Back in the 70’s/80’s I used to enjoy making tape playlists of my various favorite musics, reggae was high up there then. I must have made hundreds, for myself, my car, my friends and many of them wound up in the living room along with all the VHS, the CD’s and the vinyl from whence many had originated. But then several years ago we had the big clean up and since they were not getting played much they were all consigned to the storage room upstairs, at one point I did a quick count and there were over a thousand. In latter years I sleep much less, often lying awake for several hours in the middle of the night, so I set up a cassette player with a pair of earbuds and started playing my cassettes: I’d usually have a dozen or more which were randomly chosen on the headboard. It’s wonderful, I’m re-living my musical tastes of those decades and also playing lots of interviews and musical documentaries and live performance tapes; I look forward to going to bed and I don’t mind a bit when I wake up at 1am. Last night I played a tape labelled ‘African & Jamaican dance music for Nathan” God knows why I have it and not Nathan but it was wonderful, 90 minutes of memorable music. Here’s side one of that cassette, a dozen+ cuts of favorite classic reggae. Let’s dance!
I was recently thinking about my record collection when out of the blue a question popped into my head. I have a fairly sizable collection of both LP’s and CD’s accumulated over 50 odd years and the question was “Which of all these is my favorite album?” I had to think a bit, what did I mean by favorite etc? but it came down to which one had given me the most pleasure, which was the most played, which had affected me the most?
The answer came fairly quickly – “Graceland” of course, and I decided “Yep, that’s the one’.
But then suddenly another thought intruded, “What about Bob? Surely BMW has given me more pleasure and was more life changing than Graceland, That’s true, OK, then it must be “Catch a Fire”, and at exactly the same time in 1973 I also bought “The Harder they Come”,
the movie soundtrack, that one exposed me to many other reggae groups and both got major playing time and both started me off on a life changing path; the music of Jamaica.
And then there was another, Duke Ellington, what about Duke? Can’t have a favorites album without considering at least one by Duke. I have more albums by him than any other artist and “Ellington at Newport 1956″ immediately sprang to mind,
I did a post on that album here some time back and moviegoers will recognize it as the key piece of music in the current film American Hustle. I heard it live on shortwave on Voice of America lying in bed in Suffolk in 1956 and dozens of times on vinyl since then.
Suddenly more albums started flooding in and at this point I decided that there’s no way I can pick a single favorite from all those, maybe it has to be a list, but how many?
So lets change the rules, I arbitrarily decided on a dozen and went back to remembering the pleasures of essential LP’s.
Dylan was huge in the 60’s but nothing was bigger than “Highway 61″, ditto The Beatles with “Sgt. Pepper”, I clearly remember the excitement when those two were released, everyone was waiting for the new Beatles album and ditto the new Dylan in ways that just don’t happen anymore.
Whoops! what about Mahler? I’ve got ‘em all so how about where it all started for me in about 1964, “Mahler’s 1st with Lenny Bernstein and the NY Phil”, I bought that LP at a yard sale on impulse and it rapidly became an endlessly played favorite that led to another lifetime obsession of collecting and playing. Now I regularly start the day with Mahler dvd’s on youtube.
And then there was the “Lionel Hampton All Stars at Pasadena Civic in 1947″, the all time greatest recording of Stardust and I’ve often been tempted to do a post here at the Spill on just that one tune.
I must include Louis. he started me off in the right direction back in 1947, my favorite Louis album is “Louis plays W C Handy” from about 1954 which is about when I saw him twice in London with this band, the high point of my adolescence.
Right from the start Count Basie has been very significant in my collection, maybe second only to Duke numerically, it’s hard to pick only one but it would have to be “The Essential Count Basie vol 2 – 1939″. Goin’ to Chicago, the classic Basie blues with Jimmy Rushing.
We’re getting close, the last one could get tough, but it springs to mind quickly, it’s from 1955 “Sarah Vaughn – In the land of Hi Fi”, Sarah with a great jazz group with Cannonball Adderley soloing right behind her.
