Spar With Me
17 North Parade / VP Records
October 16, 2007

Toyan - Spar With Me Track list
  1. Love & Devotion
  2. How It Begun
  3. You Love I
  4. Dread In Babylon
  5. Wharehouse Breaking
  6. Please Mi Barrister
  7. Solomon Never Wise
  8. Braga-Dat
  9. Jacket & Tie
  10. Spar with Me
  11. Stylee
  12. Walk And Talk With Jah Love
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4/5 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 Randyís Record Mart, the premier recording studio and record shop in Kingston, and the Mecca for Reggae music between the late 60's and 70ís.

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.

Drawing on some of the best reggae catalogs in the world and on the extensive Randy's and VP Records vaults, much of the classic material found on 17 North Parade will make its first appearance on CD and digitally, with restored and re-mastered audio, rare bonus tracks and extensive liner notes.

As part of their 'Reggae Rewind' series (a collection of classic reggae and dancehall albums) Toyan's 1982 album "Spar With Me" comes back to life. The deejay remains best known for his Henry "Junjo" Lawes produced album "How The West Was Won", which was released a year before "Spar With Me", originally on Jah Guidance Records.

Toyan - or Ranking Toyan as he is also called - emerged in the mid-seventies when he started to appear on the sound system scene of Kingston JA, soon becoming a highly rated live performer with local sounds like Social Roots and Romantic Hi-Fi. He was heavily influenced by the deejays Big Youth and Dillinger, whose approach he adapted when he started his recording career with producer Don Mais of Roots Tradition in the latter half of the seventies. It was with Don Mais that he delivered his first strong tunes on vinyl. However, his most notable efforts were presented to the dancehall audience when he started to record for Henry "Junjo" Lawes' Volcano label. His teaming with the leading producer of the early eighties led to the release of the successful "How The West Was Won" set in 1981. In 1982 he also released the above average Channel One album "Toyan". In 1983 he worked for Jah Thomas, while 1984 saw the release of the George Phang set "Hot Bubble Gum". He continued recording throughout the eighties, and even scored an occasional hit, but he never reached the heights of the "How The West Was Won" and "Spar With Me" sets. His life and career came to a tragic end: Toyan was murdered in 1991.

Here the listener is treated to the steady rolling Henry 'Junjo' Lawes riddims of that time. The title track is a tribute to one of Jamaica's radio legends, Barry G. The riddim comes from the Don Carlos tune "I'm Not Crazy" and proved to be one of Junjo's best riddims. John Holt cut the vocal version ("Sweetie Come Brush Me") of Love & Devotion, while Alton Ellis' "I'm Just A Guy" provides the riddim for Wharehouse Breaking. Sugar Minott scored a monster hit with 'Mr. DC' for Studio One. That classic ganja anthem is relicked by Toyan on Please Mi Barrister. Solomon Never Wise is the deejay cut to Little John's Dancehall Style and lyrically grabs from Derrick Harriot's version of the song. Wicked tune! Another strong tune here is Dread In Babylon. Across Tommy McCook's 'Dirty Harry' riddim, Toyan delivers his roots lyrics. Two bonus tracks here. First there's Stylee. This 1985 recorded tune rides Alton Ellis' Studio One riddim 'Mad Mad Mad'. The riddim was made famous by Yellowman as it underpinned his hit "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng". On the same riddim, but with a clearly different sound and vibe, is Braga-Dat. The album closes with the bonus 12inch discomix Walk And Talk With Jah Love, a solid rootical tune.

Mixing and recording engineer was Scientist, the backing came from The High Times Band and The Roots Radics. The album was recorded and mixed at the Channel One studios.

Great reissue!