Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jammin' with Martin and Granz

When I noticed that Steve Cerra over at the always interesting blog titled Jazz Profiles had posted a tribute to artist illustrator David Stone Martin, one of the absolute heroes of Jazz record jacket art, I figured something fine was awaiting anyone who linked in. And I was right. Go to Cerra's complex and inventive site here to get hooked in (and I do mean "hooked").

As a Jazz LPs collector and an Internet books/records seller as well, I've long been a fan of DSM's cranky, crafty, creative line work. I've sold collectable samples (record jackets, magazines with his illustrations, books with jackets and interior art) for about 20 years now, and I still always find something crazily new to admire. Cerra's DSM visual samples, set to a baritone sax workout, are somewhat chronological; from the early Moses Asch days, through his decade-and-more yeoman's work for Norman Granz's Clef/Norgran/Downhome/ Verve labels, to his later work for more obscure employers, DSM typically delivered a drawing that was off-the-wall, intriguing, and caricature-based. And after all these years, and studying the few admiring books that feature the artist, and even discovering a couple of obscurities myself, I still must admit that I'm familiar with only two-thirds of the images shown in Cerra's tribute, meaning the ones I've personally owned and/or sold.

The very expensive "standard" work on the illustrator (selling for $250 and up at present) is an oversize, limited-edition paperback that appeared only in Japan back in 1991, dedicated collector Manek Daver's Jazz Graphics: David Stone Martin, offering about 200 samples of his work, mostly Jazz album covers and other line drawings. But DSM had a long and distinguished career apart from Jazz too. Around 1933, a young art school grad still living in Chicago, he became an assistant to the great, politically committed artist Ben Shahn, who was painting a mural for the upcoming Chicago World's Fair; and after that effort Shahn's contacts in the Roosevelt government helped DSM become art director for the Tennessee Valley Authority for the rest of the decade. Shahn and DSM also reunited during WWII when both worked for the OSS and then OWI. (One might also note that Shahn and his short-term protege shared certain charac-teristics in their line- drawing styles and socially- conscious subject matter.)

DSM then moved on to a freelance designer/illustrator career in New York, and began supplying drawings to magazines. Thanks to pianist Mary Lou Williams, he was soon also hired to provide a variety of cover illustrations for 78 rpm albums on Asch and Disc and Stinson, with subjects ranging from Square Dancing to Calypso, Prokofieff to Leadbelly, Richard Dyer Bennett to James P. Johnson.

But when Norman Granz launched his jam session-styled concerts in Southern California, soon called Jazz at the Philharmonic, and then licensed the early concert tapes to Asch's labels, Granz and DSM quickly discovered they had like interests and similar quirky attitudes... And there was no turning back after that. Hired to work for ever-contentious Norman in 1947 (who was starting his own Clef Records), over the years the artist drew hundreds of LP jackets and other illustrations, from program booklet covers to label designs, with famous and sometimes fractious images of Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Lester Young, Benny Carter, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Johnny Hodges (nicknamed "Rabbit"), Bud Powell, Art Tatum, and many other heroes of the Mainstream and BeBop Fifties. But likely the best remembered later were his many drawings for releases by Billie Holiday, and the umpteen versions of wildly popular JATP performances.

And DSM's very clear signature on every cover no doubt helped him land other work--a few children's books, graphic design jobs, many cover paintings for Time Magazine, Broadway show posters, later film and television design credits, even a couple of Jazz related books: Mister Jelly Roll, the as-told-to autobiography of Jelly Roll Morton assembled by Alan Lomax from copious tapes, and nearly two decades later the many drawings for an early-years history of the Monterey Jazz Festival, called Dizzy, Duke, the Count and Me. (Most of the Morton drawings, by the way, also showed up individually, recycled as non-Jelly Roll jacket illustrations a couple of years later. Maybe the artist retained his copyrights? Well, Granz for sure would have appreciated a slightly-used work at a bargain price!)

DSM worked for Granz until the Sixties when the producer sold his labels and "retired" to Switzerland. I suppose the artist illustrator at first maintained his career full steam, but aside from a couple dozen jackets for other small independent labels and the Time covers, plus drawings commissioned by fans, his later career is a bit of a blank. He suffered a stroke in the Seventies, and--to be blunt rather than polite--his illustrations became less inventive and more distorted, even desperate. But he is of course remembered and revered for all the great ones.

