Saturday, June 27

Here's a post looking at Trojan Records label designs to aid the correct assigning of Reissue and Repress to UK LP releases; as there isn't a definitive reference on the subject, I trust the combined knowledge of whoever reads this with input from fellow Discogs contributors will help distinguish similar designs harder to identify at first glance. The intention is to start from UK LP releases between 1968 and the present day and possibly move on to singles later.

The first few releases prefixed TRL have orange paper labels with the Trojan crown emblem design and the caption 'A Duke Reid Production Jamaica' blacked out below it, the Reid credit remained of some releases that were produced by others and Here Comes The Duke LP has the credit blacked out too.
Later 1968 titles have no slogan nor the back overprint.
Sleeves are laminated at the front [around the spine and over a small part of the rear] and often credit Senol Printing Ltd., the Trojan Records address given is Music House, 12 Neasden Lane, London N.W.10.

- a note about the record manufacturer:
All original '60s pressings are by Orlake Records, also responsible for repressing many Trojan releases into the '70s.
The rough textured labels with 1.4" diameter indentation ring and [sometimes] a smoother band around the label perimeter are indicative of the manufacturer in conjunction with the + sign used as separator in the stamped [initially] or etched matrix [at what point this changed is still unclear]; some Orlake pressings may also have an O or an OR at the opposite side of the run-out area, sometimes this is faint; recording it in BaOI may help give us some dates.

The new label design starts to be used after the initial dozen or so LP releases (orange labels appearing for a few more years, mainly on mono compilations of early singles as Tighten Up).
Orange and white design labels sport the Trojan helmet logo and slogan printed in a somewhat purple shade of blue, this can vary and it may be the blue ink changing shade over time.

The bold font used for these labels seems the same narrow sans serif seen on many other '60s UK labels, the cat# uses a hash as separator and side indicators A or B not preceded by a space;
TRLS prefixed stereo editions have 'STEREO' in the same bold font below the cat#/label matrix.

The title is usually placed in the upper part [white] of the label and the Artist below the track list; there are exceptions in Trojan subsidiaries like Harry J, Clan Disc and Downtown which appear at this stage [circa 1969] with Made in England usually added on the left of some represses with the same rough paper labels and stamped Orlake matrix, the title is sometimes seen on the lower part of the labels, leaving the white part blank; changes of font, especially for the artist credit, abound and I'm not sure whether there is a pattern, they just may be label variations, in any case produced between 1968 and 1971 for certain.

Sleeves are still only laminated at the front and often credit C.C.S. Advertising Associates Ltd. and/or Robert Stace who was also printing for B&C Music, B&C Records Ltd., B&C Recordings Ltd. B&C / Mooncrest Ltd. and B & C Records is credited for marketing Trojan from circa 1969. Some of these credits are usually removed on the reissues. B&C Music is often among the publishers credited, this entity does not appear on 1980s orange/white label reissues.

Other subsidiaries like GG's RecordsHigh NoteUpsetter and Moodisc are given LP releases, some of these, like Herbsman Reggae on a redesigned Clandisc, stating 'Manufactured and distributed by Trojan Records Ltd.' on the labels.  At some point [1970?] Made in England appears on the lower part of the label (probably to differentiate from Trojan albums that were being pressed in Jamaica (these often had UK made sleeves) and titles are again usually in the white part above the centre hole; there are exceptions, like on Monkey Man by The Maytals, where the bold text also appears smaller and variations may indicate several repressings. 

LPs prefixed TTL and TBL [TBLxxx on sleeve and TBL-xxxA and TBL-xxxB on labels] and their reissues have the same labels which appear to have unchanged into the 1970s with Trojan labels on the releases that previously appeared on subsidiaries, label text unchanged; From 1970 B&C Music is occasionally credited as printers alongside CCS on non-laminated sleeves and the labels start using capitalised artist credits [or Various Artists] instead af all caps, by 1973 labels use the bold font for title [at top] and artist [below track list],visibly wider than the '60s type while the cat# [derived from label matrix] still has a dot as separator [TBL.206]; additionally some of the later pressings appear to have smoother labels with the same ring as the sixties pressings.

From circa 1974-75 [?] Trojan Recordings Ltd. started using EMI Records for contract pressings and alongside reissues with white and orange labels not too dissimilar from the previous Orlake versions but labels are smooth and the matrix in the run-out area would differ. In 1976 [?] the first grey and pale blue labels are introduced (also with a pale orange version and a pale green variation for 12" singles produced into the early '80s which often have 45 r.p.m. in a different font to the left). Sleeves are usually matte and some company credits and publishers changed; it also appears that the reissues from this time were recut from stereo masters and that some lacquers made by EMI were then pressed by Lyntone Recordings Ltd.

Once the relationship with EMI had ended, circa 1979-1980, the label was reacquired by Allied Records Ltd., evidence of this is found in the etching (ALI) usually preceding the run-out area matrix. At this point I am not sure Allied was doing the pressing or perhaps just the metalwork. Again at this stage several editions revive the white and orange label design; some label graphics are copied exactly from the 60s editions while others are more easily recognisable due to the oversize 33⅓RPM to the left; in any case the labels are smoother than the Orlake pressings and sleeves are semi-glossy and reproduced from earlier editions, with or without barcode but usually crediting Trojan Sales Ltd., an entirely new entity with a new London W1 address.

The 1990s releases usually are counterpart to a CD edition but the vinyl [either heavy or relatively thin] appears of inferior quality to the product of the previous decades, sometimes showing streaks in the plating and with the label surface often irregular and with the smooth white and orange labels featuring a variety of text styles. IMHO it's possible London plants P.R. Records Ltd. and Adrenalin were contracted, but I've not found any concrete evidence of this.

