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Old Time DJ Recommendations

Bob Marley
In no particular order
o Various Artists - A Dee-Jay Explosion Inna Dancehall Style
1982, the fledgling Heartbeat Records set up their recording equipment at Skateland Roller Disco to record several nights of the Gemini Sound System. The results are the very best example of old-school DJ music that has ever been made. Archie the Selector whips out one classic riddim after another and brilliant DJs who were never quite able to capture their special energy in a studio (Lee Van Cliff, Welton Irie, Sassafrass) positively shine. Special note must be made for the three Brigadier Jerry cuts. Briggy might very well be the greatest DJ of all time, but none of his studio albums come close to showing why. The three cuts here do. All in all, this is an absolutely essential collection for anyone interested in early 80s music or DJ style of any era.
Heartbeat Records HBEA04 buy
o Yellowman - Look How Me Sexy
In the early 80s, Yellowman was the most popular reggae artist of all time. One hit followed another and in the wake of Bob Marley's death, he was at the forefront of the transformation of reggae. His output was so prolific that no single album from those days could capture the range of his material, but this recent VP collection does as good a job as possible at collecting his biggest hits. It doesn't get them all (nothing short of a boxed set could) but it does range from '81 to '85, has material from Junjo, Lloyd Campbell, George Phang and Witty, includes more of his biggest hits that you might expect and a duet with Run DMC.
VP Records VP 1590 buy
o U Roy - U Roy The Rightful Ruler
U Roy may not have been the first DJ and he may not have been the most popular, but he was the first to be popular. U Roy was the man who took the excitement of the sound system into the studio to make records with the same energy that rammed dance halls on hot Saturday nights. His early Trasure Isle hits changed the direction of reggae forever. There are dozens of collections of U Roy's early hits on Treasure Isle available, but this one mixes up his biggest hits on that label with early recordings produced by Keith Hudson and Lee Perry as well.
Snapper Music SMD317 buy
o Big Youth - Natty Universal Dread
To this day there hasn't been a DJ with the kind of lyrical power that Big Youth flashed at his peak. Walking through the door opened by U Roy, Big Youth almost defined the concept of dread with a strong, dramatic and creative flow of lyrics. His records emphasized Rasta, black consciousness and resistance to oppression in a way that the Hit Parade had never seen and he did it over state of the art riddims. This 3CD set concentrates on his self-productions so it's missing some of his biggest hits but it does have some of his best stuff and he tended to cut loose a little more when he was on his own anyway.
Blood & Fire BAFCD 034 buy
o I Roy - Presenting I Roy/Hell & Sorrow
After U Roy exploded onto the Jamaican charts, dozens and dozens of deejays followed in his wake. Many tried merely to bring their sound system patter into the studio and many others did their best to copy the great U Roy. I Roy may have drawn his name from the master (although since his "real" name was Roy Reid, he had a better claim to it) but his style was all his own. His lyrics were literate, as carefully constructed as a song and far more conscious than many of his contemporaries. His delivery might not have had the electricity of a Big Youth, but his words struck to the bone. This CD is a collection of his first two albums and feature I Roy at his inspirational best. PRESENTING I ROY was his first and has him chatting over a series of classic riddims produced by Gussie Clarke in one of his first productions. It also contains the brilliant and essential "Black Man Time." HELL & SORROW is mostly self-produced and sounds rougher and harder.
Trojan CDTRL 389 buy
o Various Artists - If DJ Was Your Trade
Bunny Lee was one of the first producers to begin to exploit his own catalog by having DJs voice tracks over riddims previously made famous by singers. This approach was instantly successful and when combined with King Tubby mixes was pure killer. The music on this collection are as good as mid-70s rockers gets - it's as simple as that. Kicking this set into the next level, however, are the some of the best DJs of reggae's golden era, all at the top of their game. This anthology presents nine DJs over 16 tracks, ranging from the famous (I Roy and Dillinger) to the should-have-been-famous (Dr. Alimantado, Prince Jazzbo) to the never-made-it-out-of-Jamaica (Jah Stitch, Big Joe) but every single track is wicked.
