Dread - Big Youth
CD 1 - Hot Stock
Chucky No Lucky
Hot Cross Bun
Downtown Kingston Pollution
Hell Is For Heroes
Things In The Light
Not Long Ago
Is Dread In A Babylon
I Pray Thee Continually
Streets In Africa
CD 2 - Reggae Phenomenon
Battle Of The Giants (Part 1)
Battle Of The Giants (Part 2)
Plead I Cause
Hip Ki Do
Love And Happiness
Weeping In The Night
Every Nigger Is A Star
Natty Universal Dread
CD 3 - Hotter Fire
Mosiah Garvey (extended)
Wolf In Sheep Clothing (Version 1)
Wolf In Sheep Clothing (Version 2)
Keep Your Dread
I Light And I salvation
Hit The Road Jack
Keep On Trying
Jah Man Of Syreen
Dread High Ranking
Miss Lou Ring A Ding
Ten Against One
Dread Is The Best
The Wise Sheep
Jah Jah Love Them
The Upful One
Can't Take Wah Happen On A West
|The Jamaican Deejay
A Reggae Phenomenon In General
The art of the Jamaican deejay - also called 'toasting' or 'talkover' - has been with us for over half a century now; early on in its evolution it had been nourished by similar stylistic developments on the US music scene. Although an early New Orleans 'toasting' record like Dave Bartholomew's 'The Monkey Speaks His Mind' was certainly played in the 1950's Jamaican dancehalls, it was the US R&B radio jocks and their Harlem jive and jazz language (popularised by such as Dan Burley) who exerted an even more powerful and direct influence n Jamaican MC's. The early pioneers like Count Machuki, King Stitt, Sir Lord Comic, King Sporty, Prince Ruff and numerous others adopted phrases wholesale from the US sources and used them to introduce records, in MC fashion, at dances. They also added vocal embellishments - percussive clicks and hiccups called 'peps' - when the music was actually being played out in the dance. As ska progressed, they began to make appearances on instrumental ska sides. As well as adding peps, they often introduced tracks with a telling phrase (like 'Gun the man down, seven ways from sundown') or simply delivered the tune's title in similar dramatic fashion ('Guns Fever', 'Al Capone, guns don't argue').
As ska mutated into rocksteady during 1966/67, producer/vocalist Prince Buster made a memorable series of records - the 'Judge Dread' mini-epic, 'The Ten Commandments Of Man', 'Train To Girls Town', 'Ghost Dance', 'Johnny Cool' etc - in which the main component was Buster's talkover part. This was a seamless blend of Jamaican street talk and the hip slang of the day in combination with Buster's acute observations, parodies and bombastic self-promotion. In effect, the records are almost like soundtracks to imaginary films, multilayered and allusive - to US soul, Hollywood movies, the dancehall itself - they also prefigure themes further expounded by deejays in the following decade. Most importantly, although the records have song elements - repeated choruses by backing vocalists, snatches of other songs - the emphasis is almost totally on the spoken word, the 'rap'. Although such as Machuki and Comic also made the odd record in the mid/late 1960's, it wasn't until early 1969, when Clancy Eccles produced King Stitt on a series of records ('Herbman Shuffle', etc) that the bonafide dancehall MC really made a mark on plastic. Eccles showcased Stitt's vintage dancehall style (learned from the great Machuki) - boastful, declamatory intros and a few rough-voiced or shrieked interjections peppered through the rest of the tune - over the new reggae rhythm, but it wasn't until U-Roy made his first sides later in 1969 that the first modern deejay style truly emerged on wax.
The practice of putting a 'version' - basically a stripped-down remix of the top side - on the b-side of the record had actually caught on (primarily for economic reasons) with Jamaican producers in the late 1960's. U-Roy rode these rhythms - indeed, any rhythm - supremely well; the new versions allowed him a space to deliver his supercharged version of Machuki's jive, answering back in his rich toned voice to the snatches of original vocal that remained on the track. It wasn't singing, but it was nevertheless highly musical. In answer to Errol Dunkley's plea 'Where must I go, if there's no place that I know?', U-Roy had his response ready: 'That's a musical question, needs a musical answer (...) got no place to go so I got to stay right here and work my musical show'. That's exactly what he did, weaving crisply, enunciated verbal patterns out of Machuki's Harlem threads. It was a dazzling display, a triumph of form over content, at least on record. In Jamaica U-Roy rapidly became a genuine popular sensation early in 1970 and set the tone for the next couple of years. Many dismissed it as a novelty, including Prince Buster ('Today you hear 100 new songs and all they are saying is 'Like a tell you - lion',') Even in 1995 U-Roy told this writer 'We never thought people would make money out of this deejay business (...) even when I start deejay sound system, if somebody ever tell me a time would come when I'd buy a $100 shirt, I'd laugh. I did it for fun'.
