'Ra's Outest of the Out There...?'

'Though we do not know when this will come to be, this album is proof that afrofuturism heralds a new golden age for mankind.' -Paul Sunderland

'A classic Ra release, Gilmore showed the way for Coltrane's sound!!!' -ultron9

'Recorded before other longform masterpieces like "The Magic City" and "Atlantis," the thick, intense, 22-minute one-shot title track that takes up side A was dubbed a "Concerto for Arkestra" by The Penguin Guide to Jazz. Spacier than Space is the Place, and leading with a broken-chord blast-off, the running time gives select members of Ra's ensemble room to meditate as well as skronk. The range of instrumentation, including oboe, helps suggest the classical textures being conscripted for duty, while some sax solos hint at the jamming spaceways Ra travelled early on. Some of the best moments come when Ra improvises with beneficent oddity on piano, atop just the rhythm section. Four shorter pieces on Side B bring blues, waltzing, wailing, and occasional liftoff.' -S.W.

Sun Ra & His Solar Arkestra: Other Planes of There (Evidence 22037 CD)
Recorded in New York City, 1964
Originally released as El Saturn LP 206 (1966)

My music is the music of precision…Actually, I don’t play free music, because there is no freedom in the universe. If you were to be free you could just play no matter what and it doesn’t come back to you. But you see, it always does come back to you. That’s why I warn my musicians to be careful what you play…every note, every beat, be aware that it comes back to you. And if you play something you yourself don’t understand, then that’s bad for you and for the people too. -- Sun Ra (quoted in Szwed, John, Space is the Place: The Lives and Times of Sun Ra (Pantheon) (p. 235-236)

The title track to Other Planes of There marks the first recorded appearance of extended group improvisation by the Arkestra but, as indicated above, this is anything but “free jazz.” Sun Ra was deeply suspicious of the notion of freedom, remarking that the only free person was in the graveyard (id. p.309). In all of his work, he stressed the importance of discipline over freedom. At the height of the civil rights movement in 1968, he flatly stated: “Don’t be fooled, talking about revolutin’…what the white race got to revolute against? They got everything. That’s not for you. Not no revoluting for black people, no freedom, no peace. They need unity, precision and discipline” (id. p.100).

The twenty-two minute piece opens with a long, portentously held space chord declaimed by the entire ensemble but then immediately gives way to a series of small sub-group and solo episodes whose entrances and exits are cued by Ra at the piano; his own ruminations vary from lushly harmonic voicings that vaguely hint at some forgotten jazz standard to interlocking atonal arpeggios that foreshadow Cecil Taylor’s work a couple years later. At one point, a trombone choir improvises antiphonally amidst pealing trumpet and honking baritone sax. The next minute, Marshall Allen solos on his snake-charming oboe. Heat and energy levels increase as John Gilmore’s squalling tenor saxophone rides waves of skittering percussion and roiling piano figures but then subsides, leaving a stuttering trombone to solo before the return of massed space chords that herald the climaxing ensemble improvisations. With a flourish, the piece decisively ends. While lacking any overt themes or chord progressions beyond the thickly voiced space chords, “Other Planes of There” is organically structured, contemplative, and at times sounds more like modern chamber music than the unrelenting “energy music” that was/is propagated by many proponents of “free jazz.” For Sun Ra, meaningful freedom meant the imposition of severe limits.

“Sound Spectra/Spec Sket” is another, less ambitious attempt at group improvisation. After establishing a chugging drumset groove over which Walter Miller’s trumpet lazily sings, Sun Ra’s piano abruptly enters with a contrary and agitated rhythm that is extended with the addition of bass and yet more percussion. Before anything else is able to happen, all the instruments drop out and a reverb-drenched drum solo pitter-pats thoughtfully until the piece comes to a sudden, inconclusive end.

“Sketch” brings us back to the world of straight-ahead, bop-influenced jazz with a small-group rhythm section backing John Gilmore’s throaty saxophone. But things are not quite what they seem, having returned from an interplanetary voyage. Artificial reverb ebbs and flows across the soundfield, giving the proceedings a constantly shifting, otherworldly sheen. Sun Ra’s first piano solo quickly turns disjointed and dissonant and Gilmore’s subtly explores the shrieks and howls of multiphonics over the rapidly modulating chord progression. Then, the almost hokey ching-ching-aching of the cymbal signals a conventionally old fashioned solo from Ra before the reverb retreats and the Arkestra finally enters to state the theme behind Gilmore’s lead. Fascinating.

“Pleasure” seems even more old-timey with Pat Patrick’s breathy baritone saxophone sounding as buttery smooth and romantic as Harry Carney. Yet an element of strangeness pervades. As Neil Tesser puts in his liner notes: “Very odd, very peaceful, the piece seems to have wafted out of some hip but unpretentious lounge on, say, Venus.” Quite so. Also quite beautiful.

“Spiral Galaxy” concludes the album with a loping space waltz, full of pounding percussion and braying horns, all slathered with a hefty helping of artificial reverberation. Solos come and go, sometimes forcefully, sometimes merely lurking in the background. At times, the distortion threatens to overwhelm the music altogether but then the reverb knob is suddenly dialed back, revealing the naked Arkestra, choogling along comfortably. So it goes for ten or so minutes, leaving the listener quietly unsettled. Of course, this kind of electronically driven disorientation would be taken up years later in the “dub” music of Jamaican reggae but, again, Sun Ra was truly ahead of his time – a man from the future.

Other Planes of There is a landmark album in Sun Ra’s considerable discography. For the first time, Sun Ra combined pure freedom with rigorous discipline while also maintaining a genuine connection to a deep tradition and thereby producing music of startling originality. Essential.

Other Planes of There (recorded 1964, released 1966) could be mistaken for an artifact of the "free jazz" movement that was gaining a foothold in New York during the early 1960s. Artists like Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, and Ornette Coleman were advancing the frontiers of jazz in a way that excited many, while alienating an equal number. Audiences were often perplexed—sometimes infuriated—at the brutality, lack of traditional structure, and unpredictability of the new music. Pioneering bebop drummer Max Roach, after witnessing a performance by Coleman at the Five Spot jazz roost, followed the saxophonist off-stage and punched him in the mouth. Trumpeter Roy Eldridge thought Coleman was "jiving, putting everybody on." Yet in retrospect there's no denying the new music's historic impact on jazz evolution. 

Sun Ra shared stages, dressing rooms, and newsprint with these contemporaries. His music often sparked similar reactions—positive and negative. Yet despite stylistic similarities between Sun Ra and the above mavericks—composing and performing works which were irregular, asymmetrical, and seemed to lack a center—Sunny rejected the "free" label. "I don't play free music, because there is no freedom in the universe," he told an interviewer in 1970. "If you were to be free you could just play no matter what and it doesn't come back to you. But you see, it always does come back to you. That's why I warn my musicians: be careful what you play … every note, every beat, be aware that it comes back to you. And if you play something you yourself don't understand, then that's bad for you and for the people too." 

Like many Sun Ra albums, Other Planes of There offers a musical portrait of where Sun Ra and his Arkestral entourage find themselves during a given period. Exposed to new ideas on a daily basis, challenged to excel by competitors on the downtown scene, Sun Ra might not have considered his music "free," but he benefited from a community which respected and encouraged musical free-thinking. This support allowed him to experiment and grow, to challenge his audience, and to risk rejection if listeners and critics didn't like (or couldn't understand) each progressive musical mutation. 

Rehearsing and recording at the Choreographer's Workshop gave ample time to develop ideas without a nudgy A&R exec watching the clock or chiseling the budget. This self-controlled environment (and the usual ad hoc recording quality) marks Other Planes. The arrangements breathe, they evolve unhurriedly, and there's much open space. This is music by process. In contrast to the muscularity of free jazz, Sun Ra's leader-directed improvisations have an orchestrated feel, a pace that juxtaposes the pastoral with sporadic bursts of frenzy and much rhythmic variety. Sunny's love of percussion permeates these sessions. The works proceed with great deliberation, but they move. That's no accident. "No matter how far out my music may be," Sun Ra once explained, "you can always dance to it." 

– I.C. 

'Sun Ra (1914– 1993) was an innovative jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesiser player, who came to be known as much for his Cosmic Afro-futurist Philosophy as for his phenomenal musical compositions and performances. As both a black male and an independent producer, Sun Ra defied racist institutions and beliefs.

