Released in 1988 on Dennis Star International records, this is ‘Mona Lisa’ by Mikey Melody.
This is pure late 80s dancehall vocals over digital rhythms. Mikey Melody sounds a lot like Conroy Smith, Courtney Melody and other such singers of the era, but lacks the hits and style of the aforementioned artists. To be fair, Mikey Melody did much better work, it is just a shame it isn’t on this album. It’s not bad as such, it just comes across as functional 80s dancehall, nothing special or memorable.
The album sleeve is pretty errr…..special, and hasn’t dated well at all. This is one of our least favorite Wilfred Limonious album covers – to be fair, it probably wasn’t his fault as he is only dealing with what he has been given to work with, and both Mikey Melody and his ‘Mona Lisa’ don’t look like they are enjoying any minute of this at all. Looks like a US prom photo.
A1 Mona Lisa
A4 Reggae Rock
A5 Break The Barriers Down
B1 Pa Pie Pie
B2 All Ina One
B3 Soldier Ina Town
B4 Mr. Melody
B5 Lovers Lane
Sugar Belly a.k.a. Wilfred Walker, is a unique figure in the Jamaican music scene – he is a self-taught musician who played Mento and Reggae music with a home-made saxophone that he made himself made from bamboo, bits of cardboard, and various other ‘found materials.
This album was released in 1985 on Techniques Records and sees Sugar Belly playing a hybrid of Mento and Reggae, with the backing of a full band.
Despite having a long career playing in the bars and hotels of Jamaica and the surrounding islands, Sugar Belly only recorded two full length albums (but he did rack up fifteen singles on various labels).
The album sleeve here is actually by Wilfred Limonious and probably goes down as one of the more obscure releases that Limonious created album artwork for.
Check out the fascinating clip from a Canadian documentary called ‘The Music of Man’ that was aired in 1979 and featured a short section on Sugar Belly and his home-made bamboo saxophone:
Peel Head John Crow
Miss Mary Ann
Pain A Back
Fire In Mi Wire
Released on Tads Records in 1980 this was Jah Thomas’s third album.
Despite being a local celebrity since the mid-70s, Jah Thomas found international fame with his first album ‘Stop Yuh Loafin’ when it was picked up by Greensleeves Records, a new label at the time that was founded by Chris Cracknell and Chris Sedgwick, and was based in West London. Greensleeves would go on to become an integral part of taking a wide roster of reggae and dancehall artists to international markets, and ‘Stop Yuh Loafin’ would also feature the first cover-art by Tony McDermott – another artist responsible for some of the most creative and distinctive reggae album art o.ver the years
The artwork here is another striking piece by Jamaal Pete, and features his detailed and colourful style and brush strokes.
The rear of the album is equally as impressive, featuring hand-drawn lettering for the tracklisting and other album details which gives a true artisan feel to the whole product.
The music itself is a pretty good set, not the best by Jah Thomas, but solid enough with heavy rhythm tracks from the Roots Radics band and deep mixing by Scientist.
1 Hear It In The News
2 Please Mr Officer
4 Nah Fight Over Woman
5 Have To Spend Me Hotel Fee
6 Mary Lou
7 Cocky & Pussy
8 Hotel No Lack
9 Morning Ride
10 Put It On Back
This is ‘Open Book’ by Barrington Levy – this was an early Barrington Levy album and has appeared on a few record labels over the years, including Tuff Gong, Oak Sounds, and Dee Jay records.
The cover is by the legendary Wilfred Limonious, and it is a unique cover by his standards as it doesn’t utilise the Wilfred Limonious signature free-flowing, colourful, and detailed cartoon graphics – instead it adopts a moody and dark cityscape with flashing lights and stars in the background.
Limonious has written his name on the cover, and a hand-drawn ‘open book’ is shown in the middle with ‘Jah Love‘ written on the top of the pages. Definitly not your usual Limonious cover – but still great all the same.
The album itself is a great collection of early Barrington Levy dancehall vocal tracks, which all still sound great today.
