WELL CRUCIAL

junior byles – beat down babylon
max romeo – babylon burning
the upsetters – iron wolf
the techniques – love is not a gamble
johnny ringo – one time ringo
gregory isaacs – handcuff
ranking trevor – tired fe live in a babylon
tristan palmer – got to praise jah
brigadier jerry – this one’s dedicated to you
ernest ranglin – surfin’
tappa zukie – why are we afraid of revolution
brent dowe & the gaytones – reggae makossa
don drummond – heavenless
simple simon – josephine
lady ann – informer
yellowman – morning ride
echo minott – no lazy body
beenie man – nuff fi cry
papa michigan & general smiley – diseases
nicodemus – boneman connection
john wayne – too greedy
king tubby – real dub
burning spear – he prayed
big youth – foreman VS frazier
trinity – mohammed ali
raphael gray – how did you know
dennis alcapone – dub up a daughter
dillinger – fat beef skank
zap pow – lottery spin
ranking dread – love a dub
roots radics & jackie mittoo – dub a dub
courtney melody – modern girl
robert ffrench – ruff & tuff
pat kelly – midnight hour
frankie paul – gal pickney
richie stephens – trying to get to you
beres hammond – tempted to touch
freddie mcgregor – when I’m ready
jackie edwards & julie anne – in paradise
horace andy – man next door
duke morgan – lick it back
ninjaman – murder dem
frankie paul – cassandra
supercat – mud up
lady saw – it’s raining
bounty killer & pinchers – benti uno
phyllis dillon – don’t stay away
the sensations – born to love you
harold butler – do it anyday

 


MIX NOTES

Beat Down Babylon – Kicking things off with an early Junior Byles roots number from 1971. This particular type of organ shuffle was one factor that really set roots apart from other forms of reggae at the time. Junior began his career in the mid-60s, singing with The Versatiles. He left the group in 1970 and started releasing tracks with Lee Scratch Perry under the name “King Chubby” LOL. He’s probably best known for his 1974 hit “Curly Locks”, or his version of “Oh Carolina”, which was itself a cover of the great Blue Beat classic from 1959.

Babylon Burning – Another tune on the “Beat Down Babylon” riddim, which never really got much traction after 1972, though there was a Kojak & Liza tune in 83. Max Smith aka Max Romeo did a 2-year stint in the Emotions before setting out on his own with Bunny Lee in 1968. Some credit Romeo with jumpstarting a new wave of sexually-suggestive slackness tunes in the early 70s, starting with his “Wet Dream”, which was made even bigger when it got banned in England. JA has a long tradition of this of course, but his hit sparked a bunch of others in the UK immediately following its release. His biggest hit might be “War Ina Babylon”, another Lee Perry production, about the political strife surrounding the 72 presidential elections – something that comes up in so many tunes from this era.

Iron WolfLee Perry’s dub of the same riddim above.

Love Is Not A Gamble – This is a 1981 remake of the 1967 foundation tune – both by The Techniques. Duke Reid produced the first version, and Winston Riley the second. It launched one of my favorite riddims of the same name, sometimes also called the “general” riddim – which newer heads may know from Buju’s epic “Massa God World A Run” from 1993. It has such a great, rolling bassline that just propels the dance forward. The dub of the Duke Reid version begat a ton of hits, including the U-Roy tune “Rule The Nation”, which was the B-side of Nora Dean’s “Angie-LaLa”.

One Time Ringo – Toaster extraordinaire Johnny Ringo getting down on the same riddim in 1981, produced by Carlton Patterson, who came up under King Tubby and is maybe best known for his Tubby collabo “Not Responsible.”

Handcuff – A wonderfully dubbed out vocal from Mr Gregory Isaacs from 1977, kinda right before he really became a huge star. Ossie Hibbert co-produced and the Heptones did the backing vocals. There’s only real one other tune on this riddim that I know of, Prince Far I’s “House of Jah.”

Tired Fe Live In A Babylon – Another one-off tune, this time from Ranking Trevor, doing his best U-Roy imitation, bouncing along the riddim nicely. I dig this song for the counting part, that culminates in 1977 aka when “the two sevens clash” – a reference to Marcus Garvey’s somewhat self-fulfilling prophecy of some sort of chaotic even on July 7th, 1977.

