Tuesday, December 1, 2009

So as the end of 2009 approaches Springline looks back at what we feel has been quite a vintage year for reggae. There has been a multitude of great albums released this year from established artists the likes of Buju Banton, Alboroise, Chezidek, Lutan Fyah, Tarrus Riley, The Aggrolites and of course Pama International. There have also been fantastic releases from new and up and coming acts like Queen Ifrica, Baijie, Greenroom Rockers and of course Springlines very own Hassle
This Year has also seen us reviewing classic old Funk and Soul LP’s which we at Springline have a great affection for along with our Reggae. It has also taken us slightly by surprise just how many great acts there are out there that are keeping this vibe alive, big respects to Alice Russell, Quantic Soul Orchestra, Lack of Afro, all at Daptone and Thru Thought records to name but a few.
For me though album of the year has to go to Madness and the excellent Liberty of Norton Folgate. Now I’ve been a fan of Madness since the beginning, but I will admit that even I could never have dreamed of them releasing such a complete and totally captivating tour de force as this. 30 yrs in the making and worth every minute! The only problem I see for them now is how are they going to top it, but if they can at least match its majestic brilliance then any follow up will be a much sought after album.
Also worth a mention are a couple of albums from the underground, Bigga Haitian's album "Sak Pasé" from WalkUp Records in New York, plus the recent release from the new 'free' label DUBKEY Records with their 4th release entitled 'All Kinda Wall' by DoobieSounds Prods featuring various artists with a very ultra modern roots sound. To find out more about DUBKEY, download and hear what we're talking about go to www.dubkey.com/

As for next year, well coming up from the Springline stable we’re gonna see the release of the second EP and 3rd album from Hassle, they’ve also just signed a brand new contract with our SpringlineMusic label.
The second album from Lyrikill and more It’s sure gonna be a busy musical 2010 so keep checking in here.
You might like to tune in to our own humble radio station SpringlineRadio1 were we will continue to playlist underground Reggae from all nations alongside classics from yesteryear all supported by a healthy
Sprinkling of funk, rare groove and soul find it at

So finally to play this year out on the flashplayer are a selection of tunes that have brightened up the Springline office over the last 12 months whether they be tunes from the past, present or future. Thanks once again for all your support during 2009
Now check out the tunes on the player, we hope you enjoy them and hope that 2010 will be just as good!

The Rastsfarians - Orthodox

Read my first review for United Reggae 'Orhodox' by the Ratafarians


Sunday, November 29, 2009

US Reggae Record Sales in Decline?

Recent reports in Jamaica’s Star and Gleaner have stated that according to sales tracker Nielsen-SoundScan reggae album sales have plummeted in the USA. Collectively reggae / dancehall music has sold a mere 502,171 units for the first 10 months of the year. In a great year for reggae album releases, with a lot of artists going back to a more rootsy sound. Buju Bantons excellent ‘Rasta Got Soul’ has so far only sold just over 8,000 copies, while Queen Ifrica’s summer release ‘Welcome to Montego Bay’ has a woeful return of only 2,726
However this may not be all gloom and doom for reggae artists. After all we are just starting to come out of what has been the worst global recession ever and CD sales across all genres have been affected. Also these figures do not include download sales, which is now according to industry reports accountable for around 20% of worldwide music sales. I myself, as someone who swore they would always only ever buy vinyl and not CD’s, before finally giving into their rise, now rarely buy CD’s and prefer the convenience and versatility of mp3 downloads. There is also the problem for more established artists of the ease in which it is possible for people to get music out via the net, so competition is now greatly increased. Lots of unsigned bands can put there music out with out the need of CD’s for instant download and often for free, so people may be tending to experiment more with new sounds, especially in times of financial difficulty. Then of course there is file sharing, a problem for artists that I think will never go away.
So with all these hurdles in it is maybe not the time to start panicking about lack of sales. Once all the figures are in and the fuller picture is revealed this will hopefully give a better outlook. Artists and their record companies may also have to look at longer-term sales figures, as consumer confidence grows, before the real success or failure of their product can be measured. The only thing that has maybe held these sales back is not their lack of quality but the unfortunate and testing times that they have been released in.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Specials - Hammersmith Apollo November 2009

After arriving at the train station and finding trains in to Euston had been cancelled, then put back on, then getting to Euston and finding the entrance to the tube closed!! After much darting about and the best part of 30yrs I have finally managed to see The Specials LIVE!!
I caught them at the Hammersmith Apollo on Tuesday 24th November on at the first night of the final leg of their 30th anniversary shenanigans. The crowd were expectant, as you’d imagine and the band did not fail to deliver. From the opening strains of ‘Do The Dog’ to powerhouse finally of ‘Too Much Too Young’, they had us all in the palm of their hand. Of course they came back twice first with the haunting ‘Ghost Town’ then for what else but their take on ‘You’re Wondering Now’ with Terry, a Man U fan, taking a swipe at Liverpool who had just been knocked out of the European Champions League.
All the hits were here along with the majority of the 1st album. Unfortunately as most of you must be aware it was not quite the full original line up, as Jerry for whatever reasons decided not to get back with the band. The new guy on keyboards was however a more than adequate replacement. Brass was not supplied by Rico or Dick, but again you could not see the join, but one thing that did strike me was John's drumming. It just drove the songs on so powerfully and the rimshot drum rolls just tore through you like machine gun fire, I reckon he would be a hard act to replace.
By the end of the night the all seated Apollo was a heaving sweaty mass as people danced on their seats. Comedian Bill Bailey was in the crowd as well and I’m sure he was skankin’ with the rest of us.
So was it worth the wait? You bet! Although the venue could have been better. I paid for standing, thinking I’d be at the front, but oh no standing was right at the back of the balcony behind the seat!! Seats I ask you….The Specials and seats do not mix well.

It just leaves us with what happens now? I for one hope they continue, maybe a bit like Madness used to do come out every Christmas or something, I only know that I hope this is not the first and last time I see them play.

Don't forget to switch off the flashplayer first! Oh and not the view I got unfortunatley!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Out Soon From Baijie - Spliff Long!

Fresh on the heels of his ‘superb ‘That’s Life’ EP
See last month’s review

now brings us his ode to da ‘erb……

Spliff Long

It’s another cracking piece of modern roots reggae and is taken from his much anticipated album Equilibrium, which is due for release early next year.

As I’ve said before I think this artist has a very promising future, but don’t just take my word for it visit

and take a look at the video.
The tune itself won't be available 'till January I'm afraid and then only at itunes

Also you can read a profile on the man himself further down the page in this months posts or join him at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

King Django US Shows

News reaches us from the US of a couple of special shows starting

THIS FRIDAY NIGHT, November 13, 2009
a very special appearance by
at The Ocean Mist895 Matunuck Beach Rd. South Kingstown, RI 02879
backed by "the Subversions" Boston Ska All-Star band
featuring Ken Stewart (Skatalites), Thad Merritt (Westbound Train, Void Union), Art Cohen (Steady Earnest, Agitators) and more!


Thursday, December 10, 2009
New York, NY
The Shrine
2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (133-134 st) New York, NY 10030
plus special guest TBA

Saw King Django a few years ago at the Underworld in Camden, London as part of the Do the Dog SKA Festival and he had the whole place skankin'!
A couple of nights there not to be missed I think!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pama International - Outernational Album Review

After the flurry of album releases from Rockers Revolt last year, that saw them gain a reputation for varied and quality releases from both new and established artists, things have been very quiet on that front this year. At last, however, they bring you the new album from Pama International….Outernational….and boy it’s a belter!