Thursday, July 4

Buster Wild Bells

Buster Wild Bells

All the following 45rpm 7"singles were Prince Buster productions mostly dating from between 1960 and 1962 and released in Jamaica on his Buster Wild Bells label and manufactured by West Indies Recording Co. • the address was 11 Bell St., Kingston 13, JA, West Indies •

Although the b-side to Buster’s Idea credits Drumbago, these are some of the first independent recordings of Prince Buster’s All Stars, then known simply as Buster’s Group which consisted of Drumbago [Arkland Parks - drums], Clue J. [Cluett Johnson - double bass], Jah Jerry Haynes or Ernie Ranglin [guitar] Aubrey Adams [piano], Stanley Ribbs & Roland Alphonso [Tenor Saxophone], Don Drummond & Rico Rodriguez [Trombone].

The Folks Brothers - I Met A Man / Oh Carolina

With the flavour of a field recording with similar call-and-response styling to that of the Maytals, I Met A Man is notable for the music being close to having only one note; on the flip, fusing for the first time the mento and burru elements of The Folkes Brothers, Buster with his group managed to lay the cornerstone of Jamaican recorded music with this absolute classic; with the title shortened to Carolina this was also a hugely successful UK release on the Blue Beat label in 1961.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 52833-1A / ZSP 52834-1A

Buster's Group - Poison On Beeston Street / Please Mr. Sun

A formidable shuffle praising the early dance venues and pulsating sound system scene where musical gatherings were an opportunity for all folk to join in at this once desirable residential area of West Kingston, on the street side and at the corner of Beeston Street and Matthews Lane; reprising an earlier track, Beeston Street Riff by Clue J & his Blues Blasters [Federal - FDR 569], previously recorded with Coxsone Dodd in 1959, this time with full horn assault alternating Alphonso and Rico with Prince calling out in the second part; the b-side is the instrumental version with a more latin percussion arrangement of a tune popularised by Tommy Edwards and later Johnnie Ray and written by Ramon Getzov & Sid Frank.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 53472-1A / ZSP 53473-1B

Prince Buster, Carlos Malcolm - Call Me / Prince Buster's All Stars – Rabbit’s Foot

Suspected to be a later addition to this set from 1964 and featuring Carlos Malcolm’s backing singers and a keyboard riff sounding like it’s out of Jackie Mittoo’s bag, this is Buster’s Group very much in full swing ska mode. The b-side is the exact same recording previously released as Poison On Beeston Street.
Matrix / Runout: ZTS 534XX-1A / 53472-1A

Prince Buster, The Voice Of The People - Buster's Idea / Prince Buster and The Drumbago All Stars -This Man Is Good

Some R&B with horns of the finest order on the A-side, the trombone and saxes weaving skillfully over a skanking shuffle beat and a little Jah Jerry guitar break; on the flip, also known as Jumping With The Duke, there’s Rico and Group exploring with a considerable amount of swing something in-between Mongo Santamaria and Georgie Fame, also the first sign of Buster shouting encouraging calls during the recording.
Matrix / Runout: ZSP 55753-1A / 55754-1A

Bunny & Skitter with Buster's Group - Chubby / Jackie Estick with Buster's Group - Boss Girl

Bunny & Skitto benefit from an inspired collaboration with Count Ossie & His Warrikas that mix their njabinghi drumming to the duo’s simple dirge (Cassavubu). Jackie Estick joins the Group to voice a slice of R&B with a honking Rolando (Alphonso) and a little guitar solo attempt from Jah Jerry.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 54222-1A / ZSP 54221-1A

Derrick Morgan with Buster's Group - Wall Flower / Shake A Leg

also known as Golden Rule this is representative of Derrick Morgan’s output enjoying a long and fruitful association with Buster - these shuffle ballads seem deliberately off-beat yet are memorable for their unique approach to melody which is unmistakably Jamaican.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 54223-1A / ZSP 54224-1A

Eric Morris, Stanley and Roland with Buster's Group - Humpty Dumpty / Hot Corn Bread & Butter

Eric “Monty” Morris was renamed Humpty Dumpty for a while due to the huge success of this ska treatment of the popular nursery rhyme where Ribbs and Alphonso stand out on the horns while the Bagonaires shuffle on contentedly. On the flip a wall of horns featuring Stanley Ribbs with Roland Alphonso and Rico Rodriguez who adopted the name The Blues Blasters for this session; also known as Buster's Hop the original title is shortened to Corn Bread & Butter on the UK edition on Blue Beat.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 54225-1A / ZSP 54219-1A

Rico Rodriques - Luke Lane Shuffle / Buster's Group - Little Honey

Rico takes the lead credit for this driving shuffle inspired by the original location where sound system pioneer Tom “The Great Sebastian” would play; on the flip Prince Buster voices a rhythm & blues ballad augmented by doo-wop style vocal backing and a juicy trombone solo.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 52835-1A / ZSP 52836-1A

Eric Morris with Buster’s Group - Me And My Forty Five / I've Tried

Classic double whammy from “Monty” Morris; on the a-side predicting the gun craze that was soon to blight the streets of Kingston and surroundings, while Ranglin lays down the ska lick down over Drumbago’s syncopated shuffle there’s the ubiquitous Roland Alphonso counterpointing with flair; on the flip the tempo is upped thanks to Jackie Mittoo chopping away at the organ along a nice line of horns while Eric reflects on his unsatisfied wife with his trademark cheeky delivery.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 54227-1A / ZSP 54230-1A

Lloyd Flowers and Rico's Rhythms ‎– Lovers Town / I'm Going Home

This one is an oddity and we won’t be seeing more of the mysterious Lloyd Flowers who is crooning a couple of R&B numbers skilfully backed by the immortal Rico Rodriguez accompanied by Buster’s Group.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 53486

Derrick Morgan with Buster’s Group - Come On Over / Come Back My Darling

The one with Derrick Morgan was one of Prince Buster’s most fundamental and fruitful collaborations with dozens of productions voiced by the unmistakeable Jamaican singer. This didn’t last too long as soon after breaking ranks the duo would start a slandering match often peppered with colourful language attacking one another’s affiliations flamboyantly begrudging resentment and mutual contempt with the proverbial tongue stuck firmly in cheek.

