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“TROJAN ORIGINALS BOX SET”: TROJAN ORIGINALS BOX SET (TJETD098) – It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In which case the reggae world must be flattered to death judging by the amount of classic Jamaican songs that have been reinterpreted by enterprising individuals such as UB40, Blondie and The Specials.
The three ‘Labour Of Love’ albums from reggae pop band UB40 collected together a veritable host of sublime JA compositions, ranging from the sultry rocksteady to brash reggae and provided the band with strong mainstream chart action, all based on cover versions.
Album One hit the top spot in September 1983, Volume Two tracked to number three in December 1989 and the third volume climbed to number eight in October 1998. That’s not to forget a combined package of Volume One and Two that ascended to number five in November 1994.
UB40 commented that the albums were full of their all-time favourite reggae tracks, and they were paying homage to the original artists by attempting to recreate the music in their own Birmingham style. Whether they succeeded is a matter of opinion, and on the first two CDs in this set are presented the original reggae tracks they copied, alongside three reggae to pop-attacks from Paul Young, Boy George and Blondie.
Some of the reggae tracks on this CD set are original compositions from the sunny isle of Jamaica, such as Bob Marley’s moody ‘Soul Rebel’ and Winston ‘Niney’ Holness’ accusing ‘Blood And Fire’, while soul tracks have been reinvented, as in an inspired cover of Al Green’s ‘Here I Am Baby’, from the man surely with a made-up name – Al Brown. Other tracks were recorded in the UK like Winston Groovy’s ‘Please Don’t Make Me cry’ and Tony tribe’s take on the Neil Diamond composition ‘Red Red Wine’.
Surprisingly, in a recent TV interview with Melvyn Bragg, UB40 commented that they were unaware that Neil Diamond wrote the song, and that they only knew the reggae version.
It provided them with a number one hit record in August 1983, while Tony Tribe’s vastly superior 1969 cut only grabbed a slot of forty-six for one week in August of that year. The follow-up single to ‘Red Red Wine’ for UB40, was the previously mentioned Winston Groovy composition, and their limp version presented the band with a number ten in October of the same year. The 1969 Groovy original never charted at all.
Not only has Jamaica supplied UB40 with hit songs, (and no doubt plenty of cash), but the romping ska of the 1960’s, alongside reggae of a 1969 vintage sparked the 2Tone and ska revival craze at the beginning of the 1980’s.
Kicking off with ‘A Message To You Rudy’ in October 1979, The Specials duplicated the subtle 1967 rocksteady song of Robert ‘Dandy’ Thompson almost exactly. They even utilised the same trombone player who had graced the original recording, Rico Rodriguez, to provide the horn vamp and solo. ‘Rudy’ gave The Specials a number ten hit and set them off on a path of recreating old Jamaican records and laying down some passable original nu-ska recordings. From ‘Skinhead Moonstomp’ to ‘Monkey Man’, the Specials blasted them all out both live and on record, no doubt copied from their older brothers well played discs, which had been prized items some ten years previously in the skinhead era. As the 2Tone movement swung into gear old timer’s record collections were ransacked, and scratchy discs on esoteric labels such as Trojan and Pama were desperately desired. Cropped hair, Crombie overcoats and the good old boots and braces were once again on the streets as Madness, The Selector, The Bodysnatchers and a host of other bands jumped on the Ska Revival wagon.
When the Ska Revival brigade were attacking the dusty record boxes and ascending the national pop charts, Debbie Harry and Blondie took an obscure rocksteady song to the top spot. ‘The Tide Is High’, an old sweeping number from John Holt and The Paragons, received a sensitive update from the post-punk queen in November 1980. Prior to all the UB40 and Specials trawl through Jamaica, the Euro-disc-band you love to hate, Boney M, had already scored in April 1978 with the spiritual ‘Rivers Of Babylon’, a song of hope for the Rastafarian community, originally written and recorded by The Melodians in 1970. A number one smash hit, ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ was a suprise to hear on the radio with it’s uplifting roots style message, and was far removed from other Boney M delights such as the gangster groove of ‘Ma Baker’ or a bizarre praise to mad Russian monk ‘Rasputin’.
Many other notable mainstream performers have taken a liking to Jamaica and it’s individual sound such as Paul Young, who took Nicky thomas’ ‘Love Of The Common People’ to one off the top spot in November 1983, after revamping Marvin Gaye in June 1980 with ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat – That’s My Home’ to grab the a number one. Post covering Nicky he attempted the down-home soul of Ann Peebles with ‘I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down’ which amazingly rewarded him with a placing of number nine in October 1984.
