Prince Jazzbo - Mr Funny

Mr Funny – Prince Jazzbo
Version – Jazzbo All Stars
Step Forward Youth - Prince Jazzbo
Black Is Power – Prince Jazzbo
Kick Boy Face – Prince Jazzbo
Version – Jazzbo All Stars
Jazzbo’s Mercy (aka Youth In Service) – Prince Jazzbo
Every Nigga Is A Winner – Prince Jazzbo
Crankie Bine – Rosey Davis & Prince Jazzbo
Let Go Donkey – Prince Jazzbo
Stealing – Prince Jazzbo
Freedom – Prince Jazzbo
Free Dub – Jazz Mazwhoto
Jamaican Collie – Prince Jazzbo
Wood & Stone – Prince Jazzbo
Sin & Shame – Prince Jazzbo & The Selected Few
For Star - Prince Jazzbo

The essence of the art of the deejay is at best fleeting. Many of its greatest moments have gone unrecorded in the heat of a dance, perhaps been saved on cassette tape or possibly captured forever on a two and a half minute seven inch single. Yet it's a paradox that the best remembered performances of seventies' deejays are all on LP. Think of U-Roy and 'Version Galore', I-Roy and 'Presenting I-Roy, Big Youth and 'Screaming Target', Dillinger and 'CB200', Dr Alimantado and 'Best Dressed Chicken In Town' and so on. To be revered and to live on past his time, to have really made the grade a deejay needs one near perfect long player that captures him at the height of his fame and powers.

Pity Prince Jazzbo then whose career has continued long past most of his contemporaries yet who has never been well served in the album department. His long playing debut for The Upsetter 'Natty Passing Thru'/'Ital Corner', was never widely available either on the original UK Black Wax pressing or the USA Clocktower release. His Studio One album, 'Choice Of Version' which showcased the Prince in awesome style over some of Mr Dodd's finest rhythms, was released two decades after his hit making days down at Brentford Road. By the time it came out Jazzbo felt that it would harm his career because many of the tracks on it had not been deemed good enough to release at the time he'd recorded them. Consequently Jazzbo's work as one of the most original, provocative and forceful deejays of the seventies had been largely overlooked. Pressure Sounds sincerely hope that this release will go someway towards belatedly redressing the balance.

In the mid-seventies, in a brief rundown on the man, Carl Gayle stated that "Linval rarely gives the impression that he enjoys his work, though I'm sure that's just because of the special quality of his voice" and it's a fact that with Jazzbo you seldom got anything but the ire and the dread - there was no space left - as this most vituperative of all deejays made his mark with a series of classical seven inch releases for his own labels and sundry other producers. There was no room for misinterpretation as the listener was left in no doubt at all about what he meant and the message Jazzbo needed to get across. This was particularly true for his own productions for without anyone to tell him what to do, what to say or how to say it he was able to vent his spleen in his inimitable fashion and he never held back on his feelings.

Born Linval Carter in Chapeltown, Clarendon on 3rd September 1951 his early childhood was spent in Blackwood and he attended Elgin and Thompson Town Primary Schools and from the age of eight onwards he lived between his mother's home in Clarendon and his aunt's home in Spanish Town. He came by his nickname very early on and before he even thought of taking up the microphone. His family in England would send him shoes from London with GB (for made in Great Britain) printed on the soles and the young Linval became GB which became Jazzbo. The name would stay with him for his recording career. As a chile GB would sing in his village and his favourite artists were Toots Hibbert & The Maytals, Alton Ellis and Scully and everyone loved to hear him sing. At the age of ten some 'big men' took him to May Pen with a view to recording their local youthful prodigy but nothing came of it.

Like so many of his contemporaries Jazzbo was increasingly drawn towards the world of sound systems and his favourite sounds in Clarendon were Brisco Hi Fi (which belonged to his uncle) and Franklyn Brown's sound - Brown Disco. On the Spanish Town circuit he followed Killer Whip, Wasp The Almighty and Ruddys yet his interest in actually becoming a deejay began with Sedrack sound at the age of eleven and he cites DJ Wicked from Ruddys Sound and El Mango as his biggest influences. By the tender age of fourteen Jazzbo was a regular mic man for Killer Whip - he'd received much encouragement along the way from Whip (the sound owner) and legendary producer Glen Brown but Jazzbo's aunt in Spanish Town was a Christian and she actively disapproved of his love of music and sound systems. In fact she felt so strongly about it that she turned him out of her home and by the age of thirteen Jazzbo was, literally, living on the street: "I don't know what it means to be anything but a survivor and I don't want to know anything else". But Jazzbo has proved to be much more than just another survivor.

Spanish Town, New Years Eve 1970: A sound clash dance took place between Ruddys with I-Roy on the mic and Killer Whip with Prince Jazzbo deejaying. In the crowd was none other than Coxsone Dodd who was so impressed with Jazzbo's performance that he asked him to come down to Studio One on Brentford Road the next morning. Jazzbo met with Mr Dodd a few days later but he had to wait a fortnight until he was able to voice over Burning Spear's 'Door Peeper' rhythm. Prince Jazzbo's first record, 'Imperial I', was released six weeks later and he was to stay with Mr Dodd at Studio One for the next "two and a half to three years".

Jazzbo started top produce records for himself in 1972 as well as recording for other producers. Glen Brown actively encouraged him when, instead of paying Jazzbo the agreed $150JA for 'Mr Harry Skank' (an explosive version to 'Dirty Harry') they decided on $75JA and for Jazzbo to have Glen's 'Glen Brown At Crossroads' rhythm for his own use and use it he certainly did! The first outing was 'Crankie Brine' "voiced by King Tubbys at his Drumilie Avenue studio for free. I paid $35JA for a set of stampers and $80JA per hundred to press my first records." Jazzbo left twelve copies 'on consignment' (sale or return) at Joe Gibbs Record Globe and twelve more at Randys under the same arrangement. However KGs at Cross Roads, a record shop and distributor immortalised by Augustus Pablo in the record of the same name, ordered twenty five copies and actually paid for them! They went on to sell hundreds more to local record buyers and "the record was a success" paving the way for his second self production 'Wise Shepherd'.

