Randy's - 17 North Parade
Guns In The Ghetto - Broadway
Too Late - Alton Ellis
The Race - The Gladiators
Won't Come Easy - Sweeny and the Wailers Band
Roots Man - Senya
Hold Tight - The African Brothers
Mission Impossible - Randy's All Stars
Lonely Soldier - Gregory Isaacs
Created By The Father - Errol Dunkley
Be Thankful - Donovan Carlos
Going To Zion - Black Uhuru
Children Of The Ghetto - Senya
Ordinary Man - Lloyd Parks
Cheater - Dennis Brown
My Guiding Star - Delroy "Crutches" Jones
Daddy's Home - The Heptones
|The story of Randy's
influence on the development of Jamaican music deserves a full length
book but what we have here is a small sample, and no more, of one of the
most influential and under rated record producers in the history of
Jamaican music - Clive Chin of Randy's. We hope that the brief, edited
highlights of this set will serve as an introduction to the man and his
Born in Kingston, Jamaica on the 14th May 1954 under the sign of Taurus Clive is the eldest son of Vincent 'Randy's' Chin, then known as 'Gauntlet', and, as Clive says "You have to educate them about the roots before they know about the branches". Let's start with the roots...
In 1959 Vincent opened shop on the corner of East Street and Tower Street and began selling records to an eager Jamaican public. He named the shop Randy's after a legendary American record outlet in Gallatin, Tennessee who used to sponsor a show on short-wave radio that could be picked up in Jamaica. The leading Jamaican sounds used to send to Randy's for their records in the fifties and Vincent loved the show and the name and adopted it for his own shop. The original premises were shared with a friend and Randy's only had a part of them which soon proved to constricting for his rapidly expanding business and in 1961 he moved to new premises at 17 North Parade in the heart of downtown Kingston.
Randy's gradually established themselves, not only as the premier retail outlet on the island, but also as a force to be reckoned with on the production side and they were to consolidate their position throughout the decade. Randy's Studio 17 opened above the shop in Spring 1969 due to the lack of studio facilities to rent - "not even Duke Reid studio was open then... there were only these main studios at the time: Federal , WIRL, Coxsone's Studio one and JCB/RJR". It was originally intended solely for Randy's use but the demand for studio time was so overwhelming that Vincent relented and the first person to use the studio was Danny Simms who booked it for two months straight... "the engineer at WIRL, a guy named Bill Garnett, brought them to Randy's... they weren't like Jamaicans. They talk, dress and behave differently... they peel (sugar) cane with their hands - not their teeth! They brought down Hugh Masekela, Quincy Jones - the best of the American music - to the studio but the type of tune they wanted to record was saying nothing... Bob's (Marley) was the cream of the crop".
Clive was studying at Kingston College at the time after leaving Glenmore Road Elementary School... "I met all the rough neck boy them there! 'Nuff respect to them still" and Alan 'Skill' Cole, Horace 'Augustus Pablo' Swaby and Tyrone Downie numbered among his contemporaries. He went straight from KC into the family business and started producing records and his first productions were with his school friends such as Augustus Pablo and Tyrone Downie and his first successful production was with the instrumental 'Java' in 1972 featuring Pablo on melodica. To describe this record as groundbreaking would not begin to do it justice as all the elements that were to dominate the music for the rest of the seventies were there on that production as the 'rebel rock'/'rockers' sound was born. Further instrumental cuts from Tommy McCook 'Jaro', a keyboard cut 'Maro', a next melodica cut with added bongos 'Java Passion' and a Dennis Alcapone version 'Mava' were followed by one of the most thrilling and enduring long player sets ever 'This Is Augusts Pablo' and one of the first ever dub albums 'Java Java Java Java' also known as 'Java Java Dub'. Clive Chin's instrumental and dubwise recordings are crying out for a box set of their very own in the immediate future and a couple of chapters at least in a book on the history of reggae...
"Randy's was like the Jamaican Motown - we released people's tune right, left and centre. If your tune's not distributed by Randy's it ain't going nowhere!" The shop and studio and the immediate locality became the focal point for reggae music in the seventies. Artists and musicians would wait in Chancery lane (or Idlers Rest) waiting for their turn or their chance to record checking to see if their records were being played and were selling in the shop. If Randy's played your tune it meant that it was a hit and many of the music's most memorable and enduring classics were made upstairs at Studio 17... "Lee Perry loved the studio"... which had a sound and ambience that many tried to emulate but no one even managed to come close to. Randy's played a vital role in the distribution and promotion of domestic & ethnic product throughout the seventies and this placed Clive Chin in the eye of the storm where he took full advantage of his position. Clive: "born and grown in music...the artists were there and they had nobody to listen to them," and apart from a short stay in America in 1975, "America wasn't for me", making music at Randy's was his occupation.
