TROJAN CHRISTMAS BOX SET (TJETD142) - OK everybody - time to sing a Christmas song!

Don't worry, we're not going to call upon the services of In fact, I'm sure you'll be pleased to learn that we have a line-up of Jamaica's finest, including the legendary Jacob 'Killer' Miller, the albino superstar, King Yellowman, the celebrated Tamlins and the illustrious John Holt., alongside a host of other Supas! And now that you've unwrapped this Christmas box, let's unwrap a few details about the singers and players of instruments whose talents provide a perfect soundtrack to the holiday season.

Our first Christmas song in reggae demonstrates the fine tenor and trademark stammer of the late lamented Jacob Mathias Miller, who, with the Lewis brothers Ian and Roger, (still lovingly known as the Fat Man Riddim Section), recorded the album 'Natty X-mas' in 1978. Jacob joined the duo as part of the Inner Circle line-up, although at the same time he continued performing as a soloist with the group's support.

The DJ, Ray I, who was clearly influenced by U Roy sound-alike, U Brown, joined the sessions to perform the classic 'Amharic Temple' on Jacob's Reggae cut of 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas'. The DJ also performed alongside Jacob for the Rastafarian-tinged, 'All I Want For Ismas', as well as 'Silver Bells' and 'Deck The Halls', adding a little Christmas spice to the proceedings.

Ray I recorded the Jamaican released albums 'Visions' with the Fat Man Riddim Section and 'Rasta Revival' with Derrick Harriott before he returned to relative obscurity, while his singing partner's career prospered. The final contribution from Jacob's 'Natty X-mas' LP is his solo cut of the 'Twelve Days Of Istmas'. Sadly, two years after the release of the album, just as Jacob and the Inner Circle were breaking into the mainstream, the singer was killed in a car crash. This tragedy led to the group temporarily disbanding, but following a suitable period of mourning, the band reunited and fifteen years after these these classic Christmas hits were recorded, crossed over into the mainstream with 'Sweat (A La La La La Song)' and 'Bad Boys' the latter having been picked up as the theme to the popular Fox television series, 'Cops'.

Founding Black Uhuru singer, Don Carlos is next up to the mic with 'Jingle Bells', performed alongside Glenice, whose vocals compliment the sublime style of the aptly named Don (Gorgon). Carlos released a series of popular albums, notably 'Just A Passing Glance' and 'Ghetto Living', the latter being recorded inna combination style with Gold, whose 'nom de disc' is a reference to his sun bleached locks. From the then-named sing-jay style of Don Carlos, we step back in time to the mid-sixties, when the Granville Williams Orchestra cut a stunning Ska version of the Christmas standard 'Santa Claus Is Ska-ing To town', featuring vocal refrains courtesy of the Leaders.

While Granville and friends were Ska-ing to town, the DJ superstar, Yellowman was having a tough upbringing in the streets of Kingston. Having been labelled 'dundas', a reference to his pigmentation that led him to being treated as an outcast, he eventually managed to turn this encumbrance into a phenomenal success and in the early eighties, he went from social pariah to a god like status and Jamaican producers were quick to identify his commercial success. While he released a plethora of albums throughout the eighties, he maintained his popularity into the nineties when he released the festive 'A Very, Very Yellow Christmas', which preceded his sessions with the perfect gentleman, Wyclef Jean. The first track lifted from Yellow's Christmas set features the DJ bemoaning the fact that 'Santa Clause Never Comes To The Ghetto', but he later livens things up with 'Yellowman Rock', a variation on Bobby Helms' Rock & Roll classic, 'Jingle Bell Rock'. DJs were at one time referred to as toasters and utilising the Mighty Diamonds hit, King Yellow proposes a toast to an 'African Christmas', before hitting us with 'This Christmas', alongside a Jamaican version of 'Tis The Season (Deck The Halls)' and rendering of Mel Torme's 'The Christmas Song', re-titled as 'Breadfruit Roasting On An Open Fire'.

John Holt needs no introduction, having led the Paragons through some classic Rocksteady hits before enjoying a high profile with his 'Thousand Volts' series of albums and that legendary Top 10 hit in 1974, 'Help Me Make It Through The Night'. His skill at injecting new life into other songs is clearly demonstrated with tracks lifted from the long-since deleted ';The Reggae Christmas Hits Album' (TRLS 230). This Bunny Lee produced set included a spectrum of hits including our featured tracks, Elvis Presley's 'Blue Christmas', Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' and Wham's 'Last Christmas'. Other versions from the 1986 album that we have featured include Reggae-fied renderings of John Lennon's 'Happy Christmas (War Is Over)', Mud's 'Lonely Christmas', Slade's 'My Oh My' and another version of 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town', no doubt inspired by the Crystals 1963 hit version. Our final contribution from John's 'Reggae Christmas Hits Album' is 'When A Child Is Born', a song made famous by the first Jamaican superstar, Harry Belafonte that subsequently inspired Johnny Mathis and Boney M to record their chart topping versions. From John Holt, we move on to the Ethiopians performing the rare 'Ding Dong Bell', having recorded the more familiar 'Reggae Hit The Town' and 'Fire Deh A Mus Mus Tail' at the same session towards the tail end of 1968.

