Artists: A Variety
Album: Trojan Records: The Obscure Hits (2020)
Genre: Ska & Rock Steady
Since playlists are so incredibly important, I decided to do another one this week. Today, I want to focus on a forgotten music label called Trojan Records. Coming from a family of heavy music lovers and performers, growing up, I can safely say that Trojan Records for reggae artists was the equivalent to Motown for Black American artists. In terms of the hits they pumped out, and the tremendous contributions they’ve made to Black music in general. I really don’t think, not just Americans, but other countries around the world would have ever known what reggae was, if it were not for labels like Trojan Records.
Trojan Played A Pivotal Role In Reggae Music!
Like Motown, Trojan employed many hit makers such as Toots & The Maytals, Bob Andy, Peter Tosh, John Holt, Marcia Griffiths, are just a very small fraction of the very talented people they had on their raster. Trojan is actually a British label, that was formed some time in 1968. As far as I know, the label has strictly dedicated itself to ska & rock steady type of reggae. To be honest, I can’t even recall ever hearing calypso from Trojan (at least when I was a young boy anyway). Today I’m not really sure if the label is producing new music. I can’t really find a whole lot of new stuff, with the exception of re-releases of their old music. Traditional reggae is such beautiful music! It just hurts my heart that it’s become “an old fad” in America. Almost never to be listened to again, as if it ran its course. Huh! Again, just like Motown! When Berry Gordy sold Motown, when last have you heard any advertisement for anything Motown? They had no interest in keeping the memory of Black music, only to own the value of it’s name.
Trojan Is Actually A British Label!
Trojan is now under Sanctuary Records. It doesn’t appear that Sanctuary has produced a lot of (or if any) new reggae under their name either. Please think about this for a moment. Trojan was affiliated with more than 30 other Black reggae labels (which I’m sure Sanctuary also owns or have license to), and I’m having difficulty finding new Black reggae music from them. However, they’re offering imports of their old music for extraordinary amounts of money. Another reason why music streaming is so important! So that poor people who can’t afford that kind of money for those rare reprints/originals, still have another way to access our history for practically free!
Reggae Music From Trojan Records Almost Feels Extinct!
Ok, a little about my new hand-picked playlist?! The process of putting together this playlist was sort-of difficult. Because it is not an American label, I can’t find chart information as easily as I’d like. Most if not all don’t even have chart information. I had to really rely on my childhood memories, my mom’s vinyls and my late grandpa’s reel2reel tapes and vinyls, and pretty much start diggin’ through several hundred music streams ?. Out of about 800 Trojan tunes I’ve curated, I’ve narrowed them down to 40 treasures for this playlist. I really think people from the Island around my age will enjoy this list most definitely; and hopefully it will jar some memories for you too! Yes?
After Hours & Hours Of Listening, I Made The Perfect Classic Trojan List!
Soooo, some of the great artists I have on this list includes the great Desmond Dekker & The Aces, with their hit called “Shing A Ling.” This wasn’t Dekker’s biggest hit, but I loved this song anyway. You’d probably are more familiar with one of his bigger hits, such as “007 (Shante Town) (1967).” By the way, I wish I was able to find more information about the above photo with Dekker in it. I noticed the sign in the photo mentions Byron Lee (not pictured (although I’m sure it’s the guy with his head turned the other way, but I’m not certain)). My late grandfather absolutely loved Byron Lee. Byron was HUGE in the reggae world. In my opinion, he was like the reggae version of Tito Puente ?. Speaking of Byron Lee, he was also on the Trojan label. One song by Byron my late Grandpa used to play a lot was called “Only A Fool (with Sparrow)(1977).” Ahhh, this was such a beautiful record. Byron also had another huge hit called “Tiney Winey,” and I believe it was released in 1984. Now, I know I said early in this article that I hadn’t heard any calypso music out of the Trojan label. But here’s the thing, with songs like “Tiney Winey,” artists often change labels, sometimes labels get taken over, sometimes they’re also under sub-labels that specialize in a specific genre. It’s really hard to know what’s what.
Byron Lee Was Almost Like A Reggae Version Of Tito Puente!
Next, I have the legendary Millie Small, who many Americans would be shocked to find out she was actually from Jamaica! Unfortunately I never considered her to have a really talented voice. However, she exploded in the music scene when she released her one massive hit “My Boy Lollipop (c.1964).” The song hit #2 on the top 100 American Billboard. Unfortunately, Millie past away in early 2020, at the age of 72. A lot of famous artists on the Trojan label also made some awesome covers of American music. “Help Me Make It Through The Night,” by John Holt; “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” by my girl Marcia Griffiths; “Don’t Play That Song For Me,” by Derrick Morgan; and plenty more on this playlist. I hope you enjoy!!