Despite this seemingly quiet phase at the Rockers / Pama HQ, nothing could have been further from the truth, as Pama have been touring extensively, with the highlight being a support slot on The Specials 30th anniversary tour earlier this year. They've also made many various festivals appearances. In-between all these shows though rather than taking it easy and sitting back on their laurels, after the acclaimed success of last years ‘Love Filled Dub Band’, and anti gun crime ‘Highrise Campaign’, they have been working hard to produce a follow up and create something that is at least as good if not better.
There is an evident influence of the Specials here as Lynval Golding prominently features again, even taking lead vocal duties on ‘Question The Answer’, plus his old sparring partner Sir Horace Gentleman supplies bass on this as well as ‘Dub A Disco’, after having released his own limited edition 7” earlier in the year with the label. Production duties are as they were with LFDB, a joint venture between Pama's Sean Flowerdew with the help of John Collins (producer of the classic Ghost Town), with Collins's touch likely adding to some of the tunes kind of lost Specials feel. This however is certainly no band trying to mimic them. Indeed with the host of many and varied musicians that have appeared on their releases over the years they have somehow still managed to cultivate their own distinct, rich and strong sound that crosses bass laden, dub fuelled reggae with late 60’s funky, soul sounding groovers, best displayed in the bubbly, brass filled and infectious single ‘Happenstance’, followed here nicely by it’s dub ‘Dub A Dance’. As you come to expect from the band now the lyrics of the songs range between biting looks at inner city and everyday social problems and sweet love laments.
Among the highlights are ‘Quality & Justice For All’ which gets the ball rolling nicely, with it’s driving beat, glimpses of echoic horns, and a polished vocal cry from Finny. ‘Are We Saved Yet?’ starts of with a gospel flavoured keyboard and shaking tambourine, before bursting in to a funky, soulful, strut with Finny this time going from the sweet vocal of the opener into a more gruff vocal growl, to give the tune just that hint of stax appeal, while ‘Still I Wait’ contains a blissed out dubby riddim under the mournful sounding lyric.
As said before a quite year from Rockers Revolt for releases, but this has definitely been worth the wait, and will without doubt please fans, but should also hopefully start to see them gain due recognition and plaudits from further a field.

among many other places
Full Traclist:

01 Quality & Justice For All
02 Dub A Disco
03 Are We Saved Yet
04 I Still Love You More
05 Still I Wait
06 He's More Like His Father
07 Happenstance
08 Dub A Dance
09 Question the Answer
10 Trade It All For Me
11 What Do I Know
12 Look Out Your Window

Lack of Afro - My Groove Your Move

Released this month on Freestyle Records is Lack of Afro’sMy Groove, Your Move”. Lack of Afro consists of or should that be is formerly of Exeter, but soon to be Brighton based Adam Gibbons, who is a very talented multi-instrumentalist. As well as playing his own instruments Adam produces, and remixes. This is his second LP under the Afro guise and what he gives us is a stunning collection of the hippest soul, jazz and funk music from the 60's and 70's with Hip Hop leanings. Just check out Mo’ Filth it has one of the dirtiest, grubbiest bass grooves I’ve heard in a long time and with its thumping beat, wah guitar, electric piano and bursts of strings sounds like it has been stolen off the eight track in Shafts car! Then just when you think you better have a bath before listening to more your cleansed by the light, bright and breeziness of ‘Beautiful Here’. Roxie Ray of Dojo Cuts fame appears on the excellent groover 'Closer To Me' and the sultry 'Tell Me What Happens’, while Youtube hip hop prodigies Wax & Herbal T get lyrical on the stormin’ 'International' and 'Suspicious Glow'. Other noted appearances are by Nick Radford (guitar) and ex Ocean Colour Scenes' Damon Minchellas' (bass)
I had not heard of Lack of Afro before this release, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Now …..I’ll have to go track down that first LP!

Visit www.lackofafro.com/ for more info and also a free download to get a feel of what it’s all about.

My Groove, Your Move is available from Play.com and all other good record outlets


For even more Afro goodiness

Baijie - A Profile

To be reminded of what is good about current Reggae music, one only has to look as far as the young Reggae artist Baijie. A melodic tenor by day and a shrewd deejay by night, Baijie, born Dave St. Albourn Williams, is able to walk the border between the two, juggling wicked rhymes and soulful reggae melodies over solid Jamaican beats. Rather than a matter of simply pulling a talented artist out of thin air, this is about music imitating life. Growing up in two of Jamaica’s notorious garrison neighborhoods, Rae Town, East Kingston and Macgregor Gully, Vineyard Town, Baijie’s life has been defined by the borderline between rich and poor, black and white, haves and have-nots.

“In Macgregor Gully it’s normal to hear gunshots every night. Just imagine if a man forced his way into your yard,” he says. “You would defend yourself. So if you live over Macgregor Gully you are forced to live violently.”

Rather than surrender to the intense realities of ghetto living, Baijie recognized the power as well as social and political freedom generated by channeling that reality through the music. Baijie’s solid dancehall credentials, renewed roots focus and an ambitious vision caught the attention of producer Steve Locke of TruckBack Records.

That’s Life” is Baijie’s first single from his forthcoming album, EQUILIBRIUM, scheduled for release in early 2009 on the TruckBack label. Leading off with a groovy one-drop riddim, a TruckBack original, “That’s Life” also signals a new direction for a studio known for its dancehall beats. Heavy bass bubbling underneath a bright melody, passionate percussion and TruckBack’s tight production provide the artiste room to showcase his full vocal and artistic range. From cool and deadly singing to rough and ready deejaying, Baijie employs a variety of styles to interrogate why “The little the poor man got, him stealing it/ Empty plate a yard and me cyan put a meal in it”.

Music is not a way out for Baijie. Rather, music is used to connect with people productively, in ways that otherwise would be difficult or perhaps even dangerous. “When you come from garrison, the people want you to represent them. I appreciate that, but most artists don’t even realize it,” he says. Even Rae Town and Macgregor Gully agree on this where Baijie can now comfortably walk down the middle of any street.

Still, it wasn’t an easy path to follow. Starting with other youths in the area who liked to chat lyrics and “beat fence pon corner”, Baijie traded the street for the dubplate studio with the help of long time breddren, Chickenhawk, who carried Baijie to Caveman Sound as well as mega producers Steelie & Cleevie and Jah Life. His dancehall recordings earned Baijie tours of England and the Caribbean, but something wasn’t right.

“Things get stale with the music in general,” Baijie says, “I want back that pulsating beat and the type of argument where one line is of significance. You see, me is not a bling bling singer. Me is a message singer.”

By the time TruckBack Records came calling, Baijie had a new outlook and a wicked new sound to match. “I approach music totally different. It have to have melodies. It have to have bass. And it have to impress people, whether you black, white, purple, no matter. The bottom line is, I want to make a mark with it.” While most music in Jamaica “nah pass the port” (it doesn’t leave the country), Baijie’s debut album “EQUILIBRIUM” is prepared to set sail everywhere.

Courtesy of Heather Cameron (Truckback Records)


