltone founder Blondel Keith Calneck, (Ken Lack).

You may have noticed that one of the things about Jamaican music is the significance of the producer in musical proceedings and Phil Pratt is certainly one of them. Horace ‘Andy’ Hinds, (cousin of Justin), The Heptones and Bunny Lee all begun their journey beside the Cat at Caltone so its, (and his), importance in the development of Reggae deserves wider recognition.

The cut today is courtesy of singer Larry Marshall, (who would go on to find a place at Coxsone’s Studio 1), and features the talents of Rocksteady’s core protagonists that include Lynn Taitt, Gladstone Anderson, Winston Wright, Clifton Jackson, and one from Winston Grennan, Hugh Malcolm or Arkland Parks. From the sounds of it I would hazard a guess that it’s a 1967 recording but I could easily be mistaken and if so it would be early 1968. Whatever the year it was arranged by a name we have become familiar with over this week…Lynn Taitt.

Finally just like to praise the label Pressure Sounds for releasing the CD, (Safe Travel), from which today’s cut emerged. ESSENTIAL purchase…FULL of TOP Ranking Rocksteady that were you to try and buy the 45’s featured would cost you a small fortune, (if you were lucky enough to find them)

LISTEN TUNE…

musicology #333

DownbeatTheRuler #13

(The Wailers – Do It Right)

Final cut of the Coxsone Tribute. Have to finish up with this 1965 piece of rip roaring Ska sung by the Wailers. Featuring not only Jamaica’s premier band the Skatalites but also no less than Sir Coxsone Dodd himself on ‘Beer Bottle Percussion’ Duties !! Just like to add that many a deserved artist didn’t get a spot on the Downbeat Tribute most notably The Heptones, Jackie Mittoo, Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott, Ken Parker, Cornell Campbell, The Clarendonians..(too long a list to name them all). Some of them have already featured on themusicologist and I imagine that all will eventually..

In addition, the Second in the Tribute Tee series is to communicate my appreciation, (in more ways than one), for the man who made it all possible. Clement Seymour ‘Sir Coxsone/Downbeat The Ruler’ Dodd whose musical legacy is, for themusicologist, second to none. For more information click on the images below

musicology #322

DownbeatTheRuler #2

(Bob Andy – I’m Going Home)

Sir Coxson was a music lover and man on the street but also a businessman and a successful one at that which, in my experience is often not appreciated by those who have been left behind to hustle and scratch for survival on the tough streets of places like Kingston, London, New York etc. The truth is that many would rather see you stumble and fall than lift yourself out of the mean streets especially when, as far as they are concerned, (and maybe rightly so), you have made it off the sweat of their brow. This seems to have been the case with Coxsone as the years rolled on but it’s not easy to keep such an enterprise going, (as many record label owners would attest to), when everyone wants a slice of the pie. Coxsone not only put Studio 1 together but also kept it going right up until his death.

Possibly inspired by Cats like Sam Cooke whose SAR label was, (along with Berry Gordy’s Tamla Motown), a pioneer in the record business, Dodd couldn’t afford to ‘take any prisoners’ so paid the Artist, Arranger, Producer and Musician per side, (or as employee), rather than cut them in on the Action. After all it was he who was taking all the risk so why share the rewards? Any business person would agree with his appraisal of the situation but the Artist wouldn’t. To further highlight the point the singer of today’s cut is quoted to say;

“Clement Dodd is a good mentor and he really provided the facilities for a group of youngsters who would never have had anywhere to go in those days, but he could have done more for them. I would say Jamaican music suffers from a Coxsone syndrome.”

I can see why. It was they who created the ‘product’ for Dodd to capitalise on so why should they not be ‘cut in’? Dodd may say that “if you want a piece of the pie you also have to take some of the risk” which hardly any of the Artists were in a position to do. Cats like Prince Buster, (a businessman and Artist), saw the light and parted company with Dodd as soon as possible to make a name, (and hopefully some ‘corn’), for himself but of the many hundreds in Jamaican music history VERY few have much to show, financially, for their achievements.

What they do have though is a place in musical history that will last long after they have been laid to rest and an army of fans that continue to spread their name. Personally I would rather be the Artist than the businessman.

Anyway enough chat and on with the Downbeat show….

This 1966 !! cut, (his first solo piece), is courtesy of former Paragons founding member and songwriter supreme Keith Anderson, (Bob Andy), apparently backed up by The Wailers but to my ears it sounds more like The Heptones? anyway whoever is harmonising it’s Bob Andy’s wailing lead that cuts through and is one of my personal favourites…featured on one of the greatest Studio 1 LP’s Bob Andy’s Songbook.

Bob Andy….Live on…

musicology #290

JamaicanVocalGroupAction #1

(Johnny & The Attractions – Young Wings Can Fly)

New theme on themusicologist featuring some of the cream of the Island’s musicologists. The music of Jamaica has been a feature of my musical education from my earliest days thanks, especially to two of my uncles, Dell and ‘Johnny One Stop’. Like many a youngblood growing up on the streets of London through the Seventies and Eighties Jamaican music loomed large. Starting in the early Seventies with groups like the Wailers and the Heptones, (both will be featured), and evolving backwards with the inner sanctum of Rocksteady and Roots as the Seventies moved into the Eighties Reggae has always been close to my heart. I learnt a lot about life through the sounds of the Groups, Artists and Producers whose music touched my soul with their authentic cries of ‘the struggle’ for survival and freedom.

