Label: Pressure Sounds - PSLP22 • Format: Vinyl LP, Compilation • Country: UK • Genre: Reggae • Style: Reggae, Dancehall
The early eighties were particularly testing times for reggae music. Once again it was considered to be deeply unfashionable and the same tired old criticisms were heaped upon it of monotony and lack of variation. The untimely death of Bob Marley in was a major blow in every sense because reggae was now without its superstar and focal point. A terrible tragedy, but life and the music continued as it always had done. Unfortunately the rock press did not see it like this and became obsessed with trying to find a successor.
Consequently any artist with a modicum of talent and a couple of hits was at Army Life - Various - When The Dances Were Changing: Hitbound Selection tagged 'the new Bob Marley' and when they, quite naturally, failed to live up to the hype were written off as rapidly as they had been built up.
This led to the conclusion that all was over for reggae music which would have been laughable had it not been so sad. There will never be another Bob Marley. It continued to be that same force afterwards although a casual observer would not have noticed as the lie became the truth in the minds of too many people. Reggae sensibly ignored all this and, as in similar times of crisis, retreated further into itself again back to its early roots in the dance halls and away from the world's centre stage as the music took a deep collective breath, regrouped itself, and returned to the fray with fresh waves of talent and production ideas.
No attempts were made to court the fickle international market, who were too busy looking for Bob's successor in a succession of blind alleys, and the sound was stripped to the bone, basic and less instantly dynamic than many of the so called 'golden age' records. It was a triumph of content over form and whatever it might have lacked in prettiness was more than made up for in weight and power. His most important and immediately effective innovations were his continual emphasis on a 'kicking' bass drum beat, that was usually played in a more 'broken up' style than had been previously acceptable, a thunderous 'cracking' snare drum and his exemplary hi hat phrasing.
Combined with Flabba Holt's rolling, winding bass guitar, the production techniques of Oldschool - Outface - (P)Révolution Jo Hookim whose work we are concentrating on here and up and coming producers such as Henry 'Junjo' Lawes and former vocalist Linval Thompson - the resultant brew mixed down by Overton 'Scientist' Brown - Army Life - Various - When The Dances Were Changing: Hitbound Selection you had a music that would carry reggae forward again and defy the critics.
Dance Hall Style! Early pioneers of the Dance Hall Style were the Hookim Brothers, founders of Channel One in the early seventies, and a studio and label that's usually remembered for their groundbreaking work with the Revolutionaries in the mid-seventies - the so called militant 'Rockers' style.
Jo Jo Hookim has this to say about how it evolved: "After a while with us at Channel One Sly and Robbie started to produce records for themselves and we figured they were holding back," which was quite logical, of course, why would anyone want to give their best work to a next man?
Jo Jo reluctantly had to let them go "We can't hold them any further! The Radics were establishing a name for themselves for their work with Gregory Isaacs and they soon began to work regularly down on Maxfield Avenue for the Hookims.
Jo Jo had moved to New York in following his brother Paulie's death A man emptied his gun in Paulie and he died on the spot.
Jo Jo says the move was for financial reasons but Paulie's death was a deciding factor. However Jo Jo still returned to Jamaica once a month to supervise their recording sessions. In his absence Ernest would be in charge and Kenneth was left to look after the new artists as Jo Jo felt he was not experienced enough to work with the established stars. His role was to gather the required artists together and have them ready for work.
Niney the Observer was briefly associated with Channel One - he did their very popular Yellowman recordings during Trapped In Paradise - Alex Beyrodts Voodoo Circle - Whisky Fingers period and I Roy too helped out - but Channel One now releasing records on the Hitbound label was very much still a family business. The tapes were brought up to New York by Jo Jo and released on 10" 'dub plate style' records initially for the sound systems but they soon caught on with the record buyers too.
Jo Jo recalls "It didn't make sense to put out records in Jamaica - there was no profit at all. Even if you sell five thousand records it sounds reasonable but no one considers the money it takes to put out the records - so you make a hit record and it can't make money!
The ten inch records were mastered on my own dub machine. They were lighter, smaller than a twelve inch although you could fit no more on a twelve inch less to manufacture and more profit". What's more the public got a dub for the price of a record! The popularity of these records in New York and the U.
Jo Jo was responsible for the innovative 'Clash' series "Anything you see on record I have the idea! Kenneth was by now allowed to supervise some of Army Life - Various - When The Dances Were Changing: Hitbound Selection sessions for the new artists but Ernest and Jo Jo would still do the mixing and the final work.
The Hookims had their pick of the best artists and Jo Jo was always Write Your Name - Selena Gomez - Stars Dance that Kenneth would have only the cream waiting for him as he touched down in Kingston.
Stars such as US 5 - In Control Paul, who has since assured his place in the reggae music hall of fame, was new to the business at this time and his 'Clash' album with Sugar Minott, already an established name, brought him to the public's attention most notably with the thrilling 'Worries In The Dance'.
This was the time when cassette tapes recorded live in the dance were becoming common currency and these two mic. Barrington Levy was Army Life - Various - When The Dances Were Changing: Hitbound Selection establishing himself among the higher echelons of Jamaican vocal talent at a frighteningly youthful age. His work with Junjo on the 'Bounty Hunter' album laid the ground rules for much of the music of the decade and he was to exercise his bigness time and time again as the eighties progressed.
We don't hear enough of Michael Palmer nowadays and his unique style too seems to have been forgotten but when Gemini Sound touched down for their U. Don Carlos too made his name down at Channel One after leaving Black Uhuru with his mournful yet inspiring style as the rhythms of the day continued to carry the message. The last word has to be from Jo Jo: "If you don't know what you're doing you're gonna get burnt.
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