Born on 22nd May 1914 as Herman Poole Blount, in Birmingham, Alabama, he was nicknamed "Sonny" from his youth. Later, after his release from a detention camp for protesting against World War II, he took on the name and persona of Sun Ra (after the ancient Egyptian sun god). He claimed that he was of the "Angel Race", not from Earth but from Saturn. Some of his most notable influences were African and African-American theatre, theosophy, and masonic Afro-futurism. His interest in these art forms and principles led to the development of a complicated but consistent set of cosmic philosophies and lyrical poetry, which preached spiritual awareness and peace.

Sun Ra could play many modern and classical works from memory and had worked in country and western bands before moving to Chicago. His personal music collection contained over 10,000 discs, and he was constantly reviewing and studying. Many of his improvisational and compositional innovations were extensions of ideas from twentieth-century European composers. He is responsible for having brought these ideas into jazz decades before many commercial artists popularised the same methods.

From 1955 until his death on 30th May 1993, Sun Ra led a big-band ensemble with a constant core of John Gilmore (the only sax player John Coltrane thought "worth listening to") and Marshall Allen (master of alto saxophone pyrotechnics), wrapped by an ever-changing lineup of sidemen who are big names in modern jazz today. The Arkestra, so named as to be an "ark between two worlds", never repeated a performance and rarely repeated an arrangement. Additionally, they appeared under a variety of names, including "The Solar Myth Arkestra", and the "Blue Universe Arkestra".

There is some disagreement as to Sun Ra's date of birth. He stated that he had "arrived on Earth" on a number of dates. He was fond of showing his doubters his United States passport, which clearly gave the place of birth as the planet Saturn. 22nd May 1914 appeared on his passport, but other sources place his birth anywhere from 1910 to 1918; most sources support a birth year of 1914 or 1915.'

1. Other Planes of There 22:04
2. Sound Spectra / Spec Sket 7:48
3. Sketch 4:51
4. Pleasure 3:14
5. Spiral Galaxy 10:02

Incl. scans & pdf


Zimbabwe’s mbira maestro of the ages

'Tune into the sound of the mbira, a sound that will immerse you in the depths of African ancestral knowledge of the spirits. Mbuya Stella Chiweshe carries you from mourning to revolt, from suffering to spiritual prowess.'

'With her unique blend of traditional Shona songs, personal stories and observations, and tales of the ancient spirits,prophets and ancestors of the Zimbabwean people, Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is travelling on one path in two directions. When performing solo on the Mbira, she journeys through the world of her ancestors, preserving their traditions; backed by the dynamic sounds of her band, the Earthquake, she visits the urban streets of Harare and calls on the younger, westenized generation to take pride in their own culture.'

“Stella’s repertoire stretches from straight classical pieces to bubbly uptempo jigs. The mbira ripples and chimes like a xylophone, and sounds remarkable galloping alongside shimmering guitars and pulsating drums.” (Roots)

“Her expert mbira playing is matched only by her pained vocals which are always given a full-throated delivery that achieves an exhilarating intensity. They soothe, comfort, provoke, then bite with the harshness of an acid drop.” (Blue Juice)

“Stella Chiweshe – Mystic Sounds from Inner Space If colonialism is on its last gasp, in Rhodesia, it seems capable of holding its breath for a very long time. It’s the early 1950s and an eight-year-old girl can hear drums, loud powerful drums, that rock her world and accompany the mbira she is listening to. Only, no one else can hear the drums.” (

'Accompanying her swooping vocals on mbira, a thumb piano consisting of metal strips set in wood, Stella Chiweshe has taken the traditional Shona music of Zimbabwe to the international stage. Chiweshe reached her largest audience when she joined Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca and Tex-Mex singer-guitarist Tish Hinojosa for the Global Diva tour in 1997.

One of the few women to play the mbira, Chiweshe was taught to play by her mother's uncle in 1963 or 1964. In 1974, she had to borrow an instrument in order to record her debut single. In the two decades since, Chiweshe has recorded more than twenty singles. In addition to performing as a soloist, Chiweshe performs with the Stella Chiweshe Mbira Trio and the Earthquake Band. According to World Music: The Rough Guide, Chiweshe "has provoked some criticism for her avant garde mixture of sacred and commercial music, a controversal issue in a country where music is so close to the spiritual centre of life". Partly based in Germany, Chiweshe performs mostly outside of her native land. A talented actress and dancer, Chiweshe is a member of the National Dance Company Of Zimbabwe and is known for her portrayal of national hero, Mbuyo Nehanda.' -Artist Biography by Craig Harris

Mystic Sounds from Inner Space…

Jerusalem Post interview 2014

Despite having endured many trials and tribulations, Zimbabwe-born singer and instrumentalist Stella Chiweshe has never lost faith in the healing power of music.

Some artists project a stage persona which differs markedly from their everyday personality. Nothing could be further from the truth as far as Stella Chiweshe is concerned.

The 67-year-old Zimbabwe-born singer and instrumentalist, one of the star invitees of the Sacred Music Festival which will take place in Jerusalem September 9-12 as part of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, is the real deal. Her singing and mbira (African thumb piano – mbira dza vadzimu, to give it its full name) playing are not just a joy to behold, they generally leave Chiweshe’s audiences spellbound and elated.

The German-resident musician exudes a sense of unbridled joie de vivre, and also pervading tranquility. Both attributes are highly surprising considering whence she hails, and what she had to do to get where she is today.

For starters there was the not insignificant matter of foreign intervention in basic accessibility to her native Vazezuru tribal music.

“This is music that was played a long time ago in my country, but I didn’t hear it when I was born. I first saw this music [being played] when I was eight years old. By the time we grew up the traditions of the people had been banned. People were not encouraged to play their traditional music,” she explains. The party responsible for trying to keep Chiweshe apart from the indigenous sounds was the colonial government. “Few people were playing the music,” she continues.

It is clear, however, that Chiweshe revels in adversity, and nothing was going to stop her from steeping herself in the tribal sounds that so enraptured her.

“The music touched me so much that I wanted to hear it. It took me a long time for me to find someone to teach me.”

As if the British-controlled authority ban on the art form were not enough, Chiweshe also faced some serious obstacles from within too.

“The music was not for women to play and, at the same time, the police would arrest you if you were found with a mbira in town. They told us that it was music of the devil.”

That’s a pretty heavy duty and definitively slanderous observation, and most youngsters would, no doubt, be scared off taking their interest in the craft any further, but not Chiweshe.

“I was not going to listen to anybody, and I was not afraid of anybody,” she declares.

While that may appear tainted by hubris, there is nothing but genuine belief in her own way in Chiweshe’s makeup. She was simply caught up in the magic of the music and was determined to explore its sounds and vibes to the nth degree, come what may. She felt it was her destiny.

In fact, the Zimbabwean – then Rhodesian – also had a personal vested interest in getting into the instrument.

“I had the feeling that if I played the mbira I would heal myself because I had pain in my chest and in my heart,” she recalls. “I could not be afraid of anybody so I just kept on trying to learn to play it so I can heal myself.”

Gradually others began to appreciate the heady therapeutic qualities of Chiweshe’s developing skills. This was despite the fact that she faced stiff opposition on all fronts, including from womenfolk who steadfastly tried to cling to their traditional accepted social status.

But by the time Chiweshe was 15 or 16 she had begun to take part in music sessions.

“You know, where I come from women sat on the side [of dwellings and meeting places] and the men played the music on the other side,” she notes. The teenager played sandwiched between her older male counterparts and, somehow, she managed to keep going. “That was too much for the women, to see me sitting among the men.” Eventually she won them over. “All those people who were against me, like the local people, they started to invite me to play music when I could not even play for five minutes. I was only at the start of my musical journey,” she laughs.

Chiweshe laughs a lot. Despite all the trials and tribulations she has been through, including the loss of one of her three children, official bans and social ostracizing, a domineering first husband and the inevitable relocation to a very different ethnic and cultural milieu, the woman appears not to have a drop of bitterness about her.

“I was married very young, but my first husband eventually left me,” she recalls. That must have been tough, as a young mother, but Chiweshe says it was the best thing that could have happened to her. “I was happy he left because I could play my music again freely. He didn’t want me to play music. All those things that were against me, they just gave me greater energy.”

Chiweshe set out on the global concert circuit in the early 1980s and has released seven albums under her name to date. She is a regular performer at the prestigious WOMAD world music festival, and has performed all over the world. Her daughter Virginia also plays mbira, which is a testimony to Chiweshe’s trailblazing. Her endeavour and persistence has opened the door to other women to follow her musical, artistic and traditional social status-defying lead. Today, Chiweshe is a celebrity in her native country and has organized an international women’s music festival in Zimbabwe.

