Wailing Souls At Channel One

War - Wailing Souls & Ranking Trevor
Joy Within Your Heart - Wailing Souls
Joy Within Your Heart Version - The Revolutionaries
Jah Jah Give Us Live (Don't Feel No Way) - Wailing Souls
Fire A Mus Mus Tail - Wailing Souls
Things And Time - Wailing Souls
Natty BSC - Dillinger
Natty BSC Version - The Revolutionaries
Fire Coal Man - Wailing Souls
Lawless Society - Wailing Souls
Lawless Society Version - The Revolutionaries
Back Out Aka Back Out With It - Wailing Souls
Back Out Version - The Revolutionaries
Back Biter aka Back Slider - Wailing Souls
Very Well - Wailing Souls
Very Well Version - The Revolutionaries

The Wailing Souls originally named The Renegades and also known as both Pipe & The Pipers and The Classics, are without a shadow of doubt one of the most talented, artistically satisfying and indubitably one of the most enduring of all the classic Jamaican harmony groups. Seeing their work as rehabilitating and educating their lost souls, hence the name The Wailing Souls, their raw lead vocals are countered at all times by faultless harmonies and set within memorable strong structures backed by some of the most popular rhythm tracks in the history of reggae music. From the outset they strove to establish what would become their own unique vision by placing their beautifully crafted songs around and into whatever style of music happened to be currently popular. Always totally professional in their approach they never fell back on what appeared to be their almost effortless song writing and harmonising ability but instead imbued every record that they made with immediacy, warmth and insight. Their songwriting rapidly developed into what has become known as the classical Jamaican style of seamlessly fusing 'country' wisdom, 'old time' sayings and Biblical quotations mixed and matched with all the latest Kingston street talk in the manner of Justin Hinds, Albert Griffiths and, especially, Bob Marley who 'Pipe' has been compared to probably more times than he'd care to remember during his career.

This album is an extended version of their only long playing release for Channel One 'The Best Of Wailing Soul' released in the USA on Empire Records in 1984 but this Pressure Sounds release has not been given the same title in an attempt to avoid any confusion with that collection, 'The Best Of Wailing Soul' a Jamaican release on Harry J's Sunset label and 'The Very Best Of The Wailing Souls' released in the UK on Greensleeves Records.

Their first record together as The Renegades, who consisted of Lloyd, Winston and George, was 'Lost Love' although Winston (aged only nine) had previously recorded 'Little Dilly' as one of The (aptly named) Schoolboys way back in 1963 for Prince Buster. Towards the end of the decade Winston teamed up with Oswald Downer and Norman Davis to record 'Gold Digger' for Lloyd 'Matador' Daley and they slowly began to make their mark on Kingston's teeming musical scene. At first The Wailing Souls felt that they were far too young and inexperienced to take their rightful place in this hierarchy but they recall that all they ever received was positive encouragement from the already established stars and likened those early days to going to school and receiving their musical education.

Their next stop was at Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's legendary Studio One where they recorded many peerless tracks as The (again aptly named) Classics and they have maintained their good working relationship with Mr. Dodd. Their debut session at Brentford Road produced 'Back Out (With It)', 'Row Fisherman, Row' and 'Mr. Fire Coal Man' and they worked with Studio One for twelve months during 19+70 and 1971 as they built their reputation. Their work from this period is gathered together on two essential albums 'The Wailing Souls' (Winro Records) and 'Soul And Power' (Studio One) but unfortunately Winston's solo cut of Bob Marley's 'Sun Is Shining' is not on either of these collections. In 1972 they worked for a while with Bob Marley's Tuff Gong label and, as well as standing in for Peter and Bunny at rehearsals, they also added backing vocals to numerous Bob Marley & The Wailers hit records from this time including 'Trench Town Rock'. Two essential seven inch singles 'Harbour Shark' and 'Back Biter' aka 'You Should Have Known Better', credited to Pipe & The Pipers to avoid any confusion with The Wailers, were released on Tuff Gong at the time as well as the relatively obscure 'Wicked A Go Dread' for the Del Prado label. Joe Higgs entered the group's ranks for a brief period and together as Atarra (Amharric for 'to purify') they recorded the wonderful 'Brimstone And Fire' written and produced by Joe Higgs and released on Pete Weston's Micron label but Joe left to tour the USA with Jimmy Cliff. Joe Higgs had been The Wailing Souls' mentor from their early days in Trench Town educating them both musically and in the machinations of the music business and their profound respect for their tutor lives on to this day.

In 1976 Garth Dennis of Black Uhuru joined the group and stayed with them for ten years: "I grew up with The Wailing Souls" and their unusual four part harmonies (lead vocal and three backing singers) added different dimensions to The Wailing Souls' sound and an added sense of purpose as from then on the group decided to dedicate their lives full time to making music. Previously it had just been something that they could do and enjoyed doing and, because of this, they had never simply made records for any and everyone preferring instead to build up a lasting relationship with a particular producer and work together on a series of songs rather than one off recordings. A mutual friend from Trench Town introduced them to Channel One's Joseph 'Jo Jo' Hookim in 1976 and Jo Jo recalled that The Wailing Souls were a pleasure to work with because they always came to the studio with their songs and harmony parts fully worked out in advance of the session. Their totally professional approach to music making fitted in perfectly at Channel One.

Channel One Recording Studio was opened by Ernest and Jo Jo Hookim in 1972 at 29 Maxfield Avenue in the heart of the notorious Kingston 13 district and the story of their hugely influential and groundbreaking work has been covered extensively on three earlier Pressure Sounds compilations ('Well Charged: Channel One' PSCD14, 'When The Dances Were Changing' PSCD22 and 'Maxfield Avenue Breakdown' PSCD31). The Hookim brothers were true visionaries and it is impossible to overstate their influence on the history of Jamaican music. They were blessed with an unerring insight into what would make a record sell and it was only a matter of time before The Wailing Souls would inevitably arrive at Channel One. Their first recording for Jo Jo was 'Things And Time' an updated version to the 'Back Out (With It)' rhythm with new words and melody. Pipe referred to it as a comeback song and what a comeback! It went straight to Number One in the Jamaican Hot Parade and they would later sing 'Back Out (With It)' over the new rhythm track. The Hookim Brothers had pioneered the release of twelve inch singles in Jamaica and The Wailing Souls were soon making music to fit this brand new format. 'War' employed the services of Ranking Trevor, one of the most popular deejays of the mid-seventies, who was to be found finishing off (in more ways than one) a host of 'disco-mixes' from this period. His lyrical contribution adds a more localised commentary to the song that returns it to its original inspiration in Kingston's political turmoil and the song proved to be as pertinent to world wide strife and confusion as it was to downtown Kingston. 'Fire A Mus Mus Tail' allowed the song's beautiful rhythm plenty of space to run after the vocal had finished. Based on the Jamaican folk saying ' Fire Deh A Mus Mus Tail And I'm Think A Cool Breeze' which means that there is a fire blowing at the tail of a mouse but he believes he is feeling the effects of a cool breeze. The translation is that we remain unaware of impending danger until it actually overtakes us... don't forget that the mouse has a very long tail. 'Very Well' was a huge hit and Sound Systems in Kingston and London would compete to run cut after cut after cut of this celebrated rhythm. Perhaps two full length cuts might prove a bit too much for the casual listener but they will serve only to whet the appetite of music lovers from the seventies. The set also features alternate vocal and dub takes to 'Lawless Society' that differ to those on 'Well Charged: Channel One'. Only ever released on a seven inch single over a decade after it was recorded this track did not feature on Channel One's 'Best Of Wailing Soul' set. Incidentally The Wailing Souls had returned to Jo Jo to record the song and it was to be the last session on Maxfield Avenue before the Channel One studio was shut down for good.