Song: Try Jah Love
Artist: Third World
Album: You’ve Got The Power (1982)
I can’t even attempt to find the words to explain how much of an impact this album has made around the world. How many Americans even remember the group Third World? You’ll probably think long and hard for a good half our thinking about their name, until you hear this song! This song is so unique, I still have trouble figuring out an appropriate category. You know it’s has a Caribbean element to it, yet some times it sounds more like American club music. Some might even dare to say it borderlines disco. Maybe this is one of the many complex mysteries of what makes this song not only so awesome, but attract so many people of all walks of life!
This Awesome Song Was Co-Written With Stevie Wonder!
Kind of by accident, I found out that the song was co-written along with Stevie Wonder. Stevie was inspired to write this song shortly after the heartbreaking death of the late Bob Marley. The song became an instant hit. Without knowing any stats, there is no doubt in my mind this turned out to be the biggest global hit of Third World’s career! It truly put them on the map. Probably, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it made them the most famous in America, in terms of reggae bands are concerned (next to the Wailers, and even then, most American people remember Bob Marley, and never think about the band playin’ in the background). Now, unfortunately, I think Billboard is tryin’ to charge $10 a month for Billboard Chart info (not gonna happen with me). So, as far as Wikipedia is concerned, “Try Jah Love,” supposedly reached #42 in the UK and #101 on the Top 100 Chart. That sounds wrong to me, I remembered that this song was just too popular in the Black community for those numbers to be right. Black clubs played this all the time, I heard this song throughout the streets of NYC. Those numbers can’t be right.
Again, I don’t mean to hop on this all the time, but it’s true. I’ve heard very few professional reggae performers or bands, were able to fuse their reggae culture with other styles of music and come out successful like this. If never before, this song certainly immortalized them, don’t you think? It’s a shame Spotify doesn’t have this original album, it has some good stuff in it!! If this album doesn’t spark any one of your memory cells, perhaps you’ll remember them for another hit about 4 years before called “Now That We’ve Found Love (1978).” Man…………….. If you don’t at least move your hips to either one of these songs, you’re just a deadbeat dancer. Straight up deadbeat. ?
Song: So Much Love
Artist: Laurel Aitken
Album: Skinhead Train: The Complete (1969-1970)
? Wow!! This is obscure. I so love rediscovering obscure artists, it’s almost like discovering buried treasure! To think that today’s artist was dubbed “King Of Ska.” You know, I look at music history very different. I think one of the biggest challenges with getting younger folk to be open enough to listening to classic music, is with young people it seems like there must be some sort of prerequisite. If they can’t twerk to it, or do a nasty dance, or sound “modern enough,” it’s not good music. I also thought about social pressure. Not wanting their friends to know they like “old music.” But, “good music” in terms of old school isn’t just about dancing, it’s also about feeling, and how the music can talk to your heart. Unfortunately, this is not the way we connect with music today.
Finding Obscure Music, Is Sometimes Like Finding Buried Treasure!
The late Mr. Laurel Aitken was born in Cuba, and was a descendant of Jamaican family. He was bilingual, but he mostly sang in English, as the majority of music he produced were ska music. You know, it’s interesting how a genre, ska, was so huge even in America, and today it’s been reduced to an acquired taste. Even a lot of old school reggae lovers would probably be more likely to listen to rocksteady before they’d pick up a ska album.
There Was A Time When Ska Music Was Almost Preferred Among Many Black Music Lovers!
One of my rare favorites from Aitken, is a song called “So Much Love (c.1970).” A very nice reggae love song. I just love these lyrics, “I’ll never turn my back on you.” Those are words you don’t hear in songs anymore. My only gripe is that the song is just way to short (I think). Aitkens also made outstanding cover songs in my opinion. Checkout some of my favorite covers from him, starting with “Why Can’t I Touch You,” “Groovin’,” “You Send Me,” and “(Sloop) John B.” Here are some of his other hits, “Baby, I Need Your Livin’,” this one has a some sick beats “Three Dogs Night,” and “I Can’t Stand It.”
Song: Only Conversation
Artist: Lymie Murray
Album: Only Conversation (2001)
Genre: Sweet Reggae
Although I love blogging about music, it can be a tough job! There are so many great music everywhere; and it can become quite overwhelming sometimes; whether you’re an organized blogger or not. However, I’m about quality and NOT quantity. Today’s artist….. This reggae man right here…… Mr. Lymie Murray…. I LOVED his music! I have absolutely no idea what happened to him. I found very little information about him. I’ve read that he supposed to be still performing, however, I think the last full album I traced from him was in 2014. You know, I’ve noticed a lot of my favorite legendary reggae artists such as Maxi Priest, Third World, etc, a lot of their performances tend to be in places like Europe/EU, which makes me wonder if reggae is now dead in America? That’s really concerning to me.