There you go, I can live with that list, they’re all memorable LP’s that have been played endlessly and have given enormous pleasure over the years. It would be very easy to play the RR guru and to continue with the B list, there’s so many deserving albums that didn’t make the A list, but that’s for another day.
But If I were to think about a B list there’s dozens of names that should be considered: Joni Mitchell, CSNY, Springfield, Astor Piazzolla, Dennis Brown, Toots, Christy Moore, Charlie Parker, Burning Spear. Dozens of African artists, Ella, Lester Young, Billie, Miles, Nina, Bechet, Ray Charles, Tommy! and many, many more.
So this could be the current version of the old EOTWQ, those rules look fairly simple and I know there’s many here who are as musically obsessive as I am, so have at it, your dozen all-time favorite albums with maybe a sentence with each and a favorite cut.
Here’s my list, in no particular order, if I had to choose one it could be any of these.
Graceland – Graceland.
Catch a Fire- No more trouble.
The Harder they come – Rivers of Babylon.
Ellington at Newport – Diminuendo & Crescendo in Blue.
Highway 61- Desolation Row.
Sgt. Pepper – A day in the life.
Mahler 1st – 3rd movement – the hunter’s funeral.
Hamp at Pasadena – Stardust.
Louis plays W C Handy – Yellow Dog Blues
Count Basie – Goin’ to Chicago.
Sarah Vaughn – How high the Moon.
Lately I’ve been poking around at WordPress trying to understand their obscure system for posting multiple photos, I think I’ve finally got it, or at least enough to get started. I’d like to do an occasional post devoted to photography rather than music. I’ve always thought of myself primarily as a photographer, I wore all sorts of other hats but generally speaking, wherever I went I was always carrying a Nikon F or an F3. But not just a Nikon, often/usually I also had my camera bag on the other shoulder, that contained another Nikon with a different lens, plus both of them had motor drives. A Nikon F with a 180mm, f2.8 lens, with a motor drive with 8 AA batteries in it and loaded with a 36 expo roll of Ektachrome 200 weighs about 5.5 – 6 lbs. I carried two of those plus several spare lenses, spare batteries, plus a lot of various misc. photo gear and lots of spare film. I’m not complaining in the slightest, it was a chosen way of life. Generally speaking, wherever I went, that’s what I carried, particularly whenever on ‘holiday’ or at a musical event.
So I was walking along a rural lane in the village of Todos Santos Cuchumatan, It is situated in northeastern Guatemala in the the remote Sierra de los Cuchumatanes mountains at an elevation of about 8,000 ft. My fiend John and I had driven there in the VW camper van when we visited Guatemala in the late 70’s. The population of Todos Santos is predominantly indigenous, of Mayan descent, most of whom still speak the Mayan language of Mam. The town is one of few places in Guatemala where the indigenous population still make and wear their traditional clothing.
As I walked along that lane that morning I glanced up and saw a young boy walking towards me, my Nikon was in my right hand at about thigh level, the lens must have been pointing forward.
When he was about 10-12 ft from me he suddenly bent over from his waist to look directly level into the camera lens, I suspect that he’d never seen a professional camera with a long lens before. Instantly I dropped to one knee to be at his level and fired one quick shot and as I did so I remember saying to myself “That’s probably the best photo I’ve ever taken” but at the same instant I knew that it was out of focus. I straightened up and instantly fired another but the magic had passed, he was no longer looking into the lens. There was no auto-focus in those days, every shot had to be manually focussed. I should mention that the reason for using a motor drive was because the film was instantaneously advanced whenever a shot was made, the camera was always ‘cocked’, always ready to shoot, a huge advantage.
This is the first shot I took that day, to the non-critical eye it might look OK but if you look carefully you’ll see that it is out of focus.
