Archive for the ‘Funky16Corners Jamaican Trip’ Category

Byron Lee & the Dragonaires – Shaft

February 5, 2009

Example

Byron Lee & the Dragonaires in the studio

Example

Listen – Byron Lee & the Dragonaires – Shaft – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope that everyone has had an excellent week and is ready to let off some steam over the weekend.
I’d like to end the week, not with a bang (as I often do) but with something a little low key and mellow, courtesy of one of the legends of Jamaican music, Mr Byron Lee.
Lee formed the Dragonaires in the mid-50s, and recorded countless albums with the group encompassing a wide variety of island styles including mento, soca, calypso, ska and of course reggae.
Lee was – in addition to his duties as bandleader – also a producer, operationg Dynamic Studios in Jamaica and recording groups like the Maytals and the Slickers.
Oddly enough, though I’ve been able to track down more than a few Byron Lee and the Dragonaires albums in my travels, most of what I found were middle of the road collections seemingly aimed (like almost every steel drum record to come out of the Caribbean) at the tourist crowd.
The tune I bring you today (which also yielded the very tasty James Brown cover included in Funky16Corners Radio v.62) comes from an album that I bought from a trusted source, knowing that it did in fact contain some heat.
The tune I bring you today sees Mr Lee covering one of the best known tracks from the catalog of a certain Mr Hayes (Isaac, to be exact). Byron and the band take the track at a relaxed pace –which I dig – working that familiar riff over a reggae groove.
I thought it would be a nice way to ease into the weekend.
Have a good one, and I’ll be back on Monday with some soulful goodness.

Peace

Larry

PS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a new edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast

PSS Check out Paperback Rider which has finally been updated.

Prince Buster – Al Capone b/w One Step Beyond

August 21, 2008

Example

Example

The Mighty Prince Buster

Example

Listen – Prince Buster – Al Capone – MP3″

Listen – Prince Buster – One Step Beyond – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end, that you’ve been grooving on the Funky16Corners Jamaican Trip , and that you’re good and ready for the weekend.

FUNKY16CORNERS GUEST MIX FOR TRUNK OF F.U.N.K.

Example

Before we dip into today’s banging selections, I would like to let you know that when you’re done pulling down the ones and zeros – or before, should you be so inclined – you should fall by the Trunk of F.U.N.K. blog (starting on Friday) to check out my guest mix (entitled ‘Shake and Shingaling’) which includes a large helping of slamming funk. Go for the mix, stick around for the rest of the excellent blog.
The tunes I bring you today are two sides of one of the great ska 45s of all time, and also form a cornerstone of the first ska revival.
If you’re not already familiar with the recorded works of Cecil Bustamente Campbell, better known far and wide under the sobriquet Prince Buster, I would suggest grabbing these two tracks and letting the blue beat goodness slip over your lobes and wrap itself around your fevered brain.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1938, Prince Buster was a pioneering toaster/vocalist on the island sound system scene, starting out as a security man for the mighty ‘Sir Coxsone’ Clement Dodd. He ended up working in the studio, producing the Folkes Brothers ‘Oh Carolina’ (later covered by Shaggy) and ‘Humpty Dumpty’ by Eric Morris among others.
Buster eventually made his most lasting mark as a recording artist, creating several memorable ska classics and having a huge influence on the Two Tone movement in the UK.
I remember very clearly in 1980 watching the Specials playing ‘Gangsters’ – one of the first ska records I ever heard – on Saturday Night Live and being entranced by the chugging beat. As I mentioned earlier in the week, the late 70s ska revival and the Two Tone bands were my first exposure to ska. Both the Specials and Madness were faves back then, mainly because they were visible, via TV performances and videos for tunes like ‘A Message to You Rudy’ and ‘One Step Beyond’.
It wasn’t until a little later that I became aware that many of the songs I was hearing were covers, at which time I started to explore the first wave of ska.
Sometime in the mid-80s my main mod Bill Luther hepped me to the LP ‘Prince Buster FABulous’, which contained most of his big 60s hits. By that time I was aware that he had written and recorded ‘Madness’, but imagine my surprise when the track ‘Al Capone’ came on.
I was all “wait a minute….”  – with the patented Oliver Hardy slow burn –  as a look of surprise appeared on my face.
It was immediately apparent that ‘Gangsters’ was merely a rewrite (and I’m still not sure that saying the tune was rewritten isn’t being too generous) of ‘Al Capone’. The Specials basically took the mostly instrumental ‘Al Capone’, sped it up and added lyrics. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same song and if you look it up, you might be surprised (I know I was) that Prince Buster’s name is not among those listed as composers. How the Specials got away with that one is a mystery for the ages.
That said, the Prince Buster original is a killer, with its powerful horn section, great sax solo and Buster toasting over the tune. Though it was initially released in 1964, it wasn’t until 1967 that it was  a Top 20 hit in the UK.
To get another indicator of Prince Buster’s popularity with, and importance to the first ska revival, you need only flip over the 45. There resides the original version of another big ska revival hit (by Madness, who took their name from yet another Prince Buster record), ‘One Step Beyond.
As someone who experienced ska revivalists before originators, it bears mentioning that a big appeal – at least for me – was the high speed, punk-influenced approach to the music that the Two Tone bands brought to the sound. The first time I heard (or more accurately saw) Madness perform ‘One Step Beyond’ I pretty much flipped my wig. There was a kind of anarchic energy in the record that I (and apparently a lot of other people) found very appealing. When I finally started digging my way into the original ska recordings of the early to mid 60s the drop in tempo was a somewhat jarring experience. It took me a little while before I became accustomed to the original sound, which I now prefer.
Prince Buster’s original version of ‘One Step Beyond’ isn’t that much slower than the cover by Madness, and aside from the famous Madness intro* their version is a pretty straight cover.
When you consider where both sides of this 45 ended up, it may very well be (alongside James Brown’s ‘Cold Sweat Pts 1&2’) the most influential two sides of music ever released (or at least that I can think of right now).
That said, I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s selections, and I’ll be back on Monday.
Peace
Larry

