Thursday, 01 June 2023 15:20

New music from the King Jammy vault

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This summer VP Records celebrates the deep 80s dancehall catalogue of producer Lloyd "King Jammy" James with three releases.

With the thorough compilation Cries From The Youth, Greensleeves Records' Chris O'Brien presents the period at King Jammy's across 32 tracks, alongside two original, out-of-print albums in their entirety, from Wailing Souls and Cultural Roots.

To be released on June 9, Cries From The Youth is focused on the progress of underclass Jamaicans, recorded in the heart of Kington's Waterhouse neighbourhood at Jammy's Studio at 38 St Lucia Avenue.

The collection features the work of established artistes such as Sugar Minott, Dennis Brown, Johnny Osbourne, and Wailing Souls, alongside the cutting-edge dancehall artistes like Super Cat, Cocoa Tea, Nitty Gritty, and King Kong.

The material deals with both reality narratives and more aspirational spiritual themes, all of which defined the times in Waterhouse and across the city of Kingston.

The late 80s represent a robust but controversial period in the Jamaican recording industry, as DJs were on the rise with new lyrical approaches, and digital production ruled the day. At the centre of the storm was Lloyd James, better known as King Jammy, who is credited for revolutionising digital production several years earlier with Wayne Smith's Under Mi Sleng Teng. This was the era the term dancehall came widely into circulation to describe the new digital sound that began to commonly include slack lyrics and gun themes popular on the street.

Still relevant, the artistes from the 1970s were working to redefine themselves in the digital era. Groups like Wailing Souls and Cultural Roots remained active, even if their multi-part harmony vocals might have seemed overly ornate on these new digital backing tracks, replete with drum machines and sparse synthesised chords. Solo singers like Johnny Osbourne, Junior Murvin, and then up-and-coming Cocoa Tea found a place for melody alongside the new crop of emcees.

Cries From The Youth will be available on CD, digital platforms, and a 10-track vinyl LP, with stunning period photos by Simon Buckland. The first pressing of the LP package includes a 2′ x 2′ poster of the cover art.