Tag Archives: 17 North Parade

First class rocksteady on new compilation

unnamedOn Record Store Day 2016 reggae powerhouse VP’s reissue imprint 17 North Parade dropped a limited edition 7” box set collecting 14 rock steady gems. This release has now been expanded with another 26 cuts and released as a double CD celebrating the 50th anniversary of rock steady.

This comprehensive collection comes with timeless hits and ultra-rare gems showcasing the impact rock steady has had on Jamaican and popular music.

Rock steady only lasted for about two years – 1966-1968 – but is an undeniably influential genre with riddims that have been versioned and covered countless of times. The slow and melodious rock steady paved the way for the evolution of reggae and how it sounds today.

First Class Rock Steady shows many aspects of the genre and includes love songs, dance celebrations, conscious cuts and beautiful instrumentals played by some of Jamaica’s finest musicians, such as Tommy McCook, Lynn Taitt and Bobby Ellis.

Sensational songs like Hopeton Lewis’ Take It Easy, The Techniques’ You Don’t Care and Alton Ellis Rock Steady helped to put Jamaica on the musical map and the music still sounds fresh today.

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An excellent overview of King Jammy and his music

unnamedReggae and dancehall powerhouse VP Records continue their Reggae Anthology series with an excellent overview of King Jammy and his productions.

King Jammy – initially Prince Jammy but crowned after a sound system dance in 1985 – is one of Jamaica’s most successful and influential producers and mixing engineers responsible for several game-changers, including Wayne Smith’s massive hit Under Me Sleng Teng, which has since its release in 1985 been versioned a thousand times.

The new compilation Roots, Reality and Sleng Teng collects both culture and entertainment and is a comprehensive collection covering King Jammy’s productions throughout the various styles and eras of reggae, including the biblical messages of dread 70s roots to boastful early dancehall and ragga.

Collected are several well-known cuts, for example Johnny Osbourne’s Water Pumping, Junior Reid’s Boom-Shack-a-Lack, Half Pint’s Money Man Skank, Chaka Demus’ Original Kuff and Pinchers’ Bandelero.

But there are also a number of rare items to found. Check for example the 12” mix of Black Uhuru’s Bad Girl with deejaying from Scorcher & Nicodemus or The Fantells’ – previously known as Beltones – eerie, yet beautiful, Where You Gonna Run. Several of these rare cuts are also available on the vinyl release of this crucial anthology.

The three discs – including the DVD documentary King at the Controls – shows King Jammy’s range and diversity as a producer as well as his unique talent for keeping up with the times and driving the music forward.

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Only right tracks on new Gussie Clarke compilation

Gussie_Clark_-Gussie_Presenting_the_Right_TracksA few years ago I cried on Twitter about the need for a thorough Augustus “Gussie” Clarke anthology, and maybe someone heard my plea, because reggae powerhouse VP’s vintage imprint 17 North Parade can proudly present Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks.

This double disc features the original eleven track album of the same name complemented by no less than 29 more songs, including unreleased material from the same period, i.e. mid 70s. The set collects instrumentals, dub versions and vocal cuts from a plethora of talented singers and deejays, for example Leroy Sibbles, Gregory Isaacs, Horace Andy, Jacob Miller, Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, I Roy and Mikey Dread.

Augustus Clarke was born in 1954 and was only in his late teens when he started in the music industry. He was only 19 years old when he cut the original and exceptional debut albums Screaming Target (Big Youth) and Presenting I Roy (I Roy). He was one of the first so called rebel producers and has always managed to break new ground – check the use of violin on I Roy’s classical Black Man Time or Simplicity People’s K.G.’s Halfway Tree – and stay one step ahead of the current scene.

The sounds collected on these two discs are at times uplifting and joyous, but also haunting, ethereal and eerie. Augustus Clarke certainly had a great ear for arrangements and moods.

