Ride On Dreadlocks 1975-77 - Linval Thompson

Jah Jah The Conqueror (extended)
Long Long Dreadlocks (extended)
Ride On Dreadlocks (extended)
Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks/Joyful Locks (feat. U-Roy)
12 Tribes Of Israel (extended)
Everybody Needs Money (extended)
Don't Try To Rob I (extended)
Cool Down Your Temper (extended)
A Big Big Girl (extended)
Jah Jah Is I Guiding Star (extended)
Can't Stop Natty Dread Again (12" version)
 
In retrospect, the Jamaican dancehall of the mid-1970s was an extraordinary period of transition, during which the whole process of record production changed. the 'traditional' route into record production, via ownership of a sound system and thence into commercial record production still existed, but the high level of artist exploitation maintained by producers meant that many singers and deejays ultimately decided to produce themselves and dispense with the middle man altogether.

This move was aided by the custom nature of Jamaican manufacturers - it was entirely possible for an artist to hire studio time and skilled session musicians and control the whole manufacturing process from beginning to end. prior to this only the singer (and astute businessman) Derrick Harriott had managed to achieve such control, but during the 1970s, several deejays - Big Youth, Jah Lloyd, Prince Jazzbo, Dr Alimantado and Tappa Zukie - all succeeded in launching and continuing operations with their own labels.

Similarly, singers like Gregory Isaacs and Errol Dunkley started their own imprints, although it wasn't until vocalists such as Sugar Minott, and the subject of this compilation, Linval Thompson, came along a few years later, that the singers enjoyed the same degree of success as their deejay counterparts.

Linval Thompson had started recording when he lived as a teenager in Queens, New York, cutting a side with future Third World singer Bunny Ruggs ('There Is No other Woman In This World'), as well as a couple of tracks for US-based producer E. Martin. Martin released cuts like 'Jah Jah Deh' and 'Weeping And Wailing' (this latter under the name Al Thompson) on his Marts label in 1974 and 75. In 1974 Linval returned to Jamaica, where he recorded for Keith Hudson's associate K. 'Stamma' Hobson ('Mama Say'), Linval also made a version of D. Brown's 'Westbound Train', a hit for Hobson which got him some attention. he then recorded for Phil Pratt at the newly-opened Black Ark studio owned and operated by Lee Perry, who also took his chance to record the young singer with 'Kung Fu Man'.

Living in the Kingston district of Whitfield Town alongside his friend, the singer Johnny Clarke, led to Linval's meeting with producer Bunny Lee. 'Johnny Clarke, he was my friend. We used to live on de same street. He was de singer who was really singin' in my time, makin' a lot of hits. I kinda know him so we start to spar together and from dere I been to King Tubby's studio in Waterhouse. Everybody I been dere waan to make a song and den one day come, dey say 'go an' sing'. So I sing de firs' song 'Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks' and dat was a very big hit. Firs' song I sing for Bunny Lee'.

Lee was enjoying considerable success in mid-decade, with both Johnny Clarke and Cornell Campbell scoring regularly at this time' Linval soon added his name to the trio of hitmakers when he recorded further smashes like 'Jah Jah The Conqueror', 'A Big Big Girl', 'Cool Down Your Temper' and the title track of this CD. Linval's vocal style bore strong influences; from Johnny Clarke he took and developed the slurs and fills that Clarke used to keep the vocal line moving dynamically; from Horace Andy - also scoring hits for Lee at this time - he emulated the pure tonal clarity and from his first inspiration Dennis brown, he adopted Brown's way of phrasing and attacking a lyric. In true Jamaican fashion, all this became his own creative blend, and Linval became instantly recognisable on his own terms. he recorded a couple of dozen sides for Lee, eight of which are included here with their respective dubs. Lee issued an album called 'Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks' on Count Shelley's UK-based Third World label in 1976.

Many of Linval's songs took as their subject matter the position of, and struggles faced by, those who wore Rasta dreadlocks; Linval's simple but effective rallying cries definitely did the business in the dancehalls of the day, both in Jamaica and in the UK. But Lee's reign as the Gorgon of mid-70s dancehall was coming to an end; with the emergence of the Hookim Brothers Channel One  as the dominant studio, closely pursued by Joe Gibbs, Bunny Lee faced competition that ultimately would topple him from his position of leading independent producer. In any case, his priority was to seek licensing deals for his vast catalogue, and he was to be increasingly absent from Jamaica as the 1970s continued.

Lee, as he had done with Tappa Zukie and many others, encouraged Linval to set up as a producer on his own account. Linval began producing himself in 1976 - he combined very effectively on the 12" single 'Train To Zion' with deejay U-Brown late that year for PNP activist Tony Welch's Socialist Roots label (named after Welch's sound system of same name, formerly King Attorney Hi-Fi). U-Brown also voiced on the same Revolutionaries cut of 'Real Rock' as Linval utilised for his song 'Can't Stop Natty Dread Again' (aka 'Stepping Out'), which is included here. U-Brown's version ('Bits Of Paper') is available, along with the title track, on the album 'Train To Zion' (BAFCD 020). Linval recorded his productions at Channel One and mixed at King Tubby's, and he soon began hitting with tracks like 'I Love Marijuana' (and a deejay version by Big Joe) and a recut of 'Big Big Girl'.

He licensed his first self-produced solo album to Trojan Records Ltd; from here on he would produce more and more artists, in the process laying the foundation for the 'dancehall' explosion of the early 1980s;he was instrumental in bringing his friend the late producer Henry 'Junjo' Lawes into the music business in 1977, producing the haunting 'Jah Jah Is I Guiding Star' on the Mr Damanic label that year. The record bears the name of Linval and Lawes, who went on to become the major Jamaican producer of the early 1980s, but Linval wasn't that far behind.

He cut music with a host of artists right up to the mid-1980s, including Freddie McGregor, Johnny Osbourne, Barry Brown, Rod Taylor, Barrington Levy, Eek-A-Mouse, the Viceroys, the Mystic Eyes and the Meditation, and even songs with Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown. Subsequently, he was less active, although he made a well-received set for Sly & Robbie in 1988. Linval has a huge cache of unreleased product from the 1980s, and today his main focus, alongside a real estate business he runs from Stony Hill, Jamaica, is the reissue of this extensive catalogue. Simultaneously, he has also made a welcome reappearance singing live on sound system, including a memorable Stur Gav tour in 1999, and a similar tour in Italy in 2000.

This compilation, which follows Linval's development from a star singer in the Bunny Lee camp to his first steps as a producer in his own right, is the fourth we have issued featuring or including Lee's vocal productions. Linval Thompson thus takes his place alongside Johnny Clarke, Horace Andy and Cornell Campbell as one of the crucial pioneers of modern Jamaican dancehall music. He looks sure to prove himself in this role for a long time to come.
Steve Barrow - April 2000
 
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