* And I quote: Hey you, don’t watch that, watch this
This is the heavy heavy monster sound
The nutsiest sound around
So if you’ve come in off the street
And you’re beginning to feel the heat
Well listen buster
You’d better start to move your feet
To the rockin’est, rock-steady beat of Madness
One step beyond

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a new mix of flying saucer-related sounds!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Winston Groovy – Please Don’t Make Me Cry

August 19, 2008

Example

Example

Winston Groovy

Example

Listen – Winston Groovy – Please Don’t Make me Cry – MP3″

Greetings all.

We return to Part 2 of the Funky16Corners Jamaican Trip with a tune that might very well be familiar – especially of you’ve ever owned a copy of UB40s ‘Labour Of Love’.
Oddly enough, though I listened to UB40 (the 1980-1983 comp was a fave back in the day), I didn’t hear their version of Winston Groovy’s ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ until after I heard the OG.
As I related in Monday’s post, my first exposure to ska and reggae was via the Two Tone scene, and then more deeply through the Mods in my acquaintance. I’d heard covers of Jamaican tracks in the 70s (by Taj Mahal and the Clash among others) it wasn’t until I started to groove on the second wave of ska, and dug deeply enough to discover how many of those records were covers that my interest in Jamaican sounds went to the next level.
My personal “Rosetta Stone” was the first volume of the Trojan ’20 Reggae Classics’ anthology series, which included tracks by the Harry J All Stars, Slickers, Melodians, Maytals, Pioneers and Dandy Livingstone among many others. As a result I heard ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ in the original version long before I heard the cover*.
Anyway…
Winston Groovy – born Winston Tucker in 1946 – moved to the UK in the early 60s, where he worked with Laurel Aitken among others. He recorded for Pama, and then in the early 70s moved on to Trojan, for whom he recorded ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ in 1974.
The tune – with its instantly recognizable keyboard opening – was has a wonderful, percolating reggae beat and of course Groovy’s soulful vocal. The record was his biggest hit and though he had continued chart success through the 70s and 80s, the UB40 cover of ‘Please Don’t Make Me Cry’ gave him fame with a much larger audience. He eventually re-recorded the song with UB40 for a 1998 LP.
It behooves me to mention that amongst reggae fans, UB40 doesn’t exactly have a stellar rep (which I think is somewhat unfair). There are those who would avert their gaze in disgust, noses upturned with accusations of carpetbagging and slickery (and who among us needs to hear ‘Red Red Wine’ again?), I’d remind them that UB40 (a band who’s early stuff I genuinely like) did a lot to popularize songs from the heyday of ska and rock steady. They certainly weren’t the first (mostly) white artists to dip into those sounds. You can look back as far as Georgie Fame’s early 60s blue beat experiments (like his covers of Prince Buster’s ‘Madness’ and Eric Morris’ ‘Humpty Dumpty’), right on through to the Specials (who also borrowed liberally from the Prince Buster catalog, as we shall see on Friday), Madness (same there), Paul Young, the aforementioned Clash who made quite the sideline for themselves covering reggae material and others.
Certainly, those who dig the decidedly grittier sounds of the original versions of these songs might find UB40’s ‘Labour of Love’ to be somewhat lightweight, but I can guarantee you lots of folks used that album as a gateway to the original material, much as I have with other cover material my entire life.
Either way, I hope you dig the original (whether you’re familiar with the cover or not), and I’ll be back on Friday with a tune that might surprise you.
Peace
Larry

*For folks in the UK this may seem chronologically askew as Labour of Love came out before the comp I mentioned. However, my exposure to UB40 was via ‘I’ve Got Mine’ and ‘Sing Our Own Song’, both of which got college radio airplay over on this side of the pond. Though their version of ‘Please Don’t MakeMe Cry’ was a hit in the UK I didn’t get to hear it until years later.