Nevertheless, the 'fun' became commercial pretty quickly; when U-Roy captured the top three places in the Jamaican chart with his first releases for Duke Reid in mid-1970, the message was clear and many others followed the trail blazed by the deejay 'godfather'. After U-Roy cam Dennis Alcapone, I-Roy, Winston Scotland, Scotty, and a host more. They took him as direct inspiration when they first started, although to be fair, all those mentioned above succeeded in establishing viable personal styles of their own. There was also a more American-influenced style - mainly practiced by Jamaican radio jocks like Winston Williams and Jeff Barnes - that enjoyed a certain popularity around this time. The fine vocalist Dave Barker scored a huge international hit with 'Double Barrel' using a variation of this latter style. The phenomenon ignited by U-Roy thus blazed into 1971 with even more deejays recording. The stage was set for the new challenger - Big Youth, who broke the mould and the whole scene changed direction again.
Big Youth fashioned a new variation of the deejay form, often out of that which had been overlooked, ignored or simply remained invisible to 'polite society'. He used children's rhymes, laughter, screams and shrieks - like the earlier deejays - except that he used them in a more disruptive way. His delivery became recognisable early on and it got more idiosyncratic through the decade. He was also the first deejay to start singing and he developed a chanting style derived and heavily influenced by the Psalms. Underpinning this, his firm commitment to Rasta ideology enable him to project new content - more truthful to real ghetto conditions - through this radically updated style. He also cleverly manipulated US influences - his language was saturated in 'soul'; he would also freely quote lyrics from the Last Poets- but somehow adapted these imports to the Jamaican situation. After him, a LOT more deejays got into it-eventually at one point there would be a Little Youth and a Middle Youth in the ranks of imitators. Through him, Jamaican deejaying acquired a new dimension; it would never be the same again...
A Reggae Phenomenon In Particular
Big Youth was born Manley Augustus Buchanan, on the 19th April 1949 at Jubilee Hospital, Kingston. His father, a policeman for 39 years, played little or no part in his upbringing. 'He never do nuttin'. My mother also be my dad. Mom has to play de double role, y'know. I haven't talk about him much. De dad I talk about is Jah Almighty'.
For his first three years he lived with his mother in Rae Town. Mother and son then moved to 112 Princess Street, nearby Matches Lane in downtown Central Kingston. There Big Youth spent his childhood and early teen years, beginning work in the mid-sixties. One time he had a fight at work; he got badly beaten with a tyre iron. For two days he hung around his father's house, trying to figure out a way to break in and steal his father's gun so that he could shoot the guy who had beaten him. It was during that same period that he acquired his name: 'When I used to do mechanic work on the side in Skyline and Sheraton, the bigger man use to call me youth. Den, after I drop out from work and I start hangin' back on the street, my friends are mostly de smaller youth. Carlyle was one of de smaller ones who said one day 'How you so big and dem call you youth? You must be Big Youth' And dats how de name stick'.
In 1968, the young man started to hear the voice of the Rasta man, spending time in the Back A Wall community. He began to wear his hair in dreadlocks; he became interested in his own history as a black man. Surprisingly, although he had always enjoyed music, he wasn't that interested in following a music career at that point. However, down on his corner, there was a sound system called 'Lord Tippertone Hi Fi'.Tippertone had originally been called Fingertone after one of the original owners, a brother with the nickname 'Finger'. In its early days the sound was a small one, playing out with a few speaker boxes. In those days it was deejayed by, among others, Jah Stitch; the selector was Wong Chu. Another guy, one Keith Smiley also deejayed the set as it got bigger, adding boxes and playing parties locally. Then, a transformation; Jah Wise became the selector and in March 1971, Big Youth became a deejay: 'Then 71 and 72 was a big change when Big Youth hit the scene, I always used to follow the music. U-Roy was really mu favourite. Back in those days people used to talk like 'Hit me back' and 'baby baby' and that stuff. There and then I say, well them things, they're really tellin' people nothin'. So Big Youth always sit by and amongst friends and bredrins and make certain chant, and I would chant of God who is Jah. Seen? I tell people to make love and not war 'cause war is ugly and love is lovely. Instead of saying 'Hit me back' we send people back and we talk about Jah. It's that they're sending you back instead of forward. We're not going back, we're going forward. We wanna go up front. Instead of 'Hit me back', I say do it with Jah'.
Right there, a turning point in 1970's Jamaican music; the deejay begins expressing something far beyond conventional dancehall concerns, something that says unequivocally that this is about much more than how people dance and thus forget their troubles, this is about who they are and how they live. it was on one level a Jamaican take on James Brown's 'Say It Loud' or Curtis Mayfield's 'Move On Up', with all their socio-cultural implications carried over intact. And in the political context of Jamaica at the time, with the right wing JLP about to lose power for the first time post-independence. Big Youth delivered his messages and caught the inspiration of the people; he became presiding shepherd of the Tippertone flock: 'There's a little sound system now in my community called His Mighty Emperor Lord Tippertone. That was really where I started. That was our resident sound from the heart of Kingston, Princess Street. We play at dancehalls, play on the streets. In those days we have King Tubby's Hi Fi where U-Roy used to be around. Then come the Big Youth revolution with Jah Music. We start singing about Lion Zion, Dread In A Babylon, make love not war'.
In a relatively short space of time, the sound became top-rated, clashing against and beating the very best: 'I remember one time a dance with the great King Tubby's Hi Fi - U-Roy was in exile in England and I-Roy came as the deejay. But we come with God talk, love; an' boof, biff, baff - it wasn't no contest'.
Big Youth began his recording career, cutting his debut 45 for Gregory Isaacs: 'I started in January '72 and my first record was a thing called 'Movie Man' which I did with Gregory Isaacs. That was a failure, but I kept on trying with my next record 'Black Cindy' and then I did one for the Upsetter called 'Moving version'. Then I started selling with tunes like 'Tell It Black', 'Phil Pratt Thing', 'Killer', 'Tippertone Rocking' and 'Chi Chi Run'.
Soon others were beginning to realise Big Youth was a new force to be reckoned with on the deejay scene. His services became sought after by all the leading producers: '(...) at this time it was Big Youth, Big Youth, Big Youth. All the lickle youth who follow up the reggae scene were saying 'Big Youth'. I was in demand. At that time U-Roy was in London and we don't really hear nothing about him there. It was all Big Youth'. Around the same time, another came knocking, as he had on U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone's doors two years previously - 'the man , the great producer', Keith Hudson: 'Well, one Friday morning (...) somebody came to my yard and call at my door and it was Keith Hudson. I didn't even have anything to eat then, but he insisted that we go to the studio and make a record. And the idea of it was to take a bike in the studio - Hudson gets these ideas - and there we cut 'S 90 Skank'. That was my first number one. It was that same morning while I was doing S 90' for Keith Hudson that Glen Brown walk in the studio and offer me $100 to cut a sound for him. Well, I was broke, and I say yeah, even though I had decided to do no more tune, here I was cutting tune for Keith Hudson and Glen Brown in the same day. I work on two of Brown's rhythms. I do 'Come Into My Parlour' and I do 'Opportunity Rock'. Then by the other week comes Prince Buster - and for him I do 'Chi Chi Run'.
These and other records were released during 1972; like U-Roy before, Big Youth made a serious impact on the Jamaican radio charts. In 1973 he had no less than 4 songs on the JBC Top 20 for the whole year. 'A So We Stay', 'Chi Chi Run', 'Screaming Target' and 'Cool Breeze'. But he wasn't earning much money from his work with other producers: 'You make a big hit for them and they keep all the money instead of giving you what you've earned. Sometimes they'll give you just a little money and say they'll give you the rest later, but a lot of them won't give you anything at all'.
In early 1973 he started producing records on his own account, issuing the results on his Negusa Nagast and later Augustus Buchanan labels. From now he would have more control over his own output but he still continued recording for others. The first self-production was 'Hot Cross Bun/River Jordan', issued on Panther, a Dynamic subsidiary, in early 1973. The release that immediately followed - 'Children Children' and 'Mr Buddy' - showed a talent enthusiastically shedding the constraints of the standard deejay persona, virtually as the record evolved. He brilliantly parodies a child's manner of speech on the top side further developing the them on the b-side with a lyric that would be repeated by apprentice mic-men for the next decade. In writing a cultural blueprint which many would follow, he extended the role of the deejay beyond the dancehall; during this period he himself made considerable progress as a stage performer. Shows like the one on Christmas morning 1972 at the Carib Theatre when 'S 90 Skank' was at number one, and the dance group Scorcher did the special dance that they had created to o with the hit. Big Youth would come on in platform boots, wearing a maroon velvet coat with a white fur collar, his dreadlocks hanging out from under his hat. At a certain point he would take of the hat and flash his locks and the place would go crazy. In 1973 he made his first trip out of Jamaica to appear at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Perhaps more importantly he was really the first artist to express 'roots' philosophy so coherently and thus, persuasively, both in his music and in his life, and he meant it - 'Cause if it's not love this day, then it's death, as I would say' ('Reggae phenomenon'). He was also the first to come up with phrases that were picked up by so many subsequently - even Bob Marley; 'Remember when me sing 'Natty Dread in a Babylon'? Big Youth sing 'Natty Dread' before Bob Marley. Bob Marley was still a soul rebel singing 'Bend Down Low' and 'Knock on the gate at a quarter to eight'. I sing 'Jah Jah Jah Wah Wah Wah, live it up Jah'. In the whole scene of reggae music there was no performer on earth me love as much as Bob Marley, even though me think he take a lot from me, and don't give me no credit'.
