Sunday, November 5, 2017


T'was a time that Sly and Robbie's shit did not stink. As the rhythm section of the Revolutionaries, the backing band at Channel One studio in the second half of the seventies, they were at the right place at the right time backing the right artists. There were other reggae rhythm duos doing remarkable work, but it was Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare that became reggae's drum and bass marquee names.

Alas, they may have been too good. Too tight. Maybe they got restless. Whatever the reason, though they retained their reggae sensibilities, they started fucking around with digital. They began backing non-reggae acts. It wasn't an overnight change, it happened gradually, so gradually that I never noticed that I had lost interest in their whereabouts until a couple nights ago. I heard them backing the Wailing Souls on "Old Broom", released on their Taxi label about 1980. Ah, man, it felt good to hear the old Sly and Robbie, as they had been around the first time I heard them. I went looking for more of that period and ran into a killer disco mix (extended version) cover of "Rainy Night In Georgia", with them backing Tinga Stewart from 1978. It's awesome, them at the early peak of their reggae game. Though they have stuck with reggae type music (i.e. dancehall), and used reggae rhythms in their playing with non-reggae artists (Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Simply Red, Ian Dury, Joe Cocker, Sinéad O'Connor, etc.) it just doesn't have the same feel, it's not as earthy.

I checked their discography. By the looks of it the bottom dropped out for me around 1980 and, wouldn't you just know it, that's just about when they started fucking with syn drums and digital bass. They were fucking with the program, and they've continued fucking with the program. Fine, if that's what they wanna do, go for it. Their shit may not stink yet, but I'll be damned if I'm going to wait around until it does. If you want to see what I'm talking about, compare the Wailing Souls' "Old Broom" from around 1980, to their "Live On" from 1994, with Sly and Robbie supplying the backing on both. Rough or polished, I'm taking rough every time.

Wailing Souls - Old Broom mp3 at Bass Shaka (?) 1980-ish
Tinga Stewart - Rainy Night In Georgia
(streaming) at Reggaeville 1978
Wailing Souls - Sweet Sugar Plum Plum mp3
at Bass Shaka (?) 1980-ish
Wailing Souls - Live On
(streaming) at YouTube 1994

No comments: