Album review
I Can Hear The Children Singing 1975 - 1978
Prince Alla & Junior Ross
Blood & Fire
Double CD
22- 10 - 2002

Tracking list

Disc 1 : Prince Alla
  1. Bosrah [extended]
  2. Funeral [extended]
  3. Go Down In Silence
  4. Slave Master
  5. Gold Diver
  6. Heaven Is My Roof
  7. Daniel (In The Lions' Den) 12" mix
  8. Black Man 12" mix featuring Tappa Zukie
  9. Jah Jah Bird
  10. Go To School
  11. Just One Way

Disc 2 : Junior Ross & The Spear
  1. Judgement Time [extended]
  2. Man From Zion
  3. Send Me Over There 12" mix
  4. Bow Down Babylon 12" mix
  5. You Can't Run
  6. Rough Way Ahead
  7. Jah Love [extended]
  8. Liberty
  9. Freedom Fe Natty featuring Tappa Zukie
  10. African Border
  11. So Jah Jah Say [extended]
  12. Hold Them Prophecy [extended]
  13. Babylon Fall [extended]
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5

This Blood and Fire reissue marks the debut on CD of two of Tappa Zukie's very best 1970s productions. Prince Alla's "Heaven Is My Roof" is perhaps the singer's best-realised project from the time, and Junior Ross & the Spears' "Babylon Fall" - a retrospective first released by deejay-turned producer Tappa in 1992 - collects the excellent 45s he issued on the group during 1975-1977.
The reissue features added dub versions to several of the songs presented on the original LPs, along with two of Tappa's deejay commentaries - one across Prince Alla's Daniel (In The Lions' Den), called Black Man, the other on Junior Ross & the Spears' Liberty which is called Freedom Fe Natty. Some twenty-five years after it was recorded, the music herein continues to reflect the struggle of the talented artists who delivered their messages from the Kingston ghettos during the period. The themes throughout all the songs are evident, no lovers rock, but strictly deeply-felt roots music, across some pounding riddims laid down by such talents as Sly Dunbar, Santa Davis, Robbie Shakespeare, George Fullwood, Earl 'Chinna' Smith, Tony Chin, Bingy Bunny, Augustus Pablo, Keith Sterling, Vin Gordon, Bobby Ellis, Headley Bennett and Scully & Sky Juice. There's absolutely no need to point out highlights or weaker moments, all tunes grab you, all tunes are gems in their own way!
Prince Alla [born Keith Blake, Kingston, May 10th 1950] started his singing career recording for Joe Gibbs, for whom he recorded both as a solo artist and as a member of the Leaders vocal group in 1968. Shortly after this, he began to spend time in the Bobo camp of the late Prince Emmanuel Edwards, based initially at Spanish Town Road, then in Trenchtown, and lastly at Bull Bay; he stayed there until the mid-1970s. When he returned to Greenwich Farm, he began recording for Bertram Brown and Tappa Zukie, both of whom were beginning to establish themselves as record producers. At the same time he began recording for Tappa Zukie, then recently returned from a sojourn in England. The awesome track Bosrah [i.e. 'Bozrock'] was first pressed by Yabby You; later it was issued in the UK [on K&B Records in 1976]. The riddim - a recut of "Joe Frazier" - was also released by the producer on his "Tappa Zukie In Dub" set. Over the next 18 months Alla recorded a couple more singles - Funeral, the 12" of Daniel, and Heaven Is My Roof - the latter giving title to the album for Tappa which is reissued on this CD. Alla continued recording until the early 1980s, issuing songs via producer Bertram Brown and Carlton Jackson. However, apart from a handful of singles for Greenwich Farm producers, he remained largely inactive, preferring to work at Greenwich Farm beach as a fisherman and cleaning fish. In 1996 he recorded for UK sound system legend Jah Shaka; the resultant album was issued by Greensleeves Records. Following the reissue of the majority of his 1970s Freedom Sounds output, he began touring, principally in Europe. There he has found a new audience, and has recorded two well-received albums for UK roots producer Jah Warrior and another with the Disciples.
Since his earliest recordings, Alla had collaborated with the late Roy 'Soft' Palmer - alongside Milton Henry, they formed a group called the Nazarines in the early 1970s, recording a couple of sides for Winston Lowe's 'Tramp' label at that time. It is Roy who sings backing vocals on 'Bosrah" and other tracks on the Alla disc; he is also present on the Junior Ross disc which forms the second part of this wonderful reissue. Tragically Roy was killed at the beginning of 2001, his only legacy being the handful of sides he recorded under his own name for Bertram Brown in the 1970s. Like Alla and Tappa he also grew up in Greenwich Farm, one of three brothers - the others are Frankie Jones and Junior Ross - who all followed musical careers. Junior Ross was born Clifford Palmer on the 7th September 1953, in Jubilee Hospital, Kingston. Junior Ross & the Spears were a vocal group with a changing lineup - at times, Prince Alla, Roy Palmer, Frankie Jones and Leroy King all contributed backup vocals behind Junior's lead, like on Bow Down Babylon. His first tune ever was Babylon Fall, which also gave title to the album reissued here, the second disc of this set. Although most of its tracks had been released by Tappa on his 'Stars' imprint during 1975-1977, it wasn't until 1992 that they were collected on a vinyl album. Another who sang backup harmony in the Spears for Tappa was Leroy King who cut a few sides as a soloist during 1977-1982, including the brilliant "Mash Down Babylon" for Roy Francis' Phase One label. For the future, Junior hopes to be touring in 2003, hopefully alongside his longtime brethren Prince Alla.

Teacher & Mr. T.