Got To Praise Jah – 80s Superstar Tristan Palmer released his first single “Love Is A Message” with Bunny Lee in 1970, at the age of 8(!), but he didn’t really started blowing up until he was running with Sugar Minott’s Youthman Promotion Sound. He hit his stride in the 80s, becoming known for the “singjay” hybrid of singing and deejaying (toasting). This is a nice slow groover on the sweet and sultry “Full Up” riddim, originally recorded by Jackie Mittoo and Sound Dimension for Studio One in 1968.

This One’s Dedicated To You – A famous live cassette recording from Kingston’s Skateland in 1981, with lots of the dancehall stars of the day, including Eek-A-Mouse, Yellowman, Michigan and Smiley, Toyan, and Sister Nancy. When I first got into Dancehall, the whole start/stop thing at parties took some getting used to, but it is captured perfectly here, in its prime. I’m pretty sure Brigadier Jerry is just freestyle riffing off of Nigger Kojak & Mother Liza’s – “Dedicated To You”, which was on the same riddim and came out earlier that same year.

Surfin’ – Jamaican guitar great Ernest Ranglin playing some chill vibes with Studio One’s house band, Sound Dimension, lead by Leroy Sibbles. The backing tune is a little known but very dope Ken Boothe song called “Artibella” from 1970.  Extra props to anyone who recognizes the 70s movie sample I dropped in this one.

Why Are We Afraid of Revolution – I like to imagine that David Sinclair aka Tappa Zukie made this 1977 song because he was inspired by the Last Poets’ “Niggers are Scared of Revolution”, but who can say? This is on a lesser-known Studio One riddim called “Try A Little Smile” that came out that same year. Tappa got into deejaying as a way out of gang culture. He was an enforcer for political parties in the 70s (most of whom straight up acted like gangs at various times) First for the leftist PNP, and later for the right wing JLP. He had steady success then really blew up internationally after NY punk icon Patti Smith took a liking to him and reissued his “MPLA” LP.

Reggae Makossa – I found this on Bill Brewster’s “Tribal Rites” compilation and immediately fell in love with it. This Jamaican version of the Manu Dibango classic came out in 1972. The A-side had an uptempo cover, while the B-side was this reggaefied version. Brent Dowe was an original member of The Melodians, while The Gaytones were Boris Gardiner’s backing band for Sonia Pottinger’s Gay Feet label. John Abbey released it in the UK on his Action label, which is probably how Bill Brewster came upon it.

Heavenless – A classic, foundation Studio One riddim by Don Drummond and the Brentford Disco Set (aka Brentford The All Stars). Another great rolling baseline and awesome trombone wails all over this by Don Drummond himself. There are easily two or three hundred songs on this tune. Drummond’s story is pretty tragic. As a founding member of The Skatallites, he was incredibly influential in the history of Ska and all Jamaican music that followed. He was also one of the first members of the group who converted to Rasta, which clearly had a profound influence on the trajectory of Reggae. Generally believed to be schizophrenic, he fatally stabbed his nightclub dancer girlfriend to death at the age of 30. He stood trial and died in an insane asylum 4 years later of causes that are still in contention.

Josephine – I never really put this together before just now, but when I went back and listened to the Fats Domino original, “My Girl Josephine”, I am now thinking that maybe the Heavenless riddim was a direct lift (!). Hmmmm. Simple Simon was a dancehall singer who released a few records in the early to mid 80s. This came out in 85, produced by Bunny Lee.

Informer – Probably my favorite song on the riddim. I used to love to play this Lady Ann joint in clubs – as it always got a great response. Clear evidence that Jamaicans were at least a decade ahead of the “snitches get stitches” philosophy of U.S. rappers, with lots of songs in the 80s lamenting the presence of police informers. I am guessing this coincided with the harsh government crackdown in the mid-80s under the Edward Seaga administration, who used U.S. aid money to start a “Special Operations Squad”, known in the streets as the “Eradication Squad.” By all accounts, they were a brutal, fascist police force hellbent on suppressing both the street posses and leftist political groups – by any means necessary, including straight up executing suspects without trial. This saga of bloodshed was memorialized in many wicked dancehall tunes, including Yellowman’s “Operation Radication.”

Morning Ride – Though Yellowman did occasionally stray into political territory, his go-to express lane was definitely slackness, like this not so subtle tribute to morning sex.

No Lazy Body – Talk about great dancefloor reactions, this early digital tune by Echo Minott from 1986 will still bring down the house anywhere in Brooklyn. Noel Phillips aka Echo Minott started recording in 1981 with King Jammy. He jumped around between several producers before landing a huge hit with Harry “Harry J” Johnson at the controls. Harry Johnson was a legend in the JA music scene, releasing the skinhead anthem “The Liquidator” in 1969, as well as producing a ton of hits, and owning the first 16-track recording studio on the island – where tons of stars recorded, including Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones, and the Rolling Stones. Some say his “No More Heartaches” by The Beltones is the first reggae song ever recorded.  Many would dispute that though, throwing tunes like “Bangarang” or “Nanny Goat” in the debate. You make the call!

Nuff Fi Cry – Fast forwarding to the mid 90s, Beenie Man absolutely murders the same tune.

Diseases – There’s a long tradition in Dancehall of deejays calling out their influences, so when Beenie starts listing off dons on the previous track, I felt that was a good time to haul and pull up and drop this 1982 Papa Michigan & General Smiley classic. I’ve always called this the “Diseases” riddim, but it’s actually known as “Mad Mad”, from this 1980 Johnny Clarke song “Take Heed.”  Joe Gibbs produced the original, but the 80s versions I first grew to love were all Harry “Junjo” Laws productions.

Boneman Connection – Pretty sure there’s a law that you have to follow up “Diseases” with this Nicodemus scorcher, and why the fuck not?

Too Greedy – I just discovered this John Wayne version of “Too Greedy” a couple of months ago. I always played the Super Cat version from the mid-90s, but this tune goes back to a 1979 version by George Nooks, that was actually on the Ba Ba Boom riddim, but it soon morphed into the Real Rock riddim, which you hear on this version.  John Wayne was down with Black Scorpio, Studio Mix and Kilamanjaro Sounds in the 80s. His biggest hit, by far, was the street anthem “Call The Police” on the Sleng Teng riddim.

Real Dub – A quick King Tubby version of “Real Rock”. The MC voices you hear on this, and throughout this mix, were lifted from a cassette recording of African Love Soundsystem at The Reggae Lounge in 1986. I saw African Love there a few times in 87/88, back when I was popping my dancehall cherry in NYC. There’s also a video of that night – a piece of which you can peep HERE, if you want to get a glimpse of what it was like for an 18-yr old white kid from Ohio to step inna dance for the first time LOL.

He Prayed – The incomparable Burning Spear just floating above the tune here. This was the closing track of his first self-titled LP, released in 1973, produced by Coxsone Dodd. It begat the riddim of the same name, which is also sometimes called “Joe Frazier”, because this same recording was released under that name too (a misprint? Dunno), and followed up by a string of songs that were actually about boxers (see below). These lyrics, however, like most of his songs, are purely devotional. I had always thought the name Burning Spear was a reference to the Biblical “spear of destiny”. But Wiki tells me it’s actually a Kenyan military award created by Jomo Kenyatta, the father of Kenyan independence.

Foreman VS Frazier – There are a ton of reggae songs about the golden age of boxing with Foreman, Frazier, and Ali. This Big Youth tune is probably the biggest one of all.

Mohammed Ali – As big as George and Joe were, nobody eclipsed Muhammad Ali. Trinity put this out in 77, when Ali’s career was in decline, but he was still Heavyweight champ for a 2nd time, before his final 3rd win in 79.

How Did You Know – Had to dig for this relatively obscure Raphael Gray one-hit wonder, who released just a few 7”s both solo and with the Hailtones in 1971.

Dub Up A Daughter – Prince Tony Robinson also produced a few deejays on this “How Did You Know” riddim. Dennis Alcapone is one my favorites from this era.

Fat Beef Skank – Dennis Alcapone’s number one protege, Dillinger, promoting a somewhat x-rated love for the anatomy of chubby women on the same tune.

Lottery Spin – I was very surprised to find this on a compilation last year, with Zap Pow doing a very dope rockers cover of Kool & The Gang’s “N.T.”, from their epic “Live at P.J.s” LP. This is classic, reggae play-by-play commentary, in a sort of Prince Buster tradition. Zap Pow were an early 70s group that had a certain funky edge to them. Beres Hammond can be heard on their rootsy 1977 “Last War”, but I much prefer their funky stuff, like this, and “Soul Revival”.