He has had an extremely successful career and today he’s one of the biggest music publishers in Jamaica, working largely behind the scenes. And Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks only tells one side of his career. In the 80s he scored a massive hit with Mighty DiamondsPass the Kouchie and re-invented reggae with Gregory Isaacs’ monster smash Rumours. But that’s two other stories, and hopefully two more anthologies.

Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks is available as double disc CD (with excellent liner notes by Harry Wise), single LP and digital download.

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A Gussie Clarke extravaganza from VP

Gussie_Clark_-Gussie_Presenting_the_Right_TracksVP Records’ vintage imprint 17 North Parade opens its vaults to present another crucial reissue, this time from one of the most influential Jamaican producers – Augustus ”Gussie Clarke”. He has consistently churned out hits since the 70s until today, and Gussie Presenting The Right Tracks, which was originally released in 1976, captures his early work during the so called golden era of reggae.

The reissue – which drops on July 22 – collects the original LP in its entirety with previously unreleased Gussie Clarke productions for the first time on CD. The double disc set will contain all re-mastered tracks along with extensive liner notes and the original LP artwork.

The cuts were originally recorded and mixed at Kingston’s legendary Channel One studio and King Tubby’s Tubby studio, and the collection includes Gussie Clarke’s work with a parade of Jamaican greats, including Horace Andy, Leroy Sibbles, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Delroy Wilson, Augustus Pablo, Leroy Smart and Jacob Miller.

“There’s no ‘how it comes about’ with these names. I’m that kind of person who’s always thinking outside the box. There wasn’t any logic to it! It’s just a love for the difference and the uniqueness of things. Everybody had a sound and a style and I’d switch the musicians round to get a different vibe and a different feel,” explains Gussie Clarke in the set’s liner notes, and adds:

“I had the songs and in those days compilations were a good idea. I said ‘why not?’ and ‘The Right Tracks’ is appropriate now because they are the right tracks.”

In addition to this 40 track album, there will be a vinyl companion piece (carrying the same name) of eleven tracks from the CD version available the same day.

And on August 5 the label drops a limited edition 7” vinyl box set of rare Gussie Clarke productions designed to augment the two CD collection. The set, entitled Gussie Presenting The Right Sevens, features original recordings of foundation classics from Leroy Smart and The Mighty Diamonds, rare Augustus Pablo and Mikey Dread sides and previously unreleased cuts from Leroy Sibbles and Tommy McCook.

The Right Tracks series is the first installment of several Gussie Glarke collections that will drop via VP Records this year. They will also unleash a newly-compiled LP of Gussie Clarke productions with reggae icon Augustus Pablo titled Born To Dub You plus a three disc Reggae Anthology for Gussie Clarke’s Music Works label slated for late 2014.

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A reggae legacy made available

VP Records’ subsidiary 17 North Parade has just re-issued Live at the Turntable Club. It’s the first ever live album recorded in Jamaica, and was originally issued on Trojan in 1975.

Dennis Brown, Delroy Wilson and Big Youth were all in their prime when this was recorded. The backing is provided by the always reliable Soul Syndicate. And the riddims are raw, sparse and with a no-nonsense approach. Just guitar, bass and drums engineered by King Tubby, Dennis Thompson and Errol Thompson.

Delroy Wilson and Big Youth rock their hit songs, while Dennis Brown performs the well-known Cassandra along with the lesser-known Rock With Me Baby and Give a Helping Hand.

The Turntable Club was the place to be in Kingston in the 70’s, and Winston “Merritone” Blake was the man in charge. The CD booklet includes a thorough interview with him, where he tells his story and gives a glance of a music industry full of hope and enthusiasm.

Live at the Turntable Club is a piece of music history made available for the first time in almost 40 years.

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The Cool Ruler still reigns

Last year when Gregory Isaacs died of lung cancer only 59 years old I put together a list with some of my favorite songs with the man called the Cool Ruler.

