Blood & Fire - 20th Anniversary Tribute

I remember 1994 well... 1994 was the year jungle blew up in the UK, and one consequence of that was that it brought Jamaican music right to the front of the mix to a generation of ravers. There were always reggae elements in the UK hardcore/breakbeat rave scene, from direct samples to lifted basslines, and even the importance of soundsystems had an influence on us, but it was the way in which a lot of jungle producers ditched the pianos, ditched the squeaky vocals, and went straight to the JA source that meant there was no longer any hiding from Jamaican influences. It was the rave scene that really exposed me to Jamaican music, and whats more it was all those spaced out Sundays and Mondays which made dub records make a whole lot of sense!

Apart from one other Tubby (Meets Lee Perry at the Grassroots) CD i picked up in 1994 the first real JA recordings I ever bought were the first two Blood and Fire  releases: If Deejay Was your Trade, and the Tubby comp Dub Gone Crazy. I was in no position to place what I heard in any wider context of Jamaican music because it was all still just a beautiful mystery to me, but there was something about the packaging and care in selection that went into these two releases that made me know that this was Classic Material. And with Striker and Tubby in charge of course that was true, but even beyond that it was the love the B&F crew put in that got that message across loud and clear.

The way they put it is this: "Philosophy - To bring the standard of reggae reissues up to the level of the best in jazz, blues, R&B etc., and to ensure that both artists and producers are paid for their work.", and over the next two decades Blood & Fire put out over 50 essential releases, helping return what might otherwise have been lost obscurities back to their rightful place as foundational moments in the history of All music.

And so the 20th anniversary of Blood & Fire is also the 20th anniversary of my own journey into the bottomless treasure chest that is Jamaican music. Blood & Fire played a huge part in turning me on to it, and I'm far from the only one for whom it played that role. Without a doubt Blood & Fire deserve every credit for helping fuel a revival of interest in Jamaican music, the turbo injection of which is still felt all across the bass-ends of the music scene today.

In this year 2014 it was announced that Blood & Fire will be starting up again...its not yet clear if that will come to pass, but even if that proves too much to hope for, they've achieved so much in those 20 years. So with that all said, have to give a big respect and an even bigger thank you to those who made it happen: Steve Barrow, Andy Dodd, Bob Harding, Mick Hucknall, Elliot Rashman, et al, and also a big shout to all the Blood & Fire forum crew for sharing your knowledge. In tribute here's a mix that barely scratches the surface of the music they've reissued...go out and buy the lot, every last release is essential. www.bloodandfire.co.uk/discography.php
  

Blood & Fire - 20th Anniversary Tribute

Tribal War Dub - Yabby You
Train to Zion - Linval Thompson & U Brown
Know Where You're Going - Junior Byles
Pure Ranking [edit] - Horace Andy  
John Bull - Morwell Unlimited meets King Tubby
I Man Version - Willie Williams
Ites of Zion - Tommy McCook
Ghettoman Corner - Welton Irie
No Tarry Yah Version - Yabby You
See a Dub Face - Scientist
Hard Times [edit] - U Brown
Bandulu  [edit] - Cornell Campbell & Ranking Dread
Oh Jah Dub - Impact All Stars
Honey Dub - King Tubby
Jah Vengeance - Vivian Jackson
Vengeance In Dub - Yabby You
Jah Speak In Dub - Tappa Zukie
Chant Jah Victory - Errol Alphonso
Kings Pharoah's Plague - The Prophets
Plague of Horn - Tommy McCook
Fishermans Anthem - Dean Fraser
Let Your Love [edit] - Mykal Rose

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Original Rasta Recordings 1955-1969


The following is a mix of some of the earliest recordings with themes relating to aspects of Rastafari, touching on some mento rhythms, moving on into the ska era, and on out into the early reggae and proto-roots sounds...played broadly in order of oldest first...not complete of course, just some choice moments. 

Rastafari culture has always had a somewhat tense relationship with the popular recording industry of Jamaica, and there are still orthodox Rastas today who feel the two should never mix, but inevitably they did, and in my opinion the world is a richer place for it. What's more the persecution of Rastafarians made the expression of Rasta thinking on record a dangerous activity, that only becomes more explicit in gradual steps over the years. The tracks featured here run against the norms of popular Jamaican music at the time.

Track-by-track run down: beginning from the beginning with what is widely described as the first record with a Rasta ideology, 1955 style, dreaming of repatriation, Lord Lebby's Etheopia.

Next up more pre-independence vibes way back in 1958 from Laurel Aitken who went on to boss the ska era, often in a conscious style, here in Rasta mento mode. Lovely sax soloing against nyabinghi drumming on this record.