September 1979, I’m 11yrs old and I’ve just started senior school. My Action Man has been consigned to the dustbin, I’ve suddenly found an interest in girls, after eyeing up the shapely curves of the ones in 5th yr, and now I’m hearing this new music in the shape of 2-Tone on the radio. Life will never be the same again.
To be honest the first 2-Tone single to grab me was Madness’s ‘Orange Street’ or a least that is what I thought it was called for the first few weeks as I always seemed to miss the bit where the DJ said what it was! What I had been drawn in by was in fact ‘The Prince’ and you can be sure “an earthquake was erupting” in my mind and ears. I had always liked music, and my dad always had it on in the house, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Elvis that type of thing, especially really loud on Sundays after a few beers lunch time. What I was hearing now though was something completely different from what I’d heard on the radio before, all that easy listening, user friendly ELO, Boney M, and Bee Gees, it said nothing to me. 2-Tone on the other hand was music that even at my tender age I could appreciate was saying something. The country was in a right old state, and even I knew that when I went to football, and dad drove through Southgate then Cockfosters past all the piles of bin bags lining the streets that something wasn’t right with the place. I know we’d had punk, but that just seemed to be all scattergun anger, with its smash the system, let anarchy rule, we don’t care attitude. Now though the Sex Pistols had long since split and Vicious was dead, what was going to fill this musical void? 2-Tone, and the Specials in particular, were singing about things that were real and I could relate to. Even songs like ‘New Era’ and ‘Concrete Jungle’ bore some resemblance of what was happening in my life. In early 1980 I started going to the local disco for under 14’s on Friday nights with a group of friends. Walking down the street in my Harrington, Fred Perry (Mum used to get them 2 for 1 out of Peter Craig catalogue. They were the days eh before they went all trendy and top prices!!) , cherry and green Tonic trousers, topped off with white socks (hard to get in my home town then) and loafers, we thought we were the mutts nuts. This however, back in the early eighties, was also the time of numerous youth tribes and you had to be a bit careful of were you went. There were Punks, Teds / Rockers, Mods, New Romantics, Skins and Casuals were just starting to rear their heads, so if we weren’t careful a group of 12yr old ‘Rudies’ were easy pickings, and we’d get chased, though luckily never caught, a few times. Once in the disco things were different, most of us there were Rudies anyway and the dance floor would become packed as soon as the DJ stated on anything 2-Tone related. It was then as well that I first heard some of the original recordings that the 2-Tone bands had covered, and other tunes as well. The DJ would sometimes play Prince Buster’s ‘Al Capone’ after ‘Gangsters’, perhaps he was trying to educate us. I admit that these did not always go down too well, but seeds had already been planted.
Back then my entire pocket went on records and other 2Tone related stuff. There was a shop in town that was run by some old Hippies, and in amongst the incense, tie-dye and scatter cushions you could buy badges, posters and 1”wide ties emblazoned with your heroes on, also every so often you could even grab a t-shirt with your fave band on. I remember I brought one with a picture of The Specials with a picture of the ‘Do Nothing’ cover, weeks of saved and hoping it didn’t sell. I also brought ‘The 2Tone Book for Rude Boys’, which was a great read and told a brief history on how all the bands had formed. It was almost like a bible to me. In fact if it had a checkerboard design on it I was after havin’ it. ‘Cause that was the other thing with 2Tone…..the strong image. Walt Jabsco, the checkerboard, it was simple yet strong. Even the Beats Go-Feet label and the Madness’s M with trilby hat were classic and cool, but the best thing of all was the stage presence the Specials had. I can remember when I first saw them on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and later on ‘Rock Goes To College’ being totally captivated by their performance. Lynval and Horace running round the front of the stage like lunatics, Jerry jumping up and down, with the keyboard swaying, like some demented devil, and then Terry, in total contrast, with an almost bored with it all look, amazing.
By 1981 2Tone was close to blowing itself out, Madness and The Beat had both released one single and then gone off to do their own thing and Dexy’s Midnight Runners had turned down the chance to release on the label as they didn’t want to be associated with ‘a movement’, but also I think because they thought Jerry would want too much control. I think as well that a lot of young bands maybe saw signing to 2-Tone would perhaps stifle their creativity as it was so associated with ska. The release of ‘More Specials’ tried maybe to break that mould as it broke away from the ska/ punk sound that had worked so well on the first LP. It’s odd mix of lounge muzak and various styles from the funky soul of ‘Sock it to ‘em JB’ to the rockabilly of ‘Braggin’ and Tryin’ Not to Lie’ (available on the free 7” that came with it) I found most disconcerting and took a bit of getting used to. Then of course in the summer of ’81, while we were all waiting to see what the band would come up with for a third LP, they released ‘Ghost Town’. The timing and essence of this record could not have been better as rioting broke out across most of England’s major cities. The song also served notice on The Specials who split while at the top with a number one on their hands, and also began the slow death of 2-Tone as a label. At the end of ’81 a big change happened for me to as my school closed and we were sent packing to another school up the road. Most of the boys in the year I joined happened to be Mods, and as 2-Tone was now no more I slowly drifted. Ironically on starting there as a rudie I got a bit of stick for still liking 2-Tone, as it was considered ‘old-hat!’. But with no new sounds to buy it wasn’t much of a jump to start hanging around with them. I started frequenting a local Mod club on Thursdays and in 1984 went off on my first scooter run to Morecambe Bay, even though I was only 15 and so too young for a license. In the August of that year I also went to the I.O.W scooter run. The rally was held in a couple of big fields just outside Cowes and was the biggest rally of the year. For those of you not in the know, there were two types of scooter rally in the early 80’s there were Mod rallys run by the Phoenix Society. These were strictly Mod orientated events and there were the National Rallies. Now the national rallies were more open with all types of scooterists present there were Skins, Psychobillies, Punks and well just about anyone who enjoyed riding scooters. The thing is despite this mix of clans at the all-night discos the music was still Northern Soul, but in 1984 that was all about to change and imagine my joy after arriving there on the Friday lunch time and making our way over to the music field when, in between a couple of old northern soul numbers I heard Neville’s dulcet tones burst forth from the speakers with “BERNIE RHODES KNOWS DON’T ARGUE!” ….aahhh, I was back home again.

These links are for an informative docmentry about legendary UK Rude Boy Label 2-Tone, that was broadcasted by channel4 in 2004.

It tells the story of the label and The Specials, Madness, The Beat, The Selecter, Rico Rodriguez...





Junior Byles - Beat Down Babylon: The Upsetter Years

Whilst away on my holidays the other month I started reading the Lee Perry biography “People Funny Bwoy”, and this lead me to dig out an old Trojan CD I have of Junior Byles “The Upsetter Years”. The CD contains the classic “Beat Down Babylon” album plus many extra tracks from his golden era with Lee Perry. The thing that struck me on listening to this again was that not only is it a compilation of some of Junior Byles best work, but also you can hear the birth of reggae through this as Perry works his magic at the mixing desk. It starts off with “Festival Da Da” that still has that 60’s rocksteady feel to it, and throwaway lyrics. Then you get that warn skinhead / early reggae of “Joshua’s Desire”, the Rastafarian fundamentalism lyric of “Beat Down Babylon”, with the bass coming more to the fore, the almost dark, and brooding cover of “Fever” before finishing on the rootsy “The Long Way” sung over a deep dubby riddim. All throughout as well is of course the superb vocal performance of Junior himself as he expresses his emotions of rebel anger, dismay and hope with what seems like ease. A class act if ever there was one.

Junior Byles - Biography

Kerrie Byles Jr. was born at Jubilee Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, on July 17th, 1948. He was brought up in the city's Jonestown ghetto, where his father worked as a mechanic, while his mother was a schoolteacher. They were a devoutly religious family, and it is in the church were Junior’s early singing musical education started. As he grew up he began to follow with enthusiastic interest the latest recordings from local heroes like Jackie Edwards, Slim Smith, Stranger Cole, The Maytals and the Wailers.
On leaving school however instead of following his musical interests fully he became a mechanic before, in around 1968, he changed career to become a fireman. Also around this period, he formed a vocal group called the Versatiles, with Louie Davis (who was also a member of the Morwells) and an Indian youth remembered only as Dudley. They cut their first session for release on Joel Gibson's Amalgamated label, with three superb titles, “Just Can't Win”, "The time Has Come" and "Trust The Book". These songs were recorded under the supervision of Lee Perry with whom he later forged a strong and productive musical partnership. Backup on the songs was supplied by Lynn Taitt & the Jets. During the late sixties the Versatiles cut additional sessions for Gibson "Push It In” and for the Delltone label they cut "Children Get Ready". As the 70’s dawned, they returned to Gibson, and cut the great "Warika Hills" and recorded the fine "Pick My Pocket" for Laurel Aitken.
Unfortunately not long after this the Versatiles decided to go their own ways. Junior was still working as a firefighter, but he remained close to Perry, who was by now working with Bob Marley. When Perry's association with Bob Marley came to an end however, he was left looking for a suitable singer-songwriter he could work with to fill the void and Junior, thought Perry, would fit the bill perfectly.

Perry, rightly regards Junior as one of the top vocalists he has ever worked with, and has continued great respect for Junior's own unique character, combining equal parts of fierce and defiant Rastafarian fundamentalism with a personality described by his contemporaries as profoundly humble. The pair got off to something of a slow start with the minor hit "What's The World Coming To", released under the name King Chubby ("Chubby" being a nickname Junior had been given in his neighbourhood when just a boy). In 1971 Perry and Junior entered a song a national festival contest on the island. The song "Rub Up Festival" reached the final 8 before the songs suggestive lyric led to it being disqualified. They tried again the following year with the more lyrically friendly "Festival Da Da" and ended up finishing as runner-up. 1972 was a big year for Junior with the release of a debut album, the classic “Beat Down Babylon”, which contained the songs "Beat Down Babylon", "King of Babylon", and the plea for repatriation, "Place Called Africa" this along with a series of singles that followed, established Junior as a major force in both Jamaica as well as helping establish him with audiences in the UK. Junior also recorded his biggest hit to date, with a cover version of Peggy Lee's "Fever", over a crucial Perry dubby riddim. It was also election year in Jamaica and Junior was one of several reggae musicians to offer support to Michael Manley's campaign, releasing the singles "Joshua Desire" and "Pharaoh Hiding" ("Joshua" referring to Manley and "Pharaoh" to the ruling Jamaican Labour Party's leader Hugh Shearer). Manley was elected, but improvements for Jamaica's poor were not immediately apparent, and Junior was one of several artists who had supported Manley who voiced dissent, releasing the scathing "When Will Better Come?”
By the mid 70’s Junior and Perry’s relationship had faltered and he moved on recording three duets with Rupert Reid for Dudley Swaby and Leroy Hollett's Ja-Man label, as well as recording "Bury-O-Boy" for Lloyd Campbell and covers of "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" and "Oh Carolina" for Pete Weston. Regarded by some as his greatest work, "Fade Away" was recorded in 1975 for producer Joseph Hoo Kim; It was a massive hit in Jamaica and was also a big success in the UK, and was covered five years later by Adrian Sherwood's New Age Steppers group. It also featured on the soundtrack for the film Rockers.