By the end of 1973 he had released a series of records on his own imprints that would set the pattern for all that would follow. There were incisive observations of ghetto realities, cover versions of classic material both reggae and soul, chants to Jah and critical guides to action; sometimes elements from these were combined on the same record. he also commented on what other deejays were saying, most notably Spanish town-based deejay Prince Jazzbo. When jazzbo made 'Crankie Bine' (recently reissued y Pressure Sounds on 'Mr Funny'/PSCD 30), wherein he characterises unmarried women as simple concubines, Jah Youth responded with 'African Daughter'. The feud eventually resolved when Jah Youth's friend Trevor 'Leggo' Douglas chased Jazzbo under a bus, prompting a further series of attacks on the hapless Spanishtonian from I-Roy. Also during this period Jah Youth worked on a movie with Calvin Lockhart, recording the track 'Every Nigger Is A Star' with the singers who, shortly after, became the I-Threes. Following the release of his first album by Gussie Clarke in 1973, Prince Buster had opportunistically rushed out a follow up Big Youth LP that actually contained only three Big Youth tracks. Eventually, Big Youth released the aptly titled 'Reggae Phenomenon' on his own label early in 1974. He was progressing in several directions at once, but it was never going to be quite that easy for a true born ghetto man like him. At the time of the release of his fourth LP (for Prince Tony Robinson) in mid-1975, he was still living in the board shack at 112 Princess Street. He'd been the biggest thing in Jamaica - alongside the late Dennis Brown - since 1972.
In 1975 Prince Tony had secured a deal with the London-based company Klik records run by Joe Sinclair, formerly of Trojan Records, at that time bankrupt and in the hands of the UK government liquidators. Klik released 'Dreadlocks Dread' in the summer and it was one of the biggest sellers that year, alongside such as 'Marcus Garvey' and 'Natty Dread'. In 1976 Big Youth came to England and licensed an album ('Natty Cultural Dread') to a re-inflated Trojan, acquired from the liquidator by Marcel Rodd, owner of the budget classical label Saga Records. Richard Branson's Virgin Records - then venturing into reggae and advised on a&r matters at this time by a certain John Lydon - acquired 'Dreadlocks Dread' from Klik. When the Virgin team visited Jamaica, they duly contacted Big Youth and made a deal. Out of that arrangement they also released the 'Isaiah Prophet Of Old' set in 1978, but declined to issue 'Progress', 'Rock Holy' and 'Reggae Gi Dem Dub'. Big Youth did a few shows in London (with Dennis Brown), but the Virgin relationship never bore any further fruit. At decade's end, Big Youth was without an outlet for his music on the international market. By the early 1980's, in any case, the political climate at home in Jamaica had changed again; Michael Manley's attempt to chart a course for his tiny nation between corporate capitalism and terminally sick Stalinism had been a disastrous failure. When Edward Seaga's pro-capitalist government came to power in 1981, cultural artists were being forced to take a back seat as the masses scrambled for the crumbs that fell from the high table of Reaganomics. Bob Marley died; in Jamaica the music turned in on itself.
Big Youth kept going; he licensed two albums of recent and earlier 1970's material to Heartbeat in the US, but for the rest of the decade he kept a fairly low profile in Jamaica, recording infrequently. He did make at least one very well-received appearance at Sunsplash (in 1983). He made the album 'A Luta Continua' in 1985 with the Jamaican-based jazz promoter Herbie Miller; Heartbeat released the set in 1985. He also appeared in the US and Japan, but as he had already said in one interview in 1975: 'Me not going home (...) and let them see Big Youth six month, every damn night (...)'.
The last ten years have seen him make a re-emergence, his artistry fundamentally undiminished; he released several albums in the 1990's and started appearing on the world reggae festival circuit. In the summer of 2000 he was in London for the Three Mills 'Peace & Love' Festival, alongside such as Buju Banton, Luciano and Capleton. Indeed, the arrival of the new wave of cultural deejays like Sizzla, Anthony B and the aforementioned Capleton - perhaps the closest we have to a modern-day Big Youth - signifies clearly that the form he helped originate and the messages he created have just as much relevance in the 21st century.
