Tag Archives: Little Roy

Prince Fatty blends fantasy and reality

Mike Pelanconi, better known as Prince Fatty, is a world-renowned producer and sound engineer from Brighton, UK. He has been praised for his vintage recording techniques and his work with artists such as Hollie Cook and Jamaican roots veteran Little Roy, with who he has recorded reggae renditions of Nirvana songs. He has also tried his hands on other genres as well working with rock and pop musicians such as Lily Allen and Graham Coxon from Blur.

His latest effort is Prince Fatty Versus the Drunken Gambler, an album described as a mix of hip hop fantasy and reggae reality. I had a chat with him about his inspirations, the new album and the artists featured on it. Check the full story over at United Reggae.

Prince Fatty artwork being painted in Brighton.

Prince Fatty artwork being painted in Brighton.

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Another fine reggae compilation from France

Last week Reggaemani wrote about French label Special Delivery’s tenth anniversary compilation, and now it’s time for another brilliant various artists album from the land of berets and baguettes.

Heartical Story – Vol. 2 is the follow-up to last year’s first edition and is based on material from French sound system and label Heartical, an operation established in 1999.

This second version collects 20 tracks recorded and released over the years 2003 to 2012. It’s a musical journey via eight riddims played by Basque Dub Foundation (BDF), with 18 high profile vocalists hailing from Jamaica and England.

The set opens with Steel Pulse’s Grammy Award-winning lead vocalist David Hinds over the Ministerio del Dub riddim followed by a conscious anthem by veteran Little Roy.

Other highlights include cuts on the haunting Slaving, Promised Land and Fade Away riddims respectively. All three are relicks of classic Jamaican riddims originally recorded in the 70’s.

Four bonus cuts are also thrown in – two heavyweight instrumentals, of which one is lead by a grim organ and the other lead by a sorrowful melodica, as well as a dub of I Know Myself riddim and an authentic special dubplate version by U Brown.

Heartical Story – Vol. 2 is now available on CD and digital download and it’s in the same vein as its predecessor – fine slices of roots reggae from the thriving and prosperous French reggae scene.

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Little Roy wins the battle for Seattle

Making a concept cover album is not new in reggae music, and that it can be successful is proven by Easy Star All-Stars and their albums Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band and Radiodread.

Now there is a new cover concept project. But this time commanded by Prince Fatty, the man responsible for Hollie Cook’s recent self-titled scorcher.

Battle for Seattle is a collection of ten songs originally recorded by Nirvana now performed in a reggae style.

Prince Fatty has assembled some veteran soldiers for the project. Legendary Little Roy takes the lead on the microphone singing better than ever. He’s backed by Mafia, from Mafia & Fluxy, Bubblers, from the Ruff Cut band, Junior Marvin, prior with The Wailers, and George Dekker from The Pioneers.

They fight in an old-fashioned style armed with tape and vintage analog equipment. The result is authentic reggae that echoes from the 70’s.

To win the battle for Seattle they have taken on some of Nirvana’s biggest hits, but also some lesser known tunes such as Very Ape from the In Utero album. Most people will recognize Come as You Are, Heart-Shaped Box and Lithium, even though these versions are far from the originals. The melodies are clearer and so is the singing and lyrics.

 I’ve never been a fan of neither Nirvana nor grunge, but this album has been on repeat for several days now. Little Roy and Prince Fatty have definitely conquered Seattle and hopefully fans of Nirvana will join their army too.

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Little Roy confident in his own classics

Little Roy is the writer and original performer of several untimely reggae classics, but has remained in the shadows for many years. Now he is set to take his music back and has begun re-recording his beloved music. Reggaemani has talked to a veteran that is disappointed at the music business.

A few years ago Earl Lowe – better known as Little Roy – dropped Children of the Most High, an album mainly built around re-recordings of his 70’s material. In March he put out a new album – Heat – with the same idea.

The idea of recording a number of new versions of your own material is far from new in reggae.

“Bob Marley recorded his songs ten to 20 times,” says Little Roy over the phone from his home in London.

Other notable reggae acts that have re-recorded their music are Burning Spear, Gladiators and Wailing Souls. They started recording at Studio One and when they got signed to major labels they did new versions. For Little Roy it seems to have been an easy decision.

“They [the original tunes] did not come out the way I had expected them to. The musicians, studio and moment were not right. It was not the way they should have come out,” stresses Little Roy, and continues:

“I have re-recorded much less than other Jamaican artists and I didn’t get the right appreciation and exposure.”

Better than before
He believes that the new versions have another feel to them. It’s due to different mixing, different arrangements, producers and studio. He has been working with people such as Mafia & Fluxy and Mike Pelanconi of Prince Fatty. And one thing Little Roy makes perfectly clear – he influences them and not the other way around.

“These new versions feel good. Better than before. I had the intention to make them even better. And I can’t say if I’ll record them again. These are the best songs of Little Roy,” he states.

He says that he has never thought of re-record his classic tune Tribal War, recently sampled by Nas & Damian Marley. And it is obvious that he is satisfied by the appreciation that he has got due to their version.

He believes that his music – or his original versions – is too unknown and that the lyrics are still strong and up to the time.

“Lyrics are forever. You don’t change them. These songs and their lyrics are everlasting.”

Little Roy is pleased with his new effort Heat, and he says that it is doing well in the shops and that it gets aired on the radio.