Matrix / Runout: ZSP 54751-1A ZSP 54752-1A

1. The Folks Brothers - I Met A Man

2. The Folks Brothers - Oh Carolina

3. Buster's Group - Poison On Beeston Street

4. Buster's Group - Please Mr. Sun

5. Prince Buster's All Stars – Rabbit’s Foot

6. Prince Buster and The Voice Of The People - Buster's Idea

7. Prince Buster and The Drumbago All Stars -This Man Is Good

8. Bunny & Skitter with Buster's Group - Chubby

9. Jackie Estick with Buster's Group - Boss Girl

10. Derrick Morgan with Buster's Group - Wall Flower

11. Derrick Morgan with Buster's Group - Shake A Leg

12. Eric Morris, Stanley and Roland with Buster's Group - Humpty Dumpty

13. Stanley Ribbs and Roland Alphonso with Buster's Group - Hot Corn Bread & Butter

14. Rico Rodriques with Buster's Group - Luke Lane Shuffle

15. Buster's Group - Little Honey

16. Eric Morris with Buster’s Group - Me And My Forty Five

17. Eric Morris with Buster’s Group - I've Tried

18. Lloyd Flowers and Rico's Rhythms ‎– Lovers Town

19. Lloyd Flowers and Rico's Rhythms ‎– I'm Going Home

20. Derrick Morgan with Buster’s Group - Come On Over

21. Derrick Morgan with Buster’s Group - Come Back My Darling

22. Prince Buster and Carlos Malcolm with Buster's All Stars - Call Me


Tuesday, April 13

k.d. lang speaks

I have just received this insightful post from the wonderful k.d. lang, one of my favourite singers ever. In time I will restore a concert or two that I managed to ecstatically record when she'd performed bringing the house down in London in the mid-eighties. What amazing memories! It will take some time but I think I will manage to extract something audible out of the hiss, despite the health warning on this blog.  I hope the C-120 is still holding on!...meanwhile here's something for you youtubers out there:

12 Apr 2010, 20:01

k.d. lang / The Times of London

Recently, k.d. spoke to Alan Jackson of The Times of London on "What [She's] Learnt." Read on below, or click here to read the full article.

Music is always in my head and I sing whenever and wherever, sporadically and spontaneously, but most especially when trail-walking and for my dogs.

Los Angeles is not only convenient for business but it affords you this really private, quiet life
[lang is now based there]. There are just so many celebrities here that, frankly, nobody gives a s***.

I don’t pay conscious attention to fashion, but I do appreciate good tailoring. I’ve had a lot of luck with Giorgio Armani. There’s something about the way he makes clothes that suits me. I’m a really big fan.

When it comes to compliments, it’s all in the tone of the delivery. I’m either very susceptible to flattery or extraordinarily cynical, depending on my mood.

There’s nothing more attractive in another person than confidence – an earthy, real confidence, not the cocky, fake kind. Contentment is always very compelling to me too. Oh, and a curiosity about others. Have all of those things and you’re beautiful.

Mom recently sold the family home and moved, which was a big thing for us because it had been at the centre of things for 50 years or so. I thought it might have more impact on me than it has done, which proves only that she’s the hub, not some house.

My mom insisted I wear a full-length gown to my high-school graduation, so I designed one myself and had her sew it. It was kind of monastic with a Nehru collar and if anything, looked Middle Eastern. I accessorised it with hiking boots.

Advice is ridiculous. Who listens? And the person giving it… what do they know? Beyond saying, “Don’t get hit by lightning,” or, “Don’t stand in the middle of the freeway with your eyes closed,” it’s useless. The only way to learn is by experience.

Motorbiking is brilliant. It’s like riding an ordinary bike but without the annoying pedalling part. The sense of freedom, the whole Steve McQueen romance of it, is beautiful.

Friendships with elders aren’t valued enough. Tony Bennett has taught me so much. To be around him and have an insight into an era of music that’s close to being over is an immeasurably enriching experience. He’s from a time when stars were elegant and has this old-fashioned generosity and grace. What an elder to have as a friend.

I have to be very disciplined in order to preserve my voice, but when I’m old I’m going to drink and smoke a lot of pot. Perhaps I’ll eat meat. I may even sleep with a man. When my working years are over I’d like to go a little crazy.

There’s not much chance of me starting the day in a down mood. One of my dogs, a lab-German shepherd cross called Taylor, wakes me by jumping on me and she’s always happy, always makes me laugh. It gets me out of any slump I might be in.

I love the domestic life. When I’m on the road, I clean my hotel room. And when I fly, I have to clean up the airplane bathroom. I’ve developed a whole system of not getting my hands directly in contact with anything while doing a thorough job.

Money’s a good and helpful thing but shouldn’t be revered. I like having it and I have enough but I don’t have too much, which is just fine. In fact, it’s perfect.

Thursday, March 25

Blue Beat Singles Collection vol.2 & vol. 3

Most people associate the SKA phenomenon to the TwoTone ska revival of the late 70s lead by The Specials, Madness and Bad Manners, or even more incorrectly to the chequered alternative brigade of american punk bands from No Doubt to Less Than Jake, well... time to get E-DU-CA-TED.
Before some of you start complaining that there aren't many real skinhead tunes on this collection, I must remind you that I'm only attempting at combining information about the Blue Beat label single releases of music predominantly coming from Jamaica in the early 1960s. So all you rude girls and boys, get up on your feet and start stompin' around looking for what is available by the original artists, as the majority of compilation labels like Heartbeat and Sanctuary and continued repackaging on the Trojan imprint are quite likely to satisfy most fans of the genre.
Here I've tried to make a collection from the tracks I've collected over the decades and tried to limit the total time to leave room for the missing tracks, [yes I was thinking C-90s myself!] -please remember this project really welcomes your comments and participation as it appears an interminable labour of love.
These early releases [1960-61] were largely up tempo boogie rhythms or the slower doo-wop inspired R&B songs popular at the time, but as you listen you'll start recognising the tempo changes and the influences that created the SKA style, as well as the character of individual musicians, vocalists and producers, so listen keenly, read between the lines, it all started from here.

