Reggae Anthology: Henry "Junjo" Lawes ~ Volcano Eruption
17 North Parade
2CD / 2LP
April 13, 2010
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4/5||Backing : 5||Production : 4/5||Sound quality : 4/5||Sleeve : 5|
Currently the 17 North Parade imprint is the leading record label if you're looking for essential vintage reggae. From the moment on that Greensleeves and VP joined forces they have been documenting the history of reggae in fine style. Their latest effort is the excellent double cd (+DVD!) "Henry "Junjo" Lawes ~ Volcano Eruption". It's a truly magnificent 40 track double cd set with the final overview of Junjo's best productions issued on his Volcano label. But first... let's go back in time.
In the summer of 1999 the reggae massive was shocked when they heard that popular music producer Henry 'Junjo' Lawes was shot dead in Harlesden, London UK. Another tragic incident which can be added to the extended list of similar violent crimes from the past which took the lives of Tenor Saw, Peter Tosh, Pan Head, Prince Far I, Hugh Mundell, Nitty Gritty, King Tubby and many more.
Henry 'Junjo' Lawes - born and raised in the ghetto around Olympic Way, West Kingston, Jamaica - established himself as one of the most prolific and influential music producers in the first half of the eighties. After having first ventured into production work with Linval Thompson, 'Junjo' produced the first hit 45s from a teenage Barrington Levy and then his highly acclaimed debut album "Bounty Hunter". For this album he had employed the Roots Radics and young engineer Scientist. Barrington Levy's distinctive powerful voice in combination with the raw and uncompromising riddims provided by the Roots Radics and Scientist's innovative mixing style made Barrington Levy's debut album a huge success. Later he gave 'Junjo' a massive hit with Prison Oval Rock, a tune that was recently revived by Collie Buddz for his tune 'Hustle'. Another hit was 21 Girls Salute, a tune that recaptured the Studio One hit 'What Kind Of World' by the Cables.
It not only marked the start of a period in Jamaican music when Henry 'Junjo' Lawes was regarded the leading producer but it also launched Dancehall as a fully developed musical style. As 'Junjo' Lawes didn't have his own studio he usually used the Hookim brothers' Channel One Recording Studio at Maxfield Avenue, north of Spanish Town Road. All deliveries were underpinned by the driving riddims from, first, the Roots Radics and then the High Times Band from guitarist Earl 'Chinna' Smith. The relationship between the up and coming UK label Greensleeves and 'Junjo' proved extremely successful for the both. Greensleeves released a cartload of successful 'Junjo' Lawes albums, and for 'Junjo' it was a great way to cover a worldwide market.
Another important hit for 'Junjo' Lawes was the combination tune Diseases, which was done by Papa Michigan & General Smiley, as this killer tune proved that the deejay partnership was not entirely reliant on original Studio One riddims. Furthermore Lawes worked with artists like Michael Prophet and Barry Brown and unmistakably demonstrated he could also handle these more orthodox singers with equally convincing results as can be witnessed when listening to Barry Brown's Give Israel Another Try and Michael Prophet's Gunman, delivered across 'Junjo' Lawes' most enduring original riddim.
However, despite the fact that he delivered convincing efforts with these more orthodox roots singers Henry 'Junjo' Lawes preferred to work with vocalists who had closer links to the dancehall circuit of Kingston amongst them Johnny Osbourne and former African Brothers member Tony Tuff. He scored big in 1983 with the hit Come Fe Mash It, a fine recut of the 'Three Blind Mice' riddim. These two relative vets had made excellent cultural records during the seventies but had an open mind when Dancehall emerged. Especially Johnny Osbourne made a serious impact and became very popular with the Dancehall massive. He recycled the 'Joe Frasier' riddim on his popular dancehall smasher Ice Cream Love. His relationship with Linval Thompson not only was on the production level as 'Junjo' also recorded some fine tunes with the singer Linval Thompson, the most famous being Look How Me Sexy.
Tough competition was given by the younger Dancehall singer par excellence Frankie Paul, whose 'Junjo' Lawes produced tunes Pass The Tu Sheng Peng, Worries In The Dance and "Jump No Fence" were among the best of his early years and are now regarded as Dancehall classics. John Holt was another veteran singer who took advantage of the rugged Lawes-produced Roots Radics riddims. His collaboration with 'Junjo' was very successful and brought him hits like "Ghetto Queen", Police In Helicopter and the truly superb updating of his all-time Studio One classic A Love I Can Feel. But there were more established Jamaican artists to benefit from Lawes' production work. Alton Ellis, Junior Murvin, and Ken Boothe - to name a few - reached a new audience with their efforts across the modern Dancehall riddims provided by the Roots Radics or High Times Band. The 'Don' Leroy Smart scored with I Am The Don and is one of Leroy's most well-remembered trademark hits. Another veteran in the business was Al Campbell. He recut his own Studio One hit Last Dance for 'Junjo' in 1983.
