Original Format: mp3
This one is a little shorter, a little tighter, a little lighter in tone. It’s been sounding pretty good to me on this strangely sunny Humboldt afternoon.
This Cloudy Portland Afternoon Kyle MacLachlan
A few years ago Portlandia did a bit where the mayor of Portland, played by Kyle MacLachlan, admitted to playing bass in a reggae band — thus making him the city’s first “openly reggae” mayor. It’s dumb joke but well-executed and still makes me giggle. Giggling, I say to you, is good.
Champion of the Arena (Part 1) Jackie Mittoo
Keyboardist and bandleader Jackie Mittoo is one of the unsung heroes of reggae — though he was in fact sung about by Superchunk, of all people.
Redder than Red Bob Marley & the Wailers
This dates from the period in the early 70s when the Wailers were recording with Lee Perry. Some say it was their best work, and who am I to argue?
Stay Dread Lee “Scratch” Perry & the Upsetters
Technically it is cheating for this song to be here. But this is where it belongs.
Blood a Go Run Down King Street Yabby You
A while ago I saw a bizarre video podcast where this hippie walked into his trailer, put on a Yabby You record, and promptly disappeared off-camera for five minutes. I don’t even remember now what he was talking about when he eventually got down to it, but I do remember the music.
Sata Jah Lion
“Jamaica’s Pat Francis recorded under a lot of names during the 1970s, including Jah Lion, Jah Lloyd and Black Lion of Judah, and given that his musical creations frequently centered on herb-related themes, he was sort of an early character blueprint for the flamboyant urban rappers of the late 1990s. In the mid-1960s he was a member of the Mediators, and he later scored hits with topical material like ‘Soldier Round the Corner,’ ‘Know Yourself Blackman’ and ‘Killer Flour’ for producer Rupie Edwards. Never afraid to reinvent himself, Francis turned toaster and DJ for tracks like ‘Black Snowfall’ and ‘World Class.’ He tasted critical success as Jah Lion when he recorded the marvelous Columbia Colly album with producer Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at Perry’s legendary Black Ark studio.” —Discogs.com
Satta Massagana The Abyssinians
“Satta Massagana is an undeniable anthem of reggae, an ode to the African motherland that has stood the test of 40 years since its recording by Bernard Collins, Donald Manning and Linford Manning in 1969. Translated literally from Amharic the title and refrain mean ‘give thanks,’ but Collins told The Sunday Gleaner that ‘the first 300 to 400 copies’ were released as Far Away Land. That came from the first line, which Collins wrote, although he makes it clear that Satta Massagana was a team effort. ‘There was a land far, far away is an old phrase…. Is just that me put it in a different context,’ Collins said. ‘The inspiration come to me t’rough me a look forward to Africa. We a talk bout the land far away which is the New Jerusalem, the New Zion.’ The Amharic phrases came from Donald Manning, as Collins said ‘the other two brothers, when I met them they were interested in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Amharic phrase really coming from Donald Manning. Him deal with it every day.’ The complete phrase means ‘give thanks continually.’” —The Gleaner
Fender Precision/Augustus Pablo Kyle MacLachlan
Hot and Cold Version 2 Augustus Pablo & the Upsetters
Yes, Augustus Pablo is the king. But also the cat who plays the bass on this, Boris Gardiner, is one bad mammajamma. Possibly my favorite bassline of all time. We will hear it again.
Wicked Can’t Run This Dub Glen Brown & King Tubby
“Dis riddim must get 9000000 view by 1 year. Bad dub green bay riddim soundbwoy tune was here before but not dis quality. Big up Skonk. me a skank it right now.” —YouTube commenter
“Basssseekers” (Ed. Note: As of this writing, the video is still sadly lingering below 9,000 views.)
Workin’ in the Cornfield Junior Murvin
Relatively few songs are written about work, even though people spend a lot of time doing it. In this case, Junior’s voice turns toiling in the fields into a spiritual experience; there is a sense of transcendence here that is really rather inspiring.
Proud to Be Black/Born to Be Black (edit) Tapper Zukie
“Tapper Zukie (or Tappa Zukie) (born David Sinclair, 1955, Kingston, Jamaica) is a reggae deejay and producer. Tapper was the nickname given to him by his grandmother in his youth, while Zukie was a name that came from his friends’ association as a young boy – their gang was called ‘The Zukies.’” —Wikipedia
Once You Go Dub Kyle MacLachlan
Waap You Wah The Upsetters
When I listen to this I like to picture Lee Perry at his mixing board, skanking and smoking a spliff as he works the faders. This was a live mix — there was no computer editing after the fact. Even the little mistakes are part of the magic. It is almost impossible to play this loud enough.
Jumping Master Dub Mikey Dread
“More than any other Jamaican producer, Mikey Dread, who died on Saturday March 15, stood at the vanguard of the fabled ‘Punky Reggae Party’ — at first glance, an improbable convergence of white rock and island roots music that fuelled many of the era’s most innovative and infectious moments. Working with the movement’s leading names and performing across the US and Europe, Dread also played a vital part in the introduction of reggae to an increasingly international audience.” —The Guardian, 3/25/2008
African Roots King Tubby & the Upsetters
My 23 & Me came back 1% Sub-Saharan African. It’s not much but I’ll take it. Of course, everybody’s African if you go back far enough. It would behoove all the morons to remember this.
Youth Black Uhuru
Though credited to Black Uhuru, this is really a showcase for the bass and drum work of Sly and Robbie, who are a whole subgenre unto themselves; this is a topic for another time. Side note: Once on my radio show I accidentally played the 12″ single of “Youth” at 33 rather than 45, prompting some confused calls from listeners wondering what was that ultra-slow, super-heavy dub they just heard. I may have pretended that I did it on purpose. It sounded something like this:
All Is Good and All Is Forgiven Kyle MacLachlan
This World Milton Henry as King Medious
I couldn’t find any useful biographical information about Milton Henry, who cut this stupendous number for Lee Perry under the alias King Medious. Maybe it’s just as well. There should be some mysteries in this life.
Champion of the Arena (Part 2) Jackie Mittoo
Feast of the Passover The Congos
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.” —Numbers 10:10