Lymie Is Amazingly Talented! But I Can’t Find Solid Proof He’s Actively Performing
Who the hell knows? Sometimes with these guys, they realized they’ve ran out of hit songs and windup (for the most part) becoming DJs after a while. However, in my opinion, Lymie is no ordinary performer. He can actually sing his ass off, and he has potential to bust out more hits (I think). But, I also know that it’s more complicated than that. Sometimes I think in today’s culture, a phenomenal voice is often replaced by what is interpreted as “good beats.” I’ve found small articles in various Jamaican online newspapers that said he performs as part of some celebration of something, but not his own concerts and what not.
Lymie Can Really Sing In My Opinion
My top favorite from Lymie is a song called “Only Conversation (2001).” I thought that was the hottest reggae song I heard in a long time. I’m so happy I heard this song, because in the 90s I gave up on reggae. In the 90s, we were bombarded with that dance-hall music; it completely destroyed true reggae culture as I knew it. To me it was like the equivalent of when OG rappers explain how new rappers obliterated hip hop today. So, from that perspective, listening to him perform this song was refreshing! It literally helped to restore my faith in reggae music.
Before I forget, I want you to check out another favorite of mine. I don’t know if it was a hit or not, but I love it! It’s a Delfonics cover of “La La Means I Love You.” I really, really loved how he did this. One more song for you. I beg reggae fans to listen to his song called “For Cynthia,” from his “Good Things Forward (2014)” album. I really think this song showcased the talent in his voice. I heard very few reggae artist that project their voices in that way! I recommend listening to this whole album actually. Some good stuff!!
Song: Beautiful And Dangerous
Artist: Desmond Dekkar
Album: This Is Desmond Dekkar (1969)
Genre: Sweetest Reggae
You know, I’m not trying to brag, or make myself better than any other classic music blogger. We all celebrate the classics in our own personal way. However, I just want to say what makes my blog special from 85% of blogs in cyberspace, is that it IS a music history blog! Not a collection of random YouTube videos grabbed by a query some lazy programmer written. There’s truly a difference between an automated “blog,” and a blogger that handwrites his or her articles, and shares his/her memories. I am literally telling you a story and sharing my childhood with my readers. I’m pretty sure that at least more than half of what I’ve written, no other popular blogger is writing about. Except for, those stupid and pointless “happy birthday” photo posts on Facebook. And even then they still don’t know shit, if they need to find birthdays.
The Late Desmond Is A Forgotten Reggae Legend Now!
Again, unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be any sort of billboard information to share with you. All I can do is share some of the most popular music I remember growing up. Desmond had recorded a LOT of music, and all the so called “reggae fans,” doesn’t seem to have heard of Desmond. When in fact, I remember his song “007 (Shanty Town) (with The Aces)” to have been his most popular single of everything he’s done in 1967! Actually, another song that was just as popular I heard growing up is “Israelites,” released in 1968.
I Loved Desmond’s Cover Of “You Can Get It If You Really Want!”
I really loved his cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” c. 1970s. Both versions are wonderful really. In addition to a lot of political songs, he performed some love songs too. Although the lyrics to “Beautiful and Dangerous” are a little confusing to me, I still love how the background music was done. It remains to be one of my many favorites. I do recommend that you take the time to skim through some of his albums. I know most reggae fans will find something of his they’ll enjoy.
Song: Don’t Take Away Your Love
Artist: Johnny Nash
Album: Don’t Take Away Your Love (1962)(2019)
Genre: Soul Music
Oh my goodness! I had forgotten just what a beautiful voice Johnny Nash had. You know what? Listening to him sing “Don’t Take Away Your Love,” was almost like listening to Sam Cooke in a way. Are any of my readers familiar with Sam Cooke? He was another great singer too. This is such a beautiful romantic song, and I think it’s a great song to slow dance to as well. Although this is an American song, I’ve chose to put this in my “sweet reggae” category, because growing up about 85% of the music I listened to by Johnny were reggae. Interestingly enough, he was born in Houston Texas, USA. Even more interesting, he was the first non-Jamaican singer to record reggae music in Kingston Jamaica! And had many, many hits!! How’s that for awesome!! ?
I Do Recommend That You Investigate Johnny’s Music
My grandpa and I REALLY loved Johnny’s music. Although, with this particular song, I don’t recall hearing my grandpa ever playing. But, there’s no doubt in my mind my grandpa would have not only loved this song, he would have played it to shreds!! ? Now, I’m not sure the name of the original album, but also I’m thinking it may be possible it was released as a single. I’m making this assumption because Spotify has it as a single, and all other albums the songs appear in, are more recent re-releases.
