Down In A Tenement Yard ~ Sufferation & Love In The Ghetto: 1973 - 1980
Trojan Records
April 21, 2007

Track list
Disc 1

  1. Suffering So - The Heptones
  2. Why Seek More (12" mix) - Dennis Brown
  3. Down Here In Babylon (12" mix) - Brent Dowe
  4. Weeping (12" mix) - Junior Byles
  5. Tenement Yard - Jacob Miller & The Inner Circle
  6. Babylon Yard - Dillinger & Johnny Clarke
  7. A Wah Dat (12" mix) - Junior Dread
  8. (I Should Be) Living In Paradise - Ronnie Davis
  9. Mr Moneyman / The Fool And His Money (12" mix) - Barry Brown & Dillinger
  10. Tenement Yard (12" mix) - Dennis Brown
  11. Living In The Ghetto - Tapper Zukie
  12. Freedom Street (12" mix) - Eric Donaldson & The Keystones
  13. Hand Cuff (Hey Mr Babylon) - Gregory Isaacs
  14. Look Into Yourself - Barry Brown
  15. Give A Helping Hand Jah - Trinity
Disc 2

  1. Kingston Twelve Tuffy (12" mix) - The Morwells
  2. Sufferation (12" mix) - Tyrone Taylor
  3. Trying Youthman - Barry Brown
  4. Oh Jah (12" mix) - The Heptones
  5. My Sweat Turns To Blood - The Royals
  6. One Room Shack - Al Campbell
  7. Friday Evening (12" mix) - Israel Vibration
  8. Children Of The Ghetto - Linval Thompson
  9. Hunger And Strife - Bobby Melody
  10. Walking Through The Ghetto - Sugar Minott
  11. Down In Jamdown - Bim Sherman
  12. Motherless Child (12" mix) - Gregory Isaacs
  13. Everybody Needs A Proper Education (12" mix) - Mikey Dread
  14. Ghetto-Ology (12" mix) - Sugar Minott
  15. Too Much Iron In The Fire (12" mix) - Black Uhuru & Trinity
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 3 Backing : 3 Production : 3 Sound quality : 3 Sleeve : 3
Since "Down in the Tenement Yard" is a Trojan release, there is the intensely frustrating track overlap: Sanctuary have been flooding the reggae market with vast numbers of compilations for the past five years, which essentially -- compile the exact same back catalogue of music, but in different running order, and with what can only be described as different "themed" sleeves on which to hang their product.

It's become much like the rash of funk compilations which flood the mainstream stores at intervals over the course of every year, each album typically featuring JB's "Funky Drummer" and "I Know You Got Soul," all dressed up in a hip sleeve.

I guess the marketing strategy is -- if enough product is on the shelves -- units sell. Simple as that.

Some feel it commodifies and cheapens the music to a ridiculous degree -- but that is a subjective debate, so let's just look at the music here.

"Down Here In A Babylon" features a beautiful, soulful vocal, but the dub doesn't have the psychedelic depth of most of Scratch's Black Ark work. "Weeping" is essential Junior Byles, and is an fine complement to the Blood and Fire compilation of his outstanding vocal work.

Dennis Brown's "Why Seek More" (AKA "Give A Helping Hand") features a snare/timbale tuned drum funk workout, with a scat jazz vocal. It works beautifully, and the dub, instead of exploding into abstraction, keeps up the twin, taut drum and bass funk pressure, getting tighter instead of subtracting from the DNA of the rhythm.

"Freedom Street", (along with "Stand Up") is commonly considered the peak roots achievement from Eric Donaldson's back catalogue, and it reveals how emotive a vocalist he is, the echoing,reflective Upsetter mix complemented by a deeply thoughtful, chanted narrative. Perhaps Donaldson would have been far better served in the long run had he followed a more serious reflective musical path rather than one characterised by (albeit good) softer, poppier soul compositions.

Ronnie Davis contributes the essential "Should Be Living In Paradise", a terse, direct tale about dissatisfaction and the wish to escape an unsatisfactory, wasted life. The same track is commonly available on many Itals compilations (some on the Nighthawk label), though the mix here just may be ever so slightly different.

CD 2 is consistently strong -- but we have heard 90% of these tracks too many times before -- "Sufferation" by Tyrone Taylor? Again? Why? Sugar Minott's "Ghetto-ology" again too? On top of that, Bim Sherman's "Down In A Jamdown" resurfaces again, all to tiring effect.

The true stand out track on the second CD is the fairly rare Bobby Melody track, "Hunger And Strife", which many of us will not have heard before.

The sleeve design is a commendable effort by a young student from the highly regarded London College of Printing / Central St Martins.