Dave Barker - Your Love Is Game
Johnny Osbourne - Purify Your Heart
Jimmy Riley - Prophecy
Techniques All Stars - Prophecy (Version)
Big Youth - All Nations Bow
Horace Andy - Love Is The Light
I Roy - Who Is The Man
Techniques All Stars - Who Is The One (Version)
Donovan Adams - Don't Mock Jah
Techniques All Stars - Don't Mock Jah (Version)
Winston & Ansel - Zion I
Interns - Nothing Is Impossible
Ansel Collins - Black Out
Morvin Brooks - Cheer Up Blackman
Techniques All Stars - Cheer Up Blackman (Version)
|"An everyday sound for the everyday people... sound of reality"
"The music that's been released on the Techniques and associated labels throughout the seventies, eighties and nineties has led the way while others followed and it has always stood for quality at the cutting edge of Jamaican music. As roots music moved into the ascendency in the seventies a selection of anthems of truths and rights appeared on Winston's labels that have subsequently become acknowledged classics of the genre".
At the time this was written we had no idea that a couple of years later we would have the pleasure of actually releasing an album of Winston Riley's anthems of truths and rights but here it is. On the aforementioned release (Techniques In Dub PSCD/LP15) we detailed Winston's early years and the history of the Techniques label so here we'll concentrate on the roots, the whole roots and nothing but the roots.
"Things happening, facts of life... a feeling. The way you can express the feeling to reach people is by music". Winston ruminates on what makes roots music special. "The difference between love songs and reality songs is just the mood of the music, so you write the tune to fit the mood. The greatest part is to know when it's right".
Dave Barker found international success as a deejay with 'Double Barrel' but he was also one of Jamaica's most respected and impassioned vocalists. On 'Your Love Is A Game' he seems to be having trouble making it to the end of the track. "Dave Barker had a sound just like an American; he reminded me of a soul singer". Winston wrote and arranged the song, packed full of desperation, and sung the fine high part too. A love song, yes, but as far away from the moon in June as it's possible to get and sounding like something just this side of sanity.
This original version to 'Purify Your Heart' first appeared on Johnny Osbourne's 'Ready or Not' album and was later sung over with additional lyrics that included reference to Rasta and Selassie. Johnny and Winston worked extensively together and this song was written by Johnny although Winston again features on backing vocals; "A personal message that relate to everybody and everybody can relate to:. It's one of the best songs ever written pointing fingers at hypocrites everywhere and the strength of the rhythm prompted a further cut from Jimmy Riley - 'Prophecy'. Jimmy had sung in The Techniques but only ever recorded one solo outing for Winston... but what a song! Followed by a stark version that's different again to the cut on 'Techniques In Dub'.
Many singers felt threatened when deejay music started to dominate the reggae scene from the early seventies onwards but Winston scored with one of the first and biggest hits in the style - 'Double Barrel'. "As long as it's music that's all that counts" and so for Techniques the legendary Big Youth delivered one of his best ever performances on the foundation 'Stalag' rhythm. "Biggest rhythm. It will never die... although I'll be gone it will still be there". The Youth alters the Psalms and refers directly to the removal of Haile Selassie from power in Ethiopia while looking forward to the time when "All nations got to bow, when the third and fourth generation stand and the wicked got to fall". Big Youth later returned to the rhythm on a cut that Winston had given him "just a one off!" for his own Negusa Nagast label 'Jim Screechy' another powerful record that nodded in the direction of the Last Poets.
Winston approached Horace Andy to sing on 'Stalag' who was "a nice person to deal with" and the lyrics of 'Love Is The Light' were a collaboration between the two men. It's not just case of welding one song to the next rhythm either as the song fits like a hand in a glove. It's wonderful to see how after years of being the most imitated voice in reggae music that Horace's time has finally come and he's now found fame and acceptance outside of the reggae field. He recorded one more song for Techniques - 'No Peace'.
The original vocal version to 'Who Is The Man' is still lost in the Techniques tape vaults "Night and day me search for them and you know, I still can' find certain tapes!" but here we can enjoy I-Roy tackling it as only he can. Roy did two tunes for Winston, this beauty and a rather obscure item 'Fish Mouth', but he's on top form here. This man could recite pages of the Kingston Telephone Directory and make it sound like the Book of Revelations, yet his sincerity here is so intense that it's almost frightening.
Donovan Adams came from Tivoli Gardens, Kingston and he started his musical career playing bass and singing with The Victors. Winston asked him "come make we do a thing... but it was no big thing... he only did one or two tunes" and Donovan left the music business... "I saw him the other day driving a taxi!" Thankfully one of those tunes was 'Don't Mock Jah' a 100% acknowledged classic, a plea for understanding in the face of scorn and derision that takes the same moral stance as 'Purify Your Heart'.
Yet another Techniques anthem 'Zion I' / 'Nothing Is Impossible' has been touched any amount of times - for instance there's a Pablo melodica cut that isn't included here - and Winston himself not only wrote 'Zion I' but also sung it with Ansel Collins and played all the percussion parts too. He doesn't see himself as a particularly religious man "Yes... to a point. I deal with truth and rights love and trust' yet this paean to spirituality has seldom been bettered. The Interns probably better known as The Viceroys laid the original vocal and Ansel Collins provided a further haunting melodica cut. Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi would run cut after cut "Tubby's take them and put then 'pon his sound. Tubby's was the main player! When his sound play something it sell. Them was the radio station in those time".
Former Technique Morvin Brooks provides one of the most mournful calls to "cheer up" ever recorded and the tension between the words and the delivery pinned down by a doom laden rhythm elevate this particular piece to unimpeachable status. Morvin went on to sing soca and calypso with Byron lee & The Dragonaires and " he's still working with them too!" but his name is still revered within the roots fraternity for this stern call to arms.
It should be obvious that these songs of supplication are far more than mere bandwagon hopping as their longevity and continued popularity are further testaments to the sincerity, dedication and vision of Winston Riley: "Every tune I have I sing 'pon them. I deejayed tunes too!" and the works on this set came after endless deliberation, "Everyday we'd sit down and just sing. Eat, drink and sing. Everyday we'd be together. I still have lots of tunes on tape that never come out 'pon street... more roots tunes as them make more sense now... but anything I write have to make sense. If lyrics aren't properly done then don't bother with it. At all times, writing and producing are my gifts and that's my part too yet I want nothing out of it. A man can get fi him credit. I get my credit from the work I do". You should already be aware of Winston Riley's work but here's an opportunity to hear it in its fullness, to appreciate its depth, honesty and total commitment, and to give it the credit it so obviously deserves.
Harry Hawke - April 1999
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