Trojan Presents: Classic Reggae - The Soundtrack To Jamaica

Jamaican Ska - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires
007 (Shanty Town) - Desmond Dekker
Rudy, A Message To You - Dandy
Train To Skaville - The Ethiopians
Return Of Django - The Upsetters
Israelites - Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Liquidator - Harry J Allstars
Red Red Wine - Tony Tribe
Long Shot Kick De Bucket - The Pioneers
Wonderful World, Beautiful People - Jimmy Cliff
Monkey Man - The Maytals
Skinhead Moonstomp - Symarip
Young Gifted And Black - Bob & Marcia
Rivers Of Babylon  - The Melodians
54 - 46 That's My Number - The Maytals
You Can Get It If You Really Want - Desmond Dekker
Double Barrel - Dave Barker, Ansell Collins
Small Axe - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Black And White - Greyhound
Rain - Bruce Ruffin
Trench Town Rock - Bob Marley & The Wailers
Let Your Yeah Be Yeah - The Pioneers
Help Me Make It Through The Night - John Holt
Everything I Own - Ken Boothe
Hurt So Good  - Susan Cadogan
Sideshow - Barry Biggs
Ire Feelings (Skanga) - Rupie Edwards
Cokane In My Brain - Dillinger
Uptown Top Ranking - Althea & Donna
Money In My Pocket - Dennis Brown
Silly Games - Janet Kay
Ok Fred - Errol Dunkley
Pass The Dutchie - Musical Youth
Girlie Girlie - Sophia George
I Wanna Wake Up With You - Boris Gardiner
Give A Little Love - Aswad
Twist And Shout - Chaka Demus & Pliers
Boom Shack-A-Lak - Apache Indian
Compliments On Your Kiss - Brian/Tony Gold, Red Dragon
Dancehall Queen - Beenie Man

To many outside the Caribbean, Jamaican music has long been associated with the best of summer: clear blue skies, warmed up weather, palm trees swaying in the sun and beautiful sandy beaches. But while there is of course nothing intrinsically wrong with such an idyllic image, it does paint a very one-dimensional picture. Indeed, as most fans of Ska, Rock Steady, Dub, Dancehall and Ragga will attest, Jamaican music is not just surprisingly varied; it is as multi-seasonal as Pop, R&B or Rock.

Look just below the surface and without too much trouble there can be found a Jamaican-produced record to suit any mood or weather condition. And while the island's music is universally suited to dancing, it also has its less frivolous moments. Of course there can be no contesting that Ska is guaranteed to make a party swing, Rocksteady and Lovers Rock are perfect for smooching, and Roots and Dub are ideal mood capturers, but in truth there is so much more to each of these styles.

In fact, to fully understand and appreciate the many facets of Jamaican music it is essential to become familiar with its history - so for those as yet unaware of its origins, we offer a brief tutorial...

The roots of the modern Jamaican recording industry as we know it today can, in fact, traced back to the Fifties. It was then that, Stanley Motta and ken Khouri, two enterprising musical pioneers launched labels featuring recordings by local talent. Recorded on ridiculously primitive equipment, most of their output highlighted Mento acts who had made a name on the island's hotel and club circuit. But, with the bulk of the island's population preferring US music to the style disparagingly labelled by some as 'Jamaican Calypso' such discs had limited appeal. For the young and hip city dweller, nothing quite cut it like the 'Shuffle Blues' music that dominated the dances hosted by the sound systems of the day.

And for a few years it remained this way - up until the demise of 'Shuffle Blues' in the latter half of the decade, a development that led to an enforced rethink by the operators of the Sounds. Now, if the likes of Coxsone Dodd or Duke Reid wanted a killer 45 to liven up the dance, the best course of action was to employ local talent and create the music himself. This necessary course of action led to the first generation of home-grown performers becoming recording stars, with the likes of Laurel Aitken, Wilfred Jackie Edwards and Owen Gray vying with US talent for a place on the radio listings.

So it was that in the years immediately leading up to Jamaica's independence from British rule in 1962, the local music industry grew from a small, cottage industry into a serious business. The popularity of locally generated discs, allied to the sizable chunks of income coming from licensing deals with UK-based record companies such as Esquire, Melodisc and Island greatly enhanced the appeal  of making music for entrepreneurs. But while locally-produced music proved popular at home, it failed to make inroads on the international charts - until, that is, it transmogrified into a something distinctly Jamaican. Since the mass popularisation of Jamaican R&B, the style has gradually developed, placing an ever-increasing emphasis on the up-beat, which by 1963 had resulted in a sound clearly distinct from its American-flavoured antecedent. Reputedly in an attempt to describe the sound of the rhythm guitar's up-stroke action, Ernest Ranglin introduced the name by which it would become to be universally known: Ska.