Almost all of these ten tunes – and about another 30 – are collected on the brand new compilation The Ruler, which also includes a DVD with a live performance at the Brixton Academy in London in 1984.

Gregory Isaacs certainly had one of the most distinctive and most recognizable voices in reggae music. He was vulnerable and intimate and always sounded like he had just been left by his woman for another man.

This smooth and crooning approach was particularly well-suited for heartfelt ballads, and Gregory Isaacs was a pioneer in the lovers rock genre with the gentle My Only Lover.

But he had another, more rootsy, side too. And he always sang those songs in the same honest and sensitive tone. Always easy-skanking and mellow, regardless of the lyrical content.

Both of these sides of him are showcased on The Ruler. It includes material from the early 70’s and his debut album All I Have is Love up until the 90’s and his momentous collaboration with producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke.

During these years Gregory Isaacs managed to work with several of the most acclaimed Jamaican producers and musicians. But he has also made a considerable amount of crucial self-productions. The Ruler includes both, which makes this compilation a thorough and worthwhile summary of Gregory Isaacs’ legacy.

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A great introduction to the late Sugar Minott

The late Lincoln ”Sugar” Minott is a pivotal figure in the history of Jamaican music.

He started his career as one third of vocal harmony group the African Brothers in the mid 70’s.

The group split up after a few years and Sugar Minott went solo and started a new career at Studio One, where he became a pioneer in versioning the label’s riddims, originally recorded in the 60’s and early 70’s. His recordings resulted in the two masterpieces Live Loving and Showcase and earned him the title Godfather of Dancehall.

But Sugar didn’t stay at Studio One. He left and started a long and fruitful career as a producer, singer, songwriter, sound system operator and label owner responsible for finding talents such as the late singers Tenor Saw and Garnett Silk.

Sugar Minott’s career spans over more than three decades and he has an enormous amount of albums and productions behind him.

Now reggae giant VP Records’ subsidiary 17 North Parade has given it a try to portray him on the three disc compilation Hard Time Pressure. It collects 36 tracks from almost ten different albums from the late 70’s to mid 80’s and also includes a DVD of Sugar Minott live at Japansplash in 1986.

The majority of the album is made up of self-productions that have Sugar Minott’s emotional and honied voice flowing smoothly over laid-back roots riddims.

But producers such as George Phang and Sly & Robbie also turns up on dancefloor fillers Buy off the Bar, Devil’s Pickney and Rub a Dub Sound.

Included are also some rarer tunes. One of those is the weird Christmas Time with its off-key children choir. It should have been left in the drawer.

It’s also a bit unfortunate that it doesn’t include any material from his sojourn at Studio One.

Despite one or two shortcomings Hard Time Pressure is an excellent introduction to one of Jamaica’s greatest and most important artists. But to get a more comprehensive picture of this maestro I suggest that you also get yourself a copy of the album Sugar Minott at Studio One.

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Culture in a box

Vocal trio Culture is one of those groups whose influence and greatness cannot be overstated. Formed in 1976 by Joseph Hill, Albert “Randolph” Walker and Kenneth Paley they dropped their prophetic international best selling debut album Two Sevens Clash in 1977.

Two Sevens Clash – produced by Joe Gibbs and Errol T – was dreader than dread with its skillful minor chord harmonies and apocalyptical lyrics.

Culture came around the same time as many other great vocal groups – Mighty Diamonds, Gladiators and The Wailing Souls to name a few. But something was different with Culture and front man Joseph Hill. They had a rawer energy and their lyrics were always conscious and dealt with Biblical prophecy, slavery, love and unity.

Now VP Records imprint 17 North Parade has done the world a great favour by releasing a Reggae Anthology box set called Culture at Joe Gibbs consisting of three full lenght Culture albums produced by the  The Mighty Two.

The box set contains Two Sevens Clash, Baldhead Bridge, More Culture and a fourth disc – As Hard as the Rest – with singles and dub versions appearing on album for the first time. All in all 43 wicked tunes by one of the greatest reggae groups of all time.