Although she sings in Shona her native tribal language, somehow it is easy to follow the stories she spins in her songs.

“I wondered about that,” she admits. “I sometimes wondered what I was doing playing in places like Germany where people don’t understand the language I sing in. But then I realized that the music sounds like water and, as our body is made of 70 percent water, the music is natural for all of us.”

Even listening to Chiweshe talk is like hearing the gently rippling flow of a stream or a small waterfall. You don’t get a sense of a battle-worn warrior who has fought to have her musical and artistic say.

“I am not fighting and I have never fought,” she declares. “I have just taken it easy. Some people only listen when they are beaten. It is better to listen without being beaten.”

Chiweshe has clearly never been beaten…

1. Ndinderere 5:00
2. Huya Uzoona 3:24
3. Mikono 4:24
4. Nyamaropa pachipembere 3:30
5. Gwendere-Gwendere 3:34
6. Mapere 3:46
7. Kudara Kwangu 1:49
8. Rwuye Rwuye 4:40
9. Mudzimu Dzoka 3:50
10. Machena 3:51
11. Baya Wa Baya 5:38
12. Zungunde 3:29
13. Dande 4:25
14. Mese Maikwana 3:58
15. Kuzanga 4:00

Incl. booklet

Stella Chiweshe - vocals, mbira, ngoma, clapping / Virginia Mkwesha - vocals, mbira, hosho, clapping / Gilson Mangoma - baritone marimba, vocals, clapping / Leonard Ngwenya - soprano marimba, percussion, vocals, clapping / Charles Willie – guitars / Eric Makorora - bass guitar / Tonderai Zinyau - drums


Pure Mbira Music from Zimbabwe digitally recorded at SFB T3 Studio / Berlin in August 1990

'Zimbabwe's foremost Mbira player, Stella Rambisai Chiweshe - "The Queen of Mbira" - blends haunting mbira lines with percussion and call & response singing behind her evocative vocals. She sings and plays songs of liberation, spiritual experience and social commentary. The effect is otherworldly and mesmerizing. Although the haunting thumb-piano known as mbira - or sanza or kalimba - is found in many parts of Africa, Zimbabwe is the source of perhaps the richest mbira traditions - a thousand years of music.
With her innovative but tradionial approach to Mbiramusic and her mesmerizing stage presence and voice, Stella Rimbasai Chiweshe stands as one of the most original artists in Zimbabwe today where she is called "Ambuya Chinyakare" ("Grand-Mother of Pure Music").' -Piranha

The Queen of Mbira Music from Zimbabwe - like Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is often called, is one of the first female artist who gained in prestige and has been honored with recognition in a music tradition that's been dominated by men: in Mbira music - known as the backbone of Zimbabwean music.

She is one of the few musicians in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, who since more than 35 years is working in the role of traditional Mbira musician. When Zimbabwe was still a Rhodesian colony, Stella secretly was recognized as a Mbira player at forbidden ceremonies. Before independence Mbira instruments had to be kept hidden, because the colonial government had declared the whole country as a Christian land, traditional instruments and songs were banned. Playing Mbira was punished with prison. After playing through the whole night at forbidden reunions, Stella then returned to her every-day-struggle of survival as a young girl within a colonial environment.

Stella Rambisai Chiweshe is nicknamed "Ambuya Chinyakare" (Grandmother of Traditional Music). 

She is a professional artist in the entertainment industry and in the international music circuit. In Zimbabwe before independence she released more than 20 singles of Mbira music of which her first single Kasahwa went gold in 1975.

After Independence she was invited to become a member of the original National Dance Company of Zimbabwe, where she soon took the part of a leading Mbira solo player, dancer and actress.

Her solo work has established herself as one of the most original artists in the contemporary African scene using popular music to show the deepness and power of her traditional spiritual music at home and abroad. Stella's experience has been stimulating her to introduce Mbira music to the occidental context without loosing the relation to her Zimbabwean tradition: She creates warm dance grooves as well as popular songs always based on Mbira rhythms, when performing with her band.

The fusion of Stella's music and contemporary guitars has not only made her an international figure, but also as Zimbabwe's cultural Ambassador. 
Apart from her merit combining Mbira with Marimba in morden Zimbabwean music, she is touring Europe regularly since 1983 and has released seven internationally successful albums ( Ndizvozvo Ambuya, 1987 - Chisi, 1989 - Kumusha, 1991 and Shungu, 1994. Kumusha track has won her a 1993 Billboard Music Award for performance on the Adult/ Alternativ/ World Music Album of the year) -Shungu 1990, 
The best of Stella Chiweshe: 1998 -The Healing Tree, 2001- Tapera, and 2002 -Talking Mbira.
Double-Check 2006, Ndondopetera 2007 and Kwoyedza 2014.

1. Chigamba 7:58
2. Chikara 6:20
3. Gova Rine Mhanda 9:55
4. Mapiyemana 7:05
5. Mahororo 7:40
6. Bangiza 4:50
7. Chakwi 7:12
8. Temayimisasa 8:20

Incl. booklet & pdf


Top album!

'Although a complete anthology of Heptones' work would have to encompass their Studio One output, it can't happen until one company has licensing rights to it all.

Thus, this nevertheless excellent 2-CD compilation has a 4-5 year gap (between '66 and '70) when they were doing magnificent (some would argue their best) work at Studio One, not only in their own right, but also as session musicians and harmonies.

As you would expect, the songs are well-chosen. A number of good soul cover versions are here "Save The Last Dance For Me", "I Miss You", "Born To Love You", "I've Been Trying" and who would have thought that a Motown/Northern Soul song like "My World Is Empty Without You" would work, yet it does :).

The Heptones' own material is strong, though that needs no endorsement and throughout, vocals and harmonies are faultless - but then I am a bit biased.

As usual, nothing is perfect - the 4 pre-Studio One Ska and Rocksteady tracks seem a little anachronistic on this album - disc 1 is musically a little lop-sided because of this. However, they remain quality tracks worth having.

Sleevenotes by Harry Hawke were again interesting, although the fold-out nature of the sleeve made navigation around them (as usual) not as straightforward as it should have been.' -Zapatoo_the_Tiger

'A two disc set showcasing one of the best (and possible THE most influential) vocal harmony groups to come out of Jamaica. The music on this set - ranging from their first recordings in 1966, right up to 1979 - demonstrates not just how wonderful the Heptones are, but also how much more successful they were than most of their peers at making the transition from the rocksteady era of the mid-60's to the reggae era that followed. 

Heavily indebted to US soul, especially the Temptations, the Heptones sound is deeply soulful and always accessible, and anyone into the likes of the Abyssinians, the Congos, the Gladiators or any other vocal harmony groups of the roots era would do well to check out one of the true innovators of this style. 

It would be wrong to say that this is a definitive collection though. Anyone wanting to get hold of the classic rocksteady/early reggae recordings that made their name will have to look elsewhere, as there is nothing from their time at Studio One on these discs. But that said, with 45 tracks over two CDs, and not a stinker in sight, this just might be the best single collection on the market for an overview of one of the true legendary groups of Jamaican music.' -dubby_broccoli

'Sort of Jamaica's version of the Temptations, the Heptones (Leroy Sibbles, Barry Llewellyn, Earl Morgan, and later, Naggo Morris) have been one of reggae's finest harmony trios since the 1960s, continually riding out the ever-shifting style changes in the island's musical landscape by sticking to their roots. Fans of the trio have been waiting a long time for a comprehensive release that would give a solid overview of their career, and while this two-disc set from Trojan/Sanctuary goes a long way toward that aim, it falls short in a couple key spots. Peace & Harmony is still a marvelous and valuable set -- the Heptones have been too consistent a group for too long to make any compilation a complete failure -- but the holes are bothersome. Nothing from their stay at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One label is included here, and the key tracks ("Sufferer's Time," "Party Time") from their best album, the Lee "Scratch" Perry-produced Party Time, are also missing. So what listeners get is a decent chronological survey of the group from its start on Ken Lack's Caltone label in the late '60s through their late-'70s work with Niney the Observer, with some grave omissions. All that said, there is delightful music here, including the Heptones' first release in 1966, an absolutely bizarre interpretation of The William Tell Overture called "Gunmen Coming to Town"; the sublime and wise "Hypocrite" (produced by Joe Gibbs) from 1971; a pair of Alvin Ranglin gems, 1973's "Old Time" and "Meaning of Life"; and a solid cover of Curtis Mayfield's "I've Been Trying," produced by Sonia Pottinger in 1972. There are two Perry-produced cuts, "Babylon Falling" and "Mistry Babylon," and while these are fine, displaying the vintage Black Ark sound, they are far from the best tracks the Heptones delivered with Perry. Likewise, the extended mix of "Through the Fire," the lone cut from producer Niney the Observer, only hints at the body of work the group did with him. One of the Heptones' most fruitful (if somewhat unsung) periods was their stay with producer Harry Johnson in the mid-'70s, and several excellent tracks from that relationship ("Suffering So," "Book of Rules," "Mama Say," "Country Boy," "Cool Rasta") are included here. In the end, Peace & Harmony does a decent -- but not perfect -- job of presenting this fine trio's history. Listeners who want to get the story in a complete fashion should pick up this compilation, but amend it by also picking up On Top for the Studio One material and the excellent Perry-produced Party Time album, which was arguably an artistic high point for the Heptones. This group deserves a thoroughly annotated box set, but until that day, Peace & Harmony is probably as close as listeners are going to get.' -AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett

"Quite frankly there is absolutely no necessity for an introduction of The Heptones musical activities."