In the mid-seventies, Trinity (Junior Brammer) recorded a series of DJ hits, having notably provided Althia & Donna with the foundation to their number one hit, 'Uptown Top Ranking'. He had initially found success as a singer with the song, 'Telephone Line', produced by the UK-based John Dread, prior to linking up with Sly and Robbie to record the title track of our first disc, 'It's Christmas Time Again'. He later embarked on a singing career and performed under the name of Junior Brammer.

Moving on, the keyboard wizard Pablo Black covers the traditional Christmas carol, 'Silent Night' in his own distinctive way before Johnny Clarke covers the evergreen festive favourite, 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause'. In 1971 Sonny Bradshaw and his Seven recorded their atmospheric version of 'Little Drummer Boy', the tune of which inspired Nora Dean's risqué 'Wreck A Buddy' that can be found on Trojan's suitably titles 'X Rated Boxed Set' (TJETD 048).

The vocal styling of our final featured artists, the Tamlins, was enhanced through sessions with Sly & Robbie, who produced the group's classic 'Baltimore' (that topped the Jamaican chart for twelve weeks), as well as their unique interpretations of Wham's 'Last Christmas', the Jackson Five's 'Give Love On Christmas Day' and the Irving Berlin standard, 'White Christmas'.

Peter Broggs is a Rastafarian singer and songwriter who, under the guidance of Washington-based Dr. Dread, recorded several roots albums including 'Rastafari Liveth', 'Cease The War' and 'Reasoning'. in addition to his classic albums he also recorded a one off special, 'The Twelve Days Of Christmas' and a cameo in the Ras All Stars for inclusion on the album 'Ras Records Presents A Reggae Christmas', initiated by the self appointed doctor.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry closes the first disc in our yuletide celebrations with the suitably titled 'Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year' that he recorded alongside Sandra Robinson in the UK shortly before he relocated to a winter wonderland in Switzerland.

Onto the second disc and the first artist not already discussed thus far is Alton Ellis who has maintained a lengthy career as the Godfather of Reggae and is quite rightly regarded with nuff, nuff respect. His contribution to this set is 'Merry Merry Christmas' that he produced, wrote and recorded, backed by the Lipsticks, in 1972.

In the mid-seventies, Beres Hammond recorded with Zap Pow before concentrating on a solo career in 1980. He had to wait ten years before his career really took off through Donovan Germaine's Penthouse productions and by this time he teamed up with Sly & Robbie to record his version of 'The Christmas Song', he had most definitely become hot property. Almost twenty years earlier, the Maytals recorded alongside Warwick Lynn, who maintained the group's popularity following the demise of their producer Leslie Kong in 1971. Among the rarer recordings cut for Lynn is their 1972 single, 'Happy Christmas (The Christmas Song)', that appears here for the first time on CD.

The aforementioned Mr Kong was not averse to recording Christmas hits himself and in 1963 released the fittingly titled 'Merry Christmas' and the promotional, 'Greetings From Beverley's', both of which featured vocalist, Frank Cosmo, who is best remembered for the Ska hits, 'My Days Are So Lonely' and the jaw-droppingly good 'Pack Up Your Troubles'. Kong also produced a yuletide hit for his number one export, Desmond Dekker, whose composition, 'Christmas Day' features the singer/songwriter performing alongside his trusty Aces.

Another distinctively 'u-neek' performer is Ripton Hylton aka Eek A Mouse, whose 'biddly bong deh' catchphrase led to both a host of impersonators and the DJ giant becoming a serious contender for Yellowman's crown. Here the six-foot DJ, who took his name from a Jamaican racehorse, performs 'The Night Before Christmas' that was recorded before he embarked on an acting career, having secured a role in the movie 'New Jack City'.

Jamaican DJs are often celebrated for their physical peculiarities - Yellowman is the yellow-ist and Eek A Mouse  the tallest, but the man with the most unenvied reputation of them all is undoubtedly King Stitt. The self-proclaimed 'Ugly One', Stitt was feted as Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's number one soundman back in the early sixties and was around for over thirty years before proving he was by no means a spent force with 'Small Axe', recorded with Buju Banton in 1997. Some 27 years earlier, he had blazed the way for DJs on disc with a number of groundbreaking Clancy Eccles-produced hits, such as 'Fire Corner', 'Herbsman Reggae' and the rare but inimitable 'Christmas Tree'.

Another of Coxsone's protégés, Freddie McGregor began performing alongside the Clarendonians when he was only seven years old and later enjoyed a high profile as a soloist at Studio One before branching out and inaugurating his own Big Ship label. Soon after, he licensed his product to RAS, who released the crossover hit 'Push Come To Shove' before issuing his versions of 'O Come All Ye Faithful' and 'Feliz Navidad' - the latter made famous by Jose Feliciano. Freddie's unusual choice was probably influenced by his earlier success with another Spanish-tinged cover, 'Guantanamera' that was released before he charted with 'Just Don't Want To Be Lonely', which he recorded for Donovan Germaine at his Penthouse studios.

