• Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • LinkedIn - Grey Circle

The Library

Album Liner Notes

I've written liner notes for more than a hundred album releases over the years. The majority have been reggae or dancehall records, issued by labels such as Island, Greensleeves, VP Records, Jet Star and RAS, but I always welcome the opportunity to write about other styles of music, and especially blues, jazz, soul and funk.

May 23, 2019

Cocoa Tea is sat on a small wicker chair in Bobby Digital's front garden. It's mid-afternoon and the studio hasn't come to life yet. Just one or two cars are parked outside and the street's quiet, much to the cameraman's relief. VP Records are filming a documentary about Bobby Digital and Cocoa Tea has travelled the thirty miles from Clarendon to be here, back at the place where so many of their hit singles and albums were made. 

This album is his third for Bobby's Digital B label and it rounds up tracks that either hadn't

been compiled or even released before, plus others that deserve another hearing. Lonesome Side and Waiting In Vain - a candidate for best-ever Bob Marley cover - head the hits list and it's hard to believe they were recorded eight years apart. The best music has a timeless...

May 15, 2018

Bobby Digital is a key figure in dancehall music's international breakthrough. When I first visited him in the early nineties he'd recently contributed to Shabba Ranks' Grammy winning exploits, and was working with an incredible roll call of artists including Garnett Silk, Cocoa Tea, Tony Rebel, Bounty Killer and Lt. Stitchie. The main studio wasn't even finished back then. Digital B was a cottage industry, Jamaica style, but the music he created during that era has proven hugely influential. Writing the liner notes for this next volume of VP Records' Reggae Anthology series was therefore an honour, and an opportunity to revisit some great musical memories.  

  

It’s a hot and humid evening in Kingston and cars are double-parked outside of Bo...

May 15, 2018

Producer Adrian Sherwood has crossed so many musical boundaries throughout his lengthy career that it's impossible to describe the kind of work he does except to say it's delivered with integrity, and has opened up possibilities few knew existed. Such bravery has long cast him into the role of an outsider where mainstream UK reggae's concerned but his contributions really shouldn't be overlooked.    

“A sensational and original offering of music you can seldom place, rarely hear, or hardly ever find.” 

This is the slogan that’s appeared on a good many Adrian Sherwood productions although the obscurity of some of his records wasn’t planned – it’s just that few DJs and media people took any notice of them. The maverick producer’s various labels have long existed on the...

May 15, 2018

London in the early seventies was a hot bed of creativity; musical and otherwise. I'd just moved to the capital as a twenty-one year old and couldn't get enough of all that diverse talent. Matata was just one of the outstanding African bands from that period and when Cherry Red's John Reid asked if I wanted to write about them I jumped at the chance.  

Matata – the name means “trouble” in Swahili, and in retrospect it was well chosen. The story of this African funk band who took London nightclubs by storm, jammed with giants of soul, jazz and Latin music and then splintered apart not once but twice is enough to make any half-decent scriptwriter sit up and take notice. At its heart is the music – a pulsating brew of black American funk and African rhythms that help define an e...

May 10, 2018

Understand What Black Is was released to coincide with the Last Poets' 50th anniversary. It was co-producer Prince Fatty who first played me tracks from it and from I heard the lines, "America is a terrorist," I was completely hooked. Thanks to Poets Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan for sharing their time, thoughts and memories, and to Tony Thorpe, Lisa Meads and Rich Elson for their input in making these liner notes happen. I owe you.

This is the Last Poets’ 50th anniversary year, and they’ve celebrated it with an album that matters - not just musically, but as a record of the times we’re living in. The Last Poets are weather vanes, warning of the future and past sins in poems that are indivisible from the rhythms they’re voiced on. Think warriors reporting from the battlefiel...

May 10, 2018

The quotes used in these liner notes resulted from a stay in Jamaica during 2015, whilst working on a film about Gussie commissioned by VP Records. Only a fraction of the interviews I did were used in the documentary, but they proved invaluable when writing about Gussie's story, which is unique among Kingston record producers.  

Gussie Clarke is not only a celebrated record producer – he has a reputation for being business-like and deservedly so. You need an appointment to sit down and talk with him, and a good reason to drive through the gates of 7 Windsor Avenue, where the single storey facilities nestle under shady trees, surrounded by tall walls. From the outside it’s deceptive. Anchor isn’t an idlers’ rest where artists and musicians congregate aimlessly, or music booms from the w...

May 10, 2018

Bobby Digital is a classic example of someone who hides his light under a bushel, unless he's in the studio making music that is. With the release of not one but two volumes in VP Records' Reggae Anthology series, it felt like his time had finally come. I was therefore delighted to write these liner notes, having spent many happy hours at his Kingston studio.  

From the outside, the Digital B studio at 6 Rons Road looks like any other modest family home in the Kingston suburbs. There are no imposing gates or security guards, nor paintings of iconic figures on the walls. Yet owner Bobby “Digital” Dixon is one of Jamaica’s top record producers, and a founding father of the global dancehall movement that’s now swept the likes of Rihanna and Justin Beiber into its embrace. 

Bobby has gold d...

May 10, 2018

This essential King Jammy's compilation is another title in VP Records' Reggae Anthology series, which is aimed at furthering an appreciation for music of the dancehall era. It's long been a thrill, visiting the King in Jamaica and listening to new music coming from that famous studio. Such experiences make writing liner notes relatively easy, and certainly bring back memories. 

People had been looking forward to the dance for weeks. Billed as “Shock Of The Century,” it was the first in a series of four sound clashes held at Cinema II in New Kingston. Dancehall was the ruling sound of Jamaica and this was a showpiece event, hosted by Sting promoter Isaiah Laing and with plenty of local celebrities in attendance. Jammy’s Super Power destroyed all-comers that night. They h...

May 10, 2018

What a label! I'd bought the records, played them as a DJ and radio presenter, interviewed many of their artists and producers and then written a lion's share of the company's promotional material throughout the nineties. I was therefore honoured to write the liner notes for this compilation of Greensleeves' finest, released in celebration of their 40th Anniversary. 

Greensleeves is one of those labels that define a genre like Blue Note, Motown or Chess. It’s been reggae central for forty years, and has a catalogue of hits that outlines the history of the music during that period better than any other. The name originally belonged to a West Ealing record shop but it wasn’t until founders Chris Sedgwick and Chris Cracknell moved to 44 Uxbridge Road in London’s Shephe...

May 10, 2018

Like many UK teenagers during the late sixties, I grew up listening to a broad spectrum of music that included pop, blues, rock and roll, folk, soul, Blue Beat, jazz and psychedelic rock, yet nothing prepared us for Funkadelic. Sam Szczepanski commissioned this series of P-Funk liner notes for Charly Records, for which I remain truly grateful.  

One Nation Under A Grooveis regarded as one of the greatest funk albums of all time. Released in September 1978, it was Funkadelic’s most accessible outing to date, and became the band’s first platinum disc. This was largely down to the success of the title track, which charted on both sides of the Atlantic and can still be heard at club and party sessions the world over. 

Funkadelic weren’t exactly noted for making...

Older Posts >

Please reload

Subscribe

RSS Feed

Current Playlist

Unknown Track - Unknown Artist
00:00 / 00:00

Featured Posts

Echoes Magazine - August 2020 Issue

1 Sep 2020

1/10
Please reload

The Library

The Archive

Book Review

19 Apr 2020

1/5
Please reload

  • Facebook - Grey Circle
  • Twitter - Grey Circle
  • LinkedIn - Grey Circle
Unknown Track - Unknown Artist
00:00 / 00:00