New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
As part of Omnivore Recordings' rollout of legendary reggae label Nighthawk Records' catalog, Ethiopian & Gladiators' Dread Prophecy and Junior
Byles' Rasta No Pickpocket will be reissued in CD and Digital
formats on June 22, 2018.
In the mid-'60s, Leonard Dillon, a.k.a. Ethiopian (a.k.a. Jack Sparrow) met Albert Griffiths. Dillon had formed the Ethiopians in 1966 while they were working with Coxsone Dodd recording for his Channel One label. The session resulted in the classics "Live Good" and "Free Man," and also inspired a collaboration between Dillon and new friend Albert Griffiths. Griffiths was soon to form the Gladiators. But just before his new group came together, Griffiths worked with the Ethiopians to record the smash "Train to Skaville" as well as his first-ever recording, "You Are the Girl."
While the Ethiopians were one of the most popular and prolific Jamaican groupsduring the early '70s, the Gladiators gained steam during the mid- to late-'70s, recording primarily for Virgin Records. Both bands continued recording throughout the '80s and '90s, with the Nighthawk Records sessions in 1986 reuniting Dillon with Griffiths and the Gladiators. The result was Dread Prophecy, now a sought-after roots reggae album.
From Nighthawk founder Leroy Joseph Pierson's liner notes: "At the end of the session, while the musicians were packing up their instruments, an astonishing thing happened. Legendary engineer Sylvan Morris had quickly rewound the tape and began mixing 'Dread Dub,' a version mix of 'Dread Prophecy.' The musicians all lingered to hear the final mix from the master. Sylvan did not disappoint. With cat-like precision, he improvised the mix with the aplomb of a jazz virtuoso at the top of his game. Every musician stood to give Sylvan a spontaneous well deserved ovation."
reggae fans can now experience that track in the digital era alongside seven others on Dread Prophecy as they make their CD and digital debut.
In late 1967, Junior
Byles formed the vocal group the Versatiles, recording under the supervision of Lee "Scratch" Perry and Joe Gibbs, scoring the minor hit "Children Get Ready." During this same era, the Versatiles also worked with producer Niney the Observer, who would be instrumental later in Byles' career in his affiliation with Nighthawk. When the Versatiles split up in 1970, Byles continued to record solo for Perry, scoring a minor hit, "What's the World Coming To," released under the name King Chubby, Byles' nickname. Between 1968 and 1974, Perry and Byles collaborated in the production of more than 40 titles including all-time classics like "Curly Locks," "Rasta No Pickpocket," "Place Called Africa," "Beat Down Babylon," "Cutting Razor" and "Long Way." Perry considers Byles one of the top vocalists he ever worked with, and has continued respect for his character, which combined fierce and defiant Rastafarian devotion with a personality described by his contemporaries as profoundly humble.
By the mid-'70s, Byles was a major star in Jamaica
poised for international exposure, but he was acquiring a reputation for mental instability. He was in and out of sanitariums during the latter part of the decade, but still managed to make a few great recordings. One of those, "Heart & Soul," was cut with the biggest producer in Jamaica
at the time, his friend Joe Gibbs. It was a huge hit, but Byles recorded only a few tracks thereafter, unable to capitalize on the momentum of "Heart & Soul." Byles' Nighthawk session was planned with the assistance of long-time associate Niney the Observer, whose history with Byles was most likely a plus in helping get the session arranged. The resulting album, Rasta No Pickpocket, released in 1986, was Byles' last; only a few single sides followed.
Omnivore's edition marks the CD/Digital debut of Rasta No Pickpocket. It has been remastered from the original tapes, includes new notes and previously unseen photos by Pierson, who produced the set along with Niney the Observer, and adds five bonus tracks, among them two previously unissued versions of "Press Along" and "Thanks and Praise," plus "Bur Boy" from the 1983 Nighthawk compilation Knotty Vision.
According to Byles: "I am a person who scorn and scoff at suffering — don't like to see it. I personally desire to see righteousness cover the eart' as the way it should be. So then, most of my writing is just based in that channel, you know — to see that these t'ings come to be a reality."
Ethiopian & Gladiators:Dread Prophecy
1. Dread Prophecy
2. Dread Dub
3. The Whip
4. Dub Lashing
5. No Bad Woman
6. No Way Dub
7. I'm Ready
8. Prepared Dub
Byles: Rasta No Pickpocket
1. Thanks And Praise
2. Rasta No Pickpocket
3. Press Along
4. I No Got It
5. Cally Weed
6. I Don't Know
7. This Feeling*
8. Bur Boy
10. Press Along Version*
11. Thanks And Praise Version*
* Previously Unissued