Speakers Push Air

The 21 Commandments of Roots
August 5, 2008, 1:36 am
Filed under: Mixes

This mix was made quicker than any mix I’ve ever put together, but took more thought than all the others combined. I’ve been playing around with various roots reggae mixes for a while – looking at themes, chronologies, all that sort of nonsense. But this, for me, is just the motherlode.

After bouncing the tracklisting around in my head for months, I offer up a mix of the tracks that, if someone asked why I love reggae, I’d start rattling off at them (while they’d probably nod politely and scan the room for someone less dull to talk to). There’s a few post-70s tracks, although not many, there’s a little bit of dub, although not much, and there’s mostly pure vocal roots songs that make the hairs on my arms stand up.

I make no apologies for how ridiculously populist and non-obscure a lot of this stuff is – these are the songs that mean the most to me, and I didn’t want to bear other factors in mind when I put the list together. I make no apologies for the amount of Perry productions – while people fetishise his ‘madness’ and his studio techniques, there’s a massive body of solid roots material that benefitted from his involvement. I make no apologies for the amount of tracks that have appeared on Blood & Fire and Pressure Sounds compilations: when I was starting to really immerse myself in this stuff, both labels were on peak form and struck a rich seam over and over again.

I’ll spare you a commentary too – to me, the quality of each and every tune says enough – but if there’s anything you want to know more about, do get in touch. I will mention three tunes in particular, though:

VC’s By His Deeds is arguably my favourite roots tunes of all time, and I owe John Eden a lot for sticking it on one of his Shake The Foundations mixes and drawing it to my attention. There’s a dignified, measured anger to the song which is really inspiring and has something to say about hypocrisy outside its rasta context.

Sylford Walker’s Burn Babylon was a tune I heard the first time I dared stick my head into the basement of Daddy Kool Records in Soho. I was nervous as hell, knew very little about reggae and about the etiquette of reggae stores. But minutes after I got in there, the guy behind the counter dropped this tune and it absolutely blew me away. He must have sussed my reaction, because about 4 minutes later I handed over what I now suspect was a ridiculous amount of money for a scratchy 7″. I don’t regret a penny of it.

Finally, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s Dreadlocks In Moonlight. Back in the mid-80s when I had maybe a Burning Spear album and a copy of that first Ini Kamoze mini-album, I still wasn’t entirely convinced by reggae. But my partner of the time came up with a copy of the soundtrack to the movie Countryman. There was some great stuff on it, but it was Perry’s vocal on this tune – a good a roots vocal as I’ve ever heard – that set me off on all this.

(click the pic to get the mix)

as with all these mixes, you may need to append “.mp3” to the end of the file..

1. Josie Mel & Luton Fyah – Rasta Still Deh Bout 0.00
2. The Chantells – Waiting In The Park 03.50
3. The Mighty Diamonds – Ghetto Living 07.10
4. Johnnie Osbourne – Jah Promise 10.40
5. Sylford Walker – Burn Babylon 14.30
6. VC – By His Deeds 21.10
7. Slim Smith – My Conversation 25.05
8. Half Pint – Mr Landlord 28.50
9. Barrington Levy – Dances Are Changing 31.50
10. The Bluebells – Come Along 35.20
11. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – Dreadlocks In Moonlight 38.10
12. Israel Vibration – I’ll Go Through 41.45
13. Rod Taylor – Ethiopian Kings 45.45
14. The Gatherers – Words Of My Mouth 51.30
15. Yabby You / Big Youth – Yabby Youth / Lightning Flash Weak Heart Drop 54.45
16. Matumbi – The Man In Me 57.55
17. Johnny Clarke – Declaration of Rights 61.20
18. The Gladiators – Looks Is Deceiving 64.35
19. Eek A Mouse – Noah’s Ark 66.55
20. Lloyd Parkes – Mafia 70.15
21. Cornell Campbell – Dance In Greenwich Farm (Megamix) 72.45

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

quality been waiting for you to do a mix like this..cheers.x

Comment by saucisson

At the risk of sounding like a total wanker, that’s a really beautiful set of tunes. Loads of stuff I’ve never heard before – that Chantells tune and the Johnnie Osbourne song, in particular, are both wonderful. Beautiful stuff. Yeah, OK, I sound like a total wanker.

Comment by Jamie

Not at all, appreciate it 🙂

Comment by dubversion

love the Roots mix – but i have one issue, i wouldn’t call Waiting in The Park one Roots – isn’t it Lovers Rock…?

other than that very minor criticism, i love it. 🙂

Comment by clare

Nah, it’s not Lovers Rock – that was pretty much a UK thing, and a bit later too. Chantells were a jamaican roots outfit (they did another version on the same riddim called Desperate Times which is anything but lovers).

So :p

Comment by dubversion

This is also why I love reggae. Nice selections…
Check Highlanda online for similar mixes.

Comment by Kahlil Wonda

nice nice tunes!

Comment by cozmik

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