By late ‘75, and as was poised for international exposure, Junior’s health had begun to decline. Just like his mentor Lee Perry, he was acquiring a reputation for madness, he was also suffering from bouts of depression, and was deeply affected by the death of Haile Selassie. Unable to reconcile this with his belief in Selassie's divinity, he attempted suicide. This then lead to him being admitted to Bellevue Hospital, were his health continued to decline. Although he had regular spells in the hospital, he continued to record, reworking "King of Babylon" for Winston Holness, working again with Campbell, and recording a cover of The Archies' "Sugar Sugar" with Big Youth, he also somehow managed to He also release a second album, “Jordan”, produced by Pete Weston, after this though he all but vanished from the music scene. He attempted a comeback in 1978, recording two singles for Joe Gibbs. It was clear that he was still not well, however, and it would be 1982 before he re-emerged, working with New York label Wackie's. Progress on a planned new album was slow, and Junior was beset by tragedy when his mother died, and he lost his home in a fire. His wife and children also emigrated to the United States, and aside from a few singles, Junior would release nothing until 1986's “Rasta No Pickpocket” album. The album did not, however, see a long-lived upturn in his fortunes, and by the following year, he was living on the street, scavenging for food in the rubbish, and begging from passers-by. Junior has occasionally resurfaced, recording "Young Girl" for Holness in 1989 and "Little Fleego" three years later; he has also played a few live shows with Earl "Chinna" Smith in 1997 and 1998. He contributed to the “Medicine I” compilation album in 2000, and returned to live performance in 2004 in Jamaica, receiving positive reviews. This led to a short tour of the United Kingdom. His legacy of recordings from the 1970s, however, maintain his status as one of roots reggae's leading talents

"Yes, I've been fightin' terrible struggles through creation. At times, I walk barefoot. At times, you only see me with a rod and a bundle of fire beside me. Sometimes I live in the hills. Sometimes, I go away. Sometimes the only t'ing that I have to satisfy my soul is lightning and thunder and the sun that shine to remind me that there is still hope for humanity. I am a person who scorn and scoff at suffering – don't like to see it. I personally desire to see righteousness cover the eart' as the way it should be. So then, most of my writing is just based in that channel, you know – to see that these t'ings come to be a reality. "I have traveled far and wide – t'rough hills, hedges, highways and byways where a lot of people is afraid to go. And I don't believe I've stopped. I'm still doin' it. That is just part of my duty from day to day. DI already forsee the day when I am not going to want. I see it. I know it is just around the corner. Everyday in my life, everyday is just a workin' day. Don't care how mystic it might look. I just appreciate becau' I know that as long as I am living clean and tryin' my best to do what is right, my reward is endless – priceless." (Junior Byles)

Everton Blender - Rootsman Credential

The intriguingly named Everton Blender released "Rootsman Credential" in 1999. It’s a self produced LP which is somewhat unusual for a reggae artist, but he did make a rather good job of it. The riddims are mainly digitally produced but that said they are not as cold and robotic as some, and there is some nice instrumentation on top of them from multi-instrumentalist Daddy Marshall as well as guest appearances on a few tracks, from session stars like guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith and legendary drummer Sly Dunbar. The LP starts of strong with "Ghetto People Song," which utilises the same, if slightly tweaked digital riddim as Tony Rebel's "If Jah", this is then followed by the catchy "Bingi Man a Come", which sees a more dancehall style from Everton, before back to silky smooth with “Slick Me Slick”. The LP also contains a good, if unimaginative, cover of the cracking John Holts "Danger in Your Eyes"
There is a very conscious reggae vibe throughout and I feel that even now, as this very melodic LP has reaches its 10th birthday, it has faired up well and still sounds good today especially as there is something of a revival in a more rootsy sound.

The Jackson Sisters

The Jackson Sisters, not to be confused with sisters, LeToya, Janet, and Rebbie, who were the sisters of the Jackson Five, but were an American soul and disco family from Compton, California, who were based in Detroit, Michigan.
The Jackson Sisters comprised of Jacqueline Jackson-Rencher, Lyn Jackson, Pat Jackson, Rae Jackson and Gennie Jackson. They recorded material for the Tiger Lily Records label, obtaining some modest success in the 1970s. However the group really came into their own nearly a decade later, following the emergence of the rare groove scene in the UK. Many of their songs were written by Johnny Bristol, with production duties from Bobby Taylor, who is most notable for discovering and helping to mentor afore mentioned Jackson 5. Taylor also helped co-write their best-known tune, the rare groove anthem, "I Believe In Miracles", in 1976. The song originally started life as a b-side to the Mums label release of pop/soul tune 'Boy You're Dynamite'. It was then re-released, in its own right, in the U.K. in 1987 on the Polydor's Urban subsidiary, where it peaked at #72 in the UK Singles Chart in June of that year.
An album was scheduled to be released from them on Tiger Lily Records in 1976, but for some reason it was withdrawn. A few promo copies did make it into circulation and they were at one point changing hands for around £500 (UK). Now however you can get this LP, with a couple of extra versions of 'Miracle' for the princely sum of just £2.99, although it doesn't have the candy pink and cartoon style cover of the original...

I like this LP, though by know means a classic, it is still a fine example of pop/soul tunes with a Motown feel. I can see why the record company maybe didn’t release it, which for me has nothing to do with the quality on show here, but when I first heard it I thought it was an LP from a 1970 – 73 sort of era, and what with the rise of disco in around 1976 this may LP could well of sounded a bit ‘dated’ for the record execs to put it out. Now though you can listen to it for what it is, some great sugar coated poppy soul with some dirty, greasy funk on top. Although as stated earlier these ladies are not related to the Jacksons there is definitely a Jackson 5 feel to some of the songs and their cover of ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’ is a prime example of this easy going soul, pop sound. Another cover on here is Aretha’s ‘Rock Steady’, which shows the girls down right funky side, with this bongo flailing version, not to different from the original though the pace is a bit faster. The ’76 Mums label single ‘Boy You’re Dynamite’ is another slice of up tempo sing-a-long pop soul, which perhaps recorded and released a few years earlier could maybe have propelled these girls into the limelight more. The crowning glory of this set, and most likely why the majority of people will want to pick this up is ‘Miricles’. This was a classic and instant floor filler in the clubs on the 'rare groove scene' in London circa 1987, with its distinct and instantly recognisable intro, its swift pace and uplifting feel, a song that even after all these years still makes me feel good and can even give me goose bumps. 3 minutes of pure musical feel good brilliance.


Jackson Sisters 1976 (Tiger Lily Records)
Original Tracklist

01 Where Your Love Is Gone
02 Maybe
03 Why Do Fools Fall In Love
04 Day In The Blue
05 Rockin' On My Porch
06 Boy You're Dynamite
07 Rock Steady
08 Miracles
09 (Why Can't We Be) More Than Just Friends
10 Shake Her Loose

Scrub-A-Dub on Springline and More!

Out now on Scrub-A-Dub is a 12” by The Governor & The Super Powers it is available direct from http://www.scotchbonnet.net/ and all other good and even dodgy record stores!

To hear these tunes and more you could tune in to SpringlineRadio1 at www.live365.com/stations/springlinemusic

where as well as this fresh Scrub A Dub 12” release you can also hear the latest tracks from our own Springline label, plus Pama International Baijie and Lack of Afro

There are also some Top Flight ‘back in time’ tunes from the likes of Lee Perry, Aswad, Tappa Zukie, Scientist, Black Uhuru, and Bob Marley amongst others

Oh and not forgetting some rare groves and Rap comin’ at ya from the Jackson Sisters
Curtis Mayfiled, Johnny Hammond, Billy Preston, Jimmy Caster Bunch, Fred Wesley, Public Enemy, EPMD……the list goes on

So tune to SpringlineRadio1 to hear past present and future all in one place!

Hassle at L'Afrique Festival 2009

If you are in the Newcastle area on Saturday November 14th and looking for something to do.....well you could pop down to The Journal Tyne Theatre and catch Springlines very own rising stars
Doors open at 19:00 and the whole thing is being recorded and broadcast on Radio 1 Xtra

Can You Dig It? Black Action Films 1968-1975
Released last month is this definitive story of Blaxploitation movie music on a double CD, double-double vinyl and download, with what promises to be an awesome 100 page book. Ok so a lot of these tunes are and have been available elsewhere, like on the ‘Pulp Fusion’ series, but I think this maybe the first time ALL the classic tracks have been available in the same place at the same time, and with the addition of the booklet makes this a must have for any fan of this Badass Mutha Funkin’ Music!

“The Black Action Films of the early 1970s gave the Hollywood industry its first African-American cinema – actors, directors, cameramen, editors and writers. These films discussed aspects of the African-American experience in the form of entertainment. Storylines interwove post-civil rights revolution with action stories, many involving pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers or private detectives.

The films also featured the finest funk and soul black music of the time as stars such as James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch and Roy Ayers produced some of their finest work, with film budgets allowing for the addition of huge orchestral arrangements by jazz legends such as Quincy Jones, Johnny Pate and JJ Johnson.

'Can You Dig It?' charts the rise of 'Black Action Films' from 1970-75. As well as featuring a double-CD collection of the stunning music from these films, 'Can You Dig It?' comes with a 100-page booklet, mini-film poster cards and stickers. Also comes in limited edition two volumes of super-loud double-vinyl editions”

1. Roy Ayers – Coffy Is The Color / (Coffy)
2. Gene Page – Blacula (The Stalkwalk) / (Blacula)
3. Johnny Pate – Shaft in Africa (Addis) / (Shaft in Africa)
4. Willie Hutch – Brother's Gonna Work It Out / (The Mack)
5. Don Costa – Main Title – Charley / (The Soul of Nigger Charley)
6. Marvin Gaye – "T" Plays it Cool / (Trouble Man)
7. Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street / (Across 110th Street)
8. J.J. Johnson – Willie Chase / (Willie Dynamite)
9. James Brown – Down And Out In New York City / (Black Caeser)
10. Quincy Jones – They Call Me MISTER Tibbs / (They Call Me MISTER Tibbs)
11. Martha Reeves and J.J. Johnson – Keep On Movin' On / (Willie Dynamite)
12. Dennis Coffey – Theme From Black Belt Jones / (Black Belt Jones)
13. Curtis Mayfield – Freddie's Dead / (Superfly)
14. The Blackbyrds – Wilford's Gone / (Cornbread, Earl and Me)
15. Willie Hutch – Theme Of Foxy Brown / (Foxy Brown)
16. Isaac Hayes – Run Fay Run / (Three Tough Guys)


1. Isaac Hayes – Shaft / (Shaft)
2. Curtis Mayfield – Pusherman / (Superfly)
3. Joe Simon – Theme from Cleopatra Jones / (Cleopatra Jones)
4. Johnny Pate – You Can't Even Walk In The Park (Opening Theme) / (Shaft In Africa)
5. Brer Soul & Earth, Wind and Fire – Sweetback's Theme / (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song)
6. James Brown – Make It Good To Yourself / (Black Caeser)
7. Isaac Hayes – Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile / (Truck Turner)
8. Grant Green – Travelling To Get To Doc / (The Final Comedown)
9. Booker T and MG's – Time Is Tight / (Uptight!)
10. Roy Ayers – Aragon / (Coffy)
11. Edwin Starr – Easin' In / (Hell Up In Harlem)
12. Gordon Staples and The String Thing – Strung Out / (Mean Johnny Barrows)
13. Nat Dove and the Devils – Zombie March / (Petey Wheatstraw)
14. The Impressions – Make A Resolution / (Three The Hard Way)
15. Solomon Burke and Gene Page – The Bus / (Cool Breeze)
16. Jack Ashford – Las Vegas Strut / (Blackjack)
17. Don Julian – Lay It On Your Head / (Savage)
18. Galt MacDermot – Ed and Digger / (Cotton Comes To Harlem

JTQ Live

If you like your music organ grindingly funky then kings of the Acid Jazz scene JTQ are out on the road from November and in to the New Year.It's been along time since I caught them live, but can remember many great shows at the Kentish Town & Country Club (now the Forum) and although this maybe along time from the clips I've seen on Youtube they still appear to be giving great value! So if you are looking for something to do on a night when they are near you go along I'm sure they won't disapoint

7th November Hard Rock Cafe Bucharest Rumania
13th November Derby Jazz

4th December The Tunnels Bristol Arches
31 & 32. Lower Station Approach Road.
Temple Meads. Bristol.
Ticket line: 0117 9299008

5th December Canterbury
6th December The Drill Hall Lincoln
16th December The Picturedrome Northampton
17th December Pizza Express Maidstone
18th December Jazz Cafe Parkway Camden
19th December Jazz Cafe Parkway Camden
29th January Pizza Express Soho
30th January Pizza Express Soho
31st January Pizza Express Soho

For more info vist www.jtq.co.uk/

Tighten Up Radio Is Back!

L' émission TIGHTEN UP est de retour tous les lundis soirs de 21H00 à 23H00 pour une nouvelle année sur la fréquence 90.7 FM de Radio R.I.G. en Gironde (33). Consacrée à la musique jamaïcaine, l'émission Tighten Up vous plonge dans les fondations de la culture reggae..oldies, new releases, classics & exclus... Pour les internautes, retrouvez l' émission également en streaming et en poadcast sur le site http://www.tightenup.fr/ , avec les playlists, les interviews, les news, les photos, les videos, ... Tighten Up is back, always militant !!!

TIGHTEN UP Radio Show is back every Mondays from 09.00 pm to 11.00pm (French hour) for a new year on R.I.G. RADIO (90.7 FM) in Bordeaux (France). Dedicated to the Jamaican music, Tighten Up immerses you in the foundations of the reggae culture .. oldies, new releases, classics & exclus... For the internet users, you can listen to the radio also on streaming and poadcast on the website http://www.tightenup.fr/ with playlists, interviews, news, photos, videos, ... Tighten Up is back, always militant !!!

Ecoutes la dernière émission radio: WWW.TIGHTENUP.FR

Listen to the Last Radio Show: WWW.TIGHTENUP.FR

"Dennis Brown On Air !!!"

Intro Paul Fox
Jingle Prince Jazzbo & Ricky Chaplin
Lawgiver - Tighten Up Special JingleJingle King Everald
King Everald - Special Singer (Firehouse)
Frankie Paul - Stick A Sensi (RAS Records)
Dennis Brown - Now And Forever (Greensleeves)
Dennis Brown - Praise Without Raise (Cash & Carry)
Dennis Brown - Things In Life (Live & Learn)
Dennis Brown - Worried Man (Live & Learn)
Dennis Brown - Oh Girl (Yvonne's)
Dennis Brown - Easy Take It Easy (Yvonne's)
Dennis Brown - If This World Were Mine (Yvonne's)
Dennis Brown - Unite Brotherman (Yvonne's)
Chrisinti - So Long (Arctica Records)
Courtney Melody - Chucky Nuh Lucky (Arctica Records)
Half Pint - King Selassie (Arctica Records) Jingle Luciano
Luciano - Fly Away (Arctica Records)
Turbulence - Never Going Stop (Arctica Records)
Anthony B - Tax Man (Arctica Records) Jingle Kevin Isaacs
Kevin Isaacs - If You Leave (K.I Productions)
Gregory Isaacs - Live And Love / Version (Greensleeves) Jingle Gregory Isaacs
Gregory Isaacs - Innercity Lady / Version (Greensleeves)
Bobby Melody - Jah Bring I Joy (Joe Gibbs)
Kiddus I - War (Makasound)
Frantasise - Israel Stagecoach (Pre-Release)
Horace Martin - Awake Jah Jah Children (Pirates Choice)
Ranking Forrest & Jah Breeze - Two Hard The Way (Pirates Choice)Jingle
Anthony John
Anthony John - Gideon World (Reggae Remedy)
U Roy - Old School Music (Ariwa Pre-Release)Jingle Zacharri
Zacharri - Greetings Tenastelin (Roots Garden)Jingle Michael Rose
System Error Feat. Michael Rose - Time Dub (Deep Root)



If you live in the San Fransisco Bay area then Check out this great blog

for all the info on what is happening in that area!
Bless up SF Vintage Reggae Society!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bless Up Bless Up Radio!