The people at VP/17 North Parade also seem to read Reggaemani, since this box set is accompanied by a booklet with some nice liner notes by Harry Wise and also some album information.

Punk rockers all around took Culture to their hearts in the 70’s and celebrated the music. If you don’t already have these albums you should do as the punks – listen to Joseph Hill and Culture.

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New compilation spotlights the crown prince of reggae

The record market is flooded with compilations and it’s sometimes hard to distinct the good ones from the poorer.

One artist that has been subject for a number of compilations is the late and great Dennis Brown. During his prolific career he recorded several wicked albums and singles.

Last year saw the release of Dennis Brown & The DJs – Joe Gibbs 12” Selection. This was a nice eleven track compilation of hard to find duets where Dennis Brown had teamed up with deejays such as Big Youth, U Brown and Welton Irie.

Now it’s time for another supposedly good compilation of Dennis Brown material. This time it’s put out by 17 North Parade – a subsidiary of VP Records.

The Crown Prince of Reggae – Singles (1972 – 1985) is a three-disc compilation of many of his hit singles. Two of the discs collect 40 tunes, both anthems such as Revolution and Created by the Father and lesser known works like Praise Without Raise.

The third disc is what makes this release stand out. It’s a DVD from a Dennis Brown concert in Montreux in 1979. This concert has been available on vinyl, CD and DVD before, but is now part of a great package. The live version of The Drifter is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen and is highly recommended.

In 2003 Trojan Records released an album titled The Crown Prince of Reggae collecting 20 tracks. Even though a number of tunes are represented on both albums, this new one seems to be a good investment.

The Crown Prince of Reggae – Singles (1972 – 1985) is due on November 16.

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Bra introduktion till Henry Lawes

Henry ”Junjo” Lawes är en av de viktigaste och främsta producenterna i reggaehistorien. Han skapade nästan på egen hand dancehall-genren och ligger bakom stjärnor som Barrington Levy, Yellowman och Eek-A-Mouse. Mellan 1979 och 1985 blev nästan allt han rörde vid guld. Sedan tog det stopp. Henry Lawes flyttade till New York och försvann från scenen under ett par år. Han gjorde comeback i början på 90-talet, men lyckades inte nå upp till den höga kvalitet som publiken vant sig vid.

I förra veckan släpptes boxen Volcano Eruption – på pappret den mest definitiva samling Henry Lawes-producerat material någonsin.

Volcano Eruption är en utmärkt introduktion till Henry Lawes råa och kompromisslösa sound. Lyssnaren bjuds på hela 40 låtar. Från klassiker som Prison Oval Rock med Barrington Levy och Wa-Do-Dem med Eek-A-Mouse till mer okända Give Another Israel A Try från Barry Brown och Hoola Hoope med Josey Wales.

Boxen innehåller dessutom en 45-minuters dokumentär om Henry Lawes, där skivbolaget bland annat intervjuat Cocoa Tea, Michael Prophet och Anthony Johnson.

Men Volcano Eruption har tyvärr några problem. För det första saknas dub. Henry Lawes gjorde tillsammans med Scientist flera banbrytande dubplattor på 80-talet. För det andra är det för få discoversioner. Sådana finns visserligen på samlingen Greensleeves 12” Rulers från 2007, men det hade inte skadat den här plattan. För det tredje saknas ett antal spännande artister, exempelvis Little Harry och Flick Wilson. Skivbolaget hade enkelt kunnat byta ut några av låtarna från Josey Wales och John Holt, som har två vardera.

Volcano Eruption hade också tjänat på att få samma ambitionsnivå som samlingen från producenten George Phang. På Power House Selector’s Choice fyra volymer ryms hela 160 låtar indelade efter rytm. Det hade varit värdigt en av de bästa reggaeproducenterna genom tiderna.

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