|This second volume of deejay tunes from the vast
Studio One catalogue takes the listener a little deeper into the
dancehall of the 1970s. Considering that deejay versions were often
derided at the time they were first issued - the grounds usually being
that they weren't as 'good' as records by singers and instrumentalists,
or that they were at best ephemeral, disposable and almost certain not
to last - then it must be doubly galling for all the guardians of taste
to find that this stuff still survives and even continues to find an
audience decades after it was first deemed inessential gimmickry.
the recordings gathered here can offer an invaluable record of Jamaican
street slang, dancehall vibes and sheer good-humour, still capable of
getting through to us today, in spite of all the competition. Simply
put, they are fun, and the rhythms they utilise are among the most
versioned in Jamaica, classic Studio One backing tracks. Perhaps not
coincidentally, several of the tracks manifest a strong influence from
the legendary mic-man Dennis Alcapone, emphasising that U-Roy and Big
Youth were not the only influence on dancehall deejays.
1. Dennis Alcapone 'FEVER TEASER'
Riding a version of Horace Andy's 'Fever', this is Alcapone at
his best, showing exactly the qualities that enabled El Paso Hi-Fi, the
sound he deejayed from 1968 until the early 70s, to become a champion
draw. It was only a small sound (by Jamaican standards) in terms of its
power and number of speaker boxes, but with Alcapone and a number of
other soon-to become celebrated deejays - Dillinger, Ranking Joe, Samuel
The First, Prince Francis - on the mic. Alcapone went on to record one
of the all-time great deejay albums called, 'Forever Version'; this
track, along with several other rare cuts including 'Home Version'
below, never actually made it onto that album.
2. Prince Jazzbo 'PEPPER ROCK'
Prince Jazzbo toasts a version of Burning Spear's 'Rocking
Time' in classic style; like Alcapone, Prince Jazzbo started out on a
"little three-box sound" (called The Whip) in Spanish Town. Like El
Paso, The Whip was able to vanquish far more powerful sound systems in
clashes, due in no small measure to the abilities of Prince Jazzbo (Linval
Carter) on the microphone. Jazzbo made a series of excellent 45's for Mr
Dodd, some of which were collected on an equally fine LP ('Choice Of
Colours'), which came out more than 20 years after most of its tracks
were recorded. In the 1970's, he worked for many of the leading
producers of the day, like Lee Perry (the album 'Natty Pass Through Rome
aka 'Ital Corner'), Glen Brown and Bunny Lee. By the mid-decade he had
started his own labels - Mr Funny and Briscoe - on which he issued a
series of idiosyncratic masterpieces, often in a militant vein ('Step
Forward Youth' and 'Every Nigga Is A Winner'). By the 1980's, he had
launched another label, Ujama, on which he was to issue some of the
first digital music ever recorded in Jamaica. Less active in recent
years, he still records occasionally, distributing from his home in
3. Carey Johnson 'CORRECTION TRAIN'
This is a deejay version of 'Selection Train' by the Selected
Few, which utilises the Studio One version of the Wailers 'Duppy
Conqueror'. With fellow deejay Lloyd Young, Carey Johnson went on to
record for Alvin 'GG' Ranglin, Prince Tony Robinson and Joe Gibbs - all
under the name Carey & Lloyd. This track features Johnson - who also
recorded for Coxsone under the name 'Wildman' - doing his interpretation
of the then popular Alcapone style, complete with Dennis' characteristic
'Yeah Yeah yeah!' interjection. Johnson also did a version of Horace
Andy's 'Fever' for the label.
4. Soul Defenders 'REGGAE WIGGLE'
As on the preceding track, this uses the version of 'Duppy
Conqueror' rhythm, this time with Robert 'Bobby' Kalphat - credited on
the label as Bobby Jackie - again copying Alcapone's nursery rhyme
style. The Soul Defenders, originally from Linstead, were the last great
studio band to work for Coxsone.