As I write these notes Big Youth is recording new music in London at Junior Delgado's new but funky studio in Tooting. To these ears, the material is sounding good, particularly a remake of the old Glen Brown chestnut 'Opportunity Rock'. Another new lyric details the genesis of rap. In it, Jah Youth, still not in the least backward in coming forward lays out a claim on behalf of himself and U-Roy to be the true inventors of the form. If that premise is true, then the music collected in this set must surely support the argument - as Capleton said earlier this year, 'Reuben never lie, Reuben tell the truth. (45rpm: Capleton/New Overtime Ban' 2000). But let history be the judge; in the meantime, all that remains is to allow Big Youth the opportunity to 'teach you 'bout the rocking on the track'.
Steve Barrow - September 2000
CD1 - HOT STOCK
1. Chucky No Lucky
2. Waterhouse Rock
Big Youth made some of his best records with Joe Gibbs: the two 'Joe Frazier' chapters, the original 'Money In My Pocket' version and this double-sided piece of dynamism that was never released outside Jamaica. A Mighty Two version to The New Establishment's 'Rockfort Rock' is cut up and re-shaped for the Youth's plead for tolerance and understanding for the youth of the ghetto. The way this recording is put together indicated the direction that he would take when he took control of his own destiny with Negusa Nagast; the signs are here for all that was to follow. The mix on both sides is outstanding and presaged the Youth's own mixing style.
3. Hot Cross Bun
4. River Jordon
The Youth's first self-production using Lloyd Parks' immortal 'Slaving' rhythm released in Jamaica on Dynamic's Panther subsidiary (#P65 A/B) early in 1973. New dimensions are added by the inventive and imaginative mixing of this classic rhythm and by the unrestrained Biblical imagery of 'River Jordan'.
5. Children Children
6. Mr Buddy
Two almost total amendments of KC White's version to Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin's 'Anywhere But Nowhere' The mixing is fragmented and radical and Big Youth's delivery and enthusiasm are unstoppable. 'Who taught you that manner?'
7. Hot Stock
8. Downtown Kingston Pollution
The introduction has to be one of the greatest of all time. 'Uunh. Hot Stock! Introducing the man Gregory Isaacs. The man Leroy Sibbles. And I the man Big Youth. Say how are you feeling Gregory? I'm alright. And how are you feeling Leroy? O.k.' And then they launch into the song. Big Youth actually sings Carlton Manning's Studio 1 classic 'Love Me Forever' with a bit of help and encouragement from his friends. Difficult to describe him as the world's greatest singer - hardly a problem as he's already the world's greatest deejay. With the aid of two of the world's greatest singers he transforms this beautiful song into something resembling a coach party sing along! Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The next side showcases Youth in the style that he invented - the observer and chronicler of the harsh realities of ghetto living; again the almost conversational style predominates.
9. Hell Is For Heroes
10. African Daughter
Another two versions of the 'Love Me Forever' rhythm, (actually issued earlier on 45rpm). Great art can work on any number of different levels and these two recordings (originally released back to back) are no exception. Not only does Youth admonish fellow deejay Prince Jazzbo, who's attitude towards women was unfalteringly misogynistic on releases such as 'Let Go Donkey' and 'Crankie Brine', it's also a plea for greater understanding for everyone: 'We are all one this day as I would tell you'. Both sides are versions to Carlton & His Shoes' 'Love Me Forever' a rhythm that the Youth would return to again and again and again, both were actually issued before tracks 7 & 8 above. 'Hell Is For Heroes' launches an attack with 'Every one of us wants progress as I would say, but some of us can't stand success as I would tell you'. This was supposedly another jibe at Jazzbo but the message here is even more pertinent when seen on a universal level rather than just local in-fighting.
11. Things On The Night
A beautiful, understated tale on Gregory Isaacs' essential 'Look Before You Leap' that adds volumes to the original vocal cut. Youth's counterpoint to Gregory's introduction is wonderful and the preaching is heartfelt and earnest.
12. Sky Juice
13. Not Long Ago
Not only one of Big Youth's best recordings but also, quite simply, one of the best recordings ever. Delroy Wilson's rocksteady classic 'I Want To Love You' forms the basis for his guided tour of downtown 'sufferers style in the ghetto' which, ostensibly, is little more than a light hearted advert for an iced drink sold from handcarts in Kingston. So a minor brand war between Sky Juice, Sno-Cone & Kisco Pop becomes an extended metaphor for the harsh reality of ghetto living - where only the fittest of the fittest shall survive - and manages to say more in five minutes than any amount of sociological studies could ever do. And you can dance to it!
