The period beginning in the 1960s on up through the 1980s is what Highlanda Sound refers to as The Finest Years of reggae music. I sometimes include also the 1990s, but definitely not the 2000s. The Finest Years includes many styles of the genre, from very grass-roots productions such as those of Studio One in Jamaica and Treasure Isle in the UK to the computerized creations of Jammy’s and Digital B in the 80′s and early 90′s. These are some of my favorite selections as a consumer and Disc Jockey alike. I pride myself as a collector and will never, ever, ever part with my musical treasure – original 12″, 10″, and 7″ records.
Although I don’t think its my very best mixing, this 100% vinyl mix is well selected and flows nicely from start to finish with some very nice transitions from song to song. The sound quality is very good considering the age of some of the records being played, although I think the sound effects are sometimes too loud, especially for the type of songs being played.
The Finest Years mix begins with Ken Boothe’s ‘Everything I Own,’ which I use at the beginning to immediately set the tone. The first blend brings in Alton Ellis singing ‘I’m Just A Guy’ on the Studio One label. At this point you can really hear some hissing and popping from the needle travelling along the grooves of the original 45 (7″ record played at 45rpms). ‘Love and Devotion’ sung by Jimmy Riley (Tarrus Riley’s father for those who don’t know) is next followed by Eek A Mouse’s ‘Virgin Girl,’ a Volcano recording.
The mix steps up pace just a bit now as I draw for “I’m Still in Love” sung by Marcia Aitken and produced by the legendary Joe Gibbs. This tune was made popular recently by Sean Paul and Sasha. For all dub lovers I feature Studio One’s Ken Booth 45 of ‘When I Fall In Dub,’ (look for more dub featured on mixes coming soon). One good Studio One deserves another so another blend begins and The Heptones sing ‘Pretty Looks’ for us. Next is the first song from Dennis Emmanuel Brown, The Crown Prince of Reggae, ‘Sitting and Watching,’ followed by the Empress of Reggae, Marcia Griffiths with ‘Feel Like Jumping.’
The mix then goes into a vintage classic, ‘Loving Pauper,’ by Dobby Dobson. I remember drawing tunes like this in the early days of Highlanda to the surprise and praise of the elders in the community who asked “is how you know dem tune ya?” The Heptones’ ‘Sitting In the Park’ mixes in right on beat and ushers in more nostalgia before again the voice of Mr. D. Brown is featured with ‘Have You Ever.’ I had to let this one play for a while before transitioning smoothly into ‘I’ve Got The Handle,’ another Heptones Studio One classic, then Freddie McGregor’s version of ‘Let Him Try.’
The blend that follows is crucial as it brings across to your speakers the voices of Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths with ‘Always Together,’ a lover’s anthem recorded at Studio One. I had to feature some Bob Marley so the next blend is into ‘Nice Time,’ original Tuff Gong 45 and from there back to Studio One with Alton Ellis ‘Breaking Up.’ To keep things interesting next up is ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ by Freddie McGregor and ‘Missing You’ by Dennis Brown, (This Dennis Brown version was recorded at Don 1 studios in Brooklyn, New York) and Cocoa Tea‘s ‘Tune In’ on the Far East riddim. Volcano label 45 ‘Rocking Dolly‘ also by Cocoa Tea blends in smoothly next followed by another Cocoa Tea hit ‘She Loves Me Now.’
For many what follows is the sweetest part of The Finest Years mix. 6 Dennis Browns in a row blended masterfully starting with the Joe Gibbs dub version of ‘Money In My Pocket’ and moving into the original version, then ‘Silhoutte,’ ‘Take It Easy,’ ‘Caress Me Girl,’ ‘How Could I Leave,’ and ‘Rocking Time.’ Thank you D. Brown, we love you!
The next 4 songs are from Studio One: ‘Party Time’ by the Heptones, ‘Truly,’ by Marcia Griffiths, ‘Play Play Girl,’ by Johnny Osborne, and ‘Fatty Fatty,’ by Alton Ellis. Then an all-time favorite of mine ‘Friends for Life,’ is performed by Dennis Brown followed by The Melodians with ‘Come On Little Girl,’ and Cornell Campbell with ‘Boxing,’ another Joe Gibbs masterpiece. Featuring one more Freddie McGregor, the mix transitions into ‘I Was Born A Winner,’ and serious rockers tune ‘Keep On Knocking’ by Jacob Miller. The Finest Years closes out with Gregory Issacs’s ‘Number One,’ and the classic ballad by Junior Byles, ‘Curley Lox.’
Thank you for reading and more importantly thank you for listening. The purpose of this blog post is for the education of those who seek to learn more about this powerful force, this divine gift of reggae.
- The 80s or The 90s, Which Was Bigger For Dancehall? (highlanda.net)
- Reggae Artist Shinehead Performs in ATL (Video and Interview) (highlanda.net)
- Ghost on Wax: Bob Andy’s Incomparable Song Book (marleyarkives.wordpress.com)
- Freddie McGregor calls out young artistes for lack of dedication (examiner.com)
- Nowadays Lovers Rock mixtape from Highlanda (highlanda.wordpress.com)