Sunday, February 07, 2016

Day 99 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Shorty The President - Forward On To Work

Shorty the President, born Derek Thompson in 1949, first achieved notoriety as a deejay with his interpretation of Slim Smith's "My Conversation" called "President Mash Up The Resident" in 1972 for Bunny Lee.  Notably the track was featured on Yamaha Skank one of the first rhythm compilation albums, a phenomenon that is distinctive to Jamaican music and most likely bordering on the bizarre for those unfamiliar with the practice of producing multiple tunes on the same riddim tracks.  Shorty the President went on to never received the acclaim or the recording deal with a major label, like a heap of his DJ counterparts during the mid to late 70s, he did continue to record and have some notable success in Africa. Today's tune, the 99th in the 365 Day Challenge, is called "Forward On To Work" and it comes from Shorty the President's 1976 album Presenting on the Cactus label.  Dig it!

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The 14th Week Mix! Available For Your Uninterrupted Listening Pleasure!

Here it is!  The 14th Week Mix... in all its uninterrupted glory!  What you're gonna hear...

1.  Cynthia Richards - Forever
2.  Johnny Moore - Tribute To Sir Alex
3.  The Cobbs - Space Doctor
4.  Derrick Morgan - Stand By Me
5.  King Horror - Ghost Hour
6.  Junior Byles - I've Got A Feeling
7.  Bob Marley & The Wailers - Concrete Jungle

Week 15 starts tomorrow!  Stop by and give it a listen!

Day 98 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Bob Marley & The Wailers - Concrete Jungle

So much has been said and written about Bob Marley that I won't even begin to delve into the story behind the man... it is almost become common knowledge among the masses, even those who aren't really into reggae.  All I have to say today, on Bob's birthday, is that the man and his music have touched my life in ways that would be even hard to explain.  Bob was my gateway, as he probably was and continues to be for countless reggae fans, into this music that I love with every fiber of my being.  I won't rehash the story of how Bob came into my life and what he did for me during a rough time growing up when my older brother died suddenly but the love for him runs in my blood.  With that said, here's the 98th tune in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge, in honor of Bob Marley and my brother Barry... you two will always be synonymous in my world.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Day 97 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Junior Byles - I've Got A Feeling

Kerrie Byles AKA Junior Byles (born July 17, 1948) got started singing in church at an early age.  In 1967 he formed the vocal group The Versatiles with Dudley Earl and Ben Davis, all while juggling his day-job as a firefighter.  The group was scouted by Lee "Scratch" Perry, who was working for Joe Gibbs' Amalgamated label at the time, and signed to a contract.  A couple years later the Versatiles went back to Perry, as well as trying their hands with Duke Reid and Laurel Aitken, and stayed together until 1970 when Junior Byles went solo where he recorded an impressive catalog of classic tunes.  Sadly in 1975, Junior Byles' health began to decline and after being admitted to Bellevue Hospital for depression and an attempted suicide, his personal life began to fall apart.  He attempted to carry on and continued recording sparingly but by the mid 80s, he was homeless and living on the streets. In the early 2000s he had some success with performing in Jamaica and in the UK but hasn't been active since.  Regardless, he is a true legend of Jamaican music and today's song in a perfect reflection of his skill.  "I've Got A Feeling" comes from Junior Byles' 1972 album Beat Down Babylon, produced by Lee Perry and originally released on the Dynamic Sounds label and it's a good one!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Day 96 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - King Horror - Ghost Hour

Yesterday I mentioned "Death Rides A Horse" and today I'm taking it one step farther by actually featuring one of the most beloved of all the songs I ever featured in a Halloween Spooktacular.  You may be checking your calendar or wondering what the hell is going on but King Horror's "Ghost Hour" is a thing of beauty regardless of the time of year!  Now while I'm not touching on the true identity of King Horror, like I seem to do every time I feature one of his songs, we're all just gonna sit back and enjoy.  Originally pressed in 1970 on a white labeled 7" by Reggae/Doctor Bird records, it is a true gem in my collection and always sounds sweet to me!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Day 95 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Derrick Morgan - Stand By Me