14. Is Dread In A Babylon
15. I Pray Thee Continually
Two versions of 'Your Smiling Face' (Gregory Isaacs): an update of the Paragons 'Only A Smile' courtesy of Errol T. that stands as testament to Big Youth's unwavering commitment to the Rastafarian faith and whose intensity is tempered only by the elegance of the rhythm. The Youth chants in Amharic, the language of the Old Testament towards the fade.
16. Streets Of Africa
An almost relaxed interpretation of War's 'The World Is A Ghetto' that sounds all the stronger coming from the authentic voice of the ghetto: Harmony vovals: Dennis Brown & Heptones.
CD2 - REGGAE PHENOMENON
1. Give Praises
Over his own recut of the Abyssinians 'Satta Masa Gana' that he had already immortalised in 'I Pray Thee' for the groups label(s), Big Youth here extends Psalm 2 as extolled on the original and the double tracked call and response is quite chilling. 'Blessed be all they that put their trust in the true and living God Jah Rastafari'.
2. Mama Look
He'd already hit for Joe Gibbs with his version to Dennis Brown's 'Money In My Pocket' entitled 'A So We Stay (Money In Hand)' but he recut the rhythm with his Negusa Nagast All Star Band because Big Youth always had more to say on any given subject. Allegedly another bout of deejay in-fighting in Kingston that, once again, goes way beyond its origins - it's based around a calypso popularised by Harry Belafonte. Released in December 1973.
3. Reggae Phenomenon
Yet another return to his cut of 'Money In My Pocket'. This incredibly apt title of his first self-produced album was apparently coined by a sub-editor for an article about Big Youth written by Balford Henry who later claimed 'I wish I had written it'.
4. Battle Of The Giants Part 1
5. Battle Of The Giants Part 2
This coupling with fellow deejay and people's champion U-Roy showcases them both on their best behaviour deejaying with remarkable restraint as each on allows the other plenty of space and time to demonstrate their best lyrics and style. By the time this was released U-Roy was the only other deejay who could stand in the same arena as Big Youth and the title is no idle boast but a statement of fact. The winner? Who cares? A game of two halves and both of them brilliant on the second cut of the 'Daylight Saving Time/Energy Crisis' rhythm.
6. Plead I Cause
'Say folly for the foolish man because he lacks wisdom, so he deals in vain things'. A further cut to 'Daylight Saving Time' with the Youth simply chanting Psalms in the form of an unadorned prayer. Beautiful beyond description. (Sadly, it proved impossible to obtain a sonically viable cut of the 'Daylight Saving Time'/'Energy Crisis' 45 for transfer and inclusion herein. All 6 copies apparently from the first and only pressing of this rare disc that we located suffered from identical distortion - a muffling effect on the lead vocal - that proved to be non-susceptible to digital restoration. Hopefully we'll be able to remedy this on a future Big Youth release.
7. Hip Ki Do
A visit to the East for this take on Angela Mao's all action 'Hap Ki Do' film over a version to John holt's 'I'm Your Man' (the original soul version is by Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers). The kung fu craze was almost as popular in Jamaica as it was in Hong Kong; a reflection of racial pride and finding ways of dealing with a situation that struck a chord with the ferment in Jamaica. Countless records celebrated the cult but it was typical of Big Youth to choose the film that glorified the women's role. The posters at the cinema warned: 'Don't let your girlfriend see this film!'
8. Riverton City
One of the poorest areas of a very poor area the poverty in Riverton City is almost indescribable yet Big Youth's guided tour avoids any trace of self-pity. A double-tracked tribute to some of the ghetto's inhabitants: 'Leroy, Barry and Earl. Heptones as I would say' It's not a case of glorification of the ghetto - just a statement of how it really is.
9. Love & Happiness Leroy Smart, vocal
10. Weeping In The Night
His work as a deejay is so incredibly strong that the Youth's work as a producer is too often overlooked. Perhaps understandable because he rarely produced artists other than himself although he did sing this Al Green song on the 'Reggae Phenomenon' album. He worked with Mr Smart a number of times - two ghetto superstars - and this is a strong version of a classic song. Big Youth's understanding of what constitutes a good rhythm and the vital importance of mixing are even more apparent when his vocal presence is not dominating the proceedings. The deejay cut - from the 'Reggae Phenomenon' LP - follows the spirit of the vocal closely, as opposed to the Youth's usual totally different take.
