Original Format: mp3
Q: Why a reggae mix?
A: In 1997 I was a reggae dilettante — owner of a few Bob Marley and Peter Tosh albums, and the The Harder They Come soundtrack — when I decided to take a flier on the Lee “Scratch” Perry Arkology box set after reading an article about it. I’ve never been quite the same since.
Something about the way my brain processes music was rewired, and while I still don’t like all reggae — because a lot of it is boring and repetitious, just like the haters say — I’ve come to appreciate much of it in a way my younger self wouldn’t have anticipated. The problem is that it can he hard to mix with other things. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a reggae mix for a while now but lacked an organizing principle.
When Scratch passed away recently,1I decided that it would be fun to salute him with a mix where every other track is one he produced, in order to salute his towering genius while still leaving room for a full spectrum of stylees.
So here it is. There will be at least one other installment, maybe two, we’ll see.
Q: I’m not into reggae.
A: That’s not really a question, but…. I’d like to think I’m going to change your mind with this magical collection of sounds, but over the years I’ve learned that the taste for reggae is the like the taste for cilantro — some people have it and some don’t, and you’re not going to talk anybody into it. As always, de gustibus non est disputandum. I won’t be offended if you want to sit this one out.
Q: Will it help if I’m high while listening?
A: I mean, it isn’t going to hurt. But I think that the music is strong enough to stand up on its own, with or without herbal assistance.
Q: Isn’t an hour too long?
A: Yeah, probably. But once you get into that groove it’s hard to stop.
OK – without further ado — let us now Blow Away the Wicked.
Blow Away the Wicked
This is from a fantastic documentary called Land of Look Behind, which thankfully is available for your viewing pleasure free of charge:
Roots Train Junior Murvin
One of the purest examples of the classic LSP sound — that thick, gooey bass, the dusty cymbals riding on top, Junior Murvin’s angelic falsetto, those unearthly voices floating through the mix, and who knows what else. How did he do that with a primitive four-track tape machine? “It was four tracks written on the machine,” he once said, “but I was picking up twenty from the extraterrestrial squad.”
Get Ready to Ride the Lion to Zion Culture
“this guy and this group is so lyrically and musically talented and uplifting. yeah we leave the violent lyrics for the devil’s people. because these lyrics from this group is strictly for the peacemakers.” —YouTube commenter Andrew Carl Elliott
Zion’s Blood The Upsetters
I only just now learned that this is a version of a song called “When Jah Come” by Devon Irons. Personally I prefer the Upsetters.
Zion I Cymande
“Cymande (pronounced /sɪˈmɑːndeɪ/ sih-MAHN-day) is a British funk group that was originally active in the early 1970s. The band name derives from a calypso word for ‘Dove,’ which symbolises peace and love; ‘Dove’ is also the title of one of their best-known songs. With a membership deriving from several Caribbean nations, Cymande were noted for an eclectic mix of funk, soul, reggae, rock, African music, calypso, and jazz that they called ‘nyah-rock/’” —Wikipedia
Forward with Jah Orthodox Mystic I
I’m not sure where on the political spectrum Mystic I is coming from — Rastas can be surprisingly conservative on certain issues — but I think their anti-tax message is one we can all get behind.
Wicked Man Dub King Tubby
“Greatly misunderstood, and sometimes under-represented in music literature, King Tubby was not a standard record producer until very late in his life, and his regular occupation was providing transformers to stabilise the electrical current of island businesses and sound systems alike. Nevertheless, the remix culture we take for granted today is largely reliant on Tubby’s ingenuity, the techniques he introduced indelibly changing the way contemporary popular music is made and issued. He was born Osbourne Ruddock in 1941 and was raised with three brothers and four sisters close to the Kingston Harbour on High Holborn Street, one of the more prominent roads on the eastern edge of downtown….” —David Katz, “A beginner’s guide to King Tubby”
Chase the Devil Max Romeo
One of the better-known tracks from the Black Ark — famous enough that Kanye and Jay-Z pilfered it for The Black Album.
Deliver Me from My Enemies Yabby You
“Vivian Jackson was born in the Waterhouse district of Kingston, Jamaica in 1946. One of seven children, Jackson left home at the age of twelve to find work at a furnace in Waterhouse. At seventeen, the effects of malnutrition had left him hospitalized, and on his release he was left with severe arthritis which had partially crippled his legs. His physical condition meant that he was unable to return to his previous work, and he was forced into hustling a living on the streets of Kingston. His beliefs were markedly different from that of his Rastafarian contemporaries, believing in the divinity of Jesus rather than Haile Selassie I, earning him the nickname ‘Jesus Dread’; this often prompted debate on religio-philosophical matters, and it was after one of these discussions that Jackson first headed towards a recording studio, having heard music ‘like a strange ting, inside a my thoughts – like an angel a sing.’ Another spell in hospital meant that finding money for recording was difficult, but eventually the ‘Conquering Lion‘ single was released late in 1972, credited to ‘Vivian Jackson and the Ralph Brothers.’ Cut for King Tubby, the popularity of the song and its distinctive introduction (the chant of ‘Be-you, yabby-yabby-you’) earned Jackson the nickname ‘Yabby You,’ which has remained with him during his entire career.” —Wikipedia
I See the Truth/Rightful Ruler Peter Tosh
The spoken bit here is from the Tosh documentary Red X: Stepping Razor. The track is a Perry production from 1969. Why the hard edit 19 seconds in? Because Scratch wanted it that way.
Chant Down Babylon Bob Marley & the Wailers
I love Bob — some of you reading this have already heard my diatribe about how he’s actually underrated, viewed as a brand rather than a musician — but I wasn’t going to put him in here, as there’s so much else to explore. That lasted… let’s see… almost 32 minutes, not bad.
Beat Down Babylon Junior Byles
Although Byles’ Allmusic bio calls him “one of Jamaica’s most tragic figures,” at 73 he’s outlived a lot of people. That must count for something.
Babylon You Lose Horace Andy & Ashley Beedle
Vintage 2009, this is the only thing on this mix recorded after 1980 (those drums are a giveaway) — proving that’s not impossible to make good reggae in the 21st century, just very difficult.
Underground Root The Upsetters
“Root vegetables are underground plant parts eaten by humans as food. Although botany distinguishes true roots (such as taproots and tuberous roots) from non-roots (such as bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers, although some contain both hypocotyl and taproot tissue), the term ‘root vegetable’ is applied to all these types in agricultural and culinary usage.” —Wikipedia
World Dub: Away with the Bad Glen Brown & King Tubby
This is from the actual Amazon page for this CD:
Super Ape The Upsetters
“As far as Scratch was concerned, all that mattered was what came out of the speakers, and he had these incredible speakers, like, one eighteen inch woofer in a big metal box hung from the ceiling by chains. That was it. Cranked as loud as it would go. Everything was bassed. And those joke spliffs you see that are like nine inches long? They’d make them out of brown paper and just constantly smoke.” —Robert Palmer
This Train Bunny Wailer
When the man born Neville O’Riley Livingston passed on back in March, the world lost the last original Wailer and one of the most beautiful voices ever to be heard on Jah’s green Earth. Rest in power, Bunny.