Count Ossie is a crucial figure in bringing authentic Rasta music to the recording studios and this is a beautiful early chant-along example of that - Babylon Gone - I wonder if this relates to Jamaican independence, waving goodbye to British colonialists?

Jamaican independence was won in 1962 and ushered in a new era in Jamaican music - the ska sound came alongside independence and echoed the optimism that self-determination brought. Ska was fundamentally the music of the dancehall and rum shop but there were artists who brought a roots and culture message to the sound. Two cuts here from Zoot Simms are great examples, both introduced in Amharic, Press Along subtly encouraging a Rasta freedom of expression - it being effectively a crime to express Rasta sentiments - followed by Golden Pen, which went on to be reinterpreted by Sylford Worker as a roots anthem in the 70s.

Keeping the churchical vocal style going is Laurel Aitken back again, riding high in a 1964 ska style, singing down the walls of Jericho, followed by an incredible number credited to Vernon Allen, wonderful minor key ska switching to major key bridge, topped with heavy vocals and a wonderful sax solo. Big big tune.

Next up two back to back from the kings of ska, The Skatalites. It is said that it was trombonist Don Drummonds influence that brought the Rasta message to the Skatalites repertoire... killer instrumental piece Addid Ababa first, driven by a wicked snare-scatter drum pattern, followed by an upfull vocal tribute to Marcus Garvey...sung by one Delroy Bongoman Byfield.

In comes Delroy Wilson, aged just 13, giving his take on the immortal lines The Lion of Judah Shall Break Every Chain & Give Us The Victory Again & Again over a rocksteadyish ska track, followed by a serious instrumental take on the Lion of Judah theme by Prince Busters band - another hard-to-top minor key ska instrumental that one.

Peter Tosh vocals on a classic Wailers piece next, mixing rude boy attitude with a Rasta message...Rasta Shook Them Up, Easy as That!... followed by the man Prince Buster himself on the microphone coming with some serious cultural lyrics over a heavy rock steady beat - not what you usually associate with Prince Buster but delivered with pure conviction.

Third time around for Laurel Aitken showing his longevity, this time on a 1969 early organ reggae piece, hailing Selassie, whose visit in '66 created so much momentum for the Rastafari movement. The Reggae Boys cut Selassie also from '69 is a Lee Perry production in a similiar theme, followed by another Perry production, the very rootsy Earth Ruler cut led by U-Roy, his debut in fact, whose backing track fundamentally sounds like a slowed down version to the previous Reggae Boys piece. 

Finishing this set with the Abyssinians masterpiece Satta Massagana. When you place that tune into the context of its contemporaries it really was way ahead of its time, and rightly became hugely influential in the roots sound that would flourish in the near future of the 70s. Hard to get away from how important that record is, and to some extent its a marker of the end of one era of Jamaican music and the beginning of another...

Big thanks to Littleseb, Ringo and the Pama forum crew for helping compile this one.

Original Rasta Recordings  1955-1969

Etheopia - Lord Lebby and The Jamaican Calypsonians 1955
Night Fall In Zion  - Laurel Aitken 1958
Babylon Gone - Count Ossie & The Wareikas 1962
Press Along - Zoot Simms 1963
Golden Pen - Zoot Sims 1963
Jericho - Laurel Aitken 1964
Babylon - Vernon Allen 1964
Addis Ababa - The Skatalites 1965
Marcus Garvey - The Skatalites 1965
The Lion of Judah - Delroy Wilson 1966
Lion Of Judah - Buster's All Stars 1966
Rasta shook them up - The Wailers 1966
Free love - Prince Buster 1967
Haile Selassie - Laurel Aitken 1969
Selassie - The Reggae Boys 1969
Rightful Ruler -  U Roy & Peter Tosh 1969
Satta Massagana - The Abyssinians 1969


Sun Ra Flies Deep Into the Void - 1962-1978

Once Sun Ra and the band left Chicago for New York in 1961 they also left behind many musical conventions...from here on in it was outer space or no place! The records from this era are full of unexpected wonders. The one thing i've found getting lost in all this music is that once you start wandering inside Ra's cosmos you don't ever want to leave...and many of the band never did, still playing in the Arkestra aged 90.

All the tracks on here are ones that standout for me, but want to mention a few things... Love the main melody and mood of Images, but it seems to me its also a great example of the Arkestra expertly playing just a little out on everything (check the bassline!), something by all accounts Ra drilled the band on. The way Neo-project #2 starts with a straight up groove and then demolishes it shows how in control of this they were.

Love the lofi crunch of Mu, Solar Drums and Moon Dance - Moon Dance has the most incredible snare sound - what a drum work out - think Lee Perry would have dug these three tracks...Black Ark-estra style!