In 1968 Bunny Lee produced the timeless 'Peace On Earth', featuring Hopeton Lewis, alongside the underrated Primo Davidson, who faded into anonymity soon after the release of the single back in December 1968.

On disc three we meet yet more Studio One discoveries, namely 'Papa' Michigan Fairclough and 'General Smiley' Bennett, who give us their interpretation of 'Little Drummer Boy'. The duo burst on the scene with a version of the Alton Ellis hit 'I'm Just A Guy', which they recorded as 'Rub A Dub Style' and the infectious 'Diseases', cut for the late Henry 'Junjo' Lawes.

In the late sixties and early seventies, the Jackie Bernard-led Kingstonians enjoyed success with a number of Derrick Harriott-produced hits, most notably including 'Sufferer' and 'Singer Man', but they had previously recorded a series of praiseworthy sides for Karl 'J.J.' Johnson, including the Rocksteady-styled 'Merry Christmas' that first saw issue in 1967.

June (JC) Lodge is noted for topping the charts in the Netherlands with her version of Charley Pride's 'Someone Loves You Honey' that, along with Freddie McGregor's 'Just Don't Want To Be Lonely' features on the platinum-selling 'Reggae Love Songs' collection (TDSAN 001). She later found success with 'Telephone Love', produced by Augustus 'Gussie'; Clarke, before joining the RAS posse. A series of albums followed, along with her Christmas special, 'Joy To The World'. She continued to record into the millennium and recently hit with the Danny Ray-produced 'Reggae Country'.

Our final two Jamaican Christmas stylee hits date back to the sixties. The first of these is Reuben Anderson's original 1967 version of 'Christmas Time Again', a song that was of course later revived to great effect by Junior Brammer (Trinity) - see disc one. The final recording is in fact the earliest, dating from around 1960 - the Rhythm Aces' 'The Meaning Of Christmas'. The song was revived some 26 years later by its writer and former Rhythm Aces front-man, Boris Gardiner, following his UK pop chart hits 'I Wanna Wake Up With You' and 'You're Everything To Me'.

So there you have it - fifty real authentic sounds of a Jamaican-stylee Christmas, guaranteed to enliven any yuletide celebrations. So rewind mi selector 'cos it's going to be a Merry Reggae Christmas and hopefully a skankingly Good New Year!

Stephen Nye




Wish You A Merry Christmas/Ahamaric Temple
Jacob Miller / Ray I
Jingle Bells
Don Carlos & Glenice Spencer
Santa Claus Is Ska-ing To Town
The Granville Williams Orchestra
Santa Claus Never Comes To The Ghetto
Blue Christmas
John Holt
Ding Dong Bell
The Ethiopians
It's Christmas Time Again
Junior Brammer
All I Want For Ismas
Jacob Miller & Ray I
Silent Night
Pablo Black
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Johnny Clarke
Yellowman Rock (Jingle Bell Rock)
White Christmas
John Holt
Peace And Love (Little Drummer Boy)
Sonny Bradshaw
Last Christmas
The Tamlins
The Twelve Days Of Christmas
Peter Broggs
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year
Lee 'Scratch' Perry & Sandra Robinson

Lonely This Christmas
John Holt
African Christmas
Merry Merry Christmas
Alton Ellis & The Lipsticks
The Christmas Song
Beres Hammond
Happy Christmas (The Christmas Song)
The Maytals
The Night Before Christmas
Eek A Mouse
On The Twelve Days Of Ismas
Jacob Miller
Merry Christmas
Frank Cosmo
Happy X-Mas (War Is Over)
John Holt
This Christmas
Christmas Day
Desmond Dekker & The Aces
Give Love On Christmas Day
The Tamlins
Christmas Tree
King Stitt
O Come All Ye Faithful
Freddie McGregor
Silver Bells/Natty No Santa Claus
Jacob Miller & Ray I
Peace On Earth
Hopeton & Primo
When A Child Is Born
John Holt

We Wish You A Reggae Christmas
Drummer Boy
Michigan & Smiley
Merry Christmas
The Kingstonians
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Beres Hammond
My Oh My
John Holt
Deck The Halls
Jacob Miller & Ray I
Breadfruit Roasting On An Open Fire (The Christmas Song)
Joy To The World
June Lodge
Christmas Time Again
Reuben Anderson
White Christmas
The Tamlins
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
John Holt
Santa Claus Dub
The Aggrovators
'Tis The Season (Deck The Halls)
Feliz Navidad
Freddie McGregor
Greetings From Beverley's
Frank Cosmo
Last Christmas
John Holt
C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S (The Meaning Of Christmas)
The Rhythms Aces

Time - 61:32

Time - 66:03

Time - 61:46

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