But the vintage act that was the most successful under the guidance of Henry Lawes was one of the most consistent Jamaican vocal-harmony groups, The Wailing Souls. Their partnership with 'Junjo' brought some truly great 12" singles - like e.g. "Kingdom Rise, Kingdom Fall" - on which the Wailing Souls combined their customary cultural concerns with some of the most brutal and inspired of the Junjo's riddims. One of their hardest tunes with Junjo was Fire House Rock. A song that starts with a cough during the drum roll at the beginning is hard to forget and the sweet voices of the Wailing Souls across a brutal and yet sweet Roots Radics riddim makes you remember the song the rest of your life. Also represented on Lawes' labels were former Black Uhuru member Don Carlos and the late great Hugh Mundell, who had attracted notable attention with his Augustus Pablo produced recordings. These vocalists performed in a more declamatory style and cut strong records with Henry Lawes.
Not only did 'Junjo' enjoy numerous hits with singers and vocal-harmony groups, he also had huge hits with practically every deejay who had established himself in the dancehall circuit. Josey Wales, Nicodemus, Early B, Charlie Chaplin, Peter Metro and Ranking Toyan are only a few examples of deejays who delivered some great Dancehall recordings when working with 'Junjo' Lawes and his modern riddims. The late great Nicodemus had his biggest hit with him when they released Boneman Connection, a tune across the same riddim as Diseases.
Still active and popular today is Ripton Hylton, better known as Eek-A-Mouse. In 1983 he did good business with Anarexol, but his trademark tune has to be Wa-Do-Dem. The initial cut of that tune was done for Joe Gibbs, but it made little impact. Then 'Junjo' picked up the tune, re-recorded it and the rest is history. Lawes' pairing of Clint Eastwood with the U.K. deejay General Saint proved a winning formula. They made it big with Another One Bites The Dust. The Sugar Minott protege Captain Sinbad was far from prolific, but the one album (The Seven Voyages Of Captain Sinbad) he did with Junjo is a real classic. Fisherman Style proved one of his most popular tunes. Another popular Volcano deejay was Lee van Cliff aka Lee van Cleef. In 1981 he voiced a wicked deejay cut to Leroy Smart's hit 'She Love It In The Morning' called Bam salute.
However, the best selling deejay for producer Henry Lawes was the most popular chatter of the era, the albino deejay Winston Foster aka Yellowman. Yellowman was reggae's figurehead during the period 1981-1984 as he consistently outselled vocalists and fellow deejays alike. Besides the fact that he knew how to ride what were the strongest riddims of the time Yellowman could seemingly effortless improvise lyrics in the dancehalls and in the studio.
Before 'Junjo' left the island of Jamaica to settle down in New York in 1985, and then temporarily leaving the music business, he launched a new singer from Clarendon who became well known in the digital age. The singer's name was Cocoa Tea and it's only the sometimes weak lyrics that prevent his 'Junjo' Lawes produced debut album - which includes tunes like "Rocking Dolly" and Lost My Sonia - from being essential.
By moving to New York, Dancehall's most prominent and popular music producer Henry 'Junjo' Lawes couldn't be involved in the early days of computerized riddims in the second half of the eighties. So, we'll never know what might have happened if he had stayed in Kingston, Jamaica. After a spell in an American prison he relaunched himself in the early nineties when he again worked with Cocoa Tea, Josey Wales, Yellowman as well as a new generation of performers. And although he released some noteworthy albums he couldn't claim the role of leading music producer as he did in the first half of the eighties when 'JUNJO' RULED THE DANCEHALLS!
This worthwhile package includes a very nice booklet with pics and lots of inside information. What makes this release even more interesting is the bonus DVD. It gives you interviews with Volcano recording artists, producers and musicians with snippets of vintage footage. Then there's some 22 minutes Volcano Posse 'Live At Skateland' with selector Danny Dread and deejays Toyan, Yellowman, Josey Wales and more. The quality of the video (and audio) is very good!
If you call yourself a vintage reggae fan... get this package!