5. Prince Francis 'ETHIOPIA'
A version of 'Java', (originally recorded by Clive Chin at
Randy's studio as a melodica instrumental by the late Augustus Pablo)
this recut features Prince Francis, who worked alongside Alcapone on El
Paso Hi-Fi, and who also made a handful of superb deejay tracks for
Coxsone. The rhythm track features Cedrim Im Brooks on tenor sax - it
was also issued as an instrumental using the same title as this
6. Brigadier Jerry 'RAM DANCE MASTER'
Using as its foundation a version of Alton Elis' rocksteady
classic 'I'm Just A Guy' (also known as 'Vanity' by Sugar Minott), the
mix presented here includes elements of the original Alton Ellis classic
(the horns and guitar chips), augmented by overdubbed drum and bass from
the late 1970's, and then voiced in exemplary fashion by Brigadier Jerry
in the early 1980's. Briggy's lyric tells the listener exactly what he
does - he packs out the dancehall - and hoe he does it, in exemplary
old-school style. Although by comparison with most other Jamaican
deejays Brigadier is under-recorded, his work for Coxsone is uniformly
excellent. Brigadier went on to make two of the biggest hits of the
early 1980's in 'Pain' and 'Jamaica Jamaica', although to date he has
only made 4 albums. He still records to this day and deejays on sets
like Jah Love Muzik and U-Roy's re-activated Stur-Gav Hi-Fi.
7. King Stitt 'NO MAN VERSION'
The rhythm track here is a stripped-down mix of 'No Man Is An
Island', Dennis Brown's cover version of the Van Dykes' Texas soul
ballad, again utilising overdubbed drum and bass parts from the late
1970's. Stitt - a fixture on Coxsone's sound systems since the late
1950's - does his best to update his vintage toasting style for the
mid-1970's audience, again incorporating elements of the Alcapone
8. Little Joe 'GUN COURT'
Riding a version of Larry Marshall's 'Mean Girl', this was the
only side released by Joe on Studio One. The other track credited to
him, a version of 'Rainbow' called 'Red Robe' is in fact by Big Joe (Joe
Spalding). Joe recorded this one afternoon after school; in those early
days he was known as 'DJ Jolly', before being renamed Ranking Joe by
Prince Tony Robinson. One of the most successful sound system deejays -
he deejayed U-Roy's Stur Gav Hi-Fi before moving onto the champion sound
Ray Symbolic, Joe made sides for a variety of producers and cut
excellent albums for for Prince Tony, Jo Jo Hookim, Dennis Brown, as
well as setting up his own label Sharp Axe in the late 1970's. In the
mid-1980's, Joe took up residence in Bronx, New York, from where he
launched his Ranking Joe Universal label. Since the mid-1990s, Joe has
toured extensively, from Europe and the USA to Australia, New Zealand
9. Prince Jazzbo 'CRABWALKING (Discomix)'
The rhythm here is Horace Andy's 'Skylarking', and was
originally issued circa 1979 as a title in Coxsone's 'Discomix' series
of 12" singles. Jazzbo's lyric and laconic delivery enhance the
sentiment of Horace Andy's original song, before segueing into a lively
dub mix in the latter half of the track.
10. Lone Ranger 'TRIBUTE TO BOB MARLEY'
Another Coxsone recut - this time versioning Derrick Harriott's
'Solomon', which was voiced for Coxsone by a young Dennis Brown. Lone
Ranger incorporates snatches of Marley songs - 'War', 'Exodus', 'Get Up
Stand Up' - in his tribute to the "Superstar Bob Marley".
11. Soul Vendors 'WHIPPING THE PRINCE'
Alton Ellis - on one of the few instances where an established
singer attempted a deejay track - calling the tune or 'dissing' on rival
producer Prince Buster. The rhythm track is a reggae adaptation of NY
session drummer Bernard Purdie's 'Funky Donkey', with master saxophonist
Roland Alphonso prominent in the mix.
12. Prince Francis 'ROCKING MACHINE'
The rhythm here is a version of 'Flying Machine', originally a
minor UK pop hit for Cliff Richard in 1971. Coxsone had a young Freddie
McGregor do-over the song in Jamaica, where it had to compete with a hit
version produced by Lynford 'Popatop' Anderson, which in its turn
spawned a whole series of versions. Unlike many other rhythms, it has
never been revived since those early days. Again Prince Francis shows a
markedly strong Alcapone influence in his toasting.