11. Every Nigger Is A Star
The Heptones translated Smokey Robinson And The Miracles' 'Swept For You Baby' into the more earthy 'Sweat For You Baby' for producer Phil Pratt. The two always enjoyed a good working relationship. 'Big Youth? A great Youth!' and he passed the rhythm on to Big Youth who sung over Boris Gardiner's composition 'Every Nigger Is A Star' on it where his light hearted delivery masks a very serious message: whatever names that might get called, we have to be taken seriously now. 'Dat song was written by me, Calvin Lockhart and Boris Gardiner. And what so happen about the movie, de movie was a flop but de critics say I was de best thing in de movie, so. De song was make in a ballad kind of ways so we put de I-Threes together, dat group with Rita, Marcia and Judy and we mek de song and it become a hit'.
12. My Time
13. Natty Universal Dread
On the subject of classic songs Bob Andy's 'My Time' was the next to receive the Big Youth Treatment. It's probably his best ever singing tune as he takes on this Studio 1 classic as if it was written especially for him. He so obviously identifies and empathises with the sentiments of the song yet he still turns Bob Andy's wistful, almost apologetic, approach into a tour de force of pride and joy. His cut of the rhythm is masterful and is employed to devastating effect on 'Natty Universal Dread' a triumphal hymn to the spread of dread. 'Natty dread in a Manhattan' proved to more than prophetic and the work of Big Youth has to be one of the major reasons for the widespread popularity of the Rastafarian religion. There's a further unreleased cut of this classical rhythm where the Youth gives a benediction of Psalm 24. This cut - with delay in full effect on Jah Youth's voice - was originally released on the LP 'Natty Cultural Dread' under that title.
14. Jim Screechy
A one off deal with producer Winston Riley let the Youth loose on his classical 'Stalag' rhythm. He's already dealt with it for Mr Riley's own release 'All Nations Bow' but, as always, he had more to say on the subject with a bow in the direction of The Last Poets. Many artists have recorded over the rhythm but few have managed to claim it as their own. Big Youth definitely cracked it and many years later so would Tenor Saw with his sound boy burial tine 'Ring The Alarm'. Not a lot of people know that Tenor Saw gained his name from his constant singing of Big Youth's 'Children Children' as a youth ('Which tenor? Tenor saw!'). Some of the lyrics of 'Jim Screechy' comes direct from The Last Poets: the couplet 'Automatic push button remote control, synthetics genetics command your soul...' is from 'Mean Machine Chant'; the line about 'tiny white pill to control their natural birth'. 'John Coltrane died in vain' is from 'Black People What Y'all Gonna Do'. All were on the Poets' LP 'This Is Madness'. 'I used to listen to The Last Poets a lot, y'know. Some of those influences is right dere. Beca' dey always speak o Coltrane. So it rhymes. Love supreme. 'Cause he was so great and he was so loved, y'know wha' I'm sayin'.'
CD3 - HOTTER FIRE
1. Mosiah Garvey original JA 7" mix
This coupling of two reggae legends is all that you would expect and more besides. Burning Spear's incredible work for Jack Ruby had set Jamaica alight with 'Slavery Days' and 'Marcus Garvey' and all that was needed was a classic deejay version to set the seal on Spear's popularity and Big Youth had to be the man to do it. As powerful as the vocal to 'Marcus Garvey' this deejay piece matches its raw intensity note for note and, as ever, the lyrics are prophetic and portentous, exciting and frightening. Different to the cut released on the 'Dreadlocks Dread' album.
2. Wolf In Sheep Clothing Version 1
3. Wolf In Sheep Clothing Version 2
'The fool hath said in his heart there is no God'. Two different versions: one a Jamaican Negusa Nagast pre-release, the other a Trojan UK release, both with the same title and both versions of Jimmy Radway's production of 'Warning' by Desmond Young. Both are utterly essential. 'Because they deal in violence they will surely go in silence' and these releases elevate the art of the deejay into something permanent, lasting and monumental. 'Time is running and passing' and the Youths predilection for repeating and repeating and repeating certain phrases adds to the tension and the drama. An all time high in recorded music.
4. Keep Your Dread
A version to Ken Boothe's recut of 'Artibella' where the rhythm is stripped down to its most basic components which, as well as appearing on the 'Natty Cultural Dread' album, was also a seven inch release on Sunshot for Phil Pratt. The introduction is electrifying as the Youth calls his comrades to arms to keep the Rastfarian faith alive. It's no good just playing at it - it has to count for as he says elsewhere: 'Words without works don't mean a thing as I would say'.
5. I Light And I Salvation
One of his greatest (and therefore one of the greatest tunes ever) this awesome recording only appeared on the 'Natty Cultural Dread' album although an instrumental to the rhythm was released much later as 'Salvation Light'. Big Youth is proclaiming and declaiming, chanting and preaching as if the entire forces of Babylon were railing against him personally. One of the most uplifting pieces of music in his entire catalogue.
