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Studio One DJ's 2 (SJRCD 137 - 2006)

Dennis Alcapone - Fever Teaser
Prince Jazzbo - Pepper Rock
Carey Johnson - Correction Train
Bobby Jackie & Soul Defenders - Reggae Wiggle
Prince Francis - Ethiopia
Brigadier Jerry - Ram Dance Master
King Stitt - No Man Version
Little Joe - Gun court
Prince Jazzbo - Crab Walking (Discomix)
Lone Ranger - Tribute To Bob Marley
Soul Vendors - Whipping The Prince
Prince Francis - Rocking The Machine
King Cry Cry - I Had A Talk
Jim Brown - Clippin'
Jah Jesco - West Gone Black
Big Joe - Get Out Baldhead
Dennis Alcapone - Home Version
Lone Ranger - Keep A Coming A The Dance
 
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.

Yet 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 Spanish Town.

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 deejaying piece.

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 delivery.

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 and Japan.

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".

Steve Barrow
(Interview with Dennis Alcapone by Ray Hurford in More Axe, Black Star Books London, 1987)

 
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