Some people say John Gilmore is the greatest saxophonist of them all - i couldnt say anything about that, but the version of My Favorite Things he plays on here is incredible and trumps Coltrane's version for me.

Prophesy and Interstellar Low-ways are a chance to hear Sun's keyboard playing more clearly... the chords he drops on that beefy organ at the start of The Sky is a Sea of Darkness are heaven to me...could listen to him jamming on that organ all day...darkness!!

Sun Ra Flies Deep Into The Void - 1962-1978

Calling Planet Earth [When The Sun Comes Out 1963]
Solar Symbols [Secrets of the Sun 1962]
Moonship Journey [Cosmos 1975]
Images [Space is the Place 1972]
Mu [Atlantis 1967-69]
Solar Drums [Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow 1962]
Neo-project #2 [Cosmos 1975]
We Travel The Spaceways *edit [Disco 3000 1978]
On Jupiter [On Jupiter 1979]
Moon Dance [Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy 1963 ]
My Favorite Things [Some Blues, But Not The Kind That's Blue 1977]
Prophesy feat. Walt Dickerson on vibes [Visions 1978]
Interstellar Low-ways [Cosmos 1975]
Door Squeak [Strange Strings 1966]
Space is the Place *edit [Space is the Place 1972]
The Sky is a Sea of Darkness [Disco 3000 1978]

Sun Ra's World - Chicago 1955-61

In celebration of the centenary of the coming of Sun Ra, heres a mix of standout boundary breaking tracks from early days of the Arkestra, while they were based in Chicago. By 1962 they had decamped to New York and went all out on their mission to conquer inner and outer space. The albums recorded in Chicago are unusual in that material on them was often recorded at different times/years and so there's a mix of ideas and forms on them. This mix leaves out the relatively more traditional swing and big band numbers for the more experimental tracks from the period. Maybe thats unfair to do, as it seems their sets did include a mixture of both styles, but so be it.

Worth remembering how early in the evolution of jazz this material is, so far ahead of its time, and so perhaps its not surprising that most of these albums were pressed in print runs of no more than 75 copies at the time (or so I have read). The world caught up in the end...

Looking through the titles of the tracks picked out for this, it happens that this selection seem to relate to the planet earth more than the full on space odysseys which are trademark to Sun Ra, hence calling this mix Sun Ra's World. So yeah, keeping it earthy, with lots of drum and percussion heavy tracks, including the unorthodox  inclusion of timpani in the line-up from Jim Herndon.

Anecdote about the opening track: Sun was breaking away from steady work in clubs etc and getting random gigs with the early incarnation of the Arkestra...a medical friend got him work playing for a group of patients at a Chicago mental hospital. "The group of patients assembled for this early experiment in musical therapy including catatonic and sever schizophrenics, but Sonny approached the job like any other, making no concessions in his music. While he was playing a woman, who it was said had not moved or spoken for years, got up from the floor, walked directly to his piano and cried out "Do you call that music?"

Sonny was delighted with the response and told the story for years afterwards as evidence of the healing powers of music. Advice for Medics commemorates this experience. Seems like a good way to start and break the spell of slumber........ and thought Id finish the trip by bringing it back to Realville on the last track, with an early more grounded and swinging tune from 1955.



Sun Ra's World - Chicago 1955-61

Advice to Medics [Super-Sonic Jazz 1956]
India [Super-Sonic Jazz 1956]
China Gates [The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra 1961]
Overtones of China [The Sound of Joy 1956]
El is a Sound of Joy [Super-Sonic Jazz 1956]
Paradise [The Sound of Joy 1956]
Planet Earth [...Visits Planet Earth 1956-58]
Africa [The Nubians of Plutonia 1958-59]
Watusa [The Nubians of Plutonia 1958-59]
Kingdom of Thunder [Fate in a Pleasent Mood 1960]
Tiny Pyramids [Angels and Deamons at Play 1960]
Ancient Aiethopia [Jazz in Silhouette 1959]
Lullaby for Realville [Jazz by Sun Ra 1955]

Spring Sun Soul

For the fifth year running its the annual Spring Sun Soul mix - music to welcome the new solar year in and reset the spirit to. As ever, the mix takes in everything from spiritual funk, deep dnb, soulful techno, organic dub and anything else that fits the mood. The whole collection of Spring Sun Soul mixes are now here: Spring Sun Soul Collection.

I'll be getting a lot busier on the blog in the near future, with lots of new mixes already lined-up - have been distracted with the album I've been working on - more info on that to come. Meantime, fling open the windows and turn it up....

