June 2015

Ideal soundtracks for Summer, our first two June releases are evocative of street parties, carnivals, sound systems and sun. After our extensive explorations of the American Jump/Shuffle Blues that inundanted the Jamaican sound system scene in its formative years –  culminating in the March release of It’s Jamaica Jump Blues Time! Jamaican Sound System Classics 1941 -1962 – we continue our excavations of the sounds that defined the vim and exuberance of Jamaica at a time when sound system impresarios like Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid and Clement Seymour ‘Coxson’ Dodd were beginning their own forays into home-grown productions. With a newfound, local independence encouraged by the creation of Jamaica’s first commercial recording studios, the island’s own slant on Shuffle Blues and Boogie began its ascendance, filling airwaves which were once dominated by choice American imports. This shift represented a watershed moment. Soon ska was born and internationally appreciated, a style which was rechristened as blue beat in Britain and a music that would eventually shape rocksteady, reggae and its many subsequent stylistic variants. As well as a host of other revered ska standards, novel discoveries and relative obscurities, Feel So Fine: The Birth of Jamaican Ska plays host to arguably the first and most definitive divergence from the American influences that had initially vitalized the scene; the Coxson Dodd-produced ‘Easy Snapping’. Significant too is the first commercially available disc to feature a rasta drumming ensemble, namely ‘Oh Carolina’. Although these highlights are historic, Feel So Fine is replete with the first vital steps of ska, Jamaican music’s first key blueprint; one that sounds best in the sunshine, blasted out of colossal speakers.

Adding to the sense of ebullience is Out of Many, One Music! Songs That Shaped Jamaica. This time the purview is broader, taking in the sum of sounds that made an impact in Jamaica over the course of the 20th century. The range of styles which exerted an influence attests to why Jamaica has proven so innovative in the years since; gospel, blues, jazz, vocal groups, country, pop, film music and exotica all make an apperance, affirming that the pool of inspiration Jamaican artists eventually drew from was a deep and diverse one. Here the length and breadth of those influences are collected on a 3CD set and a 2LP vinyl edition, demonstrating that Jamaica’s infatuations transcended American R&B and Blues and distilled a legion of different influences in their own later conceptions.

Breaking with the thematic focus on Jamaica but maintaining the sense of an idiosyncratic place birthing extraordinary music, Classy Sugar: The Pure Essence of New York Rock’n’Roll is the latest instalment in the Sugar series to be brought to vinyl, an ongoing project helmed by Stuart Colman charting the definitive spirit of America’s most iconic and revered hubs of R&B and Rock’n’Roll. This year has so far seen Heavy Sugar, Savvy Sugar, and Sassy Sugar each exploring the output of New Orleans, the West Coast, and Nashville respectively. In this latest edition, the focus is the thriving recording studios of New York in the 50s and early 60s. As well as masterful session players (saxman ‘King’ Curtis, guitarist George Barnes, drummer Panama Francis, and piano wizard Bert Keyes) these exciting confines provided the initial platform for a host of future successes, including Neil Sedaka, Jeff Barry and Bobby Darin. There were also other forgotten voices amongst the glitz, and these are collected here too, forming a complete essence which hits with all of New York’s signature grit and buzz.