Coming on in fine style and featuring a quite massive it has to be said vinyl mix treasure trove of goodies are the Uncle Fee (Black Harmony Sound) sets currently airing at BlessUp Radio over on live365 ,you can follow these absolute sound system treasures by visiting the brand new forum just set up by Uncle Fee and Moni ..'the Bless Up' forum by visiting www.blessupradio.proboards.com/index.cgi
a friendly and informative forum in it's early days ,pop in and say Hi ,if you're a UK sound system from time fan then this is the place for you.
Check out their excellent station at www.live365.com/stations/ublong2me

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pama Int'l - Updates & Competitions

Win “I STILL LOVE YOU MORE” collectors vinyl

The next 7" vinyl single from Pama Intl – “I Still Love You More b/w Equality & Justice For All” (out on 26th Oct / iTunes on 19th Oct ‘09) is now in stock at their http://www.rockersrevolt.com/ shop. As with the last single 'Happenstance' there are only 300 of these made. All are hand-numbered and stamped. Happenstance came on red vinyl; this one is on yellow vinyl. This truly is a unique collector’s piece, and they have 200 of them available in their shop. The other 100 will be going into select retail stores on 26th Oct.

For your chance to win 1 of 3 signed copies of the single simply sign up to their mailing list at http://www.pamainternationaldownloads.co.uk/
Don't worry if you've already signed up to that list. You will be automatically entered into the competition, and your email address will only be stored once.
Competition closes on 31st October ‘09.

If you can't wait till then you can buy your copy now at

They also have a handful of copies left of the 'Happenstance' 7" http://

If you experience any difficulties ordering from the Rockers Revolt website email enquiries@rockersrevolt.com

PAMA OUTERNATIONAL album available to pre-order now

On 2 Nov ’09, Pama International will release their brand new album
Pama Outernational, through the Rockers Revolt label on Vinyl, CD and download. The album will be preceded by the soul-injected smash 'I Still Love You More' (out on 26th Oct, available for pre-order now from www.rockersrevolt.com).

The album is produced by Sean Flowerdew and John Collins (producer of The Specials iconic 'Ghost Town') and features Lynval Golding & Sir Horace Panter (The Specials). Releases have been scheduled around the world. The album will be available in through Proper Distribution (UK), Indigo (Germany), Bertus (Benelux), Family Affair (Italy), Harmonia (France), Planet Company (Australia/New Zealand),
Musical Occupation/Lawless Rcds (USA), Fontana North (Canada), Cartel
(Poland), Hitchhike (Greece), Showtime (Scandinavia) and more tba.

Reviews for the album have started to come in. Watch out for reviews in Q, Mojo, Echoes, Riddim, Rocksound, Rock N Reel, Bass Guitar Magazine, Clash, Big Cheese, Scootering, Notion, Metro, Record Collector, Blues Matters, Morning Star, 247, Outline, Do The Dog and more

"Pama Intl's seamless merging of the classic and the modern, makes them one of the most enjoyable UK reggae bands and this album, presents them at their best dressed." Echoes

"the band's most accomplished release to date...excellent" Do The Dog

"album of the month" Scootering

"Pama Outernational comes across like a house party deejayed by somebody with a very deft touch and an altogether adventurous selection policy, after a couple of tunes you’re not at all sure what you’re going to hear next, but you know enough to trust it implicitly." BBC.CO.UK

The first 50 people to pre-order the vinyl LP from Rockers Revolt will receive a personalised signed copy.

So what you waiting for go and pre-order now at


If you experience any difficulties ordering from the Rockers Revolt
website email enquiries@rockersrevolt.com

Amazon CD

Rough Trade CD


Pama are delighted to say they have a host of favourite UK bands, DJs and sound systems joining them on the first leg of their UK tour, including; the return of legendary ska/rap/funk outfit Maroon Town, DJ Wrongtom (best known for his work with Hard Fi & recent killer Roots Manuva dubs), the mighty Axis Sound System, Do The Dog's Jimmy the Squirrel, Funkdub DJs, Urban Roots Sound System, the old school ska & rocksteady stylings of Erin Bardwell Collective, and our very own Springline Jamaica signing HASSLE plus loads more. It prove to be a fantastic tour

Pama Intl's line up for this tour includes mainstays Sean Flowerdew and Finny (Loafers, Special Beat), Dready D (African Headcharge), Lenny Bignell (Acid Jazz soulsters Lord Large) and Andi McClean (U Roy, Gregory Isaacs, Frankie Paul). Lyvnal Golding (The Specials) will be joining the band at Poole, Birmingham and Bristol, in-between tour duties with The Specials.

Win PAMA INTERNATIONAL tickets - Courtesy of Music-news.com.
Pama are giving away four pairs of tickets for their up and coming UK tour and copies of the Pama Outernational album. For your chance to win go to


Oh and don’t forget, make a date in your diaries….. on Saturday 19th December at the Newcastle Live Theatre you can catch Springline’s very own HASSLE in support!!
(Full tour dates posted last month)

Box Office 0191 2321232 http://www.live.org.uk/

Want to be in a Video?
Would you like to be part of a Pama Intl video? Well they will be shooting their first ever video at a secret location on Saturday 17 October, in London. If you're around at about 8pm, and would like to be in the video just drop them an email to

video@pamainternational.co.uk for details.

All new myspace
Pama’s myspace page has just had a make over, and on it you can hear 'Equality & Justice For All'. If not already a friend there pop over and take a look and join the revolution!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baijie - ‘That’s Life’ EP

The comparatively new and exciting Jamaican record label Truckback Records, who have been primarily making a name for themselves in Dancehall circles thanks to the creation of the popular Gearbox, Dashboard and Sparkplug riddims, which have featured such artists as Beenie Man, Mr. Vegas, Elephant Man and Shaq The MC to name but a few, are now adding some rootsy flavours to the mix. First up and available now from itunes is an EP from Baijie entitled ‘That’s Life’. The EP contains 3 quality modern, roots reggae, styled tunes taken from his forth coming LP ‘Equilibrium’. The tunes, despite their contempory feel, still manage to hearken back to the classic sounds of yesteryear, with bubbly and throbbing bass lines complimented by bright, yet subtle choppy keyboards. Lyrically strong Baijie tackles the subjects of rising crime, poverty, failing government, environmental issues and not forgetting praising Jah, and encouraging a more spiritual existence.
This is a strong opening EP from Baijie and if this is a taste of things to come from him then the release of ‘Equilibrium’ promises to be a joyous event.