Wishing everyone much warmth and happiness under the sun....


Spring Sun Soul 

Love From The Sun - Norman Connors
Sunwalk - Modlee and Vlooper
Astral Travelling - Pharoah Sanders
Rings Around Saturn - Photek
Meltdown - Marcus Intalex
So This is Love - Mental Cube
Feathers - Automation
Jungle Fantasy - Sam Most
360@1 29on696 - Theo Parrish
Kawai Dub - The Breadwinners


Bubble in the Struggle - 1990s Conscious JA 7inch Selection

The 1990s in JA were dominated by dancehall and slackness, but there was still plenty of great conscious reggae being produced. This mix throws together some lesser-known tracks alongside a few classics, all 7 inch, all conscious lyrics, all produced in JA. There's a couple of tracks from the 2000s in there too, but on the whole its a 90s affair. Always a pleasure to hear the killer voices of the likes of Beenie Man, Shabba and  Terror Fabulous on a conscious lyric. 



Bubble in the Struggle - 1990s Conscious JA 7inch Selection

Bubble in the Struggle - Morgan Heritage [Xterminator]
Know Yourself - Terror Fabulous [Spragga Roots]
War Inna Di City - Ginja [Harmony House]
Craven - Cocoa Tea [Star Trail]
Jah Calling - Sanchez [Awful Music]
Conquer the Dragon - Beenie Man [Penthouse]
Mash Down Babylon - Utan Green [John John]
Retreat Wicked Man - Garnett Silk [Living Room]
Rat Race - Busy Signal [Juke Boxx]
Rolling Down a One Way Street - Pagu T [White Label]
Run Away - Bushman [Militant Muzik]
Poor People - Admiral Tibet [Henfield]
Poor People - Shabba Ranks [Brick Wall]
Complaint - Garnett Silk [Penthouse]
Bad Vibes - Derrick Lara [Zola & Zola]
No More Walls - Dennis Brown [Two Friends]
Build Some Bridges Instead - Shabba Ranks [Two Friends]
Walls Dub - Two Friends Crew [Two Friends]


Spring Sun Soul

The tradition of the annual Spring Sun Soul mix continues - a soundtrack to capture the change in seasons and the return of new life. As ever it's a cross-section of styles: jazz to deep house to drum & bass to soul - even a touch of Congolese rhumba, all with a spring-soul breeze blowing through them. Open your windows and play!

I always love putting mixes together but these spring ones always feel a little extra special.. Really hitting the spot after a long hard winter. This is the fourth episode, previous year's Spring Sun Souls can be found >>here<<

 

Spring Sun Soul

Lazer Sword - Sky Burial
Bennie Maupin - Quasar
Betty Carter - Sounds (Movin' On)
Erro - Don't Change
Mr Fingers - Children at Play
Lopez Walker - Jah Jah New Garden
Alpha and Omega - Jah is Calling
Alpha Omega - Envy
The Detroit Experiment - Think Twice
OK Jazz - Bolingo Ya Bouge
Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal - Wo Ye N'Gnougobine

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Angels Fell - The Vangelis Extension - Dillinja


Offering up a little deep and unofficial remix i did of Dillinja's classic Angels Fell - dubplate style!If anyone has an objection to this please leave a comment below and it will be removed.This post may not be up for long so grab one while you can! Enjoy...

Right click here to download

Good Vibes: 1978-1984 Roots

Pulling out some 10s and 12s I picked up this year, including plenty of reissues of rarities and previously unreleased dubplates, recordings spanning from about 1978 to 1984.

First up two Lee Perry productions, sounds of justice coming from Kiddus I followed by a great George Faith cut, both fantastic examples of the last highest-height days at the Black Ark. Following on nicely is Good Vibes, a state-side rarity from Wackies - should've played the dub too, but rushed to get two killer Channel One's on, the previously unreleased Love and Understanding on the Mr. Bassie rhythm, and a tune I just can't get enough of, Can't Stop Righteousness by the Gladiators - love the message on that one.

Moving on from there into four firing tunes: first the previously unreleased dubplate mix of Jughead, UK roots at its best, next the deep dub mix of an exceptional Augustus Pablo track, storming in next the previously unreleased Tubby dubplate mix of  Leggo Jah Jah Children, followed by what i think is one of the most powerful of all roots tunes, Al Campbell's Jah Love, great vocal cut first, blazing Scientist mix following, and an eye watering Tubbys mix to finish.

80s twelves up next, the heavy Flabba Holt production Warmonger followed by a track I've been after for a while, Confusion, Horace Andy never sounding better in my opinion - unbeatable music. The Lacksley Castell track Government Man was reworked a few times in recent years but this is the mighty original, and winding up the selection on an uplifting note is Mikey Dread's  Break Down the Walls followed with some version excursioning on the Rougher Yet rhythm with the Roots Radics. So much good vibes this year....


