Roots & Culture
Culture & Don Carlos
17 North Parade / VP Records
October 19, 2007

Don Carlos - Roots & Culture Track list
  1. Culture - Tell Me Who Jah
  2. Culture - Roots Girl
  3. Culture - Dry Up Your Tears
  4. Culture - Rub A Dub Train
  5. Culture - Jah Tabernacle
  6. Don Carlos - Street Life
  7. Don Carlos - Say You Will Be My Baby
  8. Don Carlos - Hog And Goat
  9. Don Carlos - Rub A Dub Queen
  10. Don Carlos - English Woman
  11. Don Carlos - I'm Not Crazy
  12. Don Carlos - Mr Sun
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 4/5
Launched this year by VP Records, the 17 North Parade imprint is set up to pay homage to the historic location of Randy’s Record Mart, the premier recording studio and record shop in Kingston, and the Mecca for Reggae music between the late 60's and 70’s.

The history of 17 North Parade begins over 40 years ago, when reggae pioneers Vincent Chin and his wife Patricia moved their record store to 17 North Parade, a former ice cream parlor in downtown Kingston. Above the new store they constructed a recording studio aptly called "Randy's Studio 17" which became the recording facility of choice for the majority of Reggae's most prominent artists, writers and producers. Bob Marley & The Wailers recorded parts of the "Catch A Fire" album there, but also Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Bunny Lee, Niney The Observer, as well as foreign artists looking for the authentic reggae sound such as Quincy Jones and Joe Cocker all worked extensively at Randy's.

An interesting release in their Reggae Rewind series (a collection of classic reggae and dancehall albums) is the double artist album "Roots & Culture" by Don Carlos and Culture. In 1982 the growing trend of Jamaican record companies putting out double showcase (or "ARTIST meets ARTIST") albums, made Junjo decide to put both Culture and Don Carlos on one album of new music entitled "Roots & Culture", which was released on his Jah Guidance label.

In 1976 Kenneth Dayes, Albert Walker, and Joseph Hill, all related as cousins, came together into a musical collective called The African Disciples. Not too long down the road, The African Disciples would hook up with Joe Gibbs Record Globe, eventually change their name to Culture, release the superb album 'Two Sevens Clash', migrate from Joe Gibbs to Sonia Pottinger’s High Note empire, and continue to make history as one of Reggae’s most iconic groups. However, there was a short period of time in which Culture did not have the recognizable voice of their lead singer. The year was 1982, and although it was said that the group has split, Joseph Hill who had embarked upon a solo career, was still using the name Culture, as he journeyed on with Alvin "GG" Ranglin. Apparently, so were Albert Walker and Kenneth Dayes, as they had embarked upon putting together some new verses of truth and rights on some of the latest riddims provided by the successful producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes.

Don Carlos was one of the founding members (with Garth Dennis and Duckie Simpson) of Black Uhuru in around 1977. After splitting up Don Carlos joined the ranks of producer Bunny Lee, with whom he cut some heavyweight slices of roots music. The first half of the eighties was a prolific period for the 'wailing' Don Carlos, releasing fine albums on a variety of labels. During the eighties he kept on recording in his typical chanting style. In 1990 he joined up with Duckie Simpson and Garth Dennis to re-form the original Black Uhuru, which made him put his solo career on hold. After a number of successful albums and tours Don and Duckie had a parting of ways and the group split up.

The absence of the recognizable voice of Culture's lead singer Joseph Hill has little impact on the quality of the songs, the vocal delivery is crisp and clear, but it's definitely not the sound of Culture. Their five songs sound fresh and original, because there's only one revamped riddim here: Jah Tabernacle (better known as 'Jah People') on the Roots Radics reconstruction of The Upsetters' 'Three Blind Mice' riddim. Our two favourite Culture tracks here are Tell Me Who Jah and Dry Up Your Tears.

Don Carlos contributes five tracks as well, but the compilers have added two great bonus tracks. The original 12" discomix of I’m Not Crazy featuring deejay Captain Sinbad on the toast. The tune appeared also on the album 'Day To Day Living'. The riddim was made famous by artists such as Toyan and Frankie Paul. The album rounds off with the 12" discomix of the excellent Mr. Sun, released on Jah Guidance, but actually produced by another famous producer, Niney The Observer.

The five original pieces include the nice lovers tune Say You'll Be My Baby, a tune he later recorded as 'Ride On Christine' with musical partner Gold for the Hitbound imprint on the album 'Them Never Know Natty Dread Have Him Credential'. The same goes for Hog And Goat, also featured on the 'Day To Day Living' album. The song English Woman became Jamaican Woman on the aforementioned Hitbound album. Rub A Dub Queen rides the 'Let Me Tell You Bwoy' riddim, which came out of Harry Mudie's production camp by The Ebony Sisters.

The album was recorded & mixed at E.T. Studios, recording & mixing engineer was Errol Thompson and the backing bands were The High Times Band and The Roots Radics

Not essential, but certainly well worth checking out.