Jackie Estick.And anyone with more than a passing interest in Reggae music knows and loves the Heptones for, as the foremost Jamaican vocal harmony trio ever, they unfailingly set the standards for everyone else to aspire to and to measure their own work by. There is no requirement for any retrospective attempts to belatedly bestow credibility on the Heptones for as well as being uniformly excellent over the years, they also notched up Rocksteady hit after Reggae hit throughout the sixties and the seventies. Their Jamaican popularity was unprecedented and in the mid-seventies it seemed that the group must surely follow Bob Marley & The Wailers and Burning Spear into the realms of international stardom, but it was not to be. Amongst Jamaican music lovers their popularity is matched only by that of The Maytals, yet they still somehow remain relatively unknown and unappreciated by wider audiences and the Heptones' near faultless body of work over the years gives no indication as to why crossover success managed to somehow elude them.

The most influential and imitated Jamaican vocal trio ever began their working lives with Leroy Sibbles welding, Barry Llewellyn as a mechanic and Earl Morgan selling newspapers.

"We listened to the Drifters, the Platters and the Shirelles... the Impressions, those American groups were a big inspiration in Jamaica. In England my inspiration was the Beatles. If there was anyone I wanted to meet it was the Beatles." Earl Morgan.

The Heptones were originally formed in the Kingston ghetto of Trench Town 'around 1958' by Earl Morgan and Barry and, in the early sixties, they met the third member of what was to become the all conquering threesome. Leroy had been the front man with a rival street corner group in Newland Town alongside two friends, Claire and Winston, and when the two groups clashed in a street corner singing contest, Leroy was so impressed with Earl and Barry that he immediately asked them to join with him. Leroy was already proficient on guitar through the tutoring of Brother Huntley and Brother Carrott, two Trench Town Rastafarians, in whose yard the group would gather and write songs. Leroy became the group's lead singer, but both Barry and Earl could also sing lead and this varied versatility was vital to their overall sound. The membership of the group was still fairly fluid at this stage and Glen Adams was one of the early hopefuls who passed through their ranks. Glen subsequently left the Heptones to join the Pioneers and would go on to finally find fame as one of Lee Perry's Upsetters.

in 1966, Sidney 'Luddy' Crooks of the Pioneers brought the group to the attention of Ken Lack, the road manager for the Skatalites, who also ran the Caltone label. They recorded four songs for Caltone at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio and their first release, a bizarre version of Rossini's William Tell Overture, entitled 'Gunmem Coming To Town', proved to be a telling indication that this particular trio were not following anyone and certainly did not intend to do so either. 'I Am Lonely' was not a particularly big seller on its original release but would go on to become one of the most prized (and most expensive) records on the UK revival circuit in the late nineties.

One Sunday afternoon later that same year, the Heptones trod the familiar path down to Brentford Road to audition at Studio One in front of Bob Andy, Ken Boothe and B.B. Seaton. They passed this terrifying test and would remain with Coxsone for the next five years. They never looked back despite their first hit record, the risqué 'Fatty Fatty', being deemed too lewd for radio play.

"They decided to ban it in Jamaica and, when they did that, everybody wanted to hear it si it made the record one of the best sellers in Jamaica." Earl Morgan.

The Heptones left Studio One in 1971 after bitter and acrimonious disputes over financial matters. They had become an integral part of the Studio One set-up with Leroy employed as both talent scout and session bass player. Barry as a session musician and Earl working in the pressing plant and also singing harmonies. The Heptones' contribution to the sound of classic Studio One music was immense and can never be overstated.

"Leroy played bass and Barry was in the studio playing organ and percussion. Most of the time I was in the factory... When I wasn't in the factory he had me singing harmonies." Earl Morgan

Leroy, in particular, was vociferous in his condemnation of how he felt the Heptones had been treated during their time at Brentford Road, but Earl's attitude was more measured:

"I think that if we had stayed with Coxsone we may have eventually gone on to become internationally famous, but... it's one of them things." Earl Morgan.

Their next move was to Joe Gibbs and over the next two years, in a frenetic and prolific burst of creativity, they recorded for most of the producers of note in Kingston's teeming musical industry. Apart from the occasional foray into working on the side, the Heptones had previously remained loyal to Coxsone and Studio One: 

"We started to harmonise for Duke Reid with John Holt on 'Let's Build Our Dreams'. Coxsone caught us recording and made us come down to his studio to do the same tune. And another time he caught us doing 'Lord Deliver Us' with Alton Ellis for Matador (Lloyd Daley) and made us do it for him". Earl Morgan.

They were now free to record for whoever required their services and the lessons that the Heptones had learnt at Coxsone's musical college were handed on to a new generation of producers and artists.

"We worked with him for a while but the vibes changed so we moved on to Gay Feet. at that time we were freelance. After Coxsone we said anybody want us they can take us so we went from one producer to the next. we worked for so many producers..." Earl Morgan.

In 1973 Leroy relocated to Canada, a move that led to the Heptones first ever period of inactivity, but on his return to Jamaica in 1976 they began work with Lee Perry. The first fruit of this new partnership was 'Sufferer's Time', an aching lament that demanded equality for everyone in all things and their subsequent work for the Upsetter showcased their soaring harmonies against the perfect counterpoint of his dense, churning rhythms. The Lee Perry produced 'Party Time' album was released worldwide by Island Records alongside Harry Johnson's long player 'Night Food' later that year and these both belatedly helped to introduce the marvels of the Heptones to a wider audience. However, later that year during a tour with Bob Marley & The Wailiers and The Maytals organised by Island Records Leroy left the group, weary of the strain of endless financial problems, and he returned to live in Canada and pursue a solo career.

"If Leroy had never left the Heptones, we would have been even bigger worldwide..." Earl Morgan.

Dolphin 'Naggo' Morris later took over as lead singer but, with a few notable exceptions, their records failed to scale the same heights as the Heptones' previous work. Reunited with Leroy in the early nineties the Heptones "keep playing and recording and spreading the message". Leroy's solo recordings, such as 1994's Bobby Digital production 'Original Full Up' with Beenie Man, where he teaches musical history lessons about originating the bass line for Studio One instrumental are proof, as if further proof was actually needed, that he has lost none of his astonishing talent.

"I never made much money from this one, but it still feel good, good, good..." Original Full Up.

'Full Up' eventually transformed into a worldwide hit for Musical Youth as 'Pass The Dutchie'. His sly misogyny, tongue always firmly in his cheek, was invariably delivered with a genuine underlying sensitivity. As Rocksteady merged into Reggae, his lyrics became more and more preoccupied with black self-determination and his songs of truth and rights equalled his songs of love.

One of the most talented musicians of his generation his bass lines were sufficiently melodic and versatile to take any amount of different arrangements and they have gone on to become an integral part of Jamaica's musical vocabulary.

"The Heptones is not a one-man thing. The Heptones is a three man thing." Earl Morgan.

Earl's 'Pretty Looks Isn't All' is one of a handful of classic Reggae songs that will last for as long as the music is listened to, for Barry and Earl always bestowed far more than mere filling in the gaps behind Leroy's lead and they too have made notable contributions to the Heptones' canon. The Heptones' cover versions were inevitably invested with all the feeling and subtlety of their own songs and this set gathers together, for the first time, a comprehensive selection of the originals and covers that the Heptones produced away from Studio One. from their first forays into the business with Ken Lack to their later work with Niney The Observer it represents only a fraction of their incredible output for as Earl once memorably commentated:

"The Heptones don't have a catalogue. The Heptones have a lionlogue..." Earl Morgan.

Sit back in wonder and thrill to the music of the Heptones. There will never be anyone quite like them again... (Liner Notes)


Disc 1
1. The Heptones - Gunman Coming To Town 2:31
2. The Heptones - Schoolgirls 2:41
3. The Heptones - Ain't That Bad 2:32
4. The Heptones - I Am Lonely 2:38
5. The Heptones - My World Is Empty Without You 2:43
6. The Heptones - Hypocrite 3:03
7. The Heptones - Save The Last Dance For Me 2:55
8. The Heptones - Be The One 3:28
9. The Heptones - Our Day Will Come 3:23
10. The Heptones - Freedom To The People 3:38
11. The Heptones - Every Day And Every Night 2:35
12. The Heptones - God Bless The Children 4:03
13. The Heptones - Love Has Many Faces 3:13
14. The Heptones - I've Got A Feeling 2:20
15. The Heptones - The Magnificent Heptones 3:16
16. The Heptones - I'm In The Mood For Love 2:58
17. The Heptones - I've Been Trying 2:56
18. The Heptones - H-E-L-P 3:26
19. The Heptones - I'll Take You Home 2:47
20. The Heptones - Old Time 2:36
21. The Heptones - Meaning Of Life 3:17
22. The Heptones - I Miss You Part One 3:21
23. The Heptones - Let Me Hold Your Hand 2:47
24. The Heptones - Black On Black (Be A Man) 2:42

Disc 2
1. The Heptones - Suffering So 3:30
2. The Heptones - Peace And Harmony 2:45
3. The Heptones - Autalene 3:14
4. The Heptones - Do Good To Everyone 2:50
5. The Heptones - Over And Over 3:15
6. The Heptones - Book Of Rules 3:31
7. The Heptones - Wah Go Home 4:15
8. The Heptones - Mama Say 3:10
9. The Heptones - I'm Crying (Aka I Remember) 3:10
10. The Heptones - Tripe Girl 2:43
11. The Heptones - Love Won't Come Easy 2:42
12. The Heptones - Born To Love You 2:56
13. Leroy Sibbles - Guiding Star 3:51
14. The Heptones - Party Time 3:29
15. The Heptones - Country Boy 2:58
16. The Heptones - Cool Rasta 3:00
17. The Heptones - Dreadlock 3:29
18. Leroy Sibbles - Love Me Girl 5:48
19. The Heptones - Babylon Falling 3:15
20. The Heptones - Mistry Babylon 3:29
21. The Heptones - Through The Fire (Extended Mix) 6:34
22. Leroy Sibbles - Garden Of Life 4:18

Incl. fold-out ''booklet''

"Book Of Rules" (although this is noted as the JA mix, it is slightly different, being more echo-ey, than the original Island 7" - WIP 6179 1973 - it is still a much better version than the later version on their "Night Food" album)


'If you like early ska/reggae, then you'll love many of the tracks on this album. Simple rhythms with distinctive vocals.' -KentMan

'awesome vintage ska, rocksteady & reggae. this guy would be a lot more well known if this CD hadn't taken so long to be released!!!' -Terry K

This double-CD (spanning 54 tracks) is the first serious retrospective of Stranger Cole's delightful body of work. Born "Wilburn Cole" and nicknamed "Stranger" because he resembled no one else in his family, Cole's first Jamaican hit came in 1962 with "Rough and Tough," which featured a loping ska riff and a manic harmonica solo. "Rough & Tough" jump-started Cole's ska career with producer Duke Reid, which yielded several hits, including the raucous Louis Jordan revival of "Run Joe," featuring harmonies by the Techniques, in 1965. Cole frequently sang duets (he seemed somewhat shy at taking the microphone alone), mostly notably with Patsy Todd, and their collaboration peaked with the wonderful "Down The Trainline," which closes Disc One of this collection. As the ska era waned, Cole left Reid and began working with producer Sonia Pottinger, moving on to several other producers, including Lee "Scratch" Perry, Bunny "Striker" Lee, and Joe Gibbs, as reggae took hold in Jamaica. Having grown into a mature and soulful vocalist, Cole's compassion and humor are everywhere, evident on later tracks here like "Last Flight To Reggae City," the loopy, clarinet-led "Bangarang," and his imaginatively re-tooled cover of the Guess Who's "These Eyes." "Just Like A River," sung with frequent duet partner Gladstone Anderson and produced by Joe Gibbs, was a big hit in the U.K., and is one of Stranger Cole's finest moments. In spite of having a quality recording career for over 40 years, Stranger Cole has been woefully ignored by the critics, but thanks to Trojan Records, this fine Jamaican singer finally has his deserved retrospective. -AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett

The Stranger Cole Interview

Joachim, 25/01/2013

When Pete and I got the chance to do an interview with the Jamaican originator Stranger Cole at the Ruhrpott Ska Explosion festival in early 2013, it was an offer much too good to refuse. In recent years the Jamaican singer and songwriter also gained some fame as the narrator in the film “Rocksteady – The Roots Of Reggae.” It turned out his talk is not only pleasant on film, but also in real life. As a humble person, he answered even our nerdy-est questions with lots of patience and friendliness. Now if you ever wondered, who or what a “Bangarang” is, if you want newbie tips for the beginning Rocksteady player, or if you wondered why Duke Reid always had a gun with him: It’s all here.

RSS: You entered the music business at a school dance, is that right?
Stranger Cole: It was end of the term in school, and my friends used to hear me sing, so they put my name on a list. When I was there, the teacher said: “Wilburn Cole is going to sing.” That’s my real name. I looked around if there were any more Wilburn Coles. And they said: “No, it’s you.” So, I went up and I sang a song called “Tell Me, Darling”, that was originally by Wilfred “Jackie” Edwards. He was one of my favourite artists. And they gave me a clap. And I should sing another song. So I sang another song by Wilfred “Jackie” Edwards, called “I Know”. And at the end of the day they gave me two ice creams. And that is where it started.

RSS: You started earning money right away, then?
Stranger Cole: Yeah, earning ice cream.

RSS: What happened after that?
Stranger Cole: After that my friends encouraged me. They thought I could sing very well. And they said I should try to make a record. My brother was the number one disc jockey for Duke Reid. So I went to Mr. Reid and told him that I would love to sing some songs. He told me he wanted to hear what I have. So I sang a few songs. He selected one called: “In And Out The Window.” But he said I didn’t have the quality like some artists that he had at the time, people like Eric “Monty” Morris.
That’s why he asked me if I could give him the song for Eric “Monty” Morris, and he would put my name on the record as the writer. Well, I said, it’s my first opportunity, so I better take it. And that record went number one. Following that he said, since I can write such a good song, I may have the quality to sing my song. He set up the next recording and wanted me to sing two songs, one with a lady called Patsy, because he thought that I had a voice like Derrick Morgan. And he wanted me to do one by myself. So at that session I wrote: “When You Call My Name” with Patsy, and I did “Rough And Tough” for myself. As a result, I had three number one hits!

RSS: What was it like to be number one in Jamaica at such a young age?
Stranger Cole: It felt really good. I was happy that these things were happening to me. And there were a lot of girls, I was a teenage boy. It was a good moment for me.

RSS: And were you paid?
Stranger Cole: In the business you never get paid when you are at the start. But I think I’m getting paid now. [laughs]

RSS: It only took 50 years for that to happen … There are lots of stories about Duke Reid, for example that he was wearing a gun in the studio. Is that right?
Stranger Cole: Duke Reid was a man who had a liquor store, so he used to carry around his gun, mainly for protecting his stuff.

RSS: He didn’t frighten you …
Stranger Cole: No, he didn’t frighten me.

RSS: Why did you leave Duke Reid at the beginning of the Rocksteady era? Because he is considered to be one of the most successful Rocksteady producers that seems like a strange thing to do.
Stranger Cole: I never really left. I just did other things for other promoters, because I was in demand in that time. And all the producers at that time wanted me to do something for them. So I started to do things for other people.

RSS: So you were really independent?
Stranger Cole: Yes, you could say so. I was working mostly with Bunny Lee. I had a lot of things come out on the PAMA label, Jet Star.

RSS: You did a lot of songs with other artists, not only with Patsy, but also with Ken Boothe …
Stranger Cole: … Gladstone Anderson, and I do quite a few background singing. Things with many artists that didn’t appear on record like Slim Smith, Errol Dunkley, Alton Ellis.