Blood & Fire BAFCD 001 buy
o Various Artists - Classic Reggae/The Dee Jays
This set roars out of the box with the classic U Roy intro, "this station rules the nation with version" and then follows with 19 more tracks that explore the early days of the DJ records. What sets this set apart from many other anthologies is the emphasis on the earliest DJs to get into the studio - artists like Samuel the First, Sir Lord Comic and Charlie Ace along with the more notable Big Youth, I Roy and Dennis Alcapone. These songs show the artists and producers experimenting with the form and in the process creating some electrifying music. It's difficult to select highlights because every cut is a killer, but no collection should be considered complete without Prince Far I's "Deck of Cards," I Roy's "Black Man Time," Scotty's "Draw Your Brakes," and Dennis Alcapone's "Shades of Hudson," all of which are available here.
Music Club MCCD 434
o Lone Ranger - M16
I have to admit to a certain prejudice here, because I think that Lone Ranger is the most entertaining DJ who ever lived. Not only that, but Ranger is one of a very tiny group of DJs who made albums that were as good as his singles and/or stage presence. He may not have been as innovative as, say, U Roy or Big Youth, but his presentation was electrifying, his lyrics carefully crafted or stolen to match the music just perfectly and he had the good sense to work with producers who recorded him over state of the art riddims. M16 only has nine songs but every one is a dynamite Channel One/Niney riddim with Ranger's endlessly inventive lyrics riding the top. The title track is a stone classic, but so are "Fist to Fist," "Burial," "Skank Steady" and most of the other tracks as well.
Hitbound JJCD 0048 buy
o General Smiley & Papa Michigan - Rub A Dub Style
In 1979-80 you could not go to a dance and not hear Michigan & Smiley. This DJ duo not only invented the form of a DJ duo, but they did it riding classic Studio One riddims in their original style. Along with Freddie McGregor and Johnny Osbourne, they brought Studio One into the modern era and did it with lyrics that have become part of every DJs standard repertoire. "Rub a Dub Style" and "Nice Up the Dance" were the two mega-hits, songs that just blew away everything in their path with wit, razor-sharp timing and a beat that is relentless. What's suprising is that the other four extended mixes on the CD are almost as good. Six extended Studio One mixes aren't anything to ignore, either.
Heartbeat CD 3512 buy
o Dennis Alcapone - Forever Version
There are people (and I might be one of them) who would claim that Dennis Alcapone was the most talented of all the early DJs. He wasn't as popular as U Roy or as Big Youth and he wasn't as innovative as I Roy, but there was nobody who could whip up a hot lyric at a moment's notice like Dennis Alcapone and nobody as talented in the recording studio as Dennis Alcapone. Like Lone Ranger, nearly every single Dennis Alcapone CD/LP is worthwhile because he had a real talent for recording, something that escaped many of his contemporaries. The cover of FOREVER VERSION is on of the cheesiest of all time, but drop the needle on the grooves (or slip the CD into the slot) and those glorious Studio One riddims come grooving out under some of the wickedest and most original lyrics of his day. Yeah Yeah YEAH.
Heartbeat CD 3505 buy

Capsule reviews written by Lee O'Neill. Like Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Burning Spear, Lee grew up in St. Ann's Parish (except that Lee's St. Ann's was a Catholic church in Southborough, MA, USA). In 1978, he accompanied a friend to a Bob Marley show in Lenox, MA and in a manner not dissimilar to St. Paul's transformation on the road to Damascus, his life was transformed. Since that fateful summer day, he has been writing about reggae for Reggae Report, The Reggae News, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Worcester Magazine, High Times, Lobe, Option, rec.music.reggae and anyone else who'd publish his stuff. He was also a radio DJ for WCUW in Worcester, MA and WUMB in Boston, MA, a club DJ for several venues in Boston and an MC when pressed into service.
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