Check out these tunes by way of a couple of his videos

The Skatalites - A Profile

More than a band, the Skatalites were and are an institution, an aggregation of top-notch musicians who didn't merely define the sound of Jamaica, they were the sound of Jamaica across the '50s and '60s. Although the group existed in its original incarnation for less than 18 months, members brought their signature styles to hundreds upon hundreds of the island's releases. The Skatalites officially lined up as guitarist Jerome "Jah Jerry" Hinds, bassist Lloyd Brevett, teenaged pianist Donat Roy "Jackie" Mittoo, drummer Lloyd Knibbs, trumpeter Johnnie "Dizzie" Moore, Cuban-born tenor saxophonist Tommy McCook, alto saxophonists Lester Sterling and Cuban born Roland Alphonso, and trombonist Don Drummond. Moore, McCook, Sterling, and Drummond were all alumni of the Alpha Cottage School for Boys, an educational institution for troubled and troublesome boys in Kingston, run by the Catholic diocese. Besides the regular lashings of studies, the school was renowned for its music program, and over the years turned hundreds of wayward boys into performers of note. All four ended up playing the hotel circuit, churning out r&b and jazz covers for the tourists. Previous to the late '50s, this was Jamaica's only real music industry outside the mento scene, and as there were no local record labels, resorts were the only way for musicians to seriously ply their trade. The hotel bands were an ever-shifting conglomerate of players, but over time, they would crisscross each other's paths so often, that all became familiar with everyone else's style. Knibbs and Drummond, for example, had both once played with Eric Dean's Band. When Knibbs departed for The Sheiks, he joined a lineup that included Mittoo and Moore. However, new career opportunities presented themselves when local businessmen Duke Reid and Clement "Coxsonne" Dodd both launched record labels and the era of the sessionmen arrived in Jamaica. Although both McCook and Alphonso had previously cut acetates, this was the first time any of the future Skatalites would appear on vinyl. Between 1959, when Reid released his first vinyl single, and 1962, most of the band's future members worked regularly at Reid's Treasure Isle studio, playing on a swathe of rib, boogie, and ballad releases. The Heartbeat label's Ska After Ska After Ska bundles up an album's worth of this early material, as does the Dutch label Jamaica Gold, on Shuffle'n'Ska Time. In 1962, Dodd opened his own Studio One recording studio, and the future Skatalites now quickly gravitated in his direction as well. Joining them was McCook, who'd missed all the previous action, having left Jamaica in 1954 to join the house band at the Zanzibar Club in Nassau. The studio was inaugurated with the release of the album Jazz Jamaica From the Workshop, which featured McCook, Alphonso, Drummond, and guitarist Ernest Ranglin, amongst others. The Skatalites came to fruition in June 1964, according to the members' own reckoning, although they have given conflicting stories about just how it happened. Ranglin credits Moore, Knibbs credits himself, but there's no doubt who came up with the name -- that honor goes to McCook. Drafting in vocalists Jackie Opel, Tony DaCosta, Doreen Schaeffer, and calypso star Joseph "Lord Tanamo" Gordon, the group debuted live on June 27, 1964, at the Hi- Hat club in Rae Town. It didn't take long for the Skatalites to grab a residency at the Bournemouth Beach Club in Eastern Kingston, where they performed three nights a week, as well as a Sunday residency at the Orange Bowl on Orange Street. With the growth of Dodd's Studio One label, the group soon found themselves with almost more gigs than they could handle, touring the island as the backing band for most of the label's artists, whilst also performing on-stage themselves. It must have been grueling, the constant driving to and from venues and playing a minimum of two sets a night, but in truth, the Skatalites were having a whale of a time. And in between the gigs, the band seems to have spent virtually all their waking hours recording. Besides working for Dodd and Reid, the group also played on a multitude of records for Prince Buster and Duke and Justin Yap. The actual number of recordings they performed on is anyone's guess, an approximation made more difficult by the fact that the musicians normally went uncredited on the singles themselves. To add to the confusion, the Skatalites in the studio could be any of a number of musicians, not just the aforementioned lineup. Guitarist Ranglin, pianist Gladstone Anderson, trombonist Rico Rodriguez, and trumpeter Baba Brooks are just a few of the many men who took part in the Skatalites recording sessions.
What actually defines a Skatalites record? Many of their recordings were understandably released under the vocalist's name, not theirs. But what of Prince Buster's U.K. smash "Al Capone"? Buster may have intoned the title across the track, but wasn't it the Skatalites who truly made the song? Even amongst the group's own repertoire, the records were credited to the composer, not the band. Thus, the seminal "Guns of Navarone" was originally released under Roland Alphonso's name, not the Skatalites'. Modern archivists have attempted to address these injustices with compilations featuring the band, regardless of original accreditation. The West Side label's Skaravan -- Top Sounds From Top Deck, for example, is currently into the eighth CD of their Skatalites' compilations, all taken from their sessions for the YAP brothers, while Heartbeat's Foundation Ska bundles up a batch of Studio One cuts. Thankfully, the members' styles are so unique, as to be instantly recognizable within a few notes. In truth, most ska compilations are awash in the members' music, credited or not. That bouncy swing tempo, the jazzy brass, and the steady, skanking beat, all shout the Skatalites louder than any written credit, as easily heard on the vocal releases as on their own instrumentals. But the instrumentals were the group's glory. Songs like "Guns of Navarone," "Phoenix City," "Addis Ababa," "Silver Dollar," "Corner Stone," and "Blackberry Brandy," to name just a small handful of their most seminal cuts, not only defined the island's sound, but created a whole new genre of music -- ska. The group have ofttimes been quoted as saying their invention of ska was never intentional, but merely the byproduct of their flawed attempts at American r&b. But this self-deprecating explanation neglects the jazz and big band swing sound that was also crucial to ska in its original form. And anyone good enough to play in those styles would have little problem mastering r&b. What the Skatalites actually did was drag these older styles into the contemporary scene, merge it with modern r&b, and propel it into the mainstream via a faster syncopated island beat. And with it, the group's musical legacy spread around the world and across generations. But that must have seemed ridiculous at the very end of 1964. The Skatalites were playing at the La Parisienne club in Harbour View for New Year's Eve, a show that went on without Drummond. The trombonist had a history of mental illness and late that night, in a fit of rage, he stabbed his common-law wife and band vocalist, Marguerita, to death. Drummond was arrested and sent to Bellevue Sanitarium; he died there in 1969. The Skatalites continued on for six more months after this tragedy, but the spark was dying with it, and finally in July 1965, the members called it quits. Several from the group did continue playing together. Alphonso, Moore, Mittoo, and Brevett eventually formed The Soul Brothers, which later become the Soul Vendors. McCook formed The Supersonics, which was virtually Reid's house band at Treasure Isle Studio, and Sterling went off to work with producer "Sir" Clancy Collins. As their session work continued apace, inevitably many of the former members found themselves back working together. Then in 1975, most of the Skatalites reunited to record Brevett's solo album, African Roots. McCook, Alphonso, Sterling, Ranglin, Mittoo, and Knibbs all took part in the proceedings. Two years later, the Hot Lava album appeared, credited to Tommy McCook & the Skatalites, but in contrast to Brevett's "solo" album, this really was one. 1978's Jackie Mittoo may sound like a solo outing by the pianist, but actually features a clutch of former Skatalites. That same year, Island head Chris Blackwell convinced the members to reconvene again and recorded the Big Guns album. However, due to discord between the label man and McCook, the record sat on the shelf until 1984, when it was finally released as Return of the Big Guns. The previous year, the group had again reunited under the aegis of producer Bunny Lee for the Skatalites With Sly & Robbie & the Taxi Gang. It took a few more years for the members to finally agree they were a band again; in 1986 they made it official and began gigging regularly. In 1989, they toured the world as Bunny Wailer's backing band, and the next year performed the same service for Prince Buster. In 1993, an album of new material, Skavoovee, finally appeared. Now boasting a core lineup of McCook, Brevett, Sterling, and Knibbs, the album was highly acclaimed. Their timing was perfect as the U.S. was in the grips of ska fever, and the band's constant touring abroad had cemented a worldwide following. Over the intervening years, the Skatalites had returned to their jazz roots with a vengeance, but ska fans didn't mind one bit. Alphonso now permanently rejoined the Skatalites for 1994's Hi-Bop Ska: The 30th Anniversary Recording, which also featured such illustrious guests as former vocalist Doreen Schaeffer, Prince Buster, and Toots Hibbert, and an all-star gathering of jazz musicians. The album deservedly earned the band their first Grammy nomination. Even McCook's heart attack in 1995 barely slowed the group down. The band continued their hectic touring schedule without him until the tenor saxophonist rejoined them early the next year. However, even though he was forced off the road for good due to health problems a few weeks later, he was still able to record, and 1996's excellent Greetings From Skamania remains a tribute to his determination, and earned the group a second Grammy nomination. On May 5, 1998, the legendary saxophonist passed away; he was 71. Later that year, the Skatalites released Balls of Fire, on which the band re-created many of their old ska hits in their newer jazz style. That autumn, Alphonso collapsed on-stage at Hollywood's Key Club. He slipped into a coma soon after, and on November 20, he, too, died. But no matter how great the contributions of individual members, the Skatalites were always greater than the sum of their parts, and thus the band carried on. In 2000, they released Bashaka and their touring schedule continues unabated. While touring Europe in late2001, they reocrded yet again, resulting in the 2003 release of From Paris With Love. Each year brings another slew of compilations of their recordings from labels around the world. Decades on, their music remains timeless.