Blue Beat Singles vol.2
BB15 - Easy Snappin’/Going Home - Theo Beckford w/Clue J & The Blues Blasters
BB16 - Time To Pray/Love You Baby - Mellow Larks/Basil Gabbidon
BB17 - Muriel/Silky - Alton & Eddy/Clue J & His Blues Blasters
BB18 - Lover Boy/Oh My - Derrick Morgan & Duke Reid's Group
BB19 - Till The End Of Time/What Makes Honey - Chuck & Darby/Duke Reid's Group
BB20 - Baby What You Done Me Wrong/Go Pretty Baby Go - Bobby Muir
BB21 – Shockin’/Blue and Sentimental - Lynn Hope
BB22 - Railroad Track/Tell Me Darlin' - Laurel Aitken
BB23 - Cool School/Joker -Chuck & Dobby/Duke Reid's Group
BB24 - Dukes Cookies/I Wanna Love - Duke Reid's Group/Jiving Juniors
BB25 - More Whiskey/Parapinto Boogie - Laurel Aitken/Lloyd Clarke
BB26 - Tonk Game/Hob-Nobbin’ - Hank Marr
BB27 - Midnight Train/Anytime Anywhere - Errol Dixon
BB28 - Mash Mr. Lee!/Help Me Forget - Bryon Lee & Dragonaires/Keith Lyn & Dragonaires
BB29 - Rock Baby/Let's Sing The Blues - The Wiggans

Theophilus Beckford's Easy Snappin' has to be the epitome of the Old School Jamaican Blues ultimate tune: the line-up of musicians under the auspices of newcomer producer Sir Coxsone Dodd constitutes the Blues Blasters and features Roland Alphonso alongside Trenton Spence's Band. An even bigger hit in 1960 than Boogie in my Bones or Dumplins, first on Worldisc and then on the Coxsone label it was hailed as the first of all the new music to be the recorded on the tiny caribbean island a good two years earlier. From the same stable The Mellow Larks, lead by Basil Gabbidon & Lloyd Robinson [still with Clue J and Trenton Spence Group and featuring Alphonso] bring us gospel and love ballads and along with Alton & Eddy's Muriel the band pick up the pace with a rousing instrumental Silky which features Ernest Ranglin, Roland Alphonso & Rico Rodriguez and what appears as the first ska syncopation between Ernie and Cluett . You can hear how young gun Sir Dodd was starting to get noticed since the crowning days of Duke Reid in the late 50s. But the Duke had Derrick Morgan: a flick of the switch brings us Lover Boy and back to the days of the Kingston dances when you would follow your ears and the best tune [King Edward's Sound System had renamed the tune S-Corner Rock, and appropriated it as their theme on the corner of Spanish Town Road]. Reid delivers hit after hit, peaking with Chuck & Darby’s Till the End of Time and one buzzin' instrumental where you can almost imagine the Skatalites idea gelling for the first time. Bobby Kingdom & The Blue Beats -apparently Laurel Aitken protégé Bobby Muir was taped in London, W11- give us a blast of boogie-billy, then a cruise liner goes by captained by Lynn Hope -a Caribbean saxophonist whose major output consist of groovy easy instrumental blues recorded for King and Aladdin in the US. The great Laurel Aitken gets us back on the right track with Reid’s Band. But hey, drop your books! Cool School delivered by Chuck & Darby [Chuck Josephs & Dobby Dobson] and its companion b-side Joker earn the producer/composer his crown. Yet more bliss is dished by The Mellow Larks, Derrick Harriot's early vocal chariot. The next instrumental consolidates the embryonic Skatalites into a force to be reckoned with, no need for a vocal, finally Laurel Aitken calls for More Whiskey to mend a broken heart and Lloyd Clarke gambles all the money into the night with the inspired Parapinto Boogie. Hank Marr provides another horny groovy interlude with some happy keyboards and after some home-grown boogie with Errol Dixon we're back to JA thanks to an electrified Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, and finally, courtesy of Edward Seaga for WIRL, it's The Wiggans turn to take it away.

Blue Beat Singles vol.3
BB30 - Carolina/I Met A Man - The Folkes Brothers &Count Ossie's Group
BB31 - Now We Know/Nights Are Lonely - Derrick Morgan & Eric Morris
BB32 - Miss Rubberneck Jones/Way Down Yonder - Titus Turner
BB33 - Jack & Jill Shuffle/Little Lady - Theo Beckford
BB34 - River Jordan/I Live and I Love - Clancy Eccles & Herman
BB35 - Leave Earth/Wigger Wee Shuffle - Derrick Morgan & Clue J
BB36 - Over The River/Hip Rub - The Jiving Juniors
BB37 – Lover’s Jive/Wicked and Dreadful - Neville Esson & Clue J
BB38 - No More Wedding/Lite Of My Life - The Mellowlarks & Clue J
BB39 - Do Du Wop/Love My Teacher - Chuck & Dobby & Aubrey Adams
BB40 - Bar Tender/Mash Potato Boogie - Laurel Aitken & The Blue Beats
BB41 - Creation/Lonely Robin - Lascelles Perkins with Clue J & His Blues Blasters
BB42 - Lonely Boy/I'm Going Back Home - The Charmers Hersang & His City Slickers
BB43 - Sinners Weep and Moan/Get Drunk - Owen Grey with Hersang & His City Slickers