This is the second shot, it’s OK, it’s in focus but something’s missing.
Here’s a selection of photos of people from that village, notice the similarity of their clothes, the women make them on primitive looms in their cottages and every family has a different traditional design. This is not uncommon in Guatemala and you can often tell where a person’s from by the design of his/her clothing. I’ve read that the design of these clothes originates with the Spanish conquistadors who came to Guatemala in the sixteenth century, check out the codpieces, the shoes and the elaborate collars. I started buying examples of their clothes and came home with a large collection. They were not dumb about selling them, I recall at one cottage paying about $440 for several items, a huge amount considering that the men usually worked at seasonal agriculture for less than $1 per day! The women were the only ones who made and sold the clothes and these were not tourist items, there were no tourists, these were the clothes that they wore. They’re absolutely beautiful. I have them hanging in the house.
I very rarely asked permission to shoot photos, had I done so the moment would have been lost, instead if I saw a shot I’d point my camera and smile and a return smile was my OK. I can only ever remember one time where someone was upset at my shooting, it was in this village and I was standing against a wall at the edge of the market shooting with a 300mm lens, suddenly there was a ‘whack’ up the side of my head, a woman had hit me with a stick; I took the hint and quit for the day. Generally speaking most people were happy to have their photos taken.
Today Bob would have had his 69th birthday, I have a hard time imagining Bob being 69. He was always so young and vigorous and he always had so much to say. And what he said touched so many people around the world, everywhere I’ve travelled there was always evidence of Bob Marley, on posters, T shirts, murals on walls, his music coming out of doorways and from radios, he was and is everywhere; the universal man. His music will last forever.
Bob literally changed my life, everything changed when I bought his first album, ‘Catch a Fire’ in 1972. To that point I’d been listening to jazz and pop, I suddenly discovered reggae and it was infectious. I spent the next decade always looking forward to his next album and his next tour. I saw him four times and the highlight was the 1976 Roxy show in LA, a small club packed to the gills and Bob was onstage about 10ft from the table where I was sitting. It was the most amazing and intimate musical performance ever. I’m including the encore of that performance in the playlist, if you haven’t heard it you should listen, I never heard the Wailers play that way again and I have most of his concert aircheck tapes.
Here’s a selection of his music, some spiritual, some Rasta, some love songs, some everyday life songs and a couple of cuts that some might not have heard, first the Roxy encore, ‘Get up, stand up’ and an acoustic set of Bob sitting on a hotel bed in Sweden playing a medley for his own enjoyment with just an acoustic guitar. When I had a radio show I did at least one special every year devoted to Bob, either on his birthday or the anniversary of his death, let’s continue that tradition.
And give thanks to Ari for her tech support.
Here’s the playlist.
1. One Love.
2. I’m hurting’ inside.
3. Waiting in vain.
4. Natural Mystic.
5. Time will Tell.
6. Is this Love.
7. I’ll be forever loving Jah.
8. One Drop.
9. Rastaman live up.
10. Give thanks and praises.
11. Jah would never give the power to a baldheaded.
12. Acoustic Medley.
13. Get up, stand up, Roxy encore.
The photos are of some of the featured artists, they are: Lloyd Parks, Junior Marvin, Bo Peep, Dean Fraser with the Ras Brass, Burning Spear, Pablo Moses, Mutabaruka, Puma Jones, Joe Higgs. They’re supposed to get larger if you click on ‘em.
Over the years I’ve been tempted many times to post reggae playlists here but somehow apathy seemed to get in the way. Reggae was an obsession with me for about 20 odd years, basically throughout Bob’s musical career, consequently I accumulated a fairly large collection plus I visited Jamaica regularly, sometimes several times a year. I was always involved with Jamaican culture and music throughout this period. After I retired and moved to northern California I became a DJ on the local NPR radio station, every Saturday night from midnight ’til 2am for 7 years. I had a total free hand to play anything that I wanted and I’d mix it up with jazz, reggae, blues, African etc. I taped every show, labelled ‘em and tossed ‘em into a box with dozens of others, there was never any attempt to organize them or even to listen to them.
However, I recently got the urge to reorganize the upstairs room where anything and everything had been pushed out of sight over the years, therein I found dozens of boxes of tapes, literally well over a thousand, so I installed about 40 ft of shelves and started organizing them plus all the other media up there. The results have been wonderful! I’m now replaying not only my airchecks but also the results of obsessively having a recorder with a blank tape in it attached to my radio at all times; I’ve got the cultural history of the last half of the 20th century on tape and it’s amazing listening to it all again. I listen on earbuds in the early hours when I can’t sleep, it’s the best time of the day.
Last week I played a cassette of my radio program from the 90’s, my show was called ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’, and this one was a reggae program. I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d play it here for anyone who’s interested, it’s almost two hours, I edited out a couple of PSA’s that were of no interest and split the program into two sections.
So call it a playlist, a blog or a radio program, take your pick, use it as background while you do the dishes or whatever. I hope you enjoy at least some of it.
Here’s the playlist.
1. Sharpville by ‘The Reggae Philharmonic’.
2. What a Joy by ‘Black Uhuru’.
3. Iron Sharpeneth Iron by ‘Culture’.
4. Freedom Song by ‘Third World’.
4. A Song by ‘Pablo Moses’.
5. War inna Babylon by ‘Max Romeo’.
6. Country Boy by ‘The Heptones’.
7. Roots Train by ‘Junior Murvin’.
8. Flashing Whip by ‘Jah Lion’.
9. Coming on Strong by Prince Jazzbo’.
10. ‘Skank in Bed by ‘Scotty & Lorna’.
11. The Existance of Jah by ‘Dennis Brown.
12. Love and Devotion by ‘Jimmy Riley.
13. There’s a reward for me by ‘Joe Higgs.
14. Marcus Garvey by ‘Burning Spear.
15. Peace, Love and Justice by ‘Ras Michael.
16. The Same Song by ‘Israel Vibrations.
17. I am that I am by ‘Peter Tosh.
18. Jump Jump by ‘Bunny Wailer.
19. Redemption Song by ‘Dean Fraser.
20. The System by ‘Mutabaruka.
21. White Man Country by ‘Mutabaruka.
22. When you Remember by ‘Mutabaruka.
There’s only one reference to Jesus in my iTunes folder. that’s Jesus on a Greyhound by Shelby Lynne, whereas there’s 29 where the first word is Jah. Jesus is not of any interest to me musically or otherwise but when I became involved with reggae I quickly realized that it was a socially conscious music with a strong Rasta religious component. I’m very interested in the music and in Rasta but I must say that I have a hard time with the Selassie/Jah reverence but I accept it and I enjoy the music as much as I enjoy a lot of European religious music, in most cases having no idea what the songs are about but appreciating the overall sounds, case in point, Faure’s Requiem.
Having said that let me offer a sample of alternate variations on the theme of Jesus et.al. Jah is Jehovah, Jehovah is Yarwey from the Hebrew old testament, many Rasta believe that Selassie is the second coming of Christ and they accorded him the name Jah Ras Tafari. Here’s some Jamaican songs of praise.
1. Jah Live – Bob Marley
2. Rivers Of Babylon – Ronnie Davis
3. Nyah Bingi – Jimmy Riley
4. Hold On To Jah – Reggae George
5. A Yah Weh De – Barrington Levy
6. Give Thanks – Johnny Clarke
7. Jah Jah Give Us Love – Cornell Campbell
8. Give Thanks And Praise – Bob Marley
9. Have Faith In Jah – Michael Palmer
10. Praise Jah With Love And Affection – Don Carlos
11. Jah Praise – The Maytones
12. Jah Oh Jah – The Viceroys
13. Forever Loving Jah – Bob Marley