13. King Cry Cry 'I HAD A TALK'
Before he became known as Prince Far I, this gruff-voiced
deejay went under the name of King Cry Cry, supposedly because when he
chanted his lyrics on the mic, he would often sound as if he was sobbing
or crying. This cut also saw release in the UK in 1971, on the Banana
label, with Burning Spear's 'Zion Higher' as the b-side. King Cry Cry
changed his name to Prince Far I in 1974, and started his own 'Cry Tuff'
label. He later became very popular in the UK, touring there in the late
1970s/early 1980s. Tragically he was shot dead in his home in Kingston
on 15th September 1983, one year short of his 40th birthday.
15. Jim Brown 'CLIPPIN''
Again using the updated 'I'm Just A Guy' rhythm track, this was
probably conceived as a response to Yellowman ('Mr Chin'), who gets a
name check at the beginning. Jim Brown's lyric, about his friend called
'Kipling' (?) are typical of the period, that is not 'significant' but
sounding just right as he drops them over the rhythm: "Me 'ave a little
idrin name Kipperlin, own a shop up a Constant Spring, Sunday mornin' me
go fi buy chicken, I'm don 'ave no chicken , only tin mutton...." Jim
released his debut vinyl album on Studio One - under his name Jim Nastic
- the year before Mr Dodd died. Jim's biggest hits were all for Studio
One - 'Calypso Calypso', 'Love In The Dance' and 'Raggamuffin' -
although he also recorded a few sides for fellow deejay Jah Thomas and
Martin 'Mandingo' Williams in the first half of the 1980s.
14. Jah Jesco 'WEST GONE BLACK'
About Jah Jesco, I know nothing, except the titles of the three
records he made for Studio One; this cut, a version of Alexander Henry's
brilliant 'Please Be True', is probably his best effort. The other two
tracks recorded by Jah Jesco are called 'Warning' and 'Spawning', the
latter in combination with the equally obscure deejay Checkers.
16. Big Joe 'GET OUT BALDHEAD'
Big Joe (Joseph Spalding) was one of the more prolific deejays
of the early 1970s, recording for a variety of labels and producers
including Harry Mudie, Bunny Lee, Winston Edwards, Lloyd Daley and
Shelter Rock, as well as for Studio One. He vanished from the scene at
the end of the 1970s, current whereabouts unknown. This cut uses the
oft-versioned 'Love Me Forever' rhythm (Carlton & The Shoes 1968) and
seems to be a response to various sides by the then dominant deejay Big
Youth, who released several cuts of his version of this particular
rhythm. Here Big Joe delivers his take on Jah Youth's charming
'chanting' style, strongly reminiscent of a bible psalm.
17. Dennis Alcapone 'HOME VERSION'
Another Alcapone version making its first appearance on album,
the legendary deejay answering Ken Boothe's vocal on 'Home Home Home'.
At this time, Alcapone was number one deejay in Jamaica, and it shows in
his relaxed, confident delivery.
18. Lone Ranger 'KEEP ON COMING'
Vin Gordon's composition 'Heavenless' first appeared on the Don
Drummond Memorial Album in 1969; in the late 1970s, Coxsone issued an
extended mix of this classic instrumental in his 12" Discomix series.
Lone Ranger voiced his lyrics - which both define and celebrate the role
of the deejay in the dancehall - on that version, which also benefitted
from an overdubbed guitar part by Ernest Ranglin, heard briefly here in
the dub portion. Ranger became one of the most successful deejays of the
early period of dancehall via his massive 'Barnabas Collins' hit for the
late Leon Synmoie, so it is entirely fitting that his should be the
valedictory track on this compilation. these sides hark back to a less
frenetic era; propelled by the immaculate Coxsone rhythm, supplied by
such as the Soul Vendors, Soul Defenders and others, it was a period
when nobody dreamed that deejay music would last; as Dennis Alcapone
once said: "...at first, it was just playing a sound system, enjoying my
music, enjoying the girls, and that was as far as it went. It was more
or less wake up in the morning, up to the camp where they sell the herb,
ideas come; write then down, to the sound in the night, sometimes to the
studio. Pick up a few girls, on the beach, go to bed, wake up, get a few
dollars from the producer. All I wanted to know was that I was living, I
had money in my pocket, like Dennis Brown says, just pocket money. It
can buy a few spliff and a box of beer. Put gas in your care, go down to
the beach and listen to the waves coming in".
(Interview with Dennis Alcapone by Ray Hurford in More Axe, Black Star
Books London, 1987)