The Folkes BrothersOh Carolina has to be the main track that embodies the cocktail of flavours that constitute the essence of Jamaican music of the last 50 years. Cecil Bustamente, after learning the ropes with Coxsone hired a studio as Prince Buster commanding Count Ossie andj his Warrickas from the hills near Kingston town and literally saw the seed for the Jamaican diaspora. A hit in JA in 1961 catapulted Buster to the top of the game with the main Kingston Sound Systems.
Eric “Monty” Morris was to be one of the most talented and loved vocalists this side of Jackie Opel, here he shares the limelight with Derrick Morgan on a couple of early recordings by Smitty for the Hi-Lite label in 1959.
Georgia peach Titus Turner delivers a couple of rompers courtesy of Federal which are followed by a flood of Coxsone productions that dominate this volume: all backed by the steady double bass of Cluett Johnson and either Drumbago’s jungle rhythm or Arkland Parks’ accent on the snare they give Ernest Ranglin, Roland Alphonso and cohorts a wide palette to space and experiment. Every track from here on is a wonder: the excitement of each live take in glorious mono comes to light as you listen. Time often stands still as you listen to this have been warned.
Theo Beckford, Clancy Eccles, Derrick Morgan, Derrick Harriot’s Jiving Juniors, Neville Esson, The Mellow Larks, Chuck & Dobby, Laurel Aitken, Lascelles Perkins , [Lloyd ‘Perkins’] Charmers and Owen Gray , all collaborated with Coxsone and delivered, from shuffle to boogie, proto-ska and jive blues, the best tunes you could wish for at a dance: if it hadn’t been for that extra ray of Jamaican sunshine within, it could have been as easily have come from the popcorn barns of the Louisiana swamps and been blaring out of an open-top convertible.  Dated 1961 on their UK release on the Blue Beat label, the majority of these sides owe more than a debt to the american balladeers they had been imitating, a few do more than stand out, adding a colourful portrayal of everyday life and subject matter; one rare composition credited to the Mellow Larks with Clue J & His Blues Blasters features Basil Gabbidon utilising  in No More Wedding a quirky rumba with horny accompaniment courtesy of the ubiquitous Alphonso; as he bemoans his decision to cancel the nuptials, he's sadly lost the rose tinted glasses that led him to pen the more optimistic Lite Of My Life on the flip.  At the dawn of Ska Sir Clement was still looking for family appeal with I Love My Teacher where the singing duet of Chuck & Dobby [Chuck Josephs & Dobby Dobson] sound like sweet little angels that have outgrown their short trousers. The flip rolls out the solid backbone  with Aubrey Adams on piano, Arkland “Drumbago" Parks and Cluett  Johnson on the double bass with Roland Alphonso again belting a scorcher of a battle tune, lawn dance style! Mash Potato Boogie was a huge hit for Laurel Aitken with the same proto Skatalites group, credited as the Blue Beats, again released in JA on All Stars, boogieing along very nicely in the bar-room, seemingly packed with people dancing. Rico Rodriguez has also joined  Dizzy Moore and “Erni" Ranglin is grooving away contented. Several drinks later on Bartender the blues is clearly giving way to a glimpse of the ska upbeat. Lascelles Perkins croons Lonely Robin and Creation while the same Blues Blasters build a veritable wall of sound with Rico & Alphonso leading. Still under the wing of Dodd we are treated to the alto voice one young Lloyd Tyrrell, accompanied by Hersang & His City Slickers; credited to the Charmers and also featuring Lonely Boy this is Jamaican 24 carat gold also thanks to Ernie’s dulcet fretwork. I'm Goin' Back slows the pace to a crawl but we’re finally treated to a smash hit for Coxsone back in JA. Sinners Weep is a parting masterpiece has the band cooking like never before: Owen Gray is masterfully prophesising eternal damnation for all sinners on one side while he’s high on the flip side, Get Drunk is all rocking and rolling and jive for the booze, like he’s making you accomplice of the wildest ride on the other side of the sax… watch out, baby, you ain’t never coming back!  


I’m trying to publish the next couple of volumes in this series but I’m missing the following tracks:

Donna by The Blues Busters BB 055 – this is the Coxsone produced version and not the later version recorded with Byron Lee & the Dragonnairs.

Luke Lane Shuffle BB 056 Rico & His Blues Band – Buster Wild Bells produced, this is the version Buster All Stars feat. Don Drummond Lloyd Knibbs

Chuck & Dobby Running Around BB 059 Duke Reid produced, Duke Reid's Group

Derrick & Patsy - Baby Please Don't Leave Me BB65 b-side to Let The Good Times Roll –

Bobby Muir & The Blue Beats - Brand New Automobile/Spanish Town Twist - BB77 Bobby Kingdom Melodisc

Lloyd Flowers & Ricos Rhythms - Lovers Town BB 088 Duke Reid's JA Reco

Tuesday, December 8

Blue Beat Singles Collection vol. 01

BB01 - Boogie Rock c/w Heavenly Angel - Laurel Aitken & The Boogie Cats
BB02 - Dumplins - Byron Lee & Dragonaires c/w Kissing Girl - Buddy Davidson w/ Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
BB03 - Manny Oh! c/w When You Tell Me Baby - Higgs & Wilson with Ken's Comets
BB04 - Lollipop Girl c/w Dearest Darling - The Jiving Juniors with Duke Reid's Group
BB05 - My Heart's Desire c/w I Love You - The Jiving Juniors with Duke Reid's Group
BB06 - Worried Over You c/w Everything Will Be Alright - Keith & Enid
BB07 - Fat Man c/w I'm Gonna Leave You - Derrick Morgan with Trenton Spence & His Group
BB08 - Cutest Little Woman c/w Running Around - Owen Grey with Kenneth Richards & His Band
BB09 - Album Of Memory c/w Why Did You Leave Me - The Magic Notes with Kenneth Richards & His Band
BB10 - Jeannie Is Back c/w If It's Money You Need - Laurel Aitken
BB11 - Send Me - Keith & Enid c/w People Will Say We're In Love - Trenton Spence & His Group
BB12 - Don't Cry c/w I Pray For You - Derrick Morgan & The Ebonies
BB14 - Judgement Day c/w Yea, Yea, Baby - Laurel Aitken & The Harmonisers

