The Travellers - Black Black Minds
Black Black Minds - The Travellers
Know Yourself - The Travellers
Jah Gave Us This World - The Travellers
Natty Dread at the Controls - U Black
False Leaders - The Travellers
Peace And Rest - The Travellers
Peace And Rest Version - Prince Jammy
The Girl I Left Behind - The Travellers
Tell Me Why - The Travellers
How Long - The Travellers
How Long Version - Prince Jammy
Poor Man Cry - The Travellers
Jammy's A Do It - U Black
Keep On Trying - The Travellers
Keep On Trying Version - Prince Jammy
We Got To Leave - The Travellers
|"...but I always
prefer singers. I prefer singers and instruments: horns and harmonies."
The significance of close harmony singing to the development of Jamaican music can never be exaggerated and, while many of the island's countless vocal groups of the sixties and seventies have subsequently attained legendary status, many more have been all but forgotten outside of the Reggae cognoscenti. The USA vocal groups of the fifties and sixties, who had often been the prime source of inspiration for their Jamaican counterparts, faded from prominence in the seventies but the tradition of harmony singing continued in Jamaica although the popularity and near ubiquity of deejay and dub music made it increasingly difficult for vocal groups to be heard. A number still managed to make a lasting impact despite the prevailing styles and fashions of the time. Perhaps the most notable of these was the trio of Black Uhuru who, in the late seventies and early eighties, took the sound of the Waterhouse ghetto to the rest of the world. others have remained unjustly overlooked. The early career of The Travellers, a Waterhouse quartet consisting of Neville, 'Lerch', 'Hoffman' and 'Fray' was remarkably similar to that of Black Uhuru but their name is now unheard outside of Reggae's scholarly circles. The Mighty Travellers are revered for three extremely rare seven inch releases on their own Travellers label: 'South Africa', an indictment of that country's inhuman apartheid regime, backed by a searing King Tubby's dub entitled 'From Cape To Cairo', 'Close The Gate Dread' and a next vocal to the rhythm 'It's A Long Long Time' both credited to the Black Aces and their one long playing release 'Black Black Minds', produced by the legendary Prince Jammy's before he was crowned King.
King Jammy's is renowned worldwide, and rightly so, for his pioneering music that led the digital Reggae revolution of the eighties and, when this breakthrough finally came, it was steeped in old school Reggae values. These values had been learned the hard way as Prince Jammy's worked, studied and assimilated all that was going on around him during his long apprenticeship with King Tubby's at his Waterhouse headquarters at 18 Dromilly Avenue. Jammy's own productions during this formative period were roots orientated and many of the best of these can be found on the Pressure Sounds release 'The Crowning Of Prince Jammy' (PSCD 25) where the story of his time with King Tubby's, as he graduated from resident engineer to record production, is affectionately documented in the incisive liner notes. Jammy's was, and remains to this day, seriously involved in every aspect of the Reggae business from the grass roots upwards and this has always given him a shrewd insight into what was going on and, more importantly, what was going to be going on in the future. However it was not always easy to predict the coming trends but he was always willing to nurture new talent in his quest to establish a sound of his own. In 1977 he embarked on two album projects: the first was a collection that heralded the international phenomenon of Black Uhuru while the other, from The Travellers, only ever saw the light of day in the UK on a very limited pressing before the group broke up never to record again.
Jammy's had a home grown stable of readily available talent to work with from his position in the heart of the Waterhouse area and The Travellers started out in the same way as the loose local collective of harmony groups that included The Royals, The Jayes and Black Uhuru endlessly practicing and perfecting their art in the yards of Kingston 11. Two members of The Travellers, along with Errol Nelson who also sang with both The Royals and The Jayes, had previously worked with Jammy's helping to fill out the harmonies on the debut Black Uhuru album 'Love Crisis'. originally released on Jammy's own label it was later re-released at the height of Black Uhuru's international fame on the Greensleeves label in the UK and retitled 'Black Sounds Of Freedom'. It demonstrated that their approach had not burst fully formed onto the world stage but was, in fact, part of a long established tradition.
"Those set of songs with Black Uhuru was my first real set of songs... It was time to go with some new artists with a new sound. The Travellers were a new name so I decided to go with them." Prince Jammy's
The recording of 'Black Black Minds' was not a hurried affair. All the songs on the album had been fully considered, worked out and thoroughly rehearsed by The Travellers before they ever sang them to Jammy's; there was to be no using up of old rhythm tracks on this project and Jammy's organised three separate sessions to lay brand new rhythms in order to get a full and varied sound right across the album. The first was at Harry J's with Sly & Robbie and The Aggrovators followed by two further sessions with The High Times Band at Channel One and Joe Gibbs. The vocals were then added at King Tubby's in a week of painstaking endeavour. Vocal harmony had to be perfect as Roy Cousins of The Royals recalled:
"We had to learn everything properly and had to be rehearsed for the one take. That's how we learnt music. Later on it became easier but we, the older generation, had to learn the hard way. We had to sing harmony and sing it properly so you either stood the test of time or just leave the business alone." Roy Cousins
To invest so heavily in a traditional vocal album, in terms of both time and money, at a time when seven inch singles featuring deejays and endless dub albums were ruling the roost demonstrates a willful defiance in the face of current trends. This same single mindedness would categorise Jammy's work during the following decade where, once again working against prevailing trends, Jammy's adventurousness with computer driven rhythms would transform the sound of Reggae music. Unfortunately even after Jammy's and The Travellers exacting work on the project the 'Black Black Minds' album did not capture the imagination of record buyers and The Travellers chose to retire from the music business after making only a handful of recordings. They remain one of that extremely select band of Jamaican artists who can actually be accused of not releasing enough records and their work is long overdue for re-release, re-assessment and re-appraisal. When he re-discovered the tapes of 'Black Black Minds' earlier this year King Jammy's excitedly described it as "finding gold". We are sure you will agree...
Harry Hawke - August 2005
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