Some of my most favorite Johnny Nash music I remembered my pops playing were songs like, “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Stir It Up,” his remake of this American classic “Cupid,” “Groovin’” “Hold Me Tight,” and my most favorite of all is “Guava Jelly.” Johnny has a lot of NICE music under his belt, but I think the music I just shared with you were/are is ultimate best in my opinion. I mean, not only was his voice on point, the reggae beats were just sick!! Well, you can just judge that for yourselves! To my understanding, this now 78 year old hit maker is still kicking it on the mic!
Song: Grooving Out On Life
Artist: Hopeton Lewis
Album: Grooving Out Of Life (1973)
Genre: Sweetest Reggae
Actually, this entire album is an extremely rare gem. I doubt a whole lot of people have this album, and that includes myself. I’m sorry to discover that Mr. Lewis passed away not too long ago. He was truly a sweet reggae legend in my opinion. I first written about him on my old blog a few years ago. You may remember the late Mr. Lewis by one of his hit songs used in a travel commercial (don’t remember what company), the song was called “Take It Easy (1967).” Man, that tune was so catchy, it was stuck in my head for awhile. LOL Something interesting, I discovered that there are two different versions of “Take It Easy.” This album has a much mellower version. I personally prefer the faster one, which was used in the commercial.
This Album Is A Must Add To Your Streaming Library!
Today’s song “Grooving Out Of Life,” for some reason reminds me a lot of a song called “Girl Watcher (1968),” performed by The O’Kaysions. Remember that song? That was some great music too. Not sure what notes exactly reminds me of the song. Anyway, “Grooving Out Of Life” did not get that many plays. However, it makes sense, since reggae was not huge at the time in America. Shit, even with the major success of Bob Marley, reggae still didn’t scratch the surface (in my opinion). But, “Grooving Out Of Life” is an awesome song in my opinion, an unheard gem indeed!
Lewis had some very nice covers on this album. I think it’s worth listening to his cover of Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” Although Tina had many people cover this song, I don’t recall ever hearing a reggae version. Lewis took me off guard with his rendition, but I think it sounds really good. Another cover I think is worth listening to is Express Yourself, which was originally done by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. The last cover I think you should listen to is “Love Is A Beautiful Thing.” I don’t remember the original group that sang this, but my earliest memories was a group called The Rascals. Lewis performed it nicely. This could have been a huge Motown like hit if America was more receptive to reggae artists back then.
Song: Mystic Man
Artist: Peter Tosh
Album: Mystic Man (1979)
Not too many American people know about Peter Tosh, however, in my opinion, I’d say he was a legend. Although Spotify indicates that Tosh’s album “Mystic Man” was released on 2002, that was the digital release. The actual release of the album was 1979. All of the songs on this digital album have been remastered, and additional songs have been added. You guys know how I feel about remastered songs. I’ve heard far too many “remastered” hit songs that sound like they’ve been recorded from a karaoke bar. But, in this case, I’m happy to say that the sound engineers have kept the album as close to the original sound as possible! I’m so grateful for that.
Digital Album Has Bonous Material.
Now, I have to be honest, this wasn’t my most favorite album of Peter Tosh, but it has some nice grooves on it. Like many reggae artist of his era, many of his albums (including this one) were very political. This isn’t an album you can use to twerk to. In my opinion, the golden song on this album is “Mystic Man.” In essence, this song is basically list of things he didn’t do anymore, in order to stay on a clear bath. The only other song that got some brownie points from me was “Crystal Ball.” Like I said, this wasn’t my favorite album, but for nostalgic purposes, it was great listening to this album again.
Having said that, that doesn’t mean that Peter was not a legend in his own right. He managed to get two songs registered on Billboard’s Top 100 Chart, they were “(You Got To Walk And) Don’t Look Back (1978),” which reached #81, and “Johnny B. Goode (1983),” which reached #84. I didn’t care too much for “Johnny B. Goode,” because I felt it was similar to Eddie Grant’s music, in that Tosh produced “American safe” song. Then again, I guess the reality was, we really couldn’t blame them. There wasn’t really a whole lot musicians could’ve done, when the music labels could literally tell you how to perform your art under contract back in the day.
When I think about situations like that, I always think back to Bob Marley. He really paved the way for reggae in America. If it wasn’t for Bob, I think the vast majority of Americans, perhaps the world, would have heard very little of reggae music and it’s culture. Anyway, some of my favorite Tosh songs I’d like you to check out are “Legalize It,” he probably was high when he sang this song! As a child I thought it was hilarious, personally. Check out “Downpressor,” “Oh Bumbo Klaat,” which is another hilarious song, maybe it’s because I remember my late grandpa saying that on a few occasions. ? Two more you should check out is, “400 Years,” and “Hammer.”