“People say that it’s a roots album with class,” he says in a joyful tone.

“Eight new songs on an album are the most that I’ll do”
If you are looking forward to an album with only new tunes from Little Roy – don’t hold your breath. It won’t happen unfortunately.

“I’ll never do an album with new songs. I’ve a lot of good songs. Lyrics and melody are everlasting,” he says, and continues:

“Eight new songs on an album are the most that I’ll do. That’s what Marley did. He re-recorded his 60’s songs. It was appreciated in later days.”

Nirvana cover album
He is already involved in a new project. A rather unexpected one actually.

“I’ve recorded a Nirvana album. It’s different from me. I have done covers of Stevie Wonder and Bruce Ruffin. But I didn’t stick on singing other people’s songs. I’ve always written my own songs,” he says, and continues:

“It was introduced to me. Mike Pelanconi was doing it. Mike told them that I could be the right artist and the album will be put out later this year.”

Disappointed in Jamaica
Little Roy has been settled in the UK for many years. Before that he lived in the U.S, where he relocated from Jamaica.

He left his home country because of lack of appreciation from the music industry.

“Jamaica was oppressing me as an artist. I wrote great songs, but people steal my songs,” he says, and adds:

“I visited Jamaica about five years ago. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I was presented as the man who wrote Tribal War and Jah Can Count On I. But people thought that I was singing other people’s songs. They didn’t show their appreciation for me as the original artist.”

Veteran with connections
Little Roy is a veteran Jamaican singer. He grew up with the crème de la crème of 60’s and 70’s roots singers. One of his friends was the late Gregory Isaacs.

“I saw him [Gregory Isaacs] in Stingray [studio] a couple of weeks before he died. We grew up in the same yard,” he says, and continues:

“Yesterday I spoke to Leroy Sibbles. He was like a teacher to me in the young days. He used to come and pick up me and Dennis Brown. The three of us used to be close.”

Little Roy says that he doesn’t really miss his former artist colleagues.

“Many of them disappoint me, like Freddie McGregor. He used to come around and listen to us rehearse. He had a wicked intention. I don’t need much singer friends.”

But as we talk it seems that he still knows a lot of people.

“If I wasn’t doing this interview I would have seen Marcia Griffiths. She’s here for the ska festival,” he says and concludes:

“I’m going to see Ken [Boothe]. He is my good friend. I’ll be at the festival on Friday and Sunday.”

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Little Roy reinvents himself on Heat

The roots reggae era in the 70’s showed a great number of talents. A bunch of these were picked up by major labels such as Virgin. But the majority of these fine performers went unnoticed outside of Jamaica.

Some of these talents have been rediscovered in the 90’s and in the last couple of years thanks to fine reissue labels such as Blood and Fire, Pressure Sounds and Makasound. There has for example been excellent compilations from the likes of Rod Taylor, Sylford Walker and Prince Alla.

Another one is Little Roy. He started his career in the mid 60’s at Studio One. A few years later he recorded the smashing organ fuelled Bongo Nyah for Lloyd “Matador” Daley.

In the 70’s Little Roy started to produce himself and recorded several excellent tunes that were hard to find up until Pressure Sounds released the superb compilations Tafari Earth Uprising and Packin’ House. These two albums showcase an extraordinary talent whose rough, emotive delivery and insightful lyrics draws Winston “Pipe” Matthews and Joe Higgs to mind.

Little Roy hasn’t been the most productive reggae artist. He was largely anonymous in the 80’s and recorded sparsely in the 90’s. In 2005 he dropped his latest album Children of the Most High, an album that contained re-recorded version of his previous output. He has also worked with producer and engineer Mike Pelanconi for the Prince Fatty project.

His new album Heat, that hit the streets Friday March 18, is in the same vein and contains 12 tunes, where of eleven are reworkings.

He is again backed by an all star line-up – Mafia & Fluxy provide the riddims and the harmonies are courtesy of Winston Francis, AJ Franklin and ex-Pioneer George Dekker.

Heat is an overall nice effort, especially the title track and Jah Can Count On I, a tune that Freddie McGregor versioned on his self titled album. It’s a mystery though why Tribal War isn’t re-recorded. This roots classic has been versioned several times, recently by Nas & Damian Marley for the wicked Tribes at War.

Hopefully Heat can draw attention to Little Roy’s original material so that he can get the credit he deserves.

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Supernice from Prince Fatty

Prince Fatty may sound like a cartoon character. But don’t let the name fool you. Behind this band are vintage reggae champions such as Winston Francis, Dennis Alcapone and Little Roy. The mastermind behind the project is Mike Pelanconi, an engineer and producer from the UK, who has previously worked with a wide range of artists including the late Gregory Isaacs and Lily Allen.

He is labeled as an expert in vintage recording techniques, and when I listen to the sophomore album from Prince Fatty it’s easy to understand why he has earned that title.

The brand new album Supersize echoes from the past, mainly from the early 70’s. It contains covers, re-workings and own material. Almost all tunes have a great vibrant dub vibe.  Just check Bedroom Eyes where singer Natty is echoing in and out.

Another thing well worth pointing out is the organic feel throughout the album. The organ work is superb. Listen to The Impressions cover Ain’t Got Time. It’s almost as if Winston Wright or Jackie Mittoo were hosting the session.

The music on Supersize is for real. No samples, no auto-tune, just plain fun.

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