02/11/2019: “Blood Donza Dub” by Johnny Clarke

In a similar vain to the last post, it’s worth emphasising that there is nothing wrong with Johnny Clarke’s singing. Far from it.

The version here just lends itself well to an instrumental – it’s a heavy track, and this slower dub works so well.

Blood Donza and its dub came out in 1977 on Jaguar records in Jamaica.

21/10/2019: “Where I’m Coming From” by Lila Ike

Lila Ike is one of Jamaica’s up and coming big voices. With a dusky, soulful sound, she sings over roots music and modernised trap flavoured reggae with the same panache.

“Where I’m Coming From” definitely fits into the latter category. It’s bursting with a streetwise self-assurance – all the more convincing for its auto-biographical nature for its confident delivery.

At points, her natural singing voice shines through unaltered, and there’s no denying that she has a rare talent. Much of the song is performed in a style more similar to dancehall singjaying, where she also excels.

The instrumental blends digi-dub flavours with gunshot trap snares and a huge bassline, while the organ skank and lowkey horns keep it grounded in a roots style. It’s a perfect setting for her!

The song was released in 2019, her 4th single. Lila Ike was discovered by Protoje, with whom she has collaborated. One to watch!

18/10/2019: “As We Enter” by Mikey Dread

Why is this song so heavy? You can only assume that it is intentional; that the waves of bass which crash out of the speakers are the result of a conscious desire to make an earth shaking roots tune, rather than heavy-handedness at the mixing desk.

As you might expect, the low-end propels the song forward, but the hook is still a vocal one – and there’s able assistance from a guitar riff as well, providing a good deal of melodic staying power.

The lyrics, delivered in a gruff but positive manner, are a classic affirmation of Rastafari faith, of not being swayed by evil and being close to Jah.

The song was released in 2000, on the limited, self-released album World Tour. The release is a CDr, not a proper CD, and is on his own Dread At The Controls Imprint.

Mikey Dread was a true legend in the Reggae world, having been at the forefront of roots in the 70s. Tragically, he died in 2008 of a brain tumour.

26/09/2019: “Heads High” by Mr Vegas

Mr Vegas was a huge figure in the Jamaican Dancehall scene of the 90s. This was one of his massive hits, which remains one of the gold standards of this era.

The lyrics are, naturally, very explicit. But unless you are Jamaican, you’re unlikely to find the song too offensive unless you listen very carefully.

The riddim is called “Filthier”, produced by Danny Browne, which has been vocaled by a range of other artists. Suffice to say, nobody ever came close to the success which Mr Vegas had with this one.

Mr Vegas has a distinctive style of singing, which goes a long way to explain the standout quality of this track. The riddim bangs too, using a offbeat drum, a simple guitar riff, and thumping bass to great effect.

The song was released in 1998 as a single.

Those clothes…

19/09/2019: “You Sexy Thing” by Johnny Osbourne

The original Hot Chocolate version is undoubtedly more famous. However, I definitely prefer Johnny Osbourne’s dancehall cover.

It has so much more fullness, and a lot more cheeky joy.

Johnny Osbourne was a very popular dancehall artist, for good reason. Nearly everything he touched turned to gold!

This song suits the reggae bounce anyway. The rhythm section has such a natural swing to it, from the piano skank, buoyant drums and the heavy bassline. There’s just a hint of the originally fuzzy guitar lick still present.

The “I believe in miracles” section sounds almost strangled on the original compared to this. Osbourne’s rich voice rings out very warmly, much more clearly than the original.

The Hot Chocolate version came out in 1975. I actually can’t find out exactly when this reggae cover came out, but it seems to have been 1988 or 1989.

09/09/2019: “I’m Still Waiting” by The Wailers

This song is from 1965. That’s long enough ago for the credits to be to The Wailers or The Wailing Wailers without making any mention of their lead singer, one Bob Marley!

Bob Marley also didn’t have dreadlocks then. This song could have been made in America, as an R’n’B track.

The smooth vocal harmonies, plodding bass, soft brass and light drums are pretty far away from a more ska focused song from this era, such as “Simmer Down”.

It’s still beautiful music though, and it is evident that Bob is a singer of rare quality. As with much music of this style and period, the subject is love, or rather the difficulties of love.

The track was produced by Coxsone Dodd, and released in Jamaica. Luckily, the song appears on the Songs Of Freedom compilation, because it would otherwise be quite a rarity. In fairness, it also appears on the Studio One compilation The Wailing Wailers in 1966, which was re-issued in 2016.