I've added several less-known pieces as illustration examples for this brief addendum to Cerra's tribute, most of them missing from his selected visuals, but a couple of them rare enough to be absent from Daver's book--a somewhat stodgy mural painted for the TVA; a 78 Folk album Daver missed, and a Granz-era surprise (who knew Al Hirt got a DSM look-in?); an illustration from a children's songbook (more rabbits!) showing the artist's simpler side, along with a drawing of Jelly Roll so detailed and distinct from the artist's usual sketchy, often surreal style, that it might stand in for those long-forgotten Time covers too; plus some other LP jackets missing from one source or the other (like the beautiful scene up top of Bud Powell taking a piano lesson from Mary Lou Williams, which really did happen).

The world of record collecting would be immeasurably more bland and boring without David Stone Martin's Jazz graphics. (And a tip of the hat to Norman for turning him loose.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Real Ghetto Pres-shuh

I left a couple of things dangling in the One-Drop Reggae post two weeks ago, so I decided to follow-up...

The 2006 set of 40 more Rasta-oriented, one-drop riddim hits (on Greensleeves Records) that arrived too late to be reviewed earlier is excellent, a good buy even if not quite as terrific as that 2008 CD/DVD combo release I raved about. CD 1 launches strongly with the catchy "Ganja Farmer" by unknown-to-me Marlon Asher (echoed further on by Gyptian's "Sensi" and Alborosie's "Herbalist"), but then drops ten stories when the so-called Perfect shouts, interminably, "Nuh Badda Mi," followed by hammily dramatic "Gash Dem" by Chuck Fender. And so it goes for 37 more numbers about equally divided between irritating chanters (exceptions are Sizzla and Lutan Fyah who manage to inject some melody into all the shouting) and the serious singers of both Rasta consciousness and lover's questions.

Thus easily recommended are Sizzla's "Chant Dem Down" and "Phantom War" by Lutan Fyah among the talk-tunes, and "Brown Skin" by Richie Spice, the hard-driving and unforgettable "How Do You Feel" by Anthony B. (Flava McGregor's only production in this lot of 40), lovely Alaine's "Jah Jah Cry," "What Will It Take" by Jah Cure (a complex, upbeat arrangement; see next paragraph), Ras Shiloh's "Rastaman Up in the Hills," and all three numbers powerfully presented by Natural Black: "Never Quit," "Nice It Nice," and "Life Be the Same Way." Special mention too for the Nyabinghi drumming and drifting flute divining "Holy Words," which combines Bescenta's floating vocals with the serious thought of chanter Warrior King.

Another one-drop CD that I found, approximately titled Kings of Kings Presents Gibraltar: Reggae Hits Vol. 3 (on Jet Star, released in 2000), offers tracks by names big (Sizzla, Luciano, Capleton, Jah Mason, Norris Man) and small (Iley Dread, Junior Alexander, Sugar Black and Lehbancheleh) plus a few otherwise situated--Mikey Melody, Yami Bolo, and the remarkable Jah Cure, international cause celebre and legal project, a young singer jailed for rape who proclaimed his innocence so often and so convincingly that people around the globe agitated hard for his release. (He's pardoned out now and recording again, working to rebuild a career, but so far without major success.)

At any rate, all 18 tracks are variations on the single fast-running Gibraltar rhythm, but so cleverly arranged and voiced that one doesn't get the urge to drop it straightaway! Worth repeated listens are "Bad Road," Norris Man's potent opener; Luciano singing a Reggaefied gospel sermon with organ and chorus, "Moving On Up"; the busy, overlapping mix of master vocalist Anthony Red Rose, emphatic commentator Natural Black, and a sweet-singing female chorus; plus Jah Cure's bouncy "Dance Hall Vibes," with the youth a bit hoarse-voiced but still sounding, well, charming. Even more catchy and bubbly is "Juggle" by Mikey Melody--packed with hand drums and quick soundeffects and a family-friendly message.

Negative votes accumulate around Jah Mason's "The Most High," which has a screechy, near-Free Jazz saxophone stupidly burping along, and "Inna the Ghetto" which pits (the precise word) Junior Alexander's rant re: the evils of Babylon against that female chorus, now sounding foolishly displaced from a different song. But still I give the Gibralter CD an 87, 'cause you really can dance to it.