RSS: Was that something you wanted to do?
Stranger Cole: I would say yes, because in the early days in Jamaican music we always supported each other. And if you are doing something and you think you need some help with some backing vocal, we all would go in and help.

RSS: You started as a songwriter. Did the writing process change during the time? Do you also write together with other people?
Stranger Cole: I write on my own, 99% of my songs really.

RSS: Do you still write today?
Stranger Cole: Oh, I never stop writing, still doing it today.

RSS: Is there any chance that this music is being released?
Stranger Cole: Yes, my latest CD is called “Treasure Island”. Most of the riddims are from older Treasure Island music. I have another CD called “Riding High” and I have quite a few CDs that I produced for myself. Later this year you can get some of my CDs. I may be back in Germany for the summer tour and then I’ll have them with me.

RSS: We saw on the poster downstairs that you will appear together with Patsy Todd. Are still in touch?
Stranger Cole: Yes, we are. She’s living in Florida, I’m living in Jamaica.

RSS: When was the last time you played together?
Stranger Cole: We played together eight months ago in New York.

RSS: How did you team up with the Steadytones? Who arranged this? And how does that work?
Stranger Cole: It was arranged by the people from Grover/Moskito. I go all over the world, playing with different bands, Japan, France, you name it. As long as the musicians can play the music, it’s very good.

RSS: When someone gets in touch with you, how do you agree on the songs to play?
Stranger Cole: Most of the time when a band plays with me they know my music. And they say something like: “There are 25 songs that we have rehearsed. You can take out what you want and we keep what you want.” So, when I came to the rehearsal they gave me that list and I said: “Not this one, not this one.”

RSS: What tips can you give the young musicians who like to play Rocksteady, and want to play the music the right way?
Stranger Cole: The tip I can give the musicians is to listen to the stuff that has already been done, and try to get that groove, you know? And then it becomes easy.

RSS: Of all the bands you played with, which sounded the best?
Stranger Cole: Over all I would say The Skatalites, I toured with so many bands, I can’t even find the names to say, but I played with many great bands, in Japan, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Australia. All over the world.

RSS: A few weeks ago, The Skatalites played in Cologne, and we had the chance to talk to Lester Sterling. He said that “Bangarang” is his all-time favourite song. What about you?
Stranger Cole: “Bangarang” is known in Jamaica to be the first Reggae song. At first I thought it was just a simple song. It’s just one line. I didn’t do too much in it. After a while it became one of my greatest hits.

RSS: And we were wondering what it means.
Stranger Cole: “Bangarang” means problem. I sing: “Woman don’t want no problem”, Anyone don’t want no problem.

RSS: Talking about the lyrics. We had the impression that some of your songs are about morals, people behaving the right way, or the wrong way. Is that something that is important to you?
Stranger Cole: I think it’s important not only to me, but to the whole world. To try to make music that people can uplift from. Up and not down. And I always want to write songs in that way.

RSS: At the beginning of the 70s you relocated to England, is that right?
Stranger Cole: No, I relocated to Canada. I was living in Toronto for about ten years. During that period it was very hard in Canada it was very hard, because there was not much music happening there. So, I had to take care of my family and got a job working in a place where they made toys for kids. It was fun for me. And a few years later I opened my own record store in Downtown Toronto, it was doing very well, and then I decided to go back to Jamaica.

RSS: Have you got an explanation why Jamaica has produced so many musical styles that attract music lovers all over the world?
Stranger Cole: I think the Jamaican musicians are so blessed that we have our own sound and our style. But the music always changes over a period of time. From the days of Ska, and then it came to Rocksteady and Reggae, which is like Rocksteady. And now you have the Dancehall. But it’s all about Jamaica, and I think it’s all good.

RSS: There must be a special creativity about the place.
Stranger Cole: I think so, too, because we have the fastest runners in the world.

RSS: Let’s talk about the documentary “Rocksteady –The Roots Of Reggae.” You play a central role in it…
Stranger Cole: I think I am the star of the film [laughs!]

RSS: How did this come about?
Stranger Cole: It all came out of Canada, somewhere around Montreal. These people were in the filming business and the music business. So, it’s their thing. They decided to make a film about that. They came to Jamaica to meet the people who they wanted to perform in this movie. Luckily I was one of them.

RSS: Was it planned that you became something like the narrator?
Stranger Cole: It didn’t happen at the first time. But after a while the people that promoted the film thought maybe I would be the right person. And they recruited me in Montreal to do the narration of the movie.

RSS: You do a great job.
Stranger Cole: I thank myself and all of that, you know? [smiles]

RSS: Many famous people met there in a recording studio. It seemed that many of them hadn’t met for many years. Did you keep in touch afterwards?
Stranger Cole: Some of us keep in touch, but not seeing each other for a good period. Many of us live in different parts of the world. Being together was something that was great for all of us.

RSS: Whom of those musicians would you consider close friends?
Stranger Cole: Of course many of them. Derrick Morgan, Skully and Bunnie, Gladstone Anderson, Sly. Quite a few of them live in Jamaica also.

RSS: Do you feel that you get the right kind of recognition in Jamaica as a musician today?
Stranger Cole: Oh, yes, Stranger Cole is a household name in Jamaica. So I think that alone is very good for me. I am known in Jamaica. All the kids grow up on my music.
Speaking of kids, I couldn’t do an interview without mentioning my own son: His name is Squidly Cole. He’s the drummer for the Marleys. He’s been with the Marleys for over 20 years now. He played with Jimmy Cliff, all the Marleys, many big stars. So my son is a professional drummer. And we do a lot of things together.

RSS: Was he here with Stephen Marley this summer?
Stranger Cole: At the moment he is working with Stephen Marley. I can’t do an interview without mentioning my son, because he is a great person. He came up and started to do the things that I loved to do: which is music. So I have to give him a hand anywhere I go.

RSS: So, it’s a good feeling to pass it on. …
Stranger Cole: Yes, for sure. We always say the music is like a relay race. You have to pass on the baton. So, he is the one to take my baton.

RSS: Thanks very much. It was an honour and a pleasure to talk to you.

Disc One: Stranger At The Door
1. Stranger Cole - Rough and Tough 3:01
2. Stranger Cole - Miss Dreamer 2:28
3. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - When You Call My Name 3:16
4. Stranger Cole - Till My Dying Days 2:40
5. Stranger Cole - Stranger at the Door 2:39
6. Stranger Cole & Ken Boothe - Uno Dos Tres 2:47
7. Stranger Cole - Conqueror 2:53
8. Stranger Cole - Oh Oh I Need You 2:46
9. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Tom, Dick and Harry 2:37
10. Stranger Cole - Boy Blue 2:09
11. Stranger Cole & Ken Boothe - Hush 2:50
12. Stranger Cole & Ken Boothe - We Are Rolling (Under the Tree of Life) 2:27
13. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Yeah Yeah Baby 2:58
14. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - We Two Happy People 3:07
15. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Come Back 3:01
16. Stranger Cole, Owen & Leon Silveras - Koo Koo Doo 2:12
17. Stranger Cole - Run Joe 2:29
18. Stranger Cole - Make Believe 2:40
19. Stranger Cole - Love Your Neighbour 2:51
20. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - We Shall Overcome 2:27
21. Stranger Cole & The Conquerors - Drop the Ratchet 2:00
22. Stranger Cole & The Conquerors - Oh Yee Mahee 2:30
23. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Give Me the Right 3:14
24. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Tonight 2:15
25. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Tell It to Me 2:58
26. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Your Photograph 3:06
27. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - Down the Trainline 2:47

Disc Two: Last Flight To Reggae City
1. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Just Like a River 2:40
2. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Seeing Is Knowing 3:22
3. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Over Again 2:56
4. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Love Me This Evening 3:06
5. Stranger Cole - Darling Jeboza Macoo 3:12
6. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Now I Know 2:56
7. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - If We Should Ever Meet 2:45
8. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Try Me One More Time 2:21
9. Stranger Cole & Tommy McCook - Last Flight to Reggae City 2:47
10. Stranger Cole & Lester Sterling - Bangarang 3:11
11. Stranger Cole - When I Get My Freedom 3:06
12. Stranger Cole - Life Can Be Beautiful 2:31
13. Stranger Cole & Patsy Todd - My Love 2:57
14. Stranger Cole - Give It to Me 2;09
15. Stranger Cole - What Mama Na Want She Get 1:46
16. Stranger Cole - We Two 1:36
17. Stranger Cole - Glad You're Living 3:03
18. Stranger Cole - Help Wanted 3:12
19. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Pretty Cottage 2:52
20. Stranger Cole - Everything With You 3:06
21. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Lift Your Head Up High 2:55
22. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - (Where Will You Be) Tomorrow 3:29
23. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Make Good 3:03
24. Stranger Cole & Gladstone Anderson - Run Up Your Mouth 2:52
25. Stranger Cole - These Eyes (aka Crying Every Night) 2:32
26. Stranger Cole - My Confession 3:38
27. Stranger Cole - I Want to Love You 2:58

Incl. fold-out "booklet" 


Includes stormers 'moving away', 'the train is coming', 'crying over you' 'artibella' and many more! plus "leave me crying" which is previously unreleased.