Soon after, the international breakthrough finally came. In 1964, an upbeat version of an R&B oldie, 'My Boy Lollipop' not only propelled the youthful Kingston-based singer Millie Small to global stardom, but also introduced the world to the joys of Jamaican music. Suddenly, everybody seemed to want a piece of the action, with every major British and US record company hastily jumping on the Ska bandwagon, either signing up authentic Jamaican acts, or hastily arranging for local performers to record in the style. Unfortunately, the prevalence of substandard imitations did more harm than good and within a year the bubble had burst, with Ska mistakenly dismissed as little more than a parochial dance craze.

But before its inevitable demise globally there had been many bright spots: the widespread release of some wonderful records by the much-maligned Byron lee & The Dragonaires, being one. Of the group's sides that saw issue on the celebrated Atlantic label, the most popular was 'Jamaican Ska', an uplifting celebration of the sound that featured vocals from the group's regular front-men, Keith Lyn and Ken Lazarus. Despite selling by the bucket-load, the single somehow failed to make the mainstream charts, although even today, it receives regular plays on the Mod scene.

Ska remained in vogue in Jamaica until the summer of '66, when various factors brought about a gradual reduction in the music's tempo, which by the close of the year had halved. An early example of the developing sound was Desmond Dekker & The Aces' Rude Boy anthem '007', which not only topped the local charts, but also made the UK top 20. Clearly distinct to what had gone before, the new style soon acquired a new name: Rock Steady and for the next year or so, this lilting, soulful music rule the Jamaican airwaves. During this period, local musicians produced some of the most popular and enduring recordings in the island's musical history, with the Ethiopians' 'Train To Skaville' among the most revisited 'riddim' over subsequent years.

Yet for all its popularity, by end of '68, the Rock Steady era was well and truly over, with its successor, the more dynamically structured Reggae now the dominant sound in Jamaican music. But Rock Steady's demise was not without one final hurrah. As the style was fast falling out of fashion, the previously triumphant Desmond Dekker & The Aces cut 'Poor Mi Israelites', which although not classically Rock Steady in sound, featured many of its elements. While the record faired well enough in Jamaica, in the UK it was picked up by the country's growing number of latter-day 'Mods' - or 'Skinheads', as they later came to be known. Their buying power ultimately propelled it into the national Pop charts and by the following Spring it became the first ever Jamaican-produced recording to top the British Pop listings, marking the beginning of an all-out assault on the country's established music scene.

At the forefront of this offensive was Trojan Records, an independent company formed in the summer of 1968 by Chris Blackwell's long established Island operation and B&C, a record publisher and distribution business founded by the enigmatic Indo-Jamaican Lee Gopthal. Over the next year or so, Trojan enjoyed more than 29 UK Top Fifty hits, propelling some of Jamaican's finest talents into the charts and the nation's consciousness.

Among those to make their international breakthrough as a result were some of the Caribbean's most enduring stars, with jimmy Cliff and Toots & The Maytals among their number. Of the numerous other talented performers to see their work receive widespread attention on foreign shores were a Kingston-based trio who had long-since been favourites back home, Bob Marley & The Wailers, and while mainstream success in the UK eluded the group, their seminal recordings for the enigmatic Lee 'Scratch' Perry received widespread acclaim from Reggae fans both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1972, Chris Blackwell withdrew his business interests in Trojan, although the effects of the decision were not immediately apparent, with the company continuing to enjoy further major hits from the likes of John holt and Ken Boothe. By the mid-Seventies, however, the significance of his departure was all too apparent, with Trojan's position as the UK's leading Reggae music label usurped by a plethora of independents, along with their former business partners, Island Records.

By this time, Roots and Dub were the prevailing styles that dominated Jamaica's musical landscape and while neither achieved much in the way of significant chart success, Rupie Edwards' 'Ire Feelings' somehow bucked the trend, making the world at large briefly aware of the sounds being created by sound engineer, King Tubby and his fellow Dubmasters.

Of far more appeal to most Western ears were the melodic strains of Jamaican balladeers, whose gentle, romantic excursions repeatedly breached the British listings throughout the remainder of the Seventies and beyond. These forays into the Pop charts proved instrumental in establishing Lovers Rock as the UK's first home-grown Reggae sound to be successfully exported to Jamaica, where, by the early Eighties in competed with the strident sound of Dancehall. by the middle of the decade this in turn was supplanted by the digitally inspired styling's of Ragga, which in more recent years has been superseded by the new variations, such as Bobo Ashanti, Eurodub and Bashment.

Today, exponents of some form of post-War Jamaican music or another can be found in almost every corner of the globe, from Mento groups in the USA to Ska bands in Japan. In fact, the influence of this small, Caribbean island upon the music world at large has been profound, and when taking into account the size of its population, nothing short of astounding. hopefully, this collection of 40 Jamaican classics will not ensure a greater understanding and appreciation of the island's wonderfully rich and diverse musical history, but also provide immense listening pleasure the whole year through.

Let's get Skanking!
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