Children Of Jah 1977-79 - The Chantells & Friends

Children Of Jah/Time To Unite - The Chantells & U-Brown
Jah Jah New Garden - Lopez Walker
Path I Have Taken - Errol Davis
Assemble Not Thyself - The Terrors
Send Another Moses - Lopez Walker
Cool Rastaman Cool - Steve Boswell & Jah Berry
Desperate Times - The Chantells
Trial Days - Lopez Walker
Natty Supper - The Chantells
Fly Away - Lopez Walker
In 1977 Roy Francis started a label called Phase One; from the beginning it gained a reputation for quality productions, scoring big reggae hits with the Chantells, whose classic "Waiting In The Park" was massive in 1978; the vocal trio's "True Born African" and "Children Of Jah" also sold strongly at the time. But for the most part, the other artists Roy chose to record were unknowns, apart from Tabby Diamond and the Heptones, who both cut singles for Phase One; Dean Fraser also recorded a sax cut of Tabby's take on Ken Boothe's "Gonna Take A Miracle", and made a vocal under the name Jah Devon. Nevertheless, unknown singers like Lopez Walker and Errol Davis made superb sides for Phase One, while the releases of Leebert Bennett, Steve Boswell, Paul Powell, Leroy King, The Terrors and Untouchables were not far behind.

The three tracks here by The Chantells feature them on roots material; although they are known for their sweetly soulful love songs, they were well capable of tackling roots themes. On "Children Of Jah" they are joined by deejay U-Brown, then poised on the threshold of his most successful period; in 1978 / 1979 his "Weather Balloon" and "Please Doctor" were amongst the definitive deejay records of the time. The Chantells - Samuel Bramwell, Tommy Thomas and Lloyd Forrest - were a superb harmony trio. Lloyd Forrest had also sung with The Royals and The Jayes, and Sam Bramwell made solo records on Wait A Bit and other labels; their high point was at Phase One. Sadly, the lyric of "Desperate Time" (utilising the "Waiting In The Park" rhythm track), with its line about a 'turn to crime', proved all too prophetic. Lead singer Sam Bramwell was shot dead by the police while attempting a robbery at a bauxite factory in 1983. The group had actually split before, after a planned UK tour had to be called off when group members were arrested with herb as they flew into the country.

The Terrors were a trio comprising Donovan Brissett and his brother Edmund and L Lewis. They made titles under various group names; as well as The Terrors, they were also The Black Terrors, Kutchie, and Classic Example. They cut "Don't Bother Me" for Lloyd "Spiderman" Campbell around this time, on the other side of an Itals release; Donovan Brissett was briefly a replacement for Lloyd Ricketts in the Itals, prior to David Isaacs. He later lived in St Louis for about nine years and fronted what became the most popular local band there - Reggae At Will. He currently resides in Las Vegas; Edmund still lives in Kingston. Donovan was lead singer and primary songwriter, with Edmund Brissett & Lewis singing harmony. "Assemble Not Thyself" is a powerful warning to the youth to stick to the righteous way, with excellent lyric imagery.

Steve Boswell made one other record for Phase One, the enigmatic "I Am Getting Bad"; on the propulsive "Cool Rastaman Cool" he is joined by deejay Jah Berry, who raps effectively in then current dancehall style. He also cut sides for Joe Gibbs and Tuff Beat.

Lopez Walker made a 45 for Joe Gibbs before cutting the four titles here. Walker came from Bog Walk above Kingston; he played guitar and sang these songs beautifully. "Send Another Moses" and "Jah Jah New Garden" use the same rhythm. "Trial Days" and the superb Spear-style "Fly Away" were released back to back as a 12" single. After releasing a slightly different 7" version of "Trial Days" in 1979 Walker vanished from the scene.

The rhythms - all original - are played by the Channel One studio band the Revolutionaries with drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Lloyd Parkes as foundation. These tracks - representing the cream of Roy's roots catalogue - make their first appearance since their original issue over twenty years ago. By Jamaican standards, the Phase One catalogue is relatively small - an excellent Chantells album, a couple of dub sets, and around thirty single releases but the quality is remarkably high and deserves to be far better-known. Although he occasionally releases new productions, today Roy is better known as owner of Mixing Lab studio, where he continues the high production standards already evident in Phase One.
Steve Barrow - July 1999
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