Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Old Stuff: Long and Throbbing: Reggae Discomixes and 12" Singles

While reggae is no stranger to the 3-4 minute format, the producers also released a vast amount of longer tunes. Two common formats were discomixes and 12" singles. Click on the link below and continue reading:

This song is Assemble Not Thyself by The Terrors and produced by Roy Francis for Phase One. The song consists of the original song with the "dub" appended on to it to make one long song. The transition point, which is about as smooth a job as you will find, is at about the 3:35 point. Thereafter, you get the "dub", or instrumental, of the song with various additional drum, bass and echo effects added. The resulting song provided a longer and more popular version for the dancehall. It also provided the producer of a third way to make money off of the original song (the song, the dub, and the discomix).

Here is the sublime Desperate Times by The Chantells, which also was produced by Roy Francis for Phase One. The transition point in this discomix is at about 3:24, and is followed by a bouncy, almost playful, dub.

Another version of a discomix is for the original song fused with a dub version (perhaps with some original vocals) over which a DJ or toaster has provided his own lyrics. Keeping with the high quality of Francis' work for Phase One, here is The Chantells' Children of Jah with Time to Unite by DJ U Brown. U Brown's version starts swinging at 3:39. Embedding was disabled, but I strongly recommend clicking the link, both for the Chantell's sweet harmony and U Brown's classic Jamaican toasting.
Children of Jah/Time to Unite

If you like these songs, a great album is The Chantells and Friends - Children of Jah, on the wonderful, and now defunct, Blood and Fire label.

A 12" single shares a 6 minute plus running time with a discomix, but is a different beast. A 12" is a 33rpm single on 12 inches of vinyl rather than the standard 7 inches. This gave producers more room to be creative with echo, bass and other effects. Is was a popular dancehall item, and gave the producer a chance to sell a second version of the song without needing to pay the artists to do anything more. The producer reworked the original song into the 12" creation. This example of a 12" single was an effort by three popular reggae artists --- Home T, Cocoa Tea and the gruff Shabba Ranks.

This 12" single was by popular artist Gregory Isaacs, and is the Gussie Clark mix of his single Rumors. Note that at about the 3:45 mark the song becomes an interplay of bass riffs, drums and keys, with echo and some vocal effects.

If you like 12" singles, the Greensleeves label started a 12" Rulers series. Since there were various artists and producers each had their own style, Greesleeves grouped the songs by producers. I'm aware of four albums, one each for the work of Gussie Clark, Henry "Junjo" Lawes, Linval Thompson, and Jah Thomas. By the way, both of the 12" cuts above are from the bass-heavy production efforts of Gussie Clark.

Let's close with a song that is called a discomix, although it was created as 12" single, not reproduced from an original shorter single. The root song is a 1968 Studio One cut called Funky Donkey, that later was updated in a version called Death In The Arena. U Brown and Linval Thompson used the underlying rhythm from Death In The Arena to create Train To Zion (U Brown and Tony Welch of "Socialist Roots" produced the track):

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