Many’s the time I have turned to and found solace in the sounds of Jamaica, from Independence Ska all the way through to ‘Computerised’. So this week is a tribute to a small selection of the Cats who have shaped my life with their ‘weeping and a wailing’

First up is one from the second half of the sixties, released in the UK on Doctor Bird during 1968. Produced by Sonia Pottingers Gayfeet team delivered in a Rock Steady style by a group called Johnny & The Attractions….doesn’t get much better than this as far as I’m concerned.

musicology #222

tribute to alton #2

(Alton Ellis – Pearls)

round two of the Alton Ellis tribute….another fine piece from his days at Studio1.

musicology #201

teachings of billionaire YenTzu #11

(Ernest Wilson – Undying Love)

penultimate cut of the Yen Tzu selection…

Kissing The Scorpion (following your true nature)

‘This will be ideal for my meditations,’ thought a wandering  sage, seeking a cave in the wilderness. Upon entering it, however, he noticed the skeletal remains of many human corpses.  Unconcerned, he sat down on a rock to rest from his travels.

‘How you answer will seal your fate!’ boomed a voice, and turning the sage saw that before him was a gigantic scorpion, the size of a large man.

‘As your questions have undoubtedly sealed yours,’ replied the sage calmly.

‘What manner of Man are you to be without trace of fear?’ demanded the giant scorpion. ‘For the nature of Man is to be afraid.’

‘Not so,’ answered the sage. ‘For in truth the nature of Man is to be in balance, and such a state comes when he has no fear of what life may confront him with, because he is in love with the true meaning of life. As my thoughts and actions have led me to this place, how can I fear it? To do so is to fear myself, which I do not, for I have only love for the person that I am.’

‘Then you are rare indeed,’ said the scorpion, ‘for the men who have come before you have been escaping from themselves, as one seeks to leave another within a loveless relationship.’

‘You speak as one who has experienced such,’ said the sage intuitively, ‘for your visage is not strong enough to hide the pain, frustration and indeed anger that you exude.’

‘It would seem that truthful perception is yours to command,’ answered the fearsome creature. ‘Because in truth I was as a man once, long ago, until my ruthlessness attracted a demon seeking a disciple. My resistance to it resulted in having my current condition cast upon me. But because what was left of my original nature was able to resist, the demon was compelled to allow my situation a reversal. Though little use it has been. For of all those who have approached my lair these past long years, none have caused the spell to be reversed.’

‘Because no doubt they must answer of their own accord and without direction,’ said the sage. ‘An accord distorted by their fear.’

‘Exactly so! and now you will forgive me if I become impatient to address the riddle I must ask of you!’ said the scorpion. ‘If you refuse to answer, cannot or your answer is wrong, then I thank you in advance for our debate, for afterwards it will be too late.’

‘Proceed as you wish,’ the sage said, ‘for it is of little consequence.’

‘Take heed though,’ advised the scorpion ‘that immediately after I have incanted my words I will be rendered helpless in order to allow you to make your choice. Although you are weaponless, there are many swords around you that are sharp enough to enable even the weakest of arms to slice off my deadly tail. And so:

‘When you embrace the most deadly, you overcome your worst fears;
When you act the least likely, there can be nothing but tears;
When you act from the heart and engage worthy might,
Then to the end from the start, you have held to what’s right;
Your balance to death will be as it is for your life,
To do one over the other, can bring sorrow and strife;
when you act as you do because you are as you be,
You will know if a kiss or a strike is the key.

‘Quickly!’ added the now motionless scorpion looking menacingly into the eyes of the sage. ‘You have the opportunity to strike me.’

‘My answer is as my action,’ said the sage and calmly outstretched his arms and kissed the creature on it’s evil-looking head. Immediately the scorpion was transformed and it was now a man that stood before him. With the spell broken, tears flowed freely down the large man’s cheeks and he fell at the feet of the sage in gratitude. As the sage helped him up, the large man said,

‘You chose correctly, yet why were you so sure, when the nature of a scorpion is to strike when face to face with it’s adversary?’

‘Because deep down you were still a man,’ said the sage, ‘and it is the true-nature of a man to love, not strike. And as the riddle implied, transforming you back into a man is the greatest risk to overcome, because Man can be more deadly than any scorpion. Acting in the least likely way of not seemingly protecting myself could only release your tears. Those tears a man has prior to his transformation and the tears of happiness that follow it. Furthermore because I am in a state of balance I can but only act in a right manner.’

‘I am indeed fortunate to have found such a natural individual to release me from my predicament,’ said the man.

‘Fortune has nothing to do with it,’ replied the sage with finality. ‘It was your own need to return to your true vocation that attracted you to me, and it was my own thoughts to test my own vocation that led me to you. All of us are interdependent of others whether we are aware of it or not. As such, all of us are both teachers and students, appearing as appropriate to one another when each is ready. That is how we can fulfil our true vocation. Learning how to express it effectively requires a state of balance. For only in such a state can we act as our true nature intended.’