Clive always put a part of himself into his work as he recalls with tunes such as Alton Ellis' 'Too Late To Turn Back Now'..."Alton wanted to record originals but I wanted this one (because) I knew the soul original. I arranged the rhythm. There wasn't a rhythm guitar - a grater player that!" Alton's rendition was almost unrecognisable from the upbeat original by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose and he transformed the song into a yearning lovers lament. I personally can remember when I first worked behind the counter of a record shop in the late seventies spending hours running through every track on Alton's Studio One and Treasure Isle albums for customers "looking for an Alton Ellis tune". It took a while before I realised that the one they wanted wasn't available in any format at the time - 'Too Late To Turn Back Now'. Many of Clive's recordings have achieved the same sort of in-demand legendary status and are typical of his approach "I work off a feeling. I was never limited in terms of time but if I had something to do I went straight ahead and did it! I used to get the best because the musicians got top dollars"... Clive used musicians from two of the biggest session bands of the seventies - Skin Flesh & Bones and The Soul Syndicate as well as the Barrett brothers in various combinations & permutations. "There's tunes right now in Randy's never been released". Clive mentioned a Dennis Brown cut to Pablo's 'Point Blank'..."A Dennis Brown vocal at his best - fresh! Never released!" Dennis did sing the song over as 'At The Foot Of The Mountain' - one of his most soulful roots recordings on the Down Town label. Clive was the first to record Black Uhuru - "Ducky came up with the name 'Black Sounds Of Uhuru'! Big Name! Just called them Uhuru but never put it out!" This is the first release ever of this wonderful recording and, what's more, Clive threatens that he has "one album worth of material with Black Uhuru. Same with the Gladiators" whose 'The Race' also appears on this set as another excellent example of Jamaican roots music at its finest.
One of Lloyd Parks' best ever records appears here 'Ordinary Man' which is reminiscent of another one of his classic recordings 'Slaving' sharing the same sentiments almost but, Clive confesses, it's not strictly a Randy's production. "That tune there now. Lloyd Parks couldn't put it out for himself so I paid for the session... I was in charge of the 'Ordinary Versions' - two subsequent deconstructions of the rhythm. And the Donovan Carlos who sings over Williams De Vaughn's soul classic 'Be Thankful For What You Got' is not Don Carlos from Black Uhuru but a former singer from the Soul Syndicate. "I love that song and I gave it to him to cover it" and the same went for Gregory Isaacs' cut to Don Williams' 'Lonely Soldier', I found the tune and I knew he could do it". The African Brothers, who numbered Winston Morris (Tony Tuff), Sugar Minott and Derek Howard contribute a beautiful original 'Hold Tight' while "I met Senya through Family Man Barrett. I record her not on Randy's but on One away Sounds as roots and culture was not the topic of the day".
I spoke with Clive for hours and it was refreshing to hear someone who had achieved so much always at pains to point out other people's contributions to his works and to place his own achievements in the context in the context of Randy's place in Jamaican musical history. His praise for Errol Thompson, also known as Errol T, was fulsome and unqualified. They attended Glenmore Road School together and Errol was always much more than the resident engineer at Studio 17 but "An innovative producer. You see Errol is the history of certain music in the seventies... (he put) a microphone in the toilet and flush it just to get the sound effect. If I could turn back the hands of time Errol would never leave Randy's. He was the innovative one. I felt like something left me when he left.
He recalls the time in 1972 when an attempt to help out his old school - Kingston College - went badly wrong. Barry Gordon the musical director at Kingston College, commissioned a recording of the KC Choir in honour of the Bishop of Kingston. Half of the recording was to be done at Studio 17, the other half at a chapel on Camp road near the military camp. When they moved the equipment (not the board) they lost the sound on the return to the studio and couldn't find the same bass depth and top end. This unfortunate incident triggered off the upgrading to sixteen tracks in 1973 - every cloud has a silver lining! Joe Cocker, the rock singer, also worked in the studio during these heady times. He had come to Jamaica in 1976 to record at Dynamic but wanted to use the Wailers on certain tracks. Lee Jaffe took him to Randy's and together with the Wailers (Tyrone, Carlie, Family Man, Peter Tosh and Earl Wire Lindo - all except Bob Marley & Bunny) they laid four tracks there late on night.
The studio closed down in 1978 when Clive went with the rest of the Chin family to New York and he's been involved in a number of different projects there including running an ital food store in Queens - the J&C Kitchen. "Up to this day certain producers ask me why did you close the studio?" and there's no denying that reggae music misses the solid creative input of a fixed focal point like Randy's and the talents of Clive Chin. Randy's in New York are known now as VP and they're the most important distributors of reggae music in America. They still release and distribute other producer's material but up until now have not built their own studio.
Much of Clive's music was very popular in its day - he even scored on the British National Charts with the incredibly catchy 'Fatty Bum Bum' from Carl Malcolm which is not included here. Clive always made music for the sake of the music because "If you don't love what you're doing you're a hypocrite. You have to do something in life and the inspiration for the music just flow when you do a thing - it's not right, you cool off until the time is ready and try again". The time is now right we feel for these recordings to be released...
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