Jazzbo's favourite studio was always King Tubbys but as Tubbs only ever had facilities for voicing when he started to build his own rhythms the Prince used to work at Randys, Joe Gibbs, Channel One and a four track studio, Creative Sounds, on Mountain View Avenue near the National Arena. His preferred musicians were from Linstead - the New Dimension with 'Margie' on keyboards and drums, 'Privvie' on bass and 'Lock & Key' or the Sound Dimension from his Studio one days.

The set opens with 'Mr Funny'. quite ironic when you consider Jazzbo's delivery and fearsome reputation, and his tirade is carried by the strength of the exemplary rhythm followed by a rather beautiful Don D Junior trombone cut taken from the B-side of the original single. There's a return to this rhythm later in the set with two more pieces 'Wood & Stone' and a vocal cut from Prince Jazzbo and Lock & Key entitled 'Sin & Shame'... "a serious thing - check it out"... as the Don D part comes and goes in an inspired piece of mixing.

Followed by a stirring call to arms that attacks both Christianity (Catholicism in particular) and capitalism where Jazzbo has so much to say that he continues on Side Two. 'Step Forward Youth' has to be one of the most concerted attacks ever on all forms of Babylon.

'Kick Boy Face' uses a nice take of the 'Mean Girl' rhythm that identifies the heroes of the Old Testament as "dreadlocks men" and places Jazzbo and his brethren in that same Biblical tradition. Jazzbo's approach, by his standards, is almost hesitant on this one.

The 'Have Some Mercy' rhythm originated by Lee Perry and remorselessly plundered by just about everyone of note was seldom put to bad use. (Just think of Tubbys heart stopping dub plate 'Spanglers Clap' as played exclusively by Tubbys Home Town Hi Fi). Jazzbo's contribution is 'Jazzbo's Mercy' also known as 'Youth In Service': "...the fittest of the fittest shall survive..."

And long before the N word was 'reclaimed' by rap artists from the USA Jazzbo had already turned it around and made it all his own on the release 'Every Nigga Is A Winner'.

The first release on Jazzbo's own Count 123 label, the aforementioned 'Crankie Brine', an inspired cut of 'Glen Brown At Cross Roads', caused quite a stir at the time of release and his railing against women of easy virtue prompted an answer version and pleas for tolerance from Big Youth: "I and I whether woman or man, as I would say, we are all one this day".

Jazzbo's ability to provoke an immediate reaction would continue throughout his recording career. Followed by 'Let Go donkey' another cut of the rhythm that refuses to let go of this misogynist theme.

For a man whose Bible was obviously never too far out of reach the Prince's disavowal of all other forms of religion were relentless and sustained and 'Stealing' uses 'Glen Brown At Cross Roads' - again! - for another double tracked attack on organised religion.

His deal with Glen Brown proved very cost affective for Jazzbo! Another oft-repeated theme, the liberating power of learning and education, comes to the fore again in 'Freedom' backed by a beautiful rolling rhythm.

Next a slightly later tune than the rest of the set, 'We'll See', which was recorded in London with Zabandis where the message is even more direct than usual. Another tried and trusted paean to the holy herb of Jamaica strengthened by the artist's temporary exile in the UK.

Rounding of with 'For Star' ..."Every lesson is a blessing"... a return to the benefits of schooling over a strong version of the Heptones' 'Guiding Star' rhythm.

Prince Jazzbo spent a lot of time in London in the mid-seventies where he established the Ujama label. "Ujama is Swahili for self help... it was hard for small people to do business" and Ujama has continued to release his records right up until the present featuring an array of talent from tried and trusted brand name artists to up and coming young hopefuls. Jazzbo is justifiably proud that he is still very much in the music business and is both positive and realistic about current musical preoccupations..."Nothing nuh wrong with the music. Every generation comes and creates their own music and style... Violence in the lyrics is equally out of order as slackness... but for the music to become international it has to be a prostitute which takes on all types of lyrics and music".

Jazzbo maintains he "always lived good with everybody" although it must have been particularly gratifying for him when he actually voiced his arch rival I-Roy for Ujama. He is always asked about their fabled on record feud in the seventies and to this day it remains one of the most talked about episodes in the story of Jamaican music. It's very sad that I-Roy is no longer around to recount his side of the story. Jazzbo recalled the very beginning of the recorded rivalry: "I had gone to King Tubbys studio. When I arrived I saw I-Roy with Bunny lee, Tappa Zukie and Scientist. Tubby was preparing to voice I-Roy and as he set up and balanced I-Roy he pressed the 'record' button. It started as a 'run down' and I-Roy began insulting me on the microphone. Everyone in the room laughed except me! Bunny lee said he was going to release the tape...and he did! This was the origin of the tracks".

Jazzbo never liked the idea at all but he had no choice to respond as "it was just like a sound system duel".

This album represents only a sample of the recordings made for the Count 123, Brisco, Mr Funny and Ujama labels in the early to mid-seventies and is an invaluable insight into the ferment in Jamaica at the time with Rastafarian fundamentalism and dread sermonising at the core of musical revolution. Prince Jazzbo's vitriolic work was always focused and in deadly, dreadly earnest: "I won't lay down or talk of foolishness" and Pressure Sounds are proud to be associated with this release.

Harry Hawke - July 2000

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