Finally, I sought out the recent album (From August Town on VP Records) that Duane Stephenson and sly-fox saxmaster Dean Fraser, who played on and produced, built around the powerful hit titled "August Town." Back-checking a bit, I discovered that up-and-comer Duane has recorded duets with recent contender Tarrus Riley, son of Jimmy Riley, one of Jamaica's longtime hitmaker vocalists. But Stephenson--who writes and sings and smolders on camera, alternating social conscious songs with romantic lovers' rock--earlier still began as single-name "Dwayne," sharing vocals with Gyptian on the droll and streetwise "Rude Boy Shufflin" (another highlight of the 2006 set above), then became regular "Duane" for his own heartfelt cut on producer Flava McGregor's great Trumpet riddim, titled "Giving a Helping Hand."

After these foot-in-the-door moments came the opportunity to work with Fraser for "August Town"--Dean's tune and riddim, Duane's autobiographical lyrics; Duane the connected new kid, Fraser the classic saxman who'd been around, and regularly called on, since the last days of ska and the heyday of Lee Perry and the Wailers. So the album is practically a microcosm of Jah-makin' music--straight soul ballads, rockier r&b built on fluid-drive guitars and mic'ed-up drums, songs for sad lovers (where'd that "lovers' rock" designation come from, anyway?), and splendid "politrickery" and rude-boy violence limned and slammed in the several songs of conscious reasoning.

I hear at least a half-dozen likely hits among the packed CD's 15 songs--the first two ("Ghetto Pain" and "Misty Morning"), the last two ("Fool for You" and "Dream Weaver"), and the middle three ("August Town" sandwiched between "Without You" and "Chant Love"). But rather than analyze the whys, let's just say that Duane Stephenson should have a golden future. If you are a fan of Reggae, Marley or modern, you need to track this one down.

But as wonderful as these CDs are, each is in its own way, I can't seem to stop humming, can't get out of "My Head" as it were, the Gyptian hit with its varied iteration of "Mi 'ead keeps spinnin' around." And I choose to follow Jah Mason who'll "Take me where I always wan' t' be, Like being divine with such a dignity." Or top singjay Turbulence suggesting forcefully again and again to his fickle lover, "There Is the Door" (over the same one-drop, be it noted, as Gyptian's powerful "What Are You Fighting For")--all of these songs drawn from the near-perfect Cousins Records set Strictly One Drop 2007, and persuading me every time to sing right along.

Yet the saddest and most haunting, the performance most suggestive of the grief and violence lurking on that tragic island (everywhere except the tourist resorts), is Lukie D's prayerful calling-out song "Father," with multiple overdub voices weaving in and out, echoing and lamenting:

Father, Jamaica needs you now,
Father, we need you to come now,
Father, mankind have lost their vow,
Father, if we ever need you, it surely now.

Can somebody tell me right now
How we ever get to this?
Acting so uncivilized
Like beasts and savages.
Wo-ho-o-oh, all the children are crying,
Fathers are dying, mothers are dying,
We just can't live like this...

And yet they do--in August Town and Spanish Town and all the numbered districts of Kingston--living, and dying, just like that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's a Rap

Marc Myers' recent blog revisiting Disco and its relation to Jazz (here) started me thinking along different lines completely. From Johnny Ace and Sam Cooke to Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, the celebrity life for too many a Black artist has ended too soon in death.

Whether the cause be drugs or murder, health issues or accident, doesn't really matter--it's those absent friends who do: Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Jackie Wilson, Chuck Willis, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Teddy Pendergrass, Peter Tosh, hell, even Robert Johnson and Little Walter. And from Jazz, Chu Berry, Billy Strayhorn, Clifford Brown, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Sonny Criss, Wardell Gray, Tina Brooks, Paul Chambers, John Coltrane, on and on.

Consider the people lost. Imagine the music that never got made. Unplayed, unsung. Unhearable... unbearable.

What's that expression from Funkadelic--"America eats its young"? (Funkmaster George Clinton might have been echoing Robespierre's bitter words, "The revolution devours its young," but the action is true of certain non-human animals too.) To put it simply, Success is a bitch. And too much of it too soon usually leads to problems--and that's regardless of race, creed, or color.