London, 1960, a grey post-war scenario poised on an economic boom, cold and smoky - yet, with the collapse of the British Empire, still inviting to a host of newly acquired races and cultures forever destined to influence and mutate its future.
At a time when radio was omnipresent, Croatian immigrant Emile Shallit had been busy for a few years with MeloDisc, one of the UK's first independent record labels, a laudable and risky enterprise, as no other station but the BBC would be broadcasting popular music until the secon half of the 60s, and "Auntie" was mainly churning out light orchestral and easy listening music. Shallit literally created his own market at the beginning of the decade, with the invaluable help of Siggy Jackson, by founding Blue Beat, a new label showcasing the pioneering work of the producers and musicians of the Caribbean.
This was to be an immediate success as up until this time only a few Jamaican folk recordings had surfaced in Britain, mainly on MeloDisc, Starlite and Calypso labels. It was serendipity and a matter of right place, right time: in Jamaica, thanks to the pioneering spirit of Chris Blackwell and few others at Federal Studios, then the only recording venue on the island, where producers had just begun venturing in the recording of some pretty faithful copying of the American R&B styles. As they had been interested in maintaining their popularity achieved via sound system showcases and radio shows first cutting dub plates and soon limited runs of 45rpm records -import juke blues had been king throughout the 'fifties- thus initiating the great Jamaican vinyl era.

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Shallit, despite his willingness to invest in the vinyl medium, didn't exactly have his finger on the pulse of the music scene, but, if you weren't deaf, there was an undeniable buzzing little show of hands around the streets of London's Soho, where you'd hear skiffle mingling with import blasts of rhythm n' blues, the real rock n' roll, definitely not the BBC, who at the time only played light music, vocal and instrumental, classical and orchestral, while pop and what you'd call rock n' roll was still strictly white.
While the immigrant population from the West Indies was establishing itself mainly around the Brixton, Notting Hill/Shepherd's Bush and Hackney areas of London, Shallit's new imprint would soon become its undeniable voice. Recording in the Capital and getting records cheaply into the little stores, markets and corner shops where an established buying public, nostalgic and proud of its roots, could buy both new and licensed recordings from Jamaica pressed in the UK, thus steering the company into the new decade while establishing a new sound that, although initially derivative of its transatlantic counterparts, became so distinctive that managed to cross over to the youth of the nation... a whole genre was named after the label that was successful enough to notch over 400 single releases [45RPM, 7" singles, the black ones, no, smaller, smaller.. push-out centre...hmmm...] in seven years or so...this was Blue Beat.

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In this first chapter we can detect the ingredients for most of what is to come in the quest for the roots of Jamaican music as it appeared in Britain in the 60's.
From the first release the accent is on replicating the latest American rock n' roll teen craze: Jamaica's greatest early export, a very young Laurel Aitken dishes out two slices of juke box gold: the lively Boogie Rock and the doo-wop infused ballad Heavenly Angel, both accompanied by the Boogie Cats courtesy of Jamaican label Downbeat and produced by Ruddy Abrahams. Byron Lee & the Dragonaires were ubiquitous in the record world perhaps because their leader knew what the white audiences wanted, although they are undeniably one of the prime examples of a ska big band, their sound was polished and versatile, supplying back-up to countless vocalists in the studio as well as at festivals or on TV...but that was yet to come. In 1960 they served Dumplin's [sic] dished with Lee's trademark Fender Jazz bass sound [the first electric bass guitar on the Island, fruit of many a show at the posh hotels where the In Crowd would party to the exotic sounds] while on the flip Buddy Davidson takes the helm for another rocking showpiece.
Produced by future Prime Minister Edward Seaga, Joe Higgs & Roy Wilson's Manny Oh! had been out on W.I.R.L [West Indies Recording Label] two years earlier and features many of the session players of the island, including Alpha School star pupil Rico Rodriguez. While bridging the gap between gospel, roots and pop with its unsettling handclapping and Hallelujahs, this was one of the first Jamaican-recorded non-mento discs, adapting American R&B and doo-wop, yet retaining the percussive patterns that would lead to reggae in the space of a decade .

A major producer on the horizon was the colourful Duke Reid, playful gun-toting arch-rival of Sir "Coxsone" Dodd, who'd found in Derrick Harriott's dulcet vocals, adorned by the close harmonies of the Jiving Juniors, the perfect counterpart for his super grooving group, the tightest in the land [most of the embryonic Skatalites in fact] and equally loose a collective which included anyone who wouldn't argue with the liquor dealer, armed or not, about his penchant for love songs. Keith Stewart & Enid Cumberland, with S L Smith at the controls began singing many duets as Keith & Enid, first Everything Will Be All Right, cheekily accompanied by Studio One mainstay Trenton Spence & His Group who soon retiled Roger & Hammerstein's People Will Say We're in Love into Trenton's Hop for a flip, while Derrick Morgan voiced the first of many confrontational classics in Fat Man, with its erstwhile dismissive b-side telling of a love gone wrong: I'm Gonna Leave You.
Owen Gray, equally at home with Kenneth Richard and band in the hands of Smith, also tells of the delights of the chase, while the Magic Notes were a doo-wop styled vocal group with a distinct DIY feel. Still, Laurel Aitken's rocking swagger was in demand and licensing two sides from Regal guaranteed another minor hit, enough for Blue Beat to improve the pressings that would gradually get commissioned out to Philips and similar, according to requirements. Of course Jamaican producers were finding their feet in the singles market and Blue Beat was not the only imprint to release some of this decade's early genius, you will find further releases by all these artists released in parallel on Melodisc,Ska Beat and Fontana, while Blackwell also soon would initiate his Island imprint, all this way before Trojan became a contender.

