Israel Vibration - The Same Song

The Same Song (Extended Version)
Weep And Mourn
Walk The Streets Of Glory
Ball Of Fire
I'll Go Through
Why Worry
Lift Up Your Conscience
Prophet Has Arise
Jah Time Has Come
Licks And Kicks
Crisis Dub

In the late 1950s a polio epidemic hit Jamaica. Three of the many youths who fell victim to the disabling impact of the virus were Cecil Spence, Albert Craig and Lascelle Bulgin, later to be known respectively as 'Skeleton', 'Apple' and 'Wiss. The boys formed a vocal trio whilst inmates of Kingston's Mona Heights Rehabilitation Centre, eventually becoming known collectively as Israel Vibration.

As the doctrines of Rastafarian faith began to spread through the island of Jamaica the youthful trio fell under its influence and they began to grow dreadlocks - with the result that they were expelled from their 'caring institution'. For around the next five years they lived on the streets of Kingston, literally busking a living, until adopted by the Twelve Tribes of Israel organisation. Other Rastas had refused to work with them through the belief that Jah had caused their disability as some form of punishment for previous wrongdoings.

In 1977 the Twelve Tribes financed their first single release, 'Why Worry'. Recorded at the Treasure Isle studio, the tune appeared as a 7" on the Orthodox label showing the trio as 'Isreal Vibration' (sic) and the backing musicians as the Twelve Tribes Band. The song and its delivery were markedly in the cultural Rasta tradition - for reference check the early recordings of Burning Spear. The record was a success, and after appearing in talent contests the trio stepped up to become an in-demand item for live shows, supporting the likes of Dennis Brown, Inner Circle, Rita Marley etc. At this stage executive producer Tommy Cowan became interested and financed further recordings, notably 'The Same Song' for his own Top Ranking imprint, the b-side was a dub version 'Jam This Jam'. Musicians at the session for 'The Same Song' single included the Lewis Brothers, Roger and Ian from Inner Circle, known at the time as Fatman Riddim Section.

Audiences at live performances were dumbfounded at the sight of three handicapped young men delivering Rastafari's righteous message via their unique trademark - real time dubbed vocals - whilst joyously skanking away on their crutches.

In 1978 different versions of both 'Why Worry' and 'The Same Song' were recorded for the debut album which carried the title of the latter hit song and was released on Top Ranking in Jamaica and licensed via Harvest (EMI) in the UK. The set was acknowledged as an instant classic in London's then lucrative Reggae market, there were even rumours of a replica pirate version on sale! The quality of the companion dub set, Israel Tafari, helped to cement the roots reputation of Israel Vibration who had arrived on the scene when fans were on the lookout for the next big vocal group in the lineage and tradition of the Wailers, Heptones, Wailing Souls, Mighty Diamonds etc. At the time 'The Same Song' album seemed to sell forever.

In 1980 Israel Vibration released the follow up album 'Unconquered People' and have since continued in the same vein with a string of melodic, harmony-based sets. To date they remain popular internationally and their live performances are guaranteed to be passionate affairs still fully committed to the Rastafarian way of life. However it is true to say that through their recording they have never surpassed the initial achievement of the first album that enduring classic - 'The Same Song'.

Steve Barker
On The Wire' BBC Radio Lancashire

N.B. - Thanks to both Noel Hawkes of Dub Vendor and Steve Barrow of Blood & Fire for help with these notes and all other guidance in the matter of 'tunes'.

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