I stumbled across this picture today and thought it would be a nice one to share here. Prasanna Balasundaram, my good friend and at that time neighbor, took this shot of the Gladdy Wax crew in action at Clissold Park in the Stoke Newington area of London. An elder statesman of the North London reggae scene, Gladdy Wax ran a record shop in Stoke Newington for many years, and has operated his beloved sound system for over three decades. Before establishing himself in London, Gladdy cut his chops in Birmingham on the infamous Quaker City sound (more info here).
P also took the photo that is on the header graphic of this blog, along with many others documenting revival sound system events around London in the spring and summer months of 2008. I will continue to post some of my favorites of these images in an ongoing series here, so–maximum respect to Prasanna Balasundaram out of Toronto, Canada. Don’t stop shooting my friend!
Another great LP from the Boston area was lent to me last week (thanks Joe). Ethiopian Dread is producer and vocalist on the 1983 album “Rasta Liberty”, singing both in English and Amharic over some heavy original riddims provided by the Zion Initation crew. Ras Ipa (Ipa Fenton) and Danny Tucker both lend a hand on the recording as guitarist and background vocalist respectively, alongside Iraka Reid and Ifuse Silcott holding down the rhythm section. Recordings were completed at Downtown Studios in Boston and then sent to Kingston for mixing at Harry J Studio by Barrington Murray. The label is ZUFAN SOUND with no street address but a PO Box that bears a local zip code.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard another reggae album containing lyrics sung in Amharic (by an Amharic speaker that is… the Abyssinians don’t count) but am curious as to how this type of thing was received at the time both by reggae stalwarts and Ethiopian expatriates living in the area. Roots reggae has not traditionally lent itself well to fusion or experimental genre-bending, indeed the very notion that many hold of ‘roots’ music is by definition incongruous with any form of mutation or dilution. On the other hand, given the space occupied by Ethiopian/Amharic traditions within Rastafari discourse and the cosmos of reggae–this hybrid is potentially less (or at least distinctly) dissonant than, say, “London Calling” by The Clash.
Two of my favorite cuts both feature on the A side–Ethiopia and Help Jah People exemplify the deep-roots vibe that rides through the entirety of the disk. Click on the song names to take a slice and be sure not to sleep on this Boston reggae gem if you come across it in the bins.
Continuing with the Felito Records catalogue we have the Curramba series. Click on the images to enlarge them. Curramba is another term for the city of Barranquilla on Colombia’s Atlantic coast. It is here that Producciones Fonograficas Felito Ltda. was established with its 16-track recording facility–Estudios Felito – El Templo Del Sonido Perfecto–under the direction of Félix Butrón Arbelaez.
Just a few days after posting my latest thoughts on the wild world of Boston-related reggae records I came across another piece to add to the list–this one being Zion Initation’s ‘Jah Light’ LP. The album was released in 1985 on the Zion Lion label based out of Evans Street in Dorchester–Ras Ipa and Danny Tucker are credited with the vocals and the recording was done at Downtown Recording Studio in Boston with the help of Joe the engineer. Iphus Silcott and Iraka Reid are credited on drums and bass respectively, Abdul Baki on keyboard, Abbi Ike on percussion and Ras Ipa again on the rhythm and lead guitar. Mixdown was done at none other than Harry J Studio in Kingston with Sylvan Morris at the controls. From what the internet tells me this was the group’s second full length disc, after putting out ‘Showcase’ on Armagedon in the late seventies. The record is dubby, mellowed-out roots with a fantastic unpolished sound, reminiscent of some Wackies output and recordings from Jerry Brown’s Summer Sound Studio during the seventies and eighties–a kind of more drawn out, less finished style than much of what was being made in Jamaica.
Another small piece of the puzzle fins its place. I am certainly no expert on reggae music’s past or present place in Boston’s cultural landscape, but I think the task of putting these records out there is a relevant one. There are no compilations on this subject, no books or lengthly articles to my knowledge that really focus on reggae recordings produced and released in the area. If you have some knowledge to share please leave a comment or an email (ruffluxury (at) gmail.com)–I would love to hear from you.
Filed under boston, reggae
More scans from the Felito Records catalogue
(Click to enlarge images)
Felito Records Catalogue I
SInce the last post on Boston area reggae I regretfully haven’t answered many questions about the labels and artists that were brought up. I have, on the other hand, continued to run into interesting releases on the likes on Mastermind and MJH Records, as well as the pieces pictured above.
Clockwise from the left we have a Waynie Ranks 12″ on Taurus records with a Courtney Morris cut Extacy on the flipside. The only address/phone number listed is the VP distribution info in Queens, but I’m pretty sure its a Boston production given that all of the artists and producers feature elsewhere on local releases of the time. Taurus also likely has a connection to the mainstay Blue Hill Avenue record shop bearing the same name which is sadly the last of the Jamaican/Caribbean record shops that is still open today. Record shops catering to the city’s West Indian population were for some time a thriving cottage industry in the area–they were certainly still a common feature of the landscape still while I was growing up in Dorchester during the nineties. The next disc is another Leroy Webb and Twin Dread production from 1991–’Gwan Skylarking’ featuring rhythms by Mikey White and a host of local vocalists like Major Jackson, Errol Strength, Lady Lee and Ras Coley. The record was mixed by Junior Rodigan and Michael McDonald at Phillip Smart’s famed HC&F Studio in Freeport, Long Island. Taurus II records lists an address on River St. not far from the aforementioned record shop.
The I-Tones were a pretty successful reggae act in the Cambridge area for a time and put out a number of records including an LP called ‘Something We Share’ in 1987. This song apparently had a video that you can see here. Another of their bigger tunes was a nice rendition of Love is a Pleasure by Freddie Kay that came out on a 45. Healin of the Nations’ ‘Love is the Answer’ LP is the final label scan, coming out on the HUB Records imprint. This album received a lot of praise from the Boston Globe at the time of its release (1982) and is one of the more solid boston released full length that I have heard yet. Danny Tucker shows up in the credits as a background vocalist on 400 Years–making this an even more interesting find and reminding me of how I really need to track down that Take Us Home 45.
For anyone interested in Colombian music and especially the 80s Cumbia and Champeta sound, here are some scans from the Felito Records promotional catalogue. Many of the titles are available still from the label’s shop located in downtown Barranquilla which is a great place to find records and well worth a visit if you are in the area. These are the first ten pages of the catalogue, click to enlarge the images.