~ Jo-Ann Greene, All Music Guide

Shootin' Goon - Splottside Rocksteady

You know what it’s like you buy something from places like Amazon and then you constantly get emails saying “We noticed you liked this... so we are recommending this!” Well usually these things go straight in the bin, but on this instance the recommendation was for this Shootin' Goon’s ‘Splottside Rocksteady’. Now I first heard of this group while rediscovering my musical mojo back around the early 2000's on a great Do The Dog compilation titled This Are UK Ska (‘Back Again’) and also on another real good compilation from the Sucka Punch record label called Compunktion Vol1 (‘Wootini’).I really liked these tunes and thought I must investigate more, but for whatever reason I never did get round to buying this LP......until, thanks to that email from Amazon, now!
Shootin' Goon hailed from Cardiff around the late 1990s and early 2000's and were first signed to the Moon Ska Europe record label (on which this was originally released) before joining Good Clean Fun Records. After being unavailable for sometime this LP has now just been re-released on Cadiz.
The idea behind the title of the album is that Splott is an area of Cardiff, while the Rocksteady part however I'm not sure of because that is a million miles from what you get, as the pace on here rarely drops below frantic!! Their music style is Ska / Punk in the same vain of people like Less Than Jake, MU330, King Prawn and was once described somewhere as "Punk with horns". Indeed on its original release it got rave reviews in magazines like Kerrang and Fracture.
This LP shows off a band with a great, infectious energy, who can still keep things tuneful and melodic, and this has to be worth a punt just for their version of YMCA. I'm really glad I read that email now, and just a little disappointed I didn't take the plunge and get it first time round. So if you like dancing around, going nuts and bouncing off the walls to a Ska band with a good healthy chunk of Punk thrown in the mix, then don't like me miss out and go grab a copy now, this is the perfect goodtime soundtrack!

"I thought I was at the f***ing circus!" - Bam Margera

1. Rick Loves Jo
2. Bradley
3. My Art
4. Back Again
5. To Anyone
6. Prove Yourself
7. Wootini
8. Black and Blue
9. Fallin'
10. Changes
11. Creeps
12. Late Night Rumbles
13. Plain to See
14. YMCA

Friday, October 2, 2009

Reggae Gold 2009

When I first heard of this LP I thought to myself.....Gold....sounds like classic oldies.......dancehall....oh nice, lots of Barrington, Barry Brown, Lone Ranger that type of thing......well imagine my surprise then when I opened it up and found it was full of "dancehall" tunes from the past couple of years. Now I have to admit I'm a bit of a dinosaur, and like my reggae generally from the early 60's up to around the mid eighties, so I'm not fully in touch with today's artists. Still although a little disappointed I continued. This LP, a lot like a lot of similar LP's in this and the R&B / Club field, starts off with all the user friendly, popular hits right up front, before going to the darker and what I suppose has to be considered the more "underground" to the general record buying public, though I dare say most fans of these genres would start from the back and work to the front?
First up here is Estelle, yes she of 'American Boy' fame. This time she has Sean Paul helping her out rather than Kanye West. This as you'd expect is a very polished reggae R&B hybrid, with Estelles soft vocal being nicely complimented by Paul's 'Chat', and surprisingly to me I have to say I actually quite enjoy. This followed by Jasmine Sullivan, “I Need U Bad”, which is a stormin' little number. Again a reggae R&B cross but with a real in yer face bass riddim.
The next couple of tracks for me are just awful, what I'd call 'holiday reggae' tracks. The first up is by Brick & Lace and entitled 'Love Is Wicked'. Now I don't on the whole like to criticise things on here, if I don't like it I won't write it, after all this is a blog for hopeful promoting good vibes, but this song, while it might sound alright while if holidaying in the med, has those synth pan pipes and brass sounds, that sound like some dodgy cabaret act. The song lyrically is also very 'slack', but it is also very annoyingly catchy, and after a couple of listens I found my self singing "ya love is wicked, wicked" all the time...arrggghhh!! This is then followed by Serani's 'Playing Games', which just did nothing for me at all.
'So Special' by Mavado is a return to a tougher sounding dancehall style on what is a cut up of the previous tunes riddim I believe. From here on the user friendly style of the LP also tends to fade off some what, both musically and lyrically. Sure you still have the softer sounds of Beres Hammond's 'See you again', a tune that breaks away from the dancehall style format of the LP, as he delivers a classic easy flowing lovers rock tune. As too to some extent do Etana & Alborosie with the quite schmaltzy 'Blessings'. Also Queen Ifrica is here with her excellent soft acoustic melody 'Far Away', taken from her LP 'Welcome To Montego Bay', reviewed on here in September. However you also get the hard hitting Tarrus Riley 'Start A New', a song all about domestic violence, while Prodigal Son berates child rapists with 'Head Cyaan Hot So'. This is then followed by Busy Signal's 'Praise And Worship', which is a kind of medley of reworked gospel standards including Rivers of Babylon, When The Saints and Wings Of A Dove [no...not the Madness tune] and more. Was this intended to lighten the mood a bit?
Reggae Gold....well not really reggae in the purist sense in my mind, and most probably to many crossover tunes for fans of the genre, and as for gold well I doubt very much many of these will be regarded with great affection in a few years time. Despite this if you are a bit adventurous with diverse tastes then you may welcome this snap shot of modern reggae hybrids. By no means a classic but with more than a few nice tunes.
01 Estelle featuring Sean Paul - Come over
02 Jazmine Sulliver - Need u bad
03 Brick & Lace - Love is wicked
04 Serani - Playing games
05 Mavado - So special
06 Elephant Man - Nuh linga
07 Jah Vinci - Watch your friends
08 Chino featuring Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor
09 Beres Hammond - See you again
10 Etana & Alborosie - Blessings
11 Tarrus Riley - Start a new
12 Queen Ifrica - Far away
13 Prodigal Son - Head cyaan hot so
14 Busy Signal - Praise and worship
15 Laden - Money over war
16 Elephant Man - Dance and sweep
17 T.O.K. - Couple up
18 I Wayne - Leave if you want to leave

Marlena Shaw - The Spice of Life

It maybe have turned 40yrs old this year but this is still a little gem of an LP, that i feel has stood the test of time well. Marlena Shaw may perhaps be better known and indeed thought of as a jazz singer, but I’d say this LP shows her in a more Bluesy / Soul style with a splash of Jazz to get the juices flowing. However this LP isn’t full of fluffy, popcorn, girlie soul, sure it contains the popular, mightily catchy and summer filled, Ashford and Simpson written classic ‘California Soul’, but this LP also finds a soul speaking of social injustice, politics, and feminism.
The whole affair kicks off with the mighty and much sampled ‘Women Of The Ghetto’, with its powerful, deeply hypnotic bass line driving the song while Marlena berates US politicians for their failings, while displaying a certain strength and pride. Next up is complete change of style as she takes on the blues standard ‘Stormy Monday’ with great aplomb. Then it’s back into soul mode for ‘Where Can I Go’, then Mowtownesque ‘I’m Satisfied’. ‘I Wish I Knew’ sees Marlena hit a joyous, gospel tambourine tappin’ inspired stride, with jazzy guitar compliment, before we get all dirty, groovy, funk on ‘Liberation Conversation’. Then it’s the afore mentioned ‘Cali Soul’ followed by her original version of one of her signature numbers "Go Away Little Boy", a really hot, jazzy number about an older woman trying to resist a younger man, me thinks...
"Looking Through the Eyes of Love" is a Bacharach, MOR sounding, big time tune, that, with that rousing chorus, I think could go down well with a northern soul crowd, if it hasn’t already, while ‘Anyone Can Move A Mountain’, a sweet soul ballad, finally brings the whole thing to a close.
What also sets this LP up for me is some extremely powerful arrangements by producers Richard Evans and Charles Stepney that help to give the best back drop and setting to Marlena’s powerful yet sweet vocals, while also the enlisting of Bobby Miller of the Dells to help write 3 of the songs on the record payed off as they are probably the strongest ones. ‘The Spice Of Life’ is aptly named and would be a welcome accompaniment to anyone’s record / CD rack.

Tracks :
1 Woman Of The Ghetto
2 Stormy Monday
3 Where Can I Go ?
4 I'm Satisfied
5 I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)
6 Liberation Conversation
7 California Soul
8 Go Away, Little Boy
9 Looking Through The Eyes Of Love
10 Anyone Can Move A Mountain