Trying To Ruin My Life
My Love Don’t Come Easy
Mine You Hurt Mom
Skanking On Broadway
Begging You A Ten Cent Sir
When You Are Feeling Hungry
This is as good as it gets, a King Tubby digital album, intros by Fuzzy Jones, and great album artwork by Jethro “Paco” Dennis – this is about as close to the essence of Dancehall as it it possible to get from a single album.
King Tubby’s name will always be associated with dub for many casual reggae fans, but he was equally as at home when the digital age of reggae hit and wasn’t left behind like many other producers who began their careers in the same era that Tubby did.
The Sound Clash culture is a staple of Jamaican dancehall and a clash can make or break sound systems and even artists. For beginners it can be an opaque and a confusing tradition to get to grips with, but this album is a pretty good entry point and acts as a good a blueprint as you will find anywhere to get to grips with this subculture of Jamaican Dancehall where sound systems battle each other by playing unique custom records (dub-plates) until the crowd decides the winner and the losing sound is ‘locked off’.
The album sleeve is a great piece of artwork by Jethro “Paco” Dennis, that shows a sound clash in full flow. The selector is shown on the right-hand side shouting “Dis ya wan, ya a go straight to a Di-Bi Di-Bi Sound Bwoy head!” as patrons look on, or dance. The rear of the sleeve shows a muscled hulk type character throwing a dub-plate into a grave with a sound system speaker lying in it. Above his head is written “Kill A Sound Bwoy”.
The music also attempts something a little different with each track being introduced by Fuzzy Jones who was widely regarded (along with Joe Lickshot) as one of the best intro-men in the dancehall who could hype up a tune and drive the crowd into a frenzy. The intros included here have all be made for this album, but really give an authentic feel of being actually in the dancehall during the late 80s. Each track included in this compilation are all focused around the subject of sound clashing and killing sounds.
The rear of the album also features a great essay by King Tubby describing the principles of a sound clash. Essay reproduced below:
“This album is the first of its kind. The purpose of this album is to give those people who don’t attend dances a feel of what’s happening inside the dance hall also to be used in sound system clashes.
All of the tracks from this album are specials. Specials are recordings which are made from rhythm tracks rented from producers who take along an artiste of their choice to do a recording.
This recording is copied on a Dubplate. A dubplate is made of metal and covered with wax. They are produced for the sound system personal files and they only play them when they compete with each other.
Tubbys made the first special in 1970 with Roy Shirley and Slim Smith, Johnny Clarke and Cornel Campbell.
King Everald opens the album with the tune “Kill Ole Pan”, the line “Do you know how to kill a sound lick dem and chop dem with apiece of ole iron” does not mean a physical chop. Due to the fact that the Dubplate is made of metal and covered with wax, so the term “Chop a sound” means you play a Dubplate with a hot tune on it against the other sound.
Incidentally the voice you hear at the start of each cut is Fuzzy Jones the Intro Man who introduces most specials in Dance Hall business.
Gregory opens side 2 with “The Ruler”. Gregory was passing through the studio and when the idea was put to him, Gregory said he had the right lyrics for the idea. He voiced the tune with just one take.
Gregory buried the Sound but not the Slector or Crew. Pad Nthony closes the album with “Charge Dem” which takes care of all the crew, “charge dem and give dem a sentence” a line from the tune.
This special is a popular one and was done for many sound systems by Pad Anthony. Relax and listen or move some of the furniture to one side of the house and invite your friends and partner over to your Dance Hall”
A1 King Everald: Kill Ole Pan
A2 Johnny Osbourne: Line Up
A3 Trevor Levy: Nah Run From No Clash
A4 Bananaman: Take A Lick
A5 Michael Bitas: Die Yu Die
B1 Gregory Isaacs: The Ruler
B2 Little John: Fade Away
B3 Sugar Minott: Play Me
B4 Conroy Smith: Original Sound
B5 Pad Anthony: Charge Dem