During its roots heyday in the '70s, Jamaican reggae was a virtual zoo of vocalists, musicians, and producers. The incestuous relationships these hundreds of artists maintained make it even more difficult to sort out their individual contributions today. To make it big in those days, all you had to do was find yourself a sound system and move sweaty bodies all night long. No small task.
Of course, the difficulty of sorting all the details out from a historical perspective is further worsened by the fact that a huge amount of roots material is out of print, remixed, or tucked away in obscure compilations. Moll-Selekta's master plan to revive the heyday of Jamaican music is now in its sixth (full-length) reincarnation, after massively successful sets by King Tubby and Mike Brooks, among others.
Barry Brown made it the old-fashioned way, working his way up from a ghetto runner into an internationally recognized voice. This collection brings together fourteen tracks (twelve on the vinyl release) from Brown's breakthrough years, produced by Rodguel "Black Beard" Sinclair and mixed by King Tubby. Tubby's mixes from the time were always notorious for their attention to detail, part of his overall perfectionism, and the forward position of the drums and bass. This set is no exception. The lows are deep and the highs are crisp and bright.
Brown's voice flies relatively high, and he doesn't perform any wild gymnastics. The two features which distinguish him as an artist are his socially conscious lyrics and his delivery, which accomplishes the magic trick of folding punchy, rap-like rhythms into a very lyrical whole. The sufferah riddims that float below are slow- to mid-tempo and quite regular.
The liner notes tell all about his relationships to musicians and producers, but the key players here are the Aggrovators, Roots Radics, Revolutionaries, and High Times Players. To be honest, the music itself is about ten fold less exciting than the voice that rides on top, but your mileage may differ depending on your tolerance for stoned-out trance patterns.
Rich Man Poor Man accomplishes what Moll-Selekta set out to do with its reissue series, namely shine the spotlight on a musician with a very distinctive personal approach, revealing his talent through a coherent set of tracks that neither overly challenge nor lull you to sleep. It's all about roots. Dig.
Visit Moll-Selekta on the web. This recording is available from Forced Exposure, Amazon.de and other sources.
Personnel: Lyrics and vocals by Barry Brown. Produced by Rodguel Sinclair, mixed by King Tubby. Featuring the
Aggrovators, Roots Radics, Revolutionaries, and High Times Players.