It's not very often that a cover of a song is better than the original but my perspective is a little skewed... almost everything done in a reggae style sounds sweeter to my ears.  Case in point, today's tune by the great Derrick Morgan covering "Stand By Me."  "Stand By Me," originally written and performed by the great American soul and R&B singer Ben E. King in 1961 and familiar to anyone born in the last 75 years... it's a nice song, a sweet message, a timeless ode to friendship and brotherhood but I've always thought it was a little somber.  In my opinion, it was always missing something and that something was a reggae beat.  Produced by Bunny Lee and released in 1969 with an upbeat, chugging and somewhat introspective rhythm; Derrick Morgan's rendition gets it right!  Besides Roy Richards harmonica take on the same rhythm "Death Rides A Horse," which I featured years ago in a Spooktacular, is one of my all-time favorite early reggae songs so that doesn't hurt things either.  But you might not want to just take my word for it because like I stated above, my opinion is a little skewed.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Day 94 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - The Cobbs - Space Doctor

Short and sweet today... mainly because I can't find any background information on the Cobbs except that they featured Ansel Collins on keyboard, but also because today's tune is a fine example of early/skinhead reggae that speaks for itself.  "Space Doctor" was produced by Joel/Joe Gibbs and released on his Amalgamated label in 1969.  Killer electric organ-driven reggae niceness that is guaranteed to get your ass up on the dancefloor!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Day 93 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Johnny Moore - Tribute To Sir Alex

Johnny "Dizzy" Moore knew a guy.  It seemed this guy was a student at the Alpha Boys School for wayward boys and Johnny Moore wanted to get in so that he could hone his musical skills.  So he began intentionally misbehaving and after a lot of hard acting-up, pranks and general premeditated mischief he got admitted.  After taking up the trumpet at Alpha he went into the military for a short three year stint to play with the Jamaica Military Band before he was discharged for being "not amenable to military service."  In 1964 Moore joined the Skatalites with Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyed Knibb and Tommy McCook and a year later, when the band split, he linked-up with the Soul Vendors which were led by Roland Alphonso.  He went back to the Skatalites when they reformed in 1983 and sadly died in 2008 from colon cancer.  Today's tune, and the 93rd in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge, is from a 1968 7" on the Pama label called "Tribute To Sir Alex."  A fine example of Dizzy Moore's trumpeting ability and a song that clearly blurs the lines in Jamaican music when rocksteady evolved into reggae.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Day 92 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Cynthia Richards - Forever

Slipping into rocksteady for today's track... Cynthia Richards gives us "Forever" and it is a sweet tune!  Richards began her career in music in the early 60s by working with Bobby Aitken's Carib Beats and later Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, the Mighty Vikings and the Falcons which included a very young Dennis Brown.  Today's song, recorded circa 1967-68 for Bunny Lee and coming from an excellent 2005 various artists CD called The Bunny Lee Rocksteady Years on the Moll Selekta label.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Super Reggae Sunday

If you don't check out Distinctly Jamaican Sounds over on Facebook, this is what you missed!  After a good month of so of harassing the good folks at Baltimore's newest brewpub Waverly Brewing Company, they have given me the go-ahead to host Super Reggae Sunday, a reggae afternoon, at their tasting room on Sunday February 7th!  The guys that will be spinning as well, Bobby Bobson and my life-long friend Nick Jones, are happy to be onboard.  Now this is not gonna be a slick, thumping, dance party, thick with exclusive dub plates and airhorns, this is grass roots.  Three guys with a love for Jamaican music, a couple turntables and a mixer playing some sweet tunes for those who are there to sample Waverly's malty wares!  We're hopeful that this can become a regular gig and we've got our fingers crossed that we'll have a nice turnout... but in all honesty, I'm glad we're giving this a try and if we don't get invited back, so be it.  Getting a chance to play the music we love outside the confines of your living room is reward enough and we hope those who are listening enjoy it as much as we do.  If you're in the Baltimore area and couldn't care less about the Superbowl stop by and give Super Reggae Sunday a shot!  We'd love to have you!

The 13th Week Mix In All Its Uninterrupted Glory! Enjoy!!

A nice week of mento and early ska... perfect warming music for whiling away this nasty winter!  The Complete 13th Week Mix!

1.  Lord Lebby - Mama No Want No Rice & Peas
2.  Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet - Monkey's Opinion
3.  Lord Flea - It All Began With Adam & Eve
4.  Theo Beckford - Mr. Down Presser
5.  Stranger Cole - Rough & Tough
6.  Tommy McCook - (Music Is My) Occupation
7.  Don Drummond - Cool Smoke



Day 91 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Don Drummond - Cool Smoke

Another day and another Treasure Isle ska scorcher!  Perfect music to melt away your mid-winter blues!  This one is by the great Don Drummond and the Baba Brooks Band and it's called "Cool Smoke" and was originally released in 1964.  Don Drummond for those who don't know him was one of the greatest trombonists to ever pick up the instrument, bar none!  An Alpha Boys School graduate, Drummond started out playing jazz in 1950 and in 1964 joined the Skatalites and the rest is history... with songs like "Eastern Standard Time," "Man In The Street," "Thoroughfare," etc. he became a household name.  Shortly thereafter in 1965, Don Drummond was convicted of murdering his long-time girlfriend Anita "Marguerita" Mahfood. an exotic rhumba dancer and singer.  He was ruled criminally insane and was imprisoned at Kingston's Bellevue Asylum where he died four years later.  The cause of his death has never been accurately determined and there are theories that he died from heart problems, malnutrition, improper medication and even beliefs that he may have been murdered by gangsters in retaliation for his killing of Mahfood.  A tragic story nonetheless but to me Don Drummond's music still sounds as good today as it did the day it was recorded... absolutely classic.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Day 90 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Tommy McCook - (Music Is My) Occupation

Let's do some more ska!  Today's track is one of the sweetest ska tunes ever recorded, upbeat, bouncy full of life and guaranteed to get your feet moving!  It's legendary sax extraordinaire Tommy McCook and the Skatalites with a little number called "(Music Is My) Occupation," recorded and released in 1964 on Treasure Isle.  I defy you to listen to this one and not walk away with a smile on your face!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Day 89 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Stranger Cole - Rough & Tough

Pure ska for the 89th Day of the Jamaican Music Challenge... this one is called "Rough and Tough" by Stranger Cole and it was recorded and released in 1963 on Duke Reid's Dutchess label.  Wilburn Theodore Cole, born 1945, was given the nickname Stranger by his family, because they said he didn't resemble any of his kin, was active recording and performing in and around Jamaica until the 1971 when he emigrated to England and eventually permanently relocated to Toronto a couple years later.  While in Toronto Stranger Cole worked for the Tonka toy company, is credited with opening the first Caribbean record shop in Canada and is still active today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Day 88 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Theo Beckford - Mr. Down Presser

Pianist Theophilus Beckford, born 1935, was one of the pioneers of Jamaican music who helped bridge the gap between rhythm and blues and ska.  Starting out in mento by working as a session musician for producer Stanley Motta and his MRS label.  In 1956 he recorded "Easy Snappin'," which many consider to be one of the first forerunners of ska for Coxsone Dodd which was eventually released in 1959 and spent 18 months at the number one spot on the Jamaican music charts! In 1962, right before the onset of the ska era, Beckford released the song "Mr. Down Presser" on his own King Pioneer label and damn is it sweet!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Day 87 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Lord Flea - It All Began With Adam & Eve

Lord Flea, born Norman Byfield Thomas somewhere between 1931 and 1934 depending on who you ask, was the first "rock star" of Jamaican music who played a big part in launching the calypso craze in the United States during the 1950s.  Though the music he played was clearly Jamaican mento it was all lumped together to appeal to foreign tastes.  Lord Flea said in an interview, "In Jamaica, we call our music 'mento' until very recently. Today, 'calypso' is beginning to be used for all kinds of West Indian music. This is because it's become so commercialized there. Some people like to think of West Indians as carefree natives who work and sing and play and laugh their lives away. But this isn't so. Most of the people there are hard working folks, and many of them are smart business men. If the tourists want "calypso", that's what we sell them."  And that is exactly what they didLord Flea and his Calypsonians were signed by Bill Saxon who traveled to Jamaica in search of authentic calypso and performed at his Miami nightclub Club Calypso for six months at a time.  In 1957 the band was featured in Life Magazine, appeared on the Perry Como Show and appeared in two calypso based Hollywood films; Calypso Joe and Bop Girl Goes Calypso.  Unfortunately, the craze didn't have much staying power and American producers began to take the easy route by doing away with the authenticity and producing sanitized versions done by American artists.  Sadly, on May 18th 1959, Lord Flea died from Parkinson's Disease and the world lost its first Jamaican Superstar.  But let's get to today's tune... the 87th track in the 365 Day Challenge is "It All Began With Adam & Eve" originally released in 1957 as a single on Capital Records.  Dig it!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 86 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Alerth Bedasse & Chin's Calypso Sextet - Monkey's Opinion

We're on to the 86th day in the 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge and again we're sticking with another mento tune... today's song "Monkey's Opinion," which was obviously inspired by the 1957 R&B song by Dave Bartholomew called "The Monkey Speaks His Mind," was performed by Alerth Bedasse and Chin's Calypso Sextet.  According to the excellent website, an unbelievably wonderful resource for those who appreciate or want to learn more about this relatively hazy era of Jamaica's musical history, "the song is about a monkey doubting that people could be descended from monkeys due to poor behavior seen in humans."  It is an absolute classic, so much so that it was adapted and covered by both Mutabaruka and Bunny Wailer many years later.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Day 85 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Lord Lebby - Mama No Want No Rice & Peas

We're really going to go back this week with some mento!  We're starting if off with a tune by Lord Lebby called "Mama No Want No Rice & Peas" and this is a cover of an old jazz standard, first recorded by Count Basie in the 1930s, but done in a wonderful rural mento style that just warms the heart.  Lord Lebby, born Noel Williams in 1930 started performing with calypso groups all over Jamaica when he was a child and eventually recorded fifteen tracks for Jamaican music pioneers Ken Khouri and Stanley Motta.  "Mama No Want No Rice & Peas" was released circa 1955 as a 78 RPM disc on Khouri's Kalypso label.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Complete 12th Week Mix... Better Late Than Never.

The 12th Week Mix in its entirety... what you're gonna hear!

1.  Burning Spear - Man In The Hills
2.  Max Romeo - Martin Luther King
3.  Vivian Jackson & The Prophets - Love Of Jah
4.  Don Carlos - Jah Hear My Plea
5.  Peter Tosh - Rastafari Is (Live)
6.  Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus - Keep Cool Babylon
7.  Cedric Im Brooks - Give Rasta Glory

Day 84 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Cedric IM Brooks - Give Rasta Glory

Sticking with one more roots tune to round out the week... this one is by saxophonist Cedric "Im" Brooks and it is called "Give Rasta Glory" and it is taken from his 1977 album on Studio One called  Im Flash Forward.  Brooks was a student at the renowned Alpha Boys School in Kingston when he was 11 and learned to play the clarinet.  In his late teens he switched to the tenor saxophone and flute and during this time in the early 1960s he joined up with the Granville Williams Orchestra and the Vagabonds before having his first real commercial success with trumpeter David Madden as Im & David for Studio One.  Brooks later went on to team up with Rastafarian drummer Count Ossie and formed the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari and eventually his own band The Divine Light who later became known as The Light of Saba.  Sadly Cedric Brooks died suddenly in 2013 but he definitely made a lasting mark on Jamaican music. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day 83 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Ras Michael & The Sons Of Negus - Keep Cool Babylon