6. Hit The Road Jack
Unashamedly populist, and a huge hit, as the Youth welds the Ray Charles classic (written by the great Percy Mayfield) to the 'Love Me Forever' rhythm. His popularity was unparalleled at this point and his unbridled enjoyment shines through in every line. Impossible to hear without cracking a smile every time, particularly when he breaks into a verse from Burt Bacharach & Hal David's 'What The World Needs Now Is Love'.
7. Keep On Trying Leroy Smart, vocal
Released on the Sweet City label this is another collaboration between the two stars from the ghetto and a typical attack on wrongdoers and people who say one thing and do another. Big Youth would later deejay on the rhythm no less than three times for the 'Hit The Road Jack' album.
8. Jah Man Of Syreen
The 'Hit The Road Jack' album was a huge hit at the time but the intervening years have not been too kind to its reputation. However, like so many releases from this time, its re-evaluation is long overdue. It contained three cuts of Leroy Smart's 'Keep On Trying' and the break half way through this one into 'If I Had A Hammer' is hilarious.
9. Dread High Ranking
The second cut to 'Keep On Trying' where the Youth reaffirms the preponderance and importance of dread culture. His radical mixing techniques ensure that there's no repetition or sameness and the listener is left looking for still more.
10. Hotter Fire
And on to the third cut to 'Keep On Trying' with the Youth preaching fire and brimstone as the rhythm stops and starts and sirens wail. A really atmospheric record.
11. Miss Lou Ring Ding
12. Same Something
John Holt's ethereal 'Strange Things' forms the basis for a powerful double sided release that's driven by pure originality. 'As it is written so shall it be'. It was claimed that Big Youth was supposedly running out of ideas by the time this was released - how wrong can you be? (Miss Lou refers to Louise Bennett, one of the founding figures of modern Jamaican culture; one of the first to see the poetry in the everyday speech of the masses).
13. Ten Against One
A version of the Impressions' (or even the Mad Lads) 'Ten Against One' where Big Youth has so much to say that he almost has trouble fitting all the lyrics in to the space allotted. Jackie Jackson contributed bass on this recut.
14. River Boat
Another unashamed bow to populism as the Youth versions Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Proud Mary' on the 'Ten Against One' rhythm. It's not one of his most important records but his natural exuberance makes it work and if it's good enough for Ike & Tina Turner then it's good enough for Big Youth.
15. Dread Is The Best
By the time Big Youth was making records like this the battle for recognition had been fought and won and this bongo led cut of Alexander Henry's 'Please Be True' is a victory chant rather than a plea for understanding.
16. Sugar Sugar
17. Wise Sheep
Source material for reggae music is as diverse and varied as it is possible to be. The Archies' song is usually viewed by critics as the nadir of manufactured music and it's interesting to see the different effect it must have had in Jamaica where even the Wailers recorded a version. The pairing of Big Youth and Junior Byles is not as apocalyptic as their reputations would suggest but this is an illuminating insight into the totally open and unprejudiced view of music from 'foreign' and proof that anything can be used as a vehicle. Both ride Jah Youth's cut of 'The Right Time' rhythm (Mighty Diamonds). Fours Sevens (Observer) is yet another version of this rhythm, recorded in 1976. It would be interesting to know what the producers of the Archies record made of the dub side.
18. Jah Jah Love Them extended
Originally issued on the Federal subsidiary Wildflower label (Dec. 1975) with B-side titled 'Oven Baking. This rhythm was first laid for Big Youth's version of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' 'Wake Up Everybody' but new heights were scaled as he deejayed this set of cultural lyrics over it.
19. The Upful One
This one came late on in Big Youth's Jamaican hit making career on the 'Tanasha (The Earth Is Lord)' label. A version to the Righteous Flames' 'Born To Be Loved' (Studio 1) with a new horn line, the same themes and tenets are present that run right through his recorded history: 'Mind what you're saying, what you're saying to the children. They're tomorrow's people I would say'. The scatted introduction hits just the right note of positivity. A different mix of this track appeared on the 'Isaiah Prophet Of Old' set in 1978.
20. Can't Take Wah Happen On A West
Big Youth's perspective on a Jamaican disaster - the Westmoorland flood of 1979 - that makes it immediately apparent how he gained the title of the human Gleaner. (This was actually issued in a stylish picture sleeve - featuring coloured portraits of Bob Marley, Big youth & Haile Sellasie I).
21. Political Confusion
Where the human Gleaner talks to a global audience, with references to the lack of insight and understanding of various world leaders, among them Jimmy Carter and The Wild Bunch, Thatcher-Matcher and the Shah of Iran. Delivered over a version of Jewels' 'Love & Livity', this was first released on Trevor 'Leggo' Douglas' 'Cash & Carry Records'.
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