More sides were licensed in to keep a pace in the releases, from the listeners point of view records were becoming sought after for their low price, reliable quality and entertainment value, as the artists were not yet performing in Britain. Quality indeed, Derrick Morgan with sweet voiced backup by the Ebonies gets all pleading, we sample Studio One sounds via Theophilus Beckford with Cluett Johnson, Blues Blasters and the great Alton Ellis debuting with Eddy Parkins, The Mellow Larks's pleasant boppin' doo-wop, Monty Robinson & the legendary Cyclones and round off with a slam of Duke Reid's finest early outings utilising the vocal talents of Derrick Morgan and harmony duo Chuck & Dobby [Chuck Josephs and Dobby Dobson with Aubrey Adams & band], the poker is in the instrumental.

Happy listening, more soon. [please find the password in comments]

P.S: You may soon notice a couple of gaps in the discography sequence, well...there will be gaps because I still haven't found all the tracks that were released, however BB 013 was not issued, while later some tracks were released twice with a new cat# and others are still just impossible to find. After decades of research, I've not yet known anyone who had the complete set of all the Blue Beat singles in playable condition. These things are very rare and too many different copyright owners have resulted in all this work to be unavailable for nearly 50 years, virtually impossible to repackage commercially, only a few are now out on the respective artists' collections. Look out for these vocalists, musicians and producers as they shaped via these grooves so much of what we now know as Blue Beat and more generally original SKA.

[*] I'm missing this track! Higgs & Wilson & Kens Comets feat. Rico Rodriguez "When You Tell Me Baby" UK BB 003 originally on W.I.R.L. and most likely a Sir Dodd [Coxsone] production. Anybody able to help?

Monday, November 30

Roy Smeck - The Wizard of the Strings

Roy Smeck

Always on the lookout for interesting music related vintage stuff and prompted by a dear friend who was looking for an old banjo to extend her musical prowess, I stumbled upon a neglected yet beautiful instrument a few days ago that was requiring a bit of fixing and TLC, so I just had to have it.
It's a Harmony Roy Smeck tenor banjo which can be seen in action in the attached clip from 1926 [apparently the first music video clip -courtesy of Warner Bros/Vitaphone] where the creator of this instrument displays his versatile prowess on guitar, ukelele and tenor banjo with a bit of harmonica thrown in for good measure.
Born in 1900, Roy Smeck became one of the first self-made stringed instrument virtuosos, playing the Vaudeville circuit and appearing in movies promoting his self styled brand of happy music and eventually gaining worldwide acclaim and influencing the course of popular music. He released over 500 recordings from 1921 onwards, appearing on Edison, Victor, Columbia, Decca, Crown, RCA and other labels, pioneering the virtuoso technique later made popular by greats like Jimi Hendrix also dazzling audiences by flipping his instrument over his head, upside-down or at arm's length. while carrying a tune like no-one else before. He never fully retired from playing and was still teaching music when he died at the age of 94.
A video with more footage and testimonials by other greats of the era like Mel Bay and Gene Autry is available from Cinema Guild, look it up and buy it!
If you are more interested in ukeleles please look out on the web for a great interview about ukes with esteemed Roy Smeck biographer Vincent Cortese.

Roy Smeck 2Roy Smeck 3Roy Smeck on Perfect it happened in monterey 78rpm


Laughing Rag
Atlanta Bound [Gene Autry vocal]
Indiana March

Download link in comments!

Friday, September 11

Jamaican Ska celebration

Here’s my tribute to the diaspora of Jamaican music -images derived from a BBC documentary aired a few years ago.

I prepared the video some time ago to celebrate 50 years of music from Jamaica and have adapted the soundtrack to feature some of my favourite tunes from the first ska era: 

Derrick Morgan - Forward March

Count Ossie's Grounation [feat. Bunny & Skitter] - Cool Breeze

Derrick Morgan - The Hop

Don Drummond [feat. The Skatalites] - Man In The Street

Prince Buster & The All Stars [aka The Skatalites] - Don't Throw Stones

The Skatalites - Guns Of Navarone

It has been viewed by well over a third of a million people worldwide so far with no advertising whatsoever so I feel the time has come to expand on it a little bit and give viewers and aficionados alike the chance to have their input.

The original records were released on 45s [7” vinyl singles] between 1960 and 1966 in Jamaica and the UK on different labels depending on the producers. Amazingly very few of these tracks were on any long playing albums [LPs] until collections appeared much later, typically only when the British ska revival phenomenon of the late 70’s rekindled an interest in the true foundation of reggae and rocksteady.

As I will continue this project in the weeks to come I will concentrate on the British label Blue Beat which mainly licensed Jamaican recordings on singles and has had very few albums ever released -even nowadays in the digital age its output of has been criminally overlooked- until now!

The list of artists featured in the years 1960 to 1967 is amazing: a veritable who’s who of bright stars and shining comets, from the top to the very last drop! While virtually all of the Jamaican sound system owners were represented [and I’m not only referring to the main triumvirate of producers “Sir” Coxsone Dodd, “Duke” Reid and “Prince” Buster], only a few artists found greater success as the genre made way for new styles [rocksteady first and then reggae] and many disappeared into obscurity soon after the ska era. Here’s the amazing list of artists featured in the forthcoming blog installation:

Al T. Joe ,  Allen & Milton, Alton & Eddy [Alton Ellis & Eddy Parkins], Alvin & Cecil [ feat. Roland Alphonso],  Annette & Shenley [Duffus]  & Hi-Lite Orch., Azzie Lawrence, Baba Brooks Band [aka Duke Reid Group], Basil Gabbidon  [with Buster's Group aka The Blues Blasters: tenor sax player Roland Alphonso with the double bass player Cluett “Clue J" Johnson, guitarist Ernest “Erni" Ranglin, and drummer Arkland “Drumbago" Parks & Charlie Organaire], Bell's Group, Beresford Ricketts, Bibby & The Astronauts [B.B.Seaton pre-Gaylads], The Blues Busters [Lloyd Campbell/Phillip James] with Hersang & His City Slickers, Bobby Aitken with Buster's All Stars  [feat. Jackie Mittoo, Don Drummond & Rico Rodriguez All Stars], Bobby Kingdom & The Blue Beats [Bobby Muir], Buddy Davidson, Busty & Cool, Byron Lee & The Dragonaires, C. Sylvester & The Planets, Calvin Dafos, The Carnations, Cecil Byrd & Sir Dee's Group, Chuck & Dobby [Chuck Josephs & Dobby Dobson with Aubrey Adams & Roland Alphonso], The Charmers, Clancy Eccles, Clinton Rufus & Kingston's Sweethearts, Clive Bailey & Rico's Blues Group, Cosmo & Dennis, Count Ossie on the African Drums with His Warrikas [feat. Rico on trombone & Gaynar on tenor sax], Count Ossie Afro Combo,  Bunny & Skitter,  Dandy Livingstone, Delroy Wilson, The Deltas, Denzil Dennis, Derrick Morgan  & Eric "Monty" Morris with Trenton Spence,  Derrick Patsy & Basil with Drumbago & His Harmonisers, Derrick & Yvonne, Derrick Harriott & The Vagabonds, The Dew Drops, The Echoes Celestials, Ernest Ranglin, Errol Dixon, Ewan & Jerry, Fitz Bryan & Lord Creator, Fitzroy Campbell, The Flames [aka The Plamers], The Folkes Brothers, Frank Cosmo, Gaynor & Errol [Errol Dunkley with Junior English], Girl Satchmo & Swinging Bros., Girl Satchmo & Karl Rowe, Hank Marr, Helen Fleming, Higgs & Wilson, Hopeton Lewis, Hortense Ellis, J. E. Stick [Jackie Estick], The Hotshots, Jamaica's Greatest, Jimmy Cliff & Sir Cavaliers Combo, Jimmy Sinclair & Trenton Spence Orchestra, The Jiving Juniors feat. Derrick Harriott with Hersang & His City Slickers, Johnny Stevens & the Blue Beats, Keith & Enid [Keith Stewart & Enid Campbell], Kent & Jeanie with The City Slickers [Kent Brown & Sir Dee's Group], Larry & Alvin, Kingston Pete aka Larry Marshall, Kingston Joe aka Lascelles Perkins, Laurel & Owen, Laurel Aitken with Kenneth Richards & His Harmonisers, Laurel Aitken & The Blue Beats, Owen & Leon Silvera with The Skatalites, Little Darling, Little Willie, Lloyd & Cecil and Sir Dee's Group, Lloyd Adams, Lloyd Charmers, Lloyd Clarke, Lloyd Flowers & Reco's Rhythm Group, Lloyd Robinson with Rico Rodriguez & His Band, Lord Creator, Lynn Hope, The Magic Notes with Drumbago & The Jazz Beat,  Martin & Derrick with Cavaliers Combo, The Maytals, The Mellocats & Count Ossie's Warrickas, The Mellow Larks with Clue J & His Blues Blasters, Micky Finn & The Blue Men, The Monarchs [aka The Movers], Monty Derrick & Patsy, Monty & Roy [Eric 'Monty' Morris & Roy Panton], Mossman & Zedee & Sir Dee's Group, Nat Francis, Neville Esson, Owen & Millie, Owen Gray & the Jets, The Personalities, Priest Herman, Prince Buster & His Torchlighters, Prince Buster & Baba Brooks [The Ska Busters aka The Skatalites = Prince Buster All Stars featuring Val Bennet (sax), Raymond Harper and Baba Brooks (trumpets), Junior Nelson and Rico Rodriguez (trombones), Ernest Ranglin and Jerry Haines (guitar), Gladstone Anderson (piano), Arkland "Drumbago" Parks (drums) also with Tommy McCook (tp) & Lloyd Knibbs (ds)], Prince & Derrick, Prince & Princess, Prince Buster & Slim Smith, Red Price & the Blue Beats, Rico & The Creators, The Riff, Roland Alphonso & The Alley Cats, Roland Alphonso & Stanley Ribbs, Roy & Millie, Roy & Patsy, Roy & Yvonne [Roy Panton], Roy Kildare, The Royals, Rupert Edwards with Smith's Sextet, The Schoolboys, The Schoolgirls with Buster's All Stars, Shirley & the Rude Boys, The Slanes, Sonny Burke, The Spanishtown Ska Beats, The Spanish Boys, The King of Montego Bay aka Stranger Cole, Stranger & Buster with Teddy Charmers, Stranger & Hortense, Stranger & Patsy, Syko And The Caribs, Theophilus Beckford  [with The City Slickers / Sir Dee's Group], Titus Turner, Tommy Burton Combo, Tommy McCook & The Supersonics, Trevor & The Caribs, Val Bennett, The Wiggans, Winston & Bibby, Winston & Roy, Winston & Errol, Zoot Simms.

Unfortunately a few names, despite my dedicated collecting and researching, still escaped the census. I welcome contributions from you all to complete this labour of love. Please don’t be afraid to point out any mistakes or inaccuracies. I keep looking at what is published out there and it looks to me like I have most of the material, literally compiled after years of checking fragments of information against the evidence and a keen ear for good JA sounds.  Although a few of these artists were not strictly from Jamaica [famously Laurel Aitken, one of ska’s main exponents, hailed from Cuba] and on occasion session musicians were indeed roped in for some London sessions within the 400+ singles catalogue of the Blue Beat discography, this serialised overview should give anybody with even a passing interest in a bit of shuffle, boogie, blues, ska, rocksteady and reggae something juicy to finally sink their teeth into.