Ras Michael, born Michael George Henry, a lifetime follower of Rastafari and best known for his traditional Nyabinghi drumming and chanting, started off in the mid-60s working as a session musician for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One.  In 1974 he and the Sons of Negus started recording albums incorporating the timeless hand drumming combined with modern electric instruments and their first release was called simple Nyabinghi.  Today's track called "Keep Cool Babylon" is taken from that album and it is strictly traditional - drumming, flute and chanting and it is glorious.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Day 82 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Peter Tosh - Rastafari Is (Live)

For the 82nd day in the Challenge, I'm gonna do something different.  No I'm not messing with the formula or changing how I do these posts, I'm going with a live song.  And let me tell ya, it is positively epic.  In my opinion, one of the best live performances ever captured on tape regardless of genre!  "Rastafari Is" recorded by the late great and sadly missed Peter Tosh at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles on August 23, 1983 and released on his album Captured Live a year later was one of the largest life-changing musical moments in my entire life.  This performance is just mind blowing!  Dig it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Day 81 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Don Carlos - Jah Hear My Plea

Born Ervin Spencer in 1952, the man who would later become known as Don Carlos, started his singing career in 1973 with Black Uhuru.  Carlos alongside Garth Dennis and Derrick "Ducky" Simpson received notable worldwide recognition in 1977 when Black Uhuru's album Love Crisis AKA Black Sounds Of Freedom, an album they had recorded for Prince Jammy, hit the street.   But Don Carlos didn't stick with the band and decided to give it a go as a solo performer and quickly became one of the sweetest voices of the early dancehall era and thankfully he is still active today!  The 81st track is called "Jah Hear My Plea" taken from his 1987 album Deeply Concerned on the RAS label.  An amazing song of struggle, perseverance and faith with an infectious rhythm that I know I'll have dancing around my head all day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Calm Before The Storm

We have yet to reach the fever pitch of "Snowmaggedon" induced craziness here in Maryland.  There have been no shortages of milk, bread and toilet paper as of yet but as this winter storm bears down on us, scenes of frantic desperation in the bleak aisles of the grocery store are guaranteed to ensue.  The same will hold true at the hardware store as frenzied shoppers fight over the last snow shovel, bag of ice-melt, bundle of firewood and for those who are financially able, shiny new snow blower.  Yes winter has finally arrived and though I dread the prospect of a potential foot or two of snow and the nightmarish commute home on Friday evening; the windshield wipers crunching back the slush, the heat and defrost on so high you feel like your face is melting off, the slips, the slides, the white knuckled hands on the wheel, the horrific vision of the car leaving the roadway and careening down a snow-covered embankment and into a frozen river… as you can probably tell I'm not a fan.  But, here it is nearing the end of January and this is our first snow event so we've been getting off pretty easy this year; shit, it was in the 70s on Christmas Day which is completely unheard of, I was wearing flip flops on Christmas Eve!  Well anyway, in honor of the dreaded winter storm I wanted to share another song today… this one is by Rastafari Elder Ras Pidow and it comes from his 1992 album Modern Antique on the RAS label and it's called "Winter Storm."  A mellow bit of dub poetry about the Rasta elder who had spent all of his life in Jamaica's tropical climate witnessing a snow storm for the very first time over a nice mellow version of Bob Marley's "Coming In From The Cold."  I really love this song, it gives this hell that we know as winter a completely different perspective.  Sadly, Ras Pidow passed away in 2001… a humble and wise man who is truly missed.

Day 80 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Vivian Jackson & The Prophets - Love Of Jah

Vivian Jackson, better known as Yabby You, is up next with "Love Of Jah" taken from the splendid 1997 Blood & Fire release called Jesus Dread, which compiles a huge portion of Yabby's performances and productions from 1972-1977 into one glorious double CD set.  Today's track was originally recorded and released in 1975 on the Prophet label and it's a sweet tune!