Love A Dub – Reggae historians mark the Rub A Dub period in Reggae as taking shape around the end of the 70s, and then being basically eclipsed by the onslaught of digital reggae starting with Sleng Teng in 1984. It’s a difficult thing to put your finger on, but the bouncy vocal flow of cats like Ranking Dread are a good placed to start.

Dub A Dub – The Roots Radics band were profoundly influential in the formation of early 80s J.A. sounds, playing on tons of huge records for Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, and Eek A Mouse. I saw them many times in NY, backing up various touring groups who came through downtown spots like S.O.B.’s and The Wetlands.

Modern Girl – This was and remains a staple of NY reggae DJs. It came out in 1988 as I was buying up as much vinyl as I could possibly afford. Courtney Melody grew up in St Andrew’s Parish and cut his deejay chops alongside Lt. Stitchie, Ricky Stereo and Daddy Freddy in the Stereo One Sound System. This is probably his biggest hit, produced by Robert Ffrench.

Ruff & Tuff – More singjay style in action on the same “Modern Girl” riddim, this one from producer Robert Ffrench, and yes – he has two Fs in his last name – for some inexplicable reason.

Midnight Hour – Now that were firmly in late-80s/early 90s digital territory, this is among a few other singers I would regularly drop at parties back in the day. Pat Kelly had recorded this before, and simply adapted the vocals to work with this newer version. He was also the lead singer of the Techniques, before going solo around 1970.

Gal Pickney – Always one of my favorite Frankie Paul songs, though you almost never heart it in clubs. I just like the way his chorus vocals ride the riddim, and the line “She say ah F.P. she pre-fer”.

Trying To Get To You – A huge 1991 hit for Richie Stephens and the Penthouse label – on the classic John Holt “A Love I Can Feel” riddim.

Tempted To Touch – Another huge hit at this time. I usually play the version with Buju, but sometimes Beres Hammond’s voice is all you need.

When I’m Ready – This Freddie McGregor vocal sounds like it goes back to the 1970 John Holt version, but that’s just because it’s from that period in the early 80s when Coxsone Dodd was re-using his old riddim recordings straight from the master tapes.

In Paradise – Since most of my reggae knowledge leans towards dancehall and roots, I am probably least educated about pop radio love songs like this 1971 duet from Jackie Edwards & Julie Anne. I have David Rodigan to thank for being a real champion for this stuff, and putting this on his incredible 2014 “Masterpiece” compilation.

Man Next Door – An early hit for Horace Andy, later re-recorded in a much darker and moodier tone for Massive Attack’s “Mezzanine” LP. No matter which version you prefer, it’s still a pretty creepy song about domestic abuse, or something like that. This began as a Paragons original, called “I’ve Got To Get Away”, from 1973 – which people claim was a riff on Garnett Mimms “A Quiet Place” (1964), but it’s a pretty big departure tbh.

Lick It Back – Rewind back to 1969 with a skinhead ska tune from Duke Morgan, produced by Coxsone Dodd.

Murder Dem – This is just about the point in the these reggae mixtape liner notes when I get real lazy. SO MANY damn songs LOL! So… let me be brief. Ninjaman tore up this Sleng Teng riddim from jump. My man Jules Gayton personally made sure this was played at every party below 14th st in the 1990s and we were all better off for his efforts.

Cassandra – Dope af Frankie Paul song on this riddim that works on any crowd worth a damn, anywhere on the planet. The BOW BOW BOW sampling is kind of obnoxious, but it fits the 80s digital era perffectly.

Mud Up – Probably my favorite Supercat song of all time. His energy flows from the turntable directly into the crowd and the people dem go NUTS. What more do you want?

It’s Raining – Dancehall Queen Lady Saw also knew how to get a party amped. Her gift for slackness was unmatched at the time.

Benti Uno – Three things I’m a sucker for: 1) Bounty Killa 2) Pinchers 3 )any reggae song that mixes in the whole western movie theme.

Don’t Stay Away – A wonderful little Rocksteady jam from Phyllis Dillon in 1966. This was her very first record, for Duke Reid, and unlike most of her hits, it’s an original, with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics sitting in as rhythm section.

Born To Love You – One more 1966 rocksteady number from The Sensations, for good measure.

Do It Anyway – An obscure, 1976 reggae/disco cover of The People’s Choice by Harold Butler, who also played with Toots & The Maytals.

That’s it. Easy bredren.

 


1 Comment

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