The last but not least pilferer of the reggae sound has to be Musical Youth, who at least do have the credentials of being from West Indian stock, even if their jolly brand of reggae is far removed from dusty and dangerous Trenchtown.
‘Pass The Dutchy’ was their big one in both ways, as it struck the peak in September 1982. Based on The Mighty Diamonds anthem to the herb, or ganja, ‘Pass The Cochie’, the boys idiosyncratic happy reggae won many hearts and prised many Pounds out of the British public. Desmond Dekker’s 1967 Rude Boy commentary ‘007 Shanty Town’ was chosen in the autumn of 1983 as a single release for Musical Youth and managed a respectable twenty-six, although one wonders if they understood the songs original meaning and it’s relevance some decade and a half after it’s initial release.
This thought leads us on to the sad fact that most pop buyers have no idea that the chart-friendly reggae tinged record or CD that they happily jig around the living room to isn’t an original composition. And most likely little do they care anyway, if it were pointed out to them. Unfortunately, many of the original performers and composers of the newly recovered now pop songs are languishing in down-town Kingston ghettos. To have a hit in Jamaica, or indeed to have it carried over to the UK reggae market as well, certainly doesn’t equate to sizzling women, fast cars and mansions by the sea in their harsh world.
Due to the haphazard ways of the Jamaican recording industry very few artists have ever received their due rewards. And we can only hope that through the re-recording of their works by artists from far afield, even if they are pale copies of majestic masterpieces, the struggling artist finally will have a little bread on the table, and shoes on his feet. – Michael de Koningh
trax CD 1:
1. Cherry Oh Baby – Eric Donaldson 2. Keep On Moving – Bob Marley & The Wailers 3. Please Don’t Make Me Cry – Winston Groovy 4. Sweet Sensation – The Melodians 5. Johnny Too Bad – The Slickers 6. Red Red Wine – Tony Tribe 7. She Caught The Train (aka I’m Going Home) – Ray Martell 8. Version Girl – Boy Friday 9. Many Rivers To Cross – Jimmy Cliff 10. Here I Am Baby – Al Brown 11. Groovin’ Out On Life (Groovin’ In Style) – Ken Parker 12. Wear You To The Ball – U-Roy & John Holt 13. Singer Man – The Kingstonians 14. Kingston Town – Lord Creator 15. Stick By Me (And I’ll Stick By You) – John Holt 16. Homely Girl – Jackie Robinson
trax CD 2:
1. Holly Holy – The Fabulous Flames 2. It’s My Delight – The Melodians 3. Come Back Darling – Johnny Osbourne & The Sensations 4. I Will Never Let You – Cornel Campbell 5. Soul Rebel – Bob Marley & The Wailers 6. My Best Girl – The Paragons 7. Good Ambition – The Ethiopians 8. Blood & Fire Niney – The Observer 9. Mr. Fix It – Max Romeo 10. Stay A Little Bit Longer – Delano Stewart 11. The Time Has Come – Slim Smith 12. Crying Over You – Ken Boothe 13. Let Your Yeah Be Yeah – The Pioneers 14. The Tide Is High – The Paragons 15. Rivers Of Babylon – The Melodians 16. Love Of The Common People (To Keep Me Hangin’ On) – Nicky Thomas 17. Everything I Own – Ken Boothe
trax CD 3:
1. Rudy, A Message To You – Dandy Livingstone 2. Birth Control (aka My Mother’s Eyes) – Lloydie & The Lowbites 3. Guns Of Navarone – The Skatalites 4. Long Shot Kick De Bucket – The Pioneers 5. Liquidator – Harry J Allstars 6. Skinhead Moonstomp – Symarip 7. Monkey Man – Toots & The Maytals 8. (People Get Ready) Let’s Do Rocksteady – Dandy 9. Time Hard – The Pioneers 10. Carry Go Bring Come – Justin Hinds & The Dominoes 11. Too Experienced – Eddie Lovette 12. Train To Skaville – The Ethiopians 13. Man Next Door – Dennis Brown 14. 007 (Shanty Town) – Desmond Dekker 15. Montego Bay – Freddie Notes & The Rudies 16. Stop That Train – Keith & Tex 17. Angel Of The Morning – Joya Landis
…served by Gyro1966…
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