Think of our young, stupid movie stars, our over-the-top pop music idols, the vast and ridiculous cult of celebrity, the ludicrous, debasing premise of most reality TV shows, the selfish actions of today's overpaid athletes, all that senseless "bling, blang, it's ma thang."

Yo, all you sudden rich, what up? All that sturm und drang, your private lives gone public, your wishful thinking run amok... will take you nowhere. Or maybe I mean straight to Nowheresville: The Big Nada: a morgue slab and a pine box. Or if you're lucky, just detox--and maybe a second chance. Can I send out my own wish that you learn from some wiser folks somewhere? That you work to live long and prosper? That you just cool it? (Would "Chill" mean more?)

Making music is a lifetime proposition, and a pretty good gig, money or no. Why shorten your life and sell your life short? Some great artist entertainers, Black or no, men and women alike, have enjoyed fame and wealth and carefully worked out, wisely structured lives, correcting any youthful mistakes and then reaping the rewards (big or small) for many decades thereafter. A few names off the top of my head: Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Benny Carter, Bill Cosby, Sonny Rollins, Sidney Poitier, Abbey Lincoln (and Max Roach too), Clark Terry, Morgan Freeman, James Moody, Cecily Tyson, Hank Jones.

I'm white and 67, a cancer and Parkinson's survivor (so far, anyway); some Southern, some Northern, but Pacific Northwestern most of all. I don't have a dog in this hunt, or any agenda other than to see lives come to fruition and music go on, in whatever form the players proffer and the listeners prefer. Not quite supply and demand; more like create and communicate, contend and comprehend.

Well, here's my contention: forget the phoney publicity and the artificial stimulus; there's rapture enough in love and friendship and raising children, in finding good work and doing some too, in leaving the world a little bit better at the end.

Life is too glorious to waste. Making music too miraculous. T.P. had everything and then, baby, he lost it; yeah, Teddy had the right to be way more bitter, but still he kept on: "Life is a song worth singing. Why don't you... sing it?"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Roots Reggae: One Drop or Two?

Yah mon, seen? Righteous Reggae music make me wanna holler, "Rasta far I!"--and I don't even know what it means.

Some say the "I" thrown in to sentences, or added as a prefix or suffix to certain words, is a self-effacing Rastafarian way of offhandedly--avoiding "me" and "we"--referring to oneself. Well maybe, but the varied, freeform usages are just confusing to... I? I-man? I and I? Kiddus-I? I-dren? Irie? Ital? Ites?

Similarly, original early-Seventies Reggae had what's called a "one drop" rhythm (in Jamaican patois, "riddim"), which means a four-four beat where the snare and bass drums hit the third beat of every measure, but not the one (it's dropped), while rhythm guitar keeps solid two and four. But these days one-drop can also mean whole CD albums offering multiple versions of a single riddim pattern and tune, or two or three different riddims with several performances each, and all with different vocalists/lyrics/instrumental flourishes/mixes for each individual performance or interpretation. This can get pretty boring when the rhythm doesn't please the ear much or the melody isn't catchy, but a few one-drop CDs are brilliant--sort of variations on a theme, Jamaica style.

The island has actually been a musical phenomenon for 50 years, with more 7" singles sold there per capita than anywhere else in the world. Consider that again: a tiny poverty-stricken island (where a drug war like Mexico's, but on a smaller scale, is raging just at this moment) whose "herbal loving" populace buys more records than ganja spliffs... with Bob Marley and the Wailers (and others following after) turning the whole world onto the stuttering beat patterns and deep spirituality of certain styles of Reggae (basically Roots Rasta vs. sexy, secular Dancehall).

And then the instrumental versions of songs re-mixed by inspired engineers like King Tubby (because the record producers were cheapskates and wanted to recycle existing tunes and tapes) with echo, electronic tricks, and minimalist vocals dropping in and out to create Dub Music, at first used as the B-sides of singles and then as significant releases in their own right--which gave Sound System deejays (who ruled over deafeningly loud outdoor dances) a musical bed to talk and chant over. And these two newer variations of Reggae then swept the world too, in the Eighties mostly, leaving Rap, Hip-Hop, Trance, Electronica, and umpteen other sub-genres bobbing up in their wake ever since.