Good Vibes: 1978-1984 Roots

Too Fat - Kiddus I
Guide Line - George Faith
Guide Dub - The Upsetters
Conscious Guide - Dougie Wandrop on the mix
Good Vibes - Steve Reynolds
Love and Understanding - John Holt
Can't Stop Righteousness - Gladiators
Jughead Dubplate Mix - Dennis Bovell
No Exit Dub - Gussie Clarke
Leggo Jah Jah Children Dubplate - King Tubby
Jah Love - Al Campbell
Jah Love Dub - Scientist
Jah Love Dub - King Tubby
Warmonger - Barry Brown
Confusion + Version - Horace Andy
Government Man -  Lacksley Castell 
Break Down the Walls -  Mikey Dread
Rock With Roots Radics - Jah Thomas & The Radics

Right click for vibes

Anti-Social / Gangsta Boogie

Out of the dubstep scene in London its the Anti-Social camp that really do it for me (not forgetting Deep Medi, but its all family there). First came across them after hearing a track by West London producer Silkie, most often coming with a jazz inflected style, picking up where the broken beat scene left off. The two albums out on Deep Medi to date are both essential purchases (not to mention the 12s).

Although the sound tends towards the jazzy and musical, in fact thats a bit of a pigeon holing exercise, as they collectively push a lot of barriers and go in all kinds of directions. Dubstep as a term has long failed to contain whats going on out there, but theres even more new ground getting covered here....

Anti-Social had a show on Rinse FM, but are currently holding the fort over at Flex FM. Here are a couple of recordings showcasing whats going on:


Jay5 alongside G Double on their first ever show on Flex - coming dark


Heny G has just launched a new album, a very Bukemesque take on dubstep called Child Hood - this is a recording from the launch night

0.00 - 15.44: Syte - dark dubstep
15.45 - 75.48: Jazzy Jazzy aka J Tijn - playing all kinds a crazy dark new electro, acid techno, god knows, plus a couple of Silkies
75.49 - 135.31: Heny G - Showcasing the new album Child Hood

G Double was on the mic that night, but the recording comes straight from the decks so his voice is missing.





And last up here's Silkie in the mix showcasing the City Limits Vol 2 LP



Great music, support it, buy it, go catch them live, and tune in on Flex FM - Heny G's Gangsta Boogie show in on Thursdays 2-4pm, Jay 5 is currently on a monthly show on a Thursday night, 10pm-Midnight - but that may all change by the time you read this
www.flexfm.co.uk
www.facebook.com/antisocialentertainment
http://www.facebook.com/silkie86
www.facebook.com/pages/DJ-HenyG/257595284270616
http://www.facebook.com/JTijn

JA50 Countdown - 500 more nuggets

Followers of this blog will know that to celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence we had a countdown over 50 days of favourite Jamaican tunes from the last 50 years, with people adding their own favourites as we went along – there’s a nice record of that countdown to be found here for prosperity: tinyurl.com/jamaicanindependence50 

The excellent Record Collector magazine has just published its own list along similar lines - 10 tracks from each year. I've scanned and posted this list here in the spirit of Fair Use - to celebrate and create greater awareness and appreciation of the music. I think the list when put alongside the community produced list we created makes for a wonderful resource. If anyone from RC has a problem with this please contact me directly - just leave a comment in the post.

Hopefully clicking on the scans below will zoom in on it and bring it to a readable size. If that doesn't work for you then click on the image once, then right click>open image, and from there if still too small to read try pressing the plus + key to zoom in (depending on your browser).

If all else fails follow these links:





JA50 Dub Meditations

The celebration of 50 years of Jamaican independence and 50 years of musical innovation concludes with this mix of beautiful, spiritual, meditative, experimental and straight out there productions, from across the eras and across the oceans, with a sprinkling of percussion laid over the top...


Dub Meditations

Wareika Hill Sounds - Coconut Head Version
Badawi - Cyborg Stepper
African Head Charge - Dinosaur's Lament
Jah Bast & The Shades - Jah Irror + Dub
Ras Michael - Where is Your Goldmine
Paul Blackman - Earth Wind and Fire
Messenjah - Thunder Dub
Jah Warrior – Dub From The Heart / Heartical Dub
Nairobi - Storm Dub
Rhythm & Sound – Mash Down (Version)
African Head Charge - Primal One Drop
Mikus - Dub Mirror
Black Uhuru – Apocalypse
The Silvertones - Rejoicing Skank