'Ken Boothe was one of the most popular and soulful singers of the rocksteady era. Boothe's vocals were deep and gritty, earning him a reputation as Jamaica's answer to Wilson Pickett. First rising to popularity as part of a ska duo with Stranger Cole, Boothe began a solo career at Studio One during rocksteady's prime, building a generous part of his repertoire on American soul covers. His wide range of styles and performances are captured here on A Man and His Hits.'

'Contrary to the title, this is not a reissue of the 1972 Studio One album of the same name, although it does include many of that album's tracks, while also bundling up classic cuts from across the years, from the classic ska years into the rocksteady era and on into the reggae period, ending in the late '70s. Although the sleeve notes give a potted bio of the singer, they provide little help in dating many of these songs; more details are given about the actual backing bands, so it's a real test of the listener's expertise. The liner notes do include interviews with both Ken Boothe and producer Coxsone Dodd, however, which helps make up for the lack of hard info. And then there's the fabulous music itself. Several of the songs included are duets, including two stellar numbers with Delroy Wilson, while the ska classic "Artibella" features Stranger Cole on lead vocals, and dates back to the days before Boothe struck out on his own and was still part of the legendary duo Stranger & Ken. An equally seminal song was the rocksteady gem "The Train Is Coming," featuring backing vocals by the Wailers, and became Boothe's first solo hit. Boothe's distinctive yet versatile vocals are always a wonder to behold, and A Man and His Hits showcases many of his moods. From the torch singer of "I'm a Fool" to the emotional despair of "Lonely Teardrops," the pensiveness of "Thinking" and onto the outright exuberance of "Artibella," where he steals the song right out from under Cole, Boothe's evocative vocals give an emotional charge to everything he sings. This is the perfect introduction to one of Jamaica's most irrepressible talents. Enjoy.' -AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene

HAILING FROM THE JAMAICAN GHETTO, the soulful-voiced Ken Boothe had to work his way to the top on his own—becoming an absolute legend in Jamaica before conquering England, where he became the living God of the skinhead movement and even saw one of his songs covered by Boy George. I recently caught up with the 70-year old reggae icon at the LA Dub Club to witness the obvious: ain’t nothing stopping Mr. Rock Steady! —Seb Carayol

You come from a rough area called Denham Town in Kingston. Did a lot of famous singers come from there?
The people in this area, they’re not so fortunate. But that’s where it started out, from poor people. They’re not poor in spirit, but poor financially—all because of politics. Fortunately, the next neighborhood over is Trenchtown, where a lot of the singers came from. Me and Stranger Cole, we used to go to Trenchtown almost every day. Everything started in these communal tenement yards, like the production process. That was about 1950, going up into ’55.

When did you first get noticed?
Stranger Cole and I were neighbors, and he was established already with his duo Stranger and Patsy. One night he heard that song I had done, “Uno Dos Tres,” and he told me that I should go see the producer Duke Reid.

That’s the former cop turned producer who used to carry guns at his belt, yes? Were you intimated?
No, he wasn’t intimidating, it was just that when you own a business in these days and place you had to be the security yourself. So he had his gun on the counter, a handgun, and then he had a shotgun also beside him. When he saw me, he said to Stranger, “Why are you bringing this little fat boy? He can’t sing,” and Stranger said to him, “Yes, man, he can sing.” What’s nice about those days is that the producers, when they hear good singing, you don’t have to finish everything, they just know that you can sing and they just say, “Studio!” That’s how I found myself upstairs at his liquor shop—in his studio, Treasure Isle. I waited forever cause he got busy at the shop, but I got ten pounds for the recording. And then one day I was passing a bar and I heard my voice on the jukebox! The song had come out. I didn’t know.

You got famous, though, from another producer, Coxsone Dodd, at Studio One.
Yes, I fell in love with Studio One. He was, like, I always describe it this way—like Motown, it’s standard, real standard and the artists that he recorded were up-standard: Owen Gray, Jackie Edwards, Derrick Morgan. Alton Ellis started out with Duke Reid but even Alton himself went to Sir Coxsone after a while—it was like the American music. It had so much influence on me. All the singers, when I hear them sing, I want to be like them. I wanted to be like Owen Gray. I wanted to be like Jackie Opel or Lascelles Perkins. When we went there, Stranger and I had written two songs, “Artibella” and “Worlds Fair.” It was easy for me; I didn’t get no hard time to go in the studio. Because I’m with Stranger Cole, and he’s already an established artist. When we went to Sir Coxsone, he was ready. 

What was your inspiration for “Artibella,” by the way?
If you notice the sound of it, it has a bit of an Indian sound to it. There was a radio program in Jamaica at the time, I think it was called Indian Serenade, something like that. That’s where I took the melody and I done the English part of it, me and Stranger. But Sir Coxsone started me out singing soul music, not ska. But it didn’t do that well because people in Jamaican were starting to identify with ska more. I really got successful once I started to do real reggae and ska and rocksteady tunes—even though through my sister I always had that American soul influence in me. Anyway, after a couple years, we became popular even outside of Jamaica. England is one of the first places out of Jamaica that embraced Jamaican music.

That’s when ska started to morph into rocksteady and became really popular among the skinhead movement in the UK.
You see, ska beat was like running. So they calmed it down, cooled it down and you now had a slower beat and they called it rocksteady. It became dominant with a whole series of hit songs. My first time to England was in 1967. Me and Alton Ellis are the first two artists that traveled out of Jamaica with a band. 

You even became so popular in England that later on, pop white singers covered some of your tunes, like Boy George.
Well, he covered my version of that song by David Gates and Bread, “Everything I Own.” His version is nice, too. I love it! But UB40 covered a lot of my songs. It’s a happy feeling to know that your work becomes so popular that other people adopted it. You make money from it, too. Regardless, I love to sing songs that bring people together no matter what color you are. That’s what we need in this world right now. 

Why did violence become so prevalent in nowadays Jamaican music? It used to be the opposite. It was more, like, “Okay, society is violent but we’re going to uplift people.” Why is that?
I wonder, because we all are ghetto children. Some people get caught up with environment. But I don’t really have the answer for it so much. I don’t know if it’s a generation thing. Then the negative things become so prevalent, like guns and all those things. When I was growing up, police didn’t even carry a gun with them. A police, they carried a baton. But now police, you see a cop on the street and they have three, four guns. -thrashermagazine

1. Ken Boothe - Moving Away 3:14
2. Ken Boothe - You're No Good (a.k.a. Crying Over You) 2:24
3. Ken Boothe - Live Good 2:35
4. Ken Boothe - You're On My Mind 3:07
5. Ken Boothe - Thinking 3:10
6. Ken Boothe - Without Love 2:44
7. Ken Boothe - Tomorrow (a.k.a. Come Tomorrow) 3:37
8. Ken Boothe - Leave Me Crying 2:23
9. Stranger Cole And Ken Boothe - Artibella 2:36
10. Ken Boothe And The Wailers - The Train Is Coming 3:14
11. Ken Boothe - Danger Zone 2:44
12. Delroy Wilson And Ken Boothe - Won't You Come Home 2:32
13. Delroy Wilson And Ken Boothe - Oh Babe (a.k.a. Sick And Tired) 3:20
14. Ken Boothe - I'm A Fool 2:55
15. Ken Boothe - Lonely Teardrops 3:29
16. Ken Boothe - Whiney Whiney 2:40
CD Only Bonus Track
17. Delroy Wilson And Ken Boothe - Won't You Come Home (Previously Unreleased Extend Version) 6:37

Incl. scans

"When I Fall In Love" and "Puppet On A String" are not featured on this CD compared to the original LP release.

Track 8: Previously Unreleased

Tracks 12 & 17 don't credit songwriters but liner notes say it was cut originally by The Conquerors (by Sonia Pottinger).


Like Ra he also had a knowledge of the power ...

