It seems that C and I are involved in a spot of inspiration tennis at the moment. (Hang on, this is starting to sound like an episode of Grandstand!)
I couldn't resist this box of singles at a car boot earlier this month. "They're all reggae, roots, lovers" the seller said. Yeah, right. A quick flick through told me there were likely lots (and lots) of dancehall and ragga which is not my cup of tea at all. It's funny how sellers like to pass off dancehall as reggae. Yes, dancehall and ragga is where reggae went but their soundscapes are so different they really shouldn’t be described as reggae. Well, they know what they're doing, I suppose, as dancehall is mostly a challenging listen (and almost worthless) in my limited experience. Still, there was bound to be something in there worth having, I thought, and I just felt like taking home a box of mystery 45s to sift through (especially as there was nothing else on the vinyl front to be had). I couldn’t budge him on his price but he had set that on the estimation of about 50 records in the box. I could see there were more than that so I handed over the money, I’m not a great haggler.
It turns out there were 85 records in the box. I have to say my gut feel on the content was borne out. Nevertheless, I have had enormous fun working through the box, and felt I have had my money’s worth simply by doing that.
On first play many of these records sounded a bit rough. I was sort of expecting that really, as I thought it came with the territory i.e. cheap local label presses. But I’m working through cleaning them and that is mostly having a marked improvement on the sound quality.
So what is in this box? They were nearly all released in the period 1996-2006 it seems – so no roots or lovers in the classic tradition. But on a first quick play through I actually put aside about 30-40 that grabbed me enough to warrant further investigation. Tracking the records down on the internet has been a bit of a challenge due to the general lack of release numbers and the somewhat loose way artists and track names can be identified. I’ve managed to pinpoint many on Discogs though. This has opened my eyes to the staggering quantity of records some of these artists have released. I suppose this high release rate is driven by the nature of the dancehall scene where there is a constant battle to come up with a new sound. In the end it has to be quantity rather quality though.
I really wanted to like Harry Toddler's offerings (read it quickly as Hairy Toddler if you want!), and a version called Flying Green Puss (which involves the deejay/singer doing much clearing of throat a la Bob Fleming!), but they are in the out pile. One artist is called Teetimus, that name really makes me chuckle.
Also finding their way into the box were a few US R&B singles. There was a white label Angie Stone which is great and the two singles in the picture outside the box. These are bootlegs it seems (of K-Ci & JoJo and Usher). The label is the interesting thing though, both singles show a photocopy of the venerable US Volt label (VOA4010 B side to be exact - to save you looking that up it is The Emotions - Got To Be The Man). Why did the bootleggers choose that particular label and release I wonder?
Of all the songs (if you can call them that), and their almost inevitable B side versions, the track that gets my #1 vote is an artist named on the label simply as Tami with So In Love on the Gibbo label. Some research tells me Tami is Tami Chynn, This single was released in 2005 which is about a year before Tami went “overground” into the worldwide pop arena. Tami was born in Jamaica. When she was 14 she came to England and spent three years in Leamington Spa studying performing arts. Her younger sister, Tessanne, won series 5 of the American version of The Voice. In 2009 she and Wayne Marshall, another dancehall artist, were married and they now have a child. Incidentally, there is at least one Wayne Marshall single in this box too.
Tami – So In Love 2005
Another one that has worked its way into my brain is Sizzla with Baby and its Version. On Discogs Sizzla has a mind-boggling 925 singles listed! On many of these his singjaying just makes an appearance but he is co-credited and, as Discogs states: “he is very prolific even by Jamaican standards”. Discogs also informs us that this track is based on the Money Juggling rhythm, son now we know.
Sizzla – Baby 2004
I’ll finish this post with Keety General’s Problems. For dancehall this lays down a marker as being out there on the edge of acceptable as far as I am concerned.