Meanwhile, back on Jamaica, you had 40 years of massive gun violence, continued poverty, governments failing, and dancehall behaviour turning--let's be blunt--exceedingly lewd and lascivious, this "slackness" acted out over music made tinny and insubstantial by a switch from real musicians to digital gadgets. Yet still the discs sold, and still the tourists came to laze and glaze and gawk. (A recent, perfect expression of the grim side of Jamaica is "Nothing to Smile About," the bitter and beautiful hit by vocal group Morgan Heritage; see more below.)

And eventually there came a spiritual awakening, a return to "conscious" roots and reality, as the Rastafarian belief system began to dominate the lyrics and message of the music once more. (Briefly, that would signify a belief in Jah--God, more or less--with Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia as the Jesus figure who'll save his followers from the hellish Babylon they, and we, all live in. Plus gentle pacifism, strict vegetar-ianism, hair grown to an uncut thickness and length known as "dreadlocks," and the consumption of astonishing quantities of ganja.) The basic rhythm tracks--and each newly invented riddim--reverted too to real musicians again, but now playing in tandem with the banks of digital drums and electronic gear.

But I want to focus on one-drop albums a bit more. Reggae experts and record companies have taken to referring to each individual riddim as a "one-drop anthem." Sounds impressive, right? After all, many familiar rhythms/tunes have been in use, and recycled, since the old Studio One days, meaning the late Sixties. But others are as new as yesterday, and suggesting classic status for most of those just flies in the face of historical judgment. Also, the anthems are frequently not identified by name, leaving it up to clueless ignoramuses like me to puzzle things out somehow. I swear there are no hints hidden in the credits or minimalist liner notes; I guess true fans are expected to have memorized all 300 or 3000 or however many riddims there are! (Among the variety of riddim names, by the way: Zion and New Jerusalem, Gully Gully and Wadada, Caribbean Party and Stop That Train, No Vacancy and Drop It.)

One-drop albums so designated have been appearing since 2006 or so. (Older compilations identified themselves as single-riddim or "riddim rider" or some such, but included a given name.) The first one I bought, Strictly One Drop Volume 1 (on Cousins Records), didn't impress much; the CD has a total of 20 tracks, but the base riddims and performances are pretty ho-hum--more "weed" songs, recycled American r&b, dancehall shakers, and prayers to Jah. Plenty of good voices (Luciano, Frankie Paul, Lukie D, and George Nooks leading the way), and two tracks by Morgan Heritage (who basically can do no wrong), but mostly the inspiration is as washed-out as the tan-brown packaging. Where's all that resonant red, green, and gold?

Well, maybe the label had the same thought because Volumes 2 (with the best one-drop releases of 2007) and 3 (2008) do revive the Rasta color(s) and sound-clash excitement; 40 tracks in 2CD sets, each one, and three-quarters of them are killah! And I believe their powerful impact is largely due to one person, young turk producer Kemar "Flava" McGregor, who proved himself the hottest Conscious Roots creator of the mid-decade, shaping new riddims or re-arrangements for almost every major singer or chanter, and young newcomers too.

McGregor is behind 12 of the 40 tracks on Volume 2, and while the remaining 28 offer some excellent tunes and performances, they are often updates of familiar riddims; I'm hearing versions of Marley's "Easy Skanking," the ultimate Roots tune "Satta Massagana," and favorites from Burning Spear, the Mighty Diamonds, and the bass-lines of Leroy Sibbles--the Reggae past, in other words (and openly celebrated in Earl Sixteen's "Cassava Piece" and "Sweet Reggae Music" by George Nooks). McGregor instead makes it new: lyrics, riddims, odd percussion, Dub-influenced effects, even some mechanical trickery with two of the vocal performances by ace vocalists Gyptian and Lukie D, both of whom have beautifully expressive voices with convincing falsettos, plus the ability to slip in and out of proper English and Caribbean patois as needed.

The producer's hot riddim known as Trumpet (for no reason that's apparent) figures in half of the dozen tracks chosen, but he has others represented too, all with his inventive touches (toy piano, anyone?); and if one listen to Gyptian's "My Head" and "What Are You Fighting For," or "Jah Jah" by Natural Black, "Is This Love" by Lutan Fyah, or Lukie D's "Father," don't make a convert of you, well, you should have stopped reading a while ago! (I won't even mention Natural Black's "No Cry Cry Smile" and Lukie D's unforgettable "So Long" and Lloyd Brown's "Leave the Guns Alone" and Gyptian's big hit "Higher"--all from other producers.)

