Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Derive Babylon

Whoa it's been a while. Is the Beatdown retired? Maybe... We'll see what comes.

For now, here's a random selection of some of my favorite tunes, mostly old and classic. These are some of the artists that have had a big influence on our band, Destroy Babylon. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Arktober 77, part VIII: Vampires!

Devon Irons & Dr. Alimantado - "Ketch Vampire"
from Trojan Rockers Box Set (2006)

*I'm still trying to catch up with the posts I originally wanted to have up by now, but for now, here's the Halloween special a little late...

Being a huge music nerd, I'll admit to frequently reading up about albums on One of their writers, Jo-Ann Greene, reviews many of the classic reggae recordings, offering insight not only to the albums, but for many individual songs. So instead of me giving trying to come up with something original, here's Ms. Greene's words on one of Perry's classics;

"Singer Bunny Gayle released a handful of singles that sank without much trace in the early Seventies, but as the saying goes, every artist has one great song in him, and Gayle is proof positive of that. His relationship with producer Lee Perry may have dated back to 1971, but it wasn't until 1977's "Ketch Vampire" that the singer found renown, albeit under the new moniker, Devon Irons, that Perry created for the occasion.

And that wasn't the only thing changed at the session, trumpeter Clive Hunt was equally startled when Perry told him to play bass, but it's his chilling riff stalking Mickey "Boo" Richard's snapping and cracking cymbal beats, that set the stage for the entire piece, while Robbie Lyn's keyboards conjure up the haunting atmosphere and guitarist Fil Callinder's guitar riff echoes eerily in the background.

Perry's militant, dread production conjures up the crypts through which Irons roams, following Jah's order to hunt down the bloodsucker, and with his lit chalice to hand, ready to burn the vampire to ashes. But for all the unworldly imagery and evocative atmospheres, Irons and Perry true purpose is to stake a much more human target - the false Rasta.

Seething in righteous anger, the singer unleashes his rage at those dread-locked hypocrites who look like the faithful, but follow none of the faith's tenets, almost snarling his way across a list of behaviors that a true Rastaman would never engage in.

Denigrating the deceivers was a popular theme for dread artists, but few delivered it such ringing conviction and power as Irons, chanting out the lyrics like the obeah man casting a spell. A roots masterpiece, that staked its claim to sound system success both at home and abroad."

I have several versions of this tune, but this is a good one and from a great (fairly) new Box set from Trojan. All 50 tracks are excellent (including a few more recorded at the Ark in '77) and give a great overview of how Sly Dunbar's rockers and steppas drumming style brought a whole new aspect to the genre.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Arktober 77, part VI: The Real Congos

Seke Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo
- "Bad Food" and "Wakoya"
from African Roots (2006)

[Gotta go outside and enjoy the day before GAME 7 tonight... so I'll let Mick Sleeper sum up this great Trojan release...]

This is an album with a great story behind it. In 1977, a would-be reggae promoter brought some fellows from Zaire to Jamaica in hopes of creating a new African reggae sound. Apparently she abandoned the two Africans soon after they arrived in Jamaica and left them stranded on the mean streets of Kingston. Not speaking any English, they had to beg for money and food to survive. Eventually, they found themselves at Lee Perry's house and somehow communicated their desperate story. Perry took their arrival as a sign: Jah himself had sent these men from Africa to make a connection with the Black Ark. Soon after, the pair were in the Ark recording the songs that make up African Roots. Originally eight songs were recorded and a rough mix of an album (entitled Monama) was sent to Island records. Island ultimately shelved the album, and those tapes remain in the vaults until today.

In 1979, six tracks were released on the French Sonafric label as Seke Molenga And Kalo Kawongolo; the Dutch label RUNN released a collection with the same six tracks called From The Heart Of The Congo in 1991. There has never been a complete release of this material until this excellent Trojan release. It's an incredible and ground breaking collaboration, done long before anyone was attempting such a crossover, and even before reggae had become popular in Africa. The result was a thick, swirling, tribal groove that is unique in the Lee Perry catalogue.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Arktober 77, part V: Keep the Faith

George Faith - "
Midnight Hour - Ya Ya" and "I've Got the Groove" from To Be a Lover (1977)

Hoping to see another comeback like in the 2004 ALCS, me and a million other Red Sox fans are trying real hard to "keep the faith". Until the game tomorrow night, let's just keep the mood light with a couple rare gems from an under appreciated classic from George Faith. Once again, I'll let David Katz's always insightful People Funny Boy take it from here:

"George Faith and Perry fashioned eight crucial tracks together during this period, all cover versions of American soul and pop hits re-done in a thick syrup of Black Ark rhythm. George noted that Perry suggested which songs to cover, hand picking numbers he felt the singer would excel on; he then re-shaped the standard ballads into something entirely other through his individual visionary treatments.

"Scratch gave me these songs to do because I do covers so good and Scratch gave the musicians a lot of work; he's a very technical guy. You can be playing a drum pattern and he say, 'Play that upside down.' His way of working is very unique: his rythms have a different sound, the mix is totally different from everybody else; he does percussion different from everybody else too. He might bring in the garbage pail, play a few instruments, then in a certain spot, he just kick that dirt bin. When he mix all the sound together, you get some way-out kind of sound. You see, Scratch is a genius. Working with Scratch, you learn a lot of things too. Scratch is really the type of producer who was deep into the music."

The album was recently reissued in limited numbers by Hip-O Select, a really cool label that has released some classic Scratch productions as well as some other great stuff.
I just realized after typing this that Katz also wrote the liner notes for this release and you can read it all here.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Arktober 77, part IV: Jolly Brothers

Jolly Brothers - "Conscious Man" and "Babylon A Fight Rasta"
from Conscious Man (1977)

In late '77, the Jolly Brothers recorded some tracks at the Black Ark and intended to record an LP with Perry after their tune 'Conscious Man' caught on in the UK. They recorded enough songs for a full length, but problems occured with their label and only a few of the songs saw release a few years after in limited numbers. It wasn't until 1993 when they released this album on CD, but it has once again fallen out of print. Some re-issue label (Pressure Sounds??) really needs to make this available again because it's a fine collection of songs with great harmonies and that classic Ark sound.

There is a handful of other lost gems from this time that will be featured here very soon... stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Arktober 77, part III: Linda McCartney?

Linda McCartney - "Mr. Sandman" and "Sugartime"
from Wild Prairie

*Disclaimer: sometimes my historical nerdiness overrides my musical judgment...

By '77, Perry's reputation was spreading in the UK, and he and his Ark became in-demand for all sorts of artists, including the Clash ("Complete Control", though unfortunately not recorded at the Ark, and his involvement was minimal), Robert Palmer, John Martyn, and most notably, Paul & Linda McCartney.

I'll let David Katz take the rest (excerpt from People Funny Boy):

"Paul McCartney's fascination with Jamaican music dated back to his days with the Beatles; he was specifically attracted to Perry's individual production style and knew of his reputation for elevating unknown underdogs. The pair met on several occasions in England once an introduction was arranged by Chris Blackwell; after a positive connection was established, the McCartneys sent Perry a demo tape of material they wanted him to recreate with his inimitable Black Ark sound, so Perry spent a week building three rhythms with Boris Gardiner, Mikey Boo, Winston Wright, and Billy Johnson.

Despite reports to the contrary, Perry pointed out that the couple never made it to his studio. "Me Met Paul in London at this studio in Wembly and lots of other places, but he didn't come to my studio to do the songs. Chris Blackwell tell me that they want me to do something, so they send the music like it was originally, and said they want it in my style. Me have my musician make it, me send it back to them and they voice it somewhere else."

Some of this material was voiced by the McCartneys in Scotland the following August, including a version of the Chordette's poppy 'Sandman,' which featured phased guitar and a melodic bass line, but the project was then abandoned for nearly 20 years. In July 1998, while Linda was battling cancer, the couple returned to these Jamaican creations, voicing the rockers-style cut of the Maguire Sisters' standard 'Sugartime.' Both tracks were eventually included on Wild Prairie a posthumous collection of Linda's work issued shortly after he death."

These two tracks aren't exactly classics- actually they're not even that good (well, Sandman would make a pretty good dub...). But it is interesting to hear the McCartneys in this setting...