Enos McLeod - The Genius Of Enos
Come Let Us leave Babylon
If You Love Jah
By The Look
By The Look Version
Go Find Yourself A Fool
Now You're Coming Back
Let Jah Arise
|It is only now in the
mid-nineties, a full twenty years after the explosion of reggae's
popularity that the music is beginning to be seriously documented both
by re-issue programmes and accompanying research. This overdue attention
brings with it a much-needed focus on artists who were not in the
spotlight directed by major label contracts but who, nevertheless, were
an essential part of the lifeblood of reggae music. Such a player was
Enos McLeod, subject of this latest issue from Pressure Sounds.
Enos McLeod was born in 1946, in the heart of Kingston, Jamaica, or more familiarly - Trenchtown. Of the family's four brothers and two sisters he was the only one to end up in music. His father was a local government official, a 'white shirt and neck-tie man', fond of the immensely popular Nat King Cole and other American crooners Music was constantly in the house and Enos' parents would sing in harmony together. occasionally his mother participated in concerts for the island's politicians. Friends of the family included the great guitarist Ernest Ranglin and a long-forgotten master of the instrument, Gits Brown. These days Enos recalls 'I was born with the music in me'.
Whilst a young man Enos trained as a cabinet maker. He enjoyed both horse-riding and boxing. At one time the Jamaican government invited the legendary American ex-world champion boxer Archie Moore to the country to coach some of the youth. In a gym by the airstrip in Greenwich Farm Enos received boxing wisdom from one of the all-time greats. After a few hard bouts in the ring any dreams of golden gloves were put to one side when Enos reckoned a fighter's life would be 'too tough'. So he turned his concentration to music.
Like many of the other young aspiring artists who were later to become the cream of Jamaican reggae Enos spent his time 'just loafing' around the studio factories. Duke Reid's Treasure Isle on Bond Street, by Tommy Cowans' and Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's places. All the big stars of the time were there - Gladstone 'Gladdie' Anderson, Stranger Cole, Patsy and countless others. Of all those people the only man to give Enos any attention was the pianist Gladdie. Unfortunately even he could not create the break for which Enos craved. Back at Mr Dodd's studio at Brentford Road Jackie Mittoo took him aside and cut a rhythm that was later voiced not by Enos, but by an early incarnation of the Tamlins. This led to Sid Bucknor, the Studio One engineer and cousin of Coxsone, recognising some talent and further encouraging Enos. Together they produced 'a couple of shots' including a tune about Enos called 'Mackie', which became the singer's debut single. It was released without much success. However when Sid later moved to Federal Enos accompanied him in an effort to bolster his own musical ambitions.
His real education in the business came via the distribution business, dealing records wholesale and export for the growing UK market in Jamaican music. He produced a rocksteady/lovers tune on Lloyd Clarke entitled 'Young Love' out of Record Specialist in Jamaica and into the shops in London via the then enormous Blue Beat imprint. It was during this period that he met up with one of the major players in the business of the time - Pete Weston of Micron, who would later partner Enos on the Soul Beat label.
Soul Beat featured many of the popular artists of the era, The Gaylads, B.B. Seaton, Gregory Isaacs, Ken Boothe and the first recording of the renamed King Cry Cry - Prince Far I. These days Enos recalls with amusement and affection the time that the DJ was re-christened. Realising the DJ's existing working title confirmed a reputation for 'bawling' Enos came up with the derivation of Rastafari - 'Prince Far I', reflecting their dedication to the culture. In accustomed gruff manner the DJ rejected the suggestion: 'No Rasta! Me Michael Williams, ain't gonna do the record'. Enos insisted on the name change or there would be no recording session. The newly anointed Prince Far I complied: 'Alright Mr McLeod, anything you say!' The Gladiators band provided the rhythm for 'Let Jah Arise', which is included for the first time for re-issue on this compilation.
Enos McLeod productions and solo offerings saw release on Soul Beat, Micron and also Orbit. The Orbit imprint being created in collaboration with the Quaker City Sound System set-up out of Birmingham, England. The version of 'Tel Aviv' entitles 'Massacre' is a dub-plate out of Quaker City, included for re-release on this compilation exclusively. 'Tel Aviv' was recorded against the backdrop of gang versus gang violence, which was an unnerving feature of inner city life in both Kingston and London at this time. 'Jestering' by Shorty The President features the Soul Syndicate Band and Enos on vocal (this cut is to be featured on a later Pressure Sounds compilation). 1975 saw Enos put out 'Thriller' by Augustus Pablo on Nationwide containing versions of 'Jestering'.
Other big hits were a recut by Alton Ellis of his old favourite 'I'm Just A Guy' retitled 'I'm Just A Man', and together with The Mighty Diamonds on harmony vocals and Enos on lead 'Jericho' (Roots 7" Jamaica). With a horn section of Nambo on trombone, Chico on trumpetr and Dean Fraser on sax, and the other duties picked up by Earl 'Chinna' Smith, the Inner Circle fat boys, Willie Lindo, Franklyn 'Bubbler' Waul, Ranchie McLean, Bingy Bunny and Robbie Shakespeare, all driven by Enos' number one engineer - the double dangerous Erroll 'ET' Thompson - how could this output fail to become reggae music of the highest degree?
One hit tune recorded by Enos for Joe Gibbs is worth searching out. 'Money Worries' was cut at the height of rampant inflation in Jamaica and was considered too dangerous in more ways than one in case anyone involved got a 'lick to the head'! Enos was on a weekly wage at the Joe Gibbs studio fulfilling the essential function of 'gateman', that is to say security! If anyone wanted in to the studio then they had to pass by him first in the pressing plant. Considering the amount of paranoia generated by producers demanding hot fresh product out on the street exclusively then the gateman 'had to be tough because there was so much copying going on'. More than this Enos also claims that at Joe Gibbs he was the studio 'vibesmaker', making it happen so the tunes were hot. How true this is can only be open to speculation, what is undeniable is that a truck-load of great music came out of Gibbs' studio at that time and ET mixed-out some of the hardest dubs ever.
Perhaps Enos McLeod's most celebrated song is 'By The Look'. On this release we have a version plus dub which are not the originals but only came out on the initial pre-release album. Overdubbed in a fine bizarre style by ET this version has a strange off-key cow horn introduced by a friend of Enos' from the army! The 'By The Look' album was released on Soul Beat in Jamaica and Stew Mac in the UK.
The story behind the song 'Highjacking' is that one time Enos left the studio and was heading up to Tasties by Half Way Tree Road, where you can get the best patty in the world! A policeman stopped him and started questioning him about his intentions. Enos made it clear he was not JLP or PLP but the policeman obviously did not care for his attitude (or his locks) and promptly took him off to Central on false charges. Unknown to the policeman, due to his background Enos still counted solicitors, doctors and judges amongst his friends! One phone call saw him free. The final selection on this compilation was voiced by Judge Diamond at a period when Tabby Diamond was also cutting solo sides in the US. 'People' was mixed by ET with Sly & Robbie on rhythm, Sticky on percussion, Bingy Bunny on rhythm guitar and Willie Lindo on lead.
At the time of writing Enos McLeod is still recording music, this time in Belgium, and still believes he has much to offer. He also spends time in the management of his wife's extensive vineyards in southern France and in real estate and haulage ventures back in Jamaica.
'When I'm singing I don't need no spliff burnin' an no white rum. I hear the music an it mek me high' - Enos McLeod.
Steve Barker - On The Wire
N.B. All the information in these sleeve notes was derived from conversations with Enos McLeod.
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