By 2008 and Volume 3, either Flava and his No Count label had already fallen from favor, or maybe his re-lease price shot up too precipitously, but in the event he has only three tracks--albeit hot, uptempo, and prestigeous: Alborosie with the Tamlins, Gyptian with Barrington Levy, Richie Spice with some sort of bass-deep jaw's harp! So other producers--Byron Murray, Christopher Hart--have taken up the slack as well as some of McGregor's innovations. Several tracks, for example, have Santana-ish guitar singing in and out of the mix; Ginjah's vast and magical "Na Go a Jail" adds burbling organ too, Turbulence lives up to his name and ascends into unexpected beauty in "Do You Remember the King" (brought back 'round by Natural Black seeking "Close Friends"), and Lutan Fyah surges like a tsunami through "Genesis," then returns later to chant-sing "Jah Is My Deliverer" accompanied by cool alto sax.

But let's move on, to the best of the new, The Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2008, from a separate series issued by Greensleeves Records for a few years now. (The 2005 and 2007 selections didn't compel me, but I did buy a just-arrived, not-yet-played copy of the 2006 anthology, with another 40 cuts waiting to be absorbed!) This latest set has only one CD of 18 tracks, but--ites green and gold!--what an array: Luciano trods out in Sizzla's crucial time, Romain Virgo caan sleep and Gyptian feels his pain, Jamelody is love crazy but Terry Linen has no time to linger, and Queen Ifrica and Jr.Kelly together agree it's too late anyway. Meanwhile the bonus DVD with six music vids and two documentaries is most excellently irie.

The variety of riddims and accompanying instruments demonstrates the richness of Reggae today---Nyabinghi drums, Jackie Mittoo-styled organ, something like a Hardanger fiddle, nods to Memphis's Stax/Volt horns and Van Morrison's "Crazy Love," inspired borrowings from Ska and Rock Steady as well as Studio One Reggae. It seems that in this brave old world of drops, anything goes, from any era of the music, kettle drums to bubbling synths. And we fans of Reggae and all its shoots and Roots are the richer for it.

But I can't end this without giving a shoutout to the two most remarkable and emotionally moving performances, heard as hits and seen as videos too: newcomer Duane Stephenson's trip back in time to "August Town," where the singer confronts youth violence and lost opportunities; and Morgan Heritage's amazing "Nothing to Smile About" (a piece de resistance for producer McGregor, by the way), which expands the tragic rollcall of shame from some immediate locale to larger regions and indeed the whole of Jamaica when a white tourist asks the singer:

"How come Jamaica full of so much screwface?"
Same time mi lift mi head to di sky
And a tear drop fall from mi eye
Me say, My youth, come we go out fi a drive
Mek mi show you why mi cry

Look 'pon di gully side
Do you see anyt'ing fi smile 'bout?
Look at that hungry child deh
Do you see anyt'ing to smile 'bout?
Look at di school weh deh youth dem go fi get dem education
Do you see anyt'ing to smile 'bout?
Look at di conditions of our police stations
Do you see anyt'ing to smile 'bout?

And the list goes on, particularly effective in the video's images of Kingston slums and sad faces. There is no happy ending, only the darkness gathering--in Jamaica, yes, but all across the Mexican border too, along the oil-fouled Gulf Coast, everywhere that Palestinians and Israelis cross paths, in the madrasas and angry hearts of Islam.

And thus the dancehall craziness and sexual escape, the clouds of ganja smoke and the Rastafarian message as Jamaicans seek salvation or forgetfulness. All us Jamaicans of the wider world.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Reggaellery: Rastas and Rude Boys

I bought my first Reggae albums back about 1971; Tower Records' local store got in a big stack featuring the Trojan Tighten Up series and I was hooked. Then came the film and album of The Harder They Come... came, saw, and conquered! I'm writing a little reggaessay on a current trend, but it's taking me so long that I thought maybe a reggaellery of older album covers might reggaele any music fans and curious readers for the time being. I've selected 33 1/3 favorites to display (honoring the LP revolutions; the 1/3 is that small one up left), picked both for interesting covers and the music within--an A-Z of Roots music recorded and released between the mid-Seventies and early Eighties (actually, one or two albums were recorded during those years but issued later).

I hope they pique your interest and whet your appetite for more... soon come: