Some time ago, there was a project on Facebook where people would challenge one another for a description of a favorite Jamaican tune, each day over a seven-day period. They called it the “Seven Day Reggae Challenge.” The following is my listing with three extra tracks to make it an even ten! Some good tunes here, most of which I have listened to hundreds of times each. I found that after I hit ten, I started to have more and more songs swirl in my head that could be included, but here is the first ten.
Day One -
"Guzoo Doctor" by Alerth Bedasse (aka Count Alert) - Chin's Calypso Sextet - Ivan Chin
Available for purchase along with many more tunes by Bedasse a la Ivan Chin at: http://www.cdbaby.com/m/cd/efwilliamsabedasse
Yeah this is Mento, but it is a great tune outa Jamaica by the originator Ivan Chin who passed away just last year (June 2024).
The tune is a one-mic live recording which captures the energy and excitement of Mento. There is African originated "call and response" throughout between Alerth and others in the studio. Alerth's energy is spilling over in well-practiced vocal phrasing and timing.
The story told is about a Guzoo Doctor - Obeahman, who is new in town and it's the "latest craze." An explanation is detailed of his cures for various physical malfunctions (swollen legs) and also the Doctor's abilities. When I drive in my car with my children, we rewind this one over & over. They know it by heart. Great tune and a very good example of Alerth Bedasse's song-writing and vocal abilities.
Day Two -
*As clarification, I'm not gonna record tunes for posting in respect to the artists (in this case living and dead), but if it's already on YouTube, I'll post it.
Otherwise, I'll play it Friday night on WRUW.
My selection is:
Ken Boothe/Nicodemus - "Love is Real"/"Coke Seller" - Mor Well Esq 12" label - NYC- 1984
No tune to press and listen here, but trust me - Just a great tune. Sly and Robbie on riddim, produced outa NYC at one of my favorite record shops (at the time). Ken Boothe in his 1980s smooth mode - excellent singing with much effort applied. The transition to Nicodemus is instant (no gap). Nicodemus - to some extent, was vital in the live dance, but did not always transfer to record with the same vibrancy. This track is an exception where the lyrics flow through the expert style crafted through years of live dances - where Nicodemus was edgy and the Boss! Smooth 12," which I played countless times in a live dance. I also had the honor to MC a show by Ken Boothe this same summer of release (1984). Very nice times.
Day Three -
"Bridgeview Shuffle" Roland Alphonso and The Matador All-Stars, circa 1959, Produced by Lloyd Daley aka "The Matador"
This is an early instrumental produced by Lloyd "The Matador" Daley, intended for play on his sound system only. No real intention to sell in a shop to the public as a vinyl recording because at this time, the focus of shops was to sell foreign music. Play was for The Matador sound alone, with Mr. Daley's classic vacuum tube amplifier. Lloyd Daley comments from a 2015 interview, “In the 50s, most of the Speakers that was sold, was limited between 50 to 100 watts, and to use them on Sound Systems that were delivering thousands of wattage, we had to improve the 50 and 100 watt speakers, to handle more wattage. It is only the speakers I‘m talking about and not the amplifiers, which I built because most of my Amplifiers, was delivering over a 1000 watts and more. Lord Comic while playing my Sound, used to burn-up my Speakers Voice-coil when we played against other sounds, and sometimes they had to throw water on my speaker to extinguish the fire."
This is why I picked this tune - it is dripping with history. It is pre-Lloyd Brevett as it features the great Lloyd Mason on his upright bass. Mr. Lloyd Mason is a Stony Hill graduate as well as a member of the Military Band for decades. Mason plays upright bass, electric bass (given to him by Coxsone), piccolo, and flute.
With feature credit is Roland Alphonso who is a fellow Stony Hill graduate to Mason. "Bridgeview Shuffle" is also used by Brad Klein in "Legend of Ska" movie.
Ahh Sound System & Jamaican Recording Industry history!
Day Four –
The African Brothers - "Mysterious Nature" - Clef Records 7" - Produced by Joe Richards. (Also available on the Easy Star Lp "Want Some Freedom" which complied many of this group's singles).
This tune has gotten better and better as I listen over the decades. Originally I had it on cassette and it was a precious recording in the early 1980's, before there were such things as The Internet, EBay, or MP3s. In those days to hear this tune was rare. African Bothers tunes were on singles and I could only scrape up a few of them. Very nice to have the Easy Star CD which pulls many 1970 singles together with lineups of musicians which provide incredible depth. For those who may not know, this is a vocal trio of Sugar Minott, Tony Tuff, and Derrick Howard. This single features well placed organ work by the great Lester Sterling (I thinks it's Lester, but it could be Earl Lindo). The harmonies are so great, plenty of body, with sweetness of early un-"doubled" harmony by Sugar and what I call tinny sweetness of the great and under appreciated Tony Tuff. WhatATune!
Day Five –
The Heptones - "Mystery Babylon" - Hep Hep 7" - Produced by Lee Perry/Heptones - 1977
This is one of those songs that everyone will enjoy - crossing musical borders - it has the "Cottage in Negril" effect, but with heavy culture. This was originally released as a 7" single and also as a 12" with dj Ranking King on the version.
Gotta listen to this one!
Day Six -
I select Toots & The Maytals - "Domino" - Soulsville Shack, b-side 7" -prod by Prince Buster - 1965
Power boosted, thumping tune by the young Toots Hibbert on the b-side of "Not Too Old To Learn." Great Ska tune to play out if there is Domino being played. Instant rewind. Not a lot of people seem to know if this tune, which, obviously makes it better! Toots is powerful on this one as he salutes the sport of domino. Lloyd Knibbs is identifiable on the drum kit with mega rim shots and there is the Ska-based harmonica in the background. SImple tune, not much depth of lyric, but "Everybody love domino!"
Day Seven –
I select Claude Sang Jr's "Church Recording" given to me by Claude's brother Herman Sang.
I don't know all of the details, but this is a live recording of Claude singing live at a church with a full choir. It is very "churchical" and has the acoustics of a church. It prominently features Claude's singing voice with an organ accompaniment. Midway the choir erupts! It is inspiring. This is a family recording and not released to the public. When brother Herman Sang received his honors at a tribute concert, he turned to praise his brother Claude Sang Jr. And played this recording.
As you may know, Claude Sang Junior was the original member of The Jiving Juniors and before that with "Sang & Harriott." Claude recorded the groundbreaking "Lollipop Girl" with Derrick Harriott as a soft wax for Duke Reid and then years later as a formal release.
Clause Sang is featured on the "Legends of Ska" film with both Derrick and Herman Sang.
Day Eight –
Al Campbell – “Hard Times,” Conscious Ragga Volume 2
What a great singer. Al Campbell is an under appreciated singer with a unique and pleasing vocal tone. Campbell has had a long and successful career, which started in the mid 1970's. He is consistently conscious and respected in the music community.
This song "Hard Times," has a hypnotic feel to it as Al Campbell meshes his vocal style perfectly with the steady riddim accented by a repetitive guitar riff. The pairing of vocal with riddim is not uncommon for Campbell. His voice works well with a wide variety of music and that is a characteristic of his style - a classic voice, sung with discipline, on key, no shortcuts or gimmicks. You really can't find a better voice that Al Campbell.
Day Nine –
Jiving Juniors - "Lollipop Girl." Duke Reid, 1956
The Jiving Juniors are, Derrick Harriott, Claude Sang Junior, Herman Sang, Eugene Dwyer, and Maurice Walker. Before the Jiving Juniors were formed, came the tune “Lollipop Girl,” which has an interesting history, possibly dating back as early as 1956/7.
Claude Sang Junior and Derrick Harriott attended Excelsior College together as youths and often sang songs together. The duo appeared as “Sang and Harriott” at Vere John’s Opportunity Hour at the Palace Theatre.
This song was first recorded by Derrick Harriott and Claude Sang Junior at Stanley Motta’s in the form of a one-off acetate. One copy was given to Derrick Harriott and either that copy or another copy found it’s way to the live sound system. Duke Reid obtained the recording and used it as a premier song for his sound.
"Lollipop Girl" continued to be a highly influential song without ever being released. This was some of the original “testing” of Jamaican tunes to see the public’s reaction. Duke Reid eventually collected the Jiving Juniors to record the song over again for formal release and sale in 1960.
In an interview with Herman Sang of The Jiving Juniors, we discussed this groundbreaking song (Personal communication, April, 2016). “That recording was done at Stanley Motta’s location – I wouldn’t even call it a studio, but Motta had a recorder there. This was before the Jiving Juniors were formed. Claude played the piano and both of them sang “Lollipop Girl.” Eugene Dwyer also helped Derrick compose the song. It was done on a soft wax and Derrick got a copy. The technician at Stanley Motta’s also made copies and sold it to an area sound. Duke Reid got hold of the song and he was the only one that was playing it. Coxsone couldn’t get it. Duke Reid came to Derrick and asked to do the song over at Federal. I spoke with Derrick today and got some of the musicians. At that session, Ken Richards was the guitarist, on drums it was Drumbago because Lloyd Knibbs wasn’t on the scene yet. Knibbs was still working on the North coast at the hotels. Bass could have been Brevett. I played piano. It was a simple rhythm section. It was real hot. Duke had a radio program “Treasure Isle Time” and it got radio play.
Derrick Harriott lost in his first appearance as a soloist at a Vere Johns competition. In a 2014 interview, Derrick Harriott remembers his second performance at the Palace Theatre at Vere John’s Opportunity Hour with Claude Sang Junior where they first presented “Lollipop Girl.” “The first time I was accepted, I wasn’t booed or anything. That was a pleasant thing too. What a good experience! I draw for my partner, which is Claudie Sang Junior. When I go back with him, (loud voice) it done! When I say done, it mean we mash up everything y’know! From then on we kept winning winning.”
Day Ten –
Leroy Sibbles and Earthworm, "Stress and Pain," First Chapter riddim, 2007
This is a solid song which combines an extremely talented and relevant veteran with an arguable unknown. Personally, Leroy Sibbles could sing the right song while he shops for vegetables in a market and it could be great. Sibbles is one of the best Jamaican singers in history with a silky voice. Together, these two artists sing "Stress and Pain" with the feel of sufferation of the common man. The First Chapter riddim is a traditional groove with a chunky edge. This is a tune to rewind over and over.