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a new mix of flying saucer-related sounds!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters – Make It Reggae

August 17, 2008

Example

Example

Will the REAL Shark Wilson please stand up?

Example

Listen – Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters – Make It Reggae – MP3″

Listen – Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters – Make It Reggae (Version) – MP3″

Greetings all.

I hope all is well on your end as we gather together to commence another week of soulful bloggery.
A little over two years ago – far too long if you ask me – I brought to you a week of Jamaican tracks, presented under the banner of the Funky16Corners Jamaican Trip. I figured that the time was long overdue for a reprise, and so this week will see three excellent examples of reggae, ska and island funk.
I’ve been a Jamaican music for a long time, at least since the days of the first ska revival in and then more intently when I was hanging with some mod/ska scooter boys on the periphery of the mod/garage scene. As I mentioned the first time around, while I’m no expert, I am a big fan.
The very first record that made me seek out the sounds of ska was – brace yourself – a demo by the Hooters* which got played frequently on the big Philadelphia rock station WMMR. This had to be around 1980, and I fell in love with the song ‘Man In the Street’. It was a little while later that I discovered that the tune was a cover of a song by trombonist Don Drummond, who had played with the Skatalites. I picked up the volume of the ‘Intensified Ska’ reissues on Island that contained the OG (which I’m pretty sure is where the Hooters found it too). It wasn’t long after that that I got my hands on the Trojan comps of early ska hits, many of which had been covered by reggae and ska revivalists, from the Two-Tone crowd right on through to UB40.
As the years went on, I was lucky enough to have friends who exposed me first to dub (Eek A Mouse, Scientist) , and then later to stuff like Bob Marley and Burning Spear.
Though I have a bunch of ska, rock steady and reggae at my disposal, almost none of it is original vinyl. This is due in large part to the fact that I’ve never had the access or the diggers know how to collect much in the way of original Jamaican vinyl**.
However, I occasionally find cool stuff in the field, and when a song really grabs me I go out of my way to secure a copy on vinyl. Such was the case with a couple of Jamaican Hammond items (Jackie Mittoo and Winston Wright), and the case of today’s selection, a very solid piece of Jamaican funk.
A few years back I picked up both volumes of the ‘Funky Kingston’ comps put out by Trojan. Both of these comps are essential, but the track that absolutely blew my mind the first time I heard it was ‘Make it Reggae’ by Shark Wilson & the Basement Heaters. If you haven’t pulled down the ones and zeroes, do so now, because once the tune starts playing it ought to be immediately obvious that what you’re hearing is the music of the Godfather of Soul (‘Make It Funky’), traveled to Jamaica, jerk seasoned and whipped up hard and heavy.
I haven’t been able to find out anything about Shark Wilson, but the vocals are intense, and the guitar is – as the kids say – next level (I’m also posting the “version” so you can check it out a little more closely. When Shark drops in and announces
I don’t know what to play
But whatever I play
It must be REGGAE!
ONE TWO THREE
MAKE IT REGGAE!

Shit – as they say – is on.
The record – which was released originally on the Moodisc label (in Jamaica, I think) and then issued in the UK on the Ashanti label*** – was produced by the legendary Harry Mudie.
Oddly enough – and this may be only a coincidence – Shark Wilson was also the name of a character in the Aquaman comic book. Whether or not this is where the singer got his nickname I can’t say, but since I couldn’t find a picture of him, I figured it couldn’t hurt to post a picture of the cartoon shark). At the very least it’s an odd bit of synchronicity.
I hope you dig the tune, and I’ll be back on Wednesday with a bit of sweet, soulful reggae.
Peace
Larry

*Yes, those Hooters. The ones who were all over MTV during the 80s, who got their start as a ska-influenced, melodica tooting combo. I got to see them live – back in the day when the entirety of their discography was limited to two self-released 45s – at King Tut’s City Gardens (crazy name but NJ heads know the deal) in Trenton. Back then they had a cool sound, mostly pop with heavy ska/reggae and Beatle-ish threads running through it. They had a fairly big (as these things go) regional college radio hits with the original version of the tune ‘All You Zombies’ which was eventually rerecorded for one of their LPs and a great pop-ska tune called ‘Fighting On the Same Side’.

**Especially since so much of it seems to have been repressed endlessly, in Jamaica, the UK and here in the States

***And the reissued a few years ago, again, on Moodisc (which carries a 2006 date on the label). Should you come across a copy of the JA or UK OG, prepare yourself to pony up a serious pile of dough (bigger pile if you plan on paying with nearly worthless USD)

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for a new mix of flying saucer-related sounds!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.