The Wailing Souls' records for Channel One had ensured that they were now in the upper echelons of Jamaican vocal groups and their success prompted Mr. Dodd to start dusting down his tapes and begin compiling his 'Soul And Power' set although it still did not see the light of day for a few more years. Their artistic and financial success allowed The Wailing Souls to leave Jo Jo and establish their own Massive label yet there was no rancour in this parting of the ways and they continued to use both The Revolutionaries and the Channel One Studio for their own productions. 'Feel The Spirit' and 'Bredda Gravalicious' were huge hits in 1977 and 1978 and they were included on the 'Wild Suspense' album, released on Massive in Jamaica and on Island/Mango throughout the rest of the world. This at least brought them the international attention that they so richly deserved. They were particularly popular in the USA and Pipe and Bread would eventually relocate and settle in America. The Wailing Souls could no wrong. Two huge hits for Channel One stalwarts sly & Robbie, 'Old Broom' and 'Sugar Plum Plum' on their Taxi label, were key works of the early dance hall era which true to form, found The Wailing Souls at the forefront yet again as they adapted their style to fit with the back to basics approach of The Roots Radics. 'Fire House Rock' and 'Kingdom Rise Kingdom Fall' for Henry 'Junjo' Lawes made full use of all the lessons that had been learnt down on Maxfield Avenue and their great songs were again matched by rhythms of equal intensity and brilliance. These were extremely busy times for the group and, as well as recording a string of popular albums for Junjo released internationally by Greensleeves, they also made an excellent 'showcase style' long playing set for Linval Thompson, 'Wailing' released on Jah Guidance, which included the heartfelt 'Face The Devil' and a series of albums for Delroy Wright's Live & Learn label. Never afraid to mix the old with the new The Wailing Souls sung over many of the older songs that they had originally recorded for Studio One and as the decade drew to a close Jamaica's digital revolution did not leave them behind either. The seven inch single 'Dog Bite' for King Jammy's was a sizeable hit and the subsequent album, the sorely neglected, 'Stormy Night' released on Rohit in the USA, was an artistic triumph despite its somewhat less than inspiring cover art and lack of any real promotion.

As the nineties progressed The Wailing Souls, now consisting of the two core members of Pipe and Bread, and based in Southern California, signed to Sony and released 'All Over The World' in 1992. There were the inevitable complaints that The Wailing Souls had 'sold out' as the album made full use of all the latest USA studio cutting edge technology but this was a meaningless accusation that completely missed the point. When 'Shark Attack' was lifted from the album and released on a Chaos seven inch single it sounded as good as anything The Wailing Souls had ever recorded. Which means it sounded as good as anything anyone had ever recorded. As Pipe pointed out at the time their music was aimed at everybody and not just long time fans. He was proved right when the album was nominated for a Grammy in 1993 and videos from the album were played constantly on MTV. The Wailing Souls always did far more than reliving past glories by continuing to make music that mattered throughout the nineties and on into the new millennium and they regularly release new albums in their adopted home of America. In 1998 they moved almost as far as they could get from their Jamaican roots when they released 'Psychedelic Souls' on Pow Wow which featured their versions of sixties rock classics such as The Who's 'My Generation' and The Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. In direct contrast to this, and as if to answer back their critics, Pipe and Bread made a spectacular return to their roots in 2003 with the release of the 'Square Deal' album on Studio One where, reunited with Mr. Dodd as if the intervening thirty years had been a mere twinkling of an eye, instant brand new classics were created with the blending of new Wailing Souls songs and evergreen Studio One rhythms such as Carlton & His Shoes' 'Love To Share' and The Wailers' 'I Stand Predominate/Predominant'. Much, much more than an exercise in nostalgia this set proved to any doubters that the music of The Wailing Souls, now spanning over four decades, really is timeless in its appeal and that it will always continue to remain open to any number of different approaches. Pipe always claimed that their music was years ahead of its time and that it is only now that people are catching up with them.

The Wailing Souls are important, not only because of the beauty and brilliance of their music but also because they are still making music that is relevant in 2003. That The Wailing Souls have gone full circle from Studio One in 1970 and back there again in 2003 speaks volumes for the timelessness and continued relevance of Jamaican harmony singing for, as has been said before and doubtless be said again, those who have not been allowed other means of expression have to sing in order for their voices to be heard. What a joy it is to be able to state without fear of contradiction the The Wailing Souls have yet to pass their creative peak. Listen and enjoy the music that they made down in Channel One in the seventies and you will understand at once how and why their success has lasted for so long.

And there's always much, much more to come....

Harry Hawke - December 2003

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