Down Santic Way
Peace And Love Dub - Augustus Pablo
Problems # 2 - Leonard Santic All Stars
I'm A Free Man - Freddie McKay
Santic Special (V1) - Leonard Santic All Stars
Hap Ki Do - Augustus Pablo
Tom Shooter - Jah Lloyd
Shooter Dub - King Tubby¹s
Columbo - Augustus Pablo
Special Branch - Leonard Santic All Stars
Late At Night - William Shakepare (G. Isaacs)
Late Hour - I Roy
Santic Rock - Leonard Santic All Stars
Yankee Kankee - Jah Mojo
Down Santic Way - Big Joe
Santic In Dub - Leonard Santic All Stars
Children - Leonard Santic All Stars
Truth And Truth (D.J. Version) - Jah Mojo
I Don't Want To Lose You - Paul Whiteman
|The people of Jamaica
have always taken music seriously yet it is nothing short of miraculous
that one island in the Caribbean could have exerted such a massive
musical influence worldwide not only in the actual sound of music but,
more importantly, in how it is now understood and listened to. It is an
oft-repeated truism that more Jamaicans have made a record per head of
population than anywhere else in the world but relatively few have
managed to make long term careers in the music business. The history of
Jamaican music abounds with literally thousands of names that have
enjoyed their fleeting spell in the limelight and then returned to their
day jobs. Only a select few have significantly influenced the sound and
direction that the music has taken and there names are usually well
known and well respected both inside and outside of reggae circles. Even
fewer can claim to have influenced the course of the music not just once
but twice yet Leonard Chin is one of this handful of people. His first
releases were credited to Anthony Goodwin and Leonardo Chinour but he
became known simply as 'Santic' after the name of his label which was
derived from San from Leonard's girlfriend, Sandra, and tic from the
legendary Atlantic label.
"Anthony is my middle name and Goodwin is my Mother's maiden name. You can't have a singer called Leonard Chin!"
One of Jamaica's most creative and musical record producers his name has remained relatively unsung outside of students of his music for, in a genre dominated by excess, Leonard Chin's musical reputation rests on two very compact and concentrated bodies of work. Both markedly different the first, showcased on the Pressure Sounds release 'An Even Harder Shade Of Black' (PSCD001) and continued on this release, dates from between 1973 and 1975 when Leonard was at the centre of Kingston's musical maelstrom. The second comes from the latter half of that decade where, now based in London, Leonard went on to produce music in the UK Lovers Rock style which has subsequently come to be regarded quite simply as definitive examples of the art. This set rounds up some loose ends from that first Pressure Sounds release and further demonstrates Leonard Chin's wholly original approach to making music. Much has been added here to the musical content of that initial release but little could be added to Steve Barker's original incisive sleeve notes...
The first son and second child in his family of five sisters and three brothers Leonard grew up in Kingston and also in the rural tranquility of Clarendon:
"I was born in Kingston Public Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica in 1953 and I grew up in Jones Town until my Father went to England and I moved to Clarendon where I lived with my Dad's family in the country but when I was fourteen I moved back to Kingston. I went to Infant and Primary School in Clarendon and Boys Town School and Vauxhall Secondary School in Kingston."
There were no musical antecedents in the Chin family but Leonard's musical education as a young man came from an extremely eclectic range of experiences.
"My father was a baker but my Mum sings well. She was always singing hymns like 'How Great Thou Art' around the house. When I was in the country before I was a teenager I was living in a district called Jericho near Kellitts and part of my influences there was a local Sound System called Sir George. his Dad was the Mayor of Clarendon at one point. He would play in the town centre. this was the days of 'Oil In My Lamp' by Monty Morris and 'Never You Change' by The Maytals and the town was so close that when the wind take the sound you could hear it in Jericho. Then there was the radio with Ska and Rocksteady and shows like 'Calypso Corner' where you'd hear Calypso, Bossa Nova and Merengue."
The singers of choice in the Chin household were suave and sophisticated such as Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole and Brook Benton. Leonard would return to their smooth sounds when he eventually moved to the UK but his first foray into production was with a startlingly different sound known as 'Rebel Rock'. From a very early age Leonard knew that music would eventually be his occupation.
"I always used to sing. I used to draw record labels a lot because, even at fourteen, that's what I really wanted, I always knew it was what I wanted to do."
But when he first left school, after originally considering a career as a car mechanic, he began an apprenticeship as a photographic technician.
"I left school in 1969 and started to be a darkroom technician as an apprentice at the University up at Mona through a friend of my Stepfather. I worked for The Gleaner for a year after that but I was sacked for standing up to the boss!"
By then Leonard had also started to stand up tall in the music business moving and playing with some of Kingston's many musicians. Unlike a lot of music lovers who followed Sound Systems he was determined to be actively involved in actually making music rather than carrying the next man's speaker boxes and so never became involved in Kingston's dance hall circuit.
"I was always the quiet one... never really into the dance business. I was more interested in going to the studio and making music than following a sound. I was hanging about with a group named Charles Hanna & The Graduates and I would get the occasional stage lick. I just wanted to get in there. I didn't have any fear. I would leave out places like Tubby's at eleven o'clock at night and walk back to Eastern Kingston."
Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke was also starting in the business at this time and the two became good friends and musical associates. Leonard's first recording was as a singer with a song called 'I Am Lonely':
"I met Gussie around town. He came out about the same time with U-Roy and 'The Higher The Mountain' on Errol Dunkley's rhythm track. I started as a singer. It was in the darkroom where I designed the first Santic label and the Puppy label too and my very first record 'I Am Lonely' came out on Puppy. It was my first time... my own production and composition. It was recorded at Randy's and I liked it at the time! it was credited to Leonardo Chinour. That's the first song came out on the Puppy label. Nothing never happened with it so I said; 'Gussie. You want this label there?' I gave the label to Gussie."
Realising that perhaps his future lay not in singing but in production and arrangement Leonard decided that he had to work with one of his musical heroes, the young Augustus Pablo, whose recent arrival on the scene had signalled a completely new direction in Jamaican music. they got together early in 1973 and everything that Leonard had been working towards finally started to become a reality:
"At the time I thought I was OK but working with people like Mojo and Pablo it was more about writing, the arranging and the production and I realised this part was nice. You don't have to sing so I didn't pursue it. I was into Pablo from 'Java' and I met him down at Randy's and we start talking but my friend Carl Prehay was more of a talker than me! Carl was a good friend of mine. I knew Carl's Mum who was a very nice lady. She used to treat me like a son. I was already doing music and Carl wanted to do something as well so I brought him in. we said we'd like you to do a tune but Pablo said he only did tunes for himself. I thought maybe one day... and eventually I was going upstairs in Randy's intending to do another mix of the rhythm and Pablo was there so I asked him again. He said 'You'll have to ask my manager Paul' who said 'He seems alright' and so we went downstairs, drank some cold beer. I had a nice draw with me too! We took the next two hours in the studio and ran through 'Pablo In Dub' a couple of times. The next one was a take!"
'Pablo In Dub' was a huge hit and immediately established Leonard Chin's Santic Records as a name to watch out for and a force to be reckoned with. Its rapid rise to popularity soon aroused professional jealousy when it began to get regular plays on Jamaican radio for, at the time, it was practically unheard of to hear a Jamaican produced 'local' instrumental record over the airwaves:
"It started getting radio play and everyone said how come they're playing this? It's an instrumental record. At that time the radio would only play vocal records. They would hardly ever play deejay records either. Big youth's 'S90 Skank' was one notable exception. There was a radio programme called 'Dulcimina' which was a talk show and one Saturday night right through it was 'Pablo In Dub' playing in the background. On the jukebox... in the bar... it was all 'Pablo In Dub'! I had my friends at the radio station. Sometimes you have to reach out to people. It depends on what you want."
And Leonard never forgot those who had helped him to fulfill his dream:
"If a man can do a favour for me there's nothing wrong with me making him feel good as well. To me that's the way it works."
Horace Andy was then approached by Leonard to sing over the 'Pablo In Dub' and 'Lovers Mood' rhythms and was so moved by what he heard that he wrote and voiced both 'Children Of Israel' and 'Problems' within two hours of first hearing the rhythms. The melody of 'Children Of Israel' was reminiscent of a steel pan Rocksteady tune, 'Sleepy Ludy', that Lynn Taitt & The Jets had released for Joe Gibbs in the late sixties and it was Carl Prehay who delved back into the vaults for Jah Lloyd's biting gunman attack 'Tom Shooter' on a version of Slim Smith's 'Give Me Love'. Being a musician gave Leonard a valuable insight and it did not take long for him to assess and master the intricacies of arranging and producing records. A demo of a song was cut that Leonard had intended for Roman Stewart but he gave it to Gregory Isaacs and Gregory voiced 'I'll Be Around' the next day. From its original inception strictly name brand artists were to be found on the Santic label and hot record followed hit record throughout 1973 and 1974. Leonard opened an office in 1974 at the corner of Beeston Street at 127 King street above The Wailers record shop and he found himself in the position that he had always wanted to be in: one of the prime movers on Kingston's musical circuit.
"At the time I had an office at Beeston Street. Hudson had an office up there, Wailers had their Tuff Gong Record Shop and Bill Hutchinson had an office. On Wednesdays all of us would meet up after the movies, Gussie, Pablo, Jacob Miller, we'd go wherever the best movie was playing whether it was Regal or Carib Theatre. The Kung Fu movies were strong at the time."
The Kung Flu surfaced on Augustus Pablo's version to Freddie McKay's 'I'm A Free Man' named 'Hap Ki Do' after a popular Kung Fu film starring Angela Mao. The same kind of youthful enthusiasm amongst this elite crowd would take Jamaican music to previously unimagined and uncharted territory where the producer's role, in combination with that of the engineer and mixer, began to assume a serious and at times almost mystical significance. Steve Barker described what could happen when King Tubby's was let loose on a rhythm:
"But with Tubby's there was more experimentation on the board with the sound mix and his reputation was such that producers would give him space to do what he did best - the gentleman technician and dub master supreme!"
When Tubby's mixed the version sides of the Santic releases his work was always credited however Tubby's was a very busy man and not always available. Sometimes he would be involved in the more mundane aspects of the studio and would pass the work on to someone else to do for him:
"I always used to go to King Tubby's to cut dubs. I voiced the 'Chalice Blaze' album with Jah Whoosh down there but Gussie Clarke did the mix. It was a night at Tubby's when he was working on a television so he asked Gussie to do it for him."
The histories of Jamaican music have rightfully set King Tubby's and Errol T on a pedestal as the main men at the board whose skills provided the now legendary master mixes but Leonard, and Roy Cousins too, had a different take on this accepted wisdom and both were insistent on promoting the status of the relatively unsung Dennis Thompson. His official role was to cut the masters in Randy's cutting room but he would add extra effects and remix the version sides of the records directly as the acetates were being cut on the lathe:
"The B-sides of the records were usually mixed at Randy's. The person who did it was Dennis Thompson who used to do the mastering while Errol was engineering in the studio. He had a different kind of equalising thing. It was all done during the mastering.!"
There was an openness and friendly rivalry among the producers, musicians and artists that is perhaps difficult to comprehend in the harshly competitive business driven world of 2005 but everyone then was working towards a common goal and they were all in the same thing together. Rhythms would be 'swapped' or traded if a producer felt they were right for a work that they had in mind and Leonard used a cut of Ossie Hibbert's production of Gregory Isaacs singing over The Paragons' 'My satisfaction' for I-Roy to voice his superlative 'Late Hour' over. The record was originally released on Phil Pratt's aptly named Sounds United label credited to William Shakepare with The Graduates band. Leonard also paid Gregory 'a money' although Gregory's voice is only heard in the background of the I-Roy version. The origin of the vocal track for Leonard's next I-Roy outing 'Yamaha Ride' has long been a subject of heated debate and, even though Leonard was able to throw a little light on the subject, it still remains uncertain if the full vocal was ever actually released:
"The vocal to I-Roy's 'Yamaha Ride' is a next rhythm that I swapped with a brethren named Bill hutchinson. I can't remember what I did swap for it. I got two or three tracks but that's the only one I used. I don't even know if the vocal did come out."
Bill Hutchinson later recorded another version to 'Lovers Mood' entitled 'Unchangeable Love' but things at Beeston Street didn't always go so well:
"One day this guy came up there and told me his name was Burning Spear and that he was interested in recording. I knew he had done some things for Studio One. I said that I would like to work with him but I'm going to England... and the next thing I knew was the 'Marcus Garvey' album was out."
With the benefit of hindsight it is perhaps too easy to look back and see that this was a classic case of missed opportunities but at the time Santic's move to the UK made far more economic sense:
"Everybody was coming to England..."
The rest of the world was at last showing an interest in the music coming out of Jamaica and the international deals that could hopefully lead to a worldwide audience were seen as the way forward for all of Kingston's aspiring artists and producers. Leonard had already signed a deal in Kingston with Brent Clarke's Attra label and the long-playing release of 'Jah Guide' in the UK had introduced the music of Santic to a wider audience. It was essential for their music to reach the new international market but Leonard's arrival in the UK in 1975 coincided with the demise of Trojan Records.
"Everybody was coming to Trojan but by the time I got there something was going wrong..."
The release of 'A Darker Shade Of Black' on the UK Santic label, a collection of many of the label's recent seven inch Jamaican hits, helped to broaden Santic's existing UK cult appeal. However Leonard soon realised that his roots based Jamaican music was not right for the English market and he returned to his first love of ballads and love songs and soon became one of the key movers in the nascent London Lovers Rock scene. He worked with Carroll Thompson, Trevor Walters, Jean Adebambo & Donna Rhoden and the best of his UK recordings are conveniently compiled and collected together on the 'Santic Collection' album (SAN CD001) but that's another story...
"Nobody wants to put in. When I hear people talk it seems to be just the old stuff but I think the market is open for something fresh and new. People keep repeating the same thing over and over. every other category of music is making and creating new things and I want to make an album that I would go in the shop and buy. I want to like every track... if you plan and do it right it can make a difference."
The twice proven Santic standards will ensure that the results should be very special indee.
Harry Hawke -January 2005
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