'Early works by the best-known mambo bandleader of all time. After graduating from the Orquesta Casino de la Playa, pianist-arranger Prado started his own band. Rough-hewn, punchy, blaring brass dominates on these recordings, though it is often balanced with sexy percussion. Prado's piano work is often sloppy -- you can hear him faltering while he improvises. But the arrangements are intriguing-- Prado experimented with creative rhythmic and melodic ideas which were definitely ahead of the other Cuban dance music of the time. This disc is also interesting to Prado fans for its early versions of songs which would be re-worked into much smoother form, such as "Mambo #5". A nice look at Prado's early career.' -DJ Joe Sixpack

'If you are looking for some faux-Fifties "retro" schlock, THIS IS NOT FOR YOU. But if you want to experience the full impact of Cuban clave and the most advanced pianist of his day (not qualified by Cuban or Latino) then these recordings are essential. Hear PP playing riffs that Sun Ra would only get to 20 years after this. Like Ra he also had a knowledge of the power of silence. These are his recordings in Mexican exile because he was "too far out" for Cuban or even U.S. Bop listeners to access. O.K., he later sold out and made a lot of big-selling froth. But not before he marked the path of true musical genius.' -firecoalman

1. Kuba-Mambo 3:08
2. Rica 3:22
3. Kon-Toma 3:07
4. Memoria A Chano 3:14
5. No Me Quieras Tanto 3:25
6. Timba, Timba 3:05
7. Agony 2:50
8. ¿Que Es El Amor? 3:02
9. Mambo No. 5 2:47
10. Mi Cazuelita 2:32
11. Electricidad 2:18
12. Saca La Mano 2:38
13. Habana 2:58
14. Kandela 2:57
15. Hembra Mala 2:48
16. Actopan 3:14
17. Suavecito Pollito 3:27
18. Rumbambo 3:14
19. Asi, Asi 3:35
20. Tu Ve, Tu Ve 2:33
21. Azuquita Con Leche 3:07
22. La Clave 2:58

Incl. inlay


'Probably the single most powerful force in the mambo scene which dominated New York in the 1940s, Machito and his orchestra played hard, fast, loud and brassy. Machito, whose given name was Frank Raul Grillo, worked with and influenced hundreds of North American musicians, creating the basis for the latin jazz sound of the 1950s and '60s. Various incarnations of his band included collaborators such as percussionist Chano Pozo, singer Miguelito Valdes, and trumpet player Mario Bauza (who married Machito's sister, the powerful vocalist Graciela). Machito records number in the zillions.'

“Machito had arguably the most influential Big Band Latin Orchestra of the mambo era in New York, being one of the earliest, largest, and hottest. One of the most important innovations of the Orchestra was that they were the first to assemble the essential rhythmic trio of tumbadoras (congas), bongó, and timbales, which became the standard percussion lineup in subsequent Latin bands. In a bold move Machito founded and named his orchestra The Afro-Cubans in 1940, something that was unprecedented at the time, proudly calling out his heritage long before the Civil Rights movement gained momentum or James Brown would proclaim to be black and proud. The orchestra was also the first truly racially integrated and culturally diverse band in the U.S. Machito has stated that the purpose of expanding the small conjunto into the big band format was a concept that aimed to bring the Latin sound up to the current New York standards of sophistication, professionalism and excellence that the popular swing dance bands of the time enjoyed, enabling them to play complicated charts and attract plentiful multi-racial audiences to large venues. Progressive jazz-influenced arrangements were provided by his good friend and brother-in-law Mario Bauzá, a clarinetist and trumpeter who had learned about sophisticated jazz composition and swing time from stints with Don Redman, Noble Sissle, Chick Webb, and Cab Calloway. This dynamic union of Machito and Bauzá consequently made them key figures in the Afro-Cuban jazz/Cubop movement that came during the 1940s. What made Machito special as a vocalist was the fact that that he not only sung the “inspiraciones” (improvised sections) and lead, but he would also sing coro (chorus) in the same song. Not content to be simply a percussionist or crooner, Grillo also took part in musical timbre of his band, being a sophisticated musical thinker who knew what he wanted sonically, and how to get it, something he was not often credited with at the time. Already in his 30s when he started his big band, Machito’s voice had a warm, fun-loving, pleasant sound with an old-school vibrato befitting a Broadway entertainer that by the 1950s was sounding more mature than his competitors. Yet he also was well versed in Afro-Cuban lingo and jazz vocals and fit his authentic soneos expertly into the complicated jazz riffs and tropical poly-rhythms of the orchestra.” 

Real Name:
Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo
Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo (February, 16, 1912, Havana, Cuba - † April 15, 1984, London, England) 

He is one of the most criminally underrated artists in the landscape of Afro-Caribbean music. A musical genius and mercurial bandleader whom Tito Puente himself called el maestro - the master.

Everything about Machito was unique and different. He was one of the few Afro-Cuban singers who performed both coro (chorus) and inspiraciones (verses) within the same tune. He shared vocal duties with his sister, Graciela Pérez-Grillo, creating mellifluous harmonies that are instantly recognizable. Most importantly, Machito infused every song in his dozens of albums with an air of bonhomie. Once you discover the warmth and giddy sense of humor that define his recordings, you will probably be hooked - just like the many Machito fans all over the world who get a smile on their faces with the simple mention of the man's name.

Born in 1908, Machito was the son of a cigar manufacturer. In 1937, he left his native Cuba for New York - a move that would change the history of Latin music. After working with tropical luminaries of the time such as Cuarteto Caney, Noro Morales and Xavier Cugat, Machito founded his own group, the Afro-Cubans, in 1940. Together with his brother-in-law and musical director Mario Bauzá, he was one of the pioneers of the Latin jazz movement - their track "Tanga" was just as groundbreaking as "Manteca," the historic collaboration between Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo.

But to think of Machito simply as a Latin jazz musician would be a huge mistake. Yes, his 1957 album Kenya is one of the genre's most influential recordings. But Machito thrived in every tropical style imaginable: he recorded mambos and cha cha chas with unparalleled panache, but never forgot to include a steamy bolero in his repertoire. Boasting earth shattering performances by Graciela, Machito's boleros are some of the most transcendental examples of the genre. As decades passed, Machito made it a point to inform himself about the latest trends in music. He explored the bossa nova, Latin Soul and boogaloo fads.

The decade between the mid '50s and the mid '60s was a time of prodigious creativity for Machito and his orchestra. Its musicians and vocalists were at the peak of their powers, and they recorded copiously. It was also the time when the orchestras of Machito, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente competed against one other at the mythical Palladium - the temple of Afro-Cuban music in New York.

In 1956, Graciela had caused a stir with the salacious (and somewhat overwhelming) "Sí Sí, No No." The singer would step into similar double-entendre territory again with the hit "Ay, José." It was included in the excellent 1963 LP Esta Es Graciela, which together with Intimo Y Sentimental, were Machito's last two releases for Tico - and an attempt to launch Graciela herself as the star of the Machito orchestra.

In the mid '70s, Machito would take a decision that remains puzzling to this day. In an attempt to compete with the smaller salsa combos of the time, he downsized his group, leaving behind both Graciela and Mario Bauzá. "I don't know what got to him," says Graciela from her New York apartment, with sadness in her voice. "To this day, there is no explanation for what he did."

Machito carried on, recording with former Eddie Palmieri vocalist Lalo Rodríguez. By the early '80s, his sound had embraced the contemporary salsa aesthetics that he himself had helped develop.

El maestro Machito passed away in 1984, after suffering a heart attack during a performance at the London jazz club Ronnie Scott's. Musically, he was still at the top of his game.

Recorded in New York 1945-1947

1. Con El Bombo Arrollador 3:13
2. ¿Donde Va Maria? 2:45
3. Coja Pa' La Cola 2:46
4. Guampampiro 2:34
5. Señor, Todo Pasa 2:56
6. El Cua, Cua 2:42
7. Mi Cerebro 3:07
8. El Pin, Pin 3:01
9. Chorombolo 2:56
10. La Feria De Las Flores 3:16
11. Siguiendote 3:22
12. Tambo 2:57
13. El Guardia Con El Tolete 2:45
14. Tierra Va Tembla 2:46
15. Que No Se Acabe El Bongo! 2:54
16. Lindo Ranchito 2:36
17. El Cuento Del Sapo 2:42
18. ¿Que Tal Te Va? 2:56
19. Aunque Estes Lejos De Mi 2:57
20. Mulata Soy Yo 2:54
21. Cada Loco Com Su Tema 3:09
22. El Cumbanchero 3:04

Includes booklet with Liner notes in spanish and english.