Various artists album review
129 Beat Street: Ja-Man Special 1975-1978
Junior Byles & Friends
Blood & Fire

Tracking list

  1. Junior Byles & Rupert Reid - Chant Down Babylon (Extended)
  2. Junior Byles - Know Where You're Going
  3. Junior Byles - Pitchy-Patchy
  4. Junior Byles & Rupert Reid- Remember Me (Extended)
  5. Rupert Reid - See The Dread Deh (Extended)
  6. Pablo Moses - One People (Extended)
  7. Bim Sherman - Mighty Ruler (Extended)
  8. Dave Robinson - My Homeland (Extended)
  9. Brigadier Jerry - Wild Goose Race
  10. Neville Tate - See A Man's Face (Extended)
  11. U Brown - So Long
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)

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

Since the release of the first album "If Deejay Was Your Trade" in 1994 UK-based Blood & Fire Records have established themselves a name as one of the best re-issue labels around. This record company - led by Steve Barrow and Bob Harding - fully deserves its fame as it pleases reggae fans all over the world with releases of mainly hard-to-get gems from the past presented with the best sound quality possible, excellent artwork and great sleeve notes. Blood & Fire's latest release - already their 23rd - is no exception to it as it turns the spotlight on another of Jamaica's little known yet highly creative labels, this time the Ja-Man imprint run by Dudley "Manzie" Swaby.
This superb compilation set - which is pure roots and culture music all the way - kicks off with four of the most-sought after Junior Byles songs from the mid-seventies, recorded at Randy's with the band Skin, Flesh & Bones. These tracks come between the music Junior Byles made with Lee "Scratch" Perry and the period that brought the hits like "Fade Away" for Earl "Chinna" Smith and the handful of tracks he recorded for Joe Gibbs, Winston "Niney" Holness and others. Particularly the tracks in duet with Rupert Reid are impressive and very strong efforts of an artist who never got the awareness and appreciation of his true talents from a wider audience. Of singer Rupert Reid little is known and heard which is truly a pity regarding his beautiful uplifting solo song on this album, actually the first Ja-Man release.
By the time Pablo Moses recorded the brooding anthem One People he had already gained a broader recognition as a conscious artist with the "Revolutionary Dream" album and his UK reggae hit "We Should Be In Angola". Pablo Moses' contribution can be regarded as one of the standouts, not only of this album but also of his entire repertoire. Another outstanding tune is delivered by roots singer par excellence Bim Sherman, whose Mighty Ruler happens to be a beautifully-wrought Rasta adaptation of Leroy "Heptone" Sibbles' "Tripe Girl". Great stuff comes also from Dave Robinson, a forceful youth singer in the mid-seventies, and Brigadier Jerry. The latter's track is also an interesting one as it was recorded in the first year of his recording career showing Brigadier Jerry's roots in the school of the deejay pioneer U Roy. After the litlle-known singer Neville Tate has delivered a fine version of Horace Andy's Studio One classic See A Man's Face deejay U Brown rounds off this album in style with a superb reprise of a traditional Rasta lyric, recorded earlier by others with probably Dennis Brown's version "So Long Rastafari" being the best-known.
No need to say that this beauty from the peerless Blood & Fire label is essential stuff !

Teacher & Mr. T.