1987, Vibes & Mango
News Flash Time
New York Life
Good deejay LPs out in 1987 are few and far between, with a wonky transition period between the great productions of 1986 as the producers properly came to grips with the new digital landscape of sounds available to them, and how to mix that with the organic sounds of instruments, and the great productions of 1988 where the tempo was brought back up to match rocksteady and everything got chunky and bouncy and really fat around the middle. 1987 is usually totally digital, but unusually light and sparse, with much quieter mixes than other eras and perhaps not a huge amount of excitement for deejays to work with.
Admiral Bailey is the original Big Belly Man, full of humor and JUMP AND SPREAD OUT type tunes through his heyday in the late 80s. Not afraid of gimmicks, and not afraid of being totally over the top, here we find the Admiral keeping his cool and sticking to style and lyrics. I have seen some mid-80s dancehall videos featuring him much slimmer and calmer than what he became known as when his big hits came out, and the performance is just excellent - I do find that the gimmicky tunes have the tendency to mask his real talent.
His side opens with News Flash Time, mostly done in the 'talking style' (think Lecturer, Professor Nuts) cut with some regular on-beat deejaying - but only for brief segments, and not at the beginning of the tune. The push and pull of the vocal rhythms is great, this is exactly how the style should be done - not overdone! - and there is no other candidate to open this set with. Lyrical contents include the dismissal of some girls who only began to rush the Admiral once he got money, jewelry and belly, and he ponders whether anyone would miss such a dutty bitch if they were to be run over by a bus. Moveable Man is the self-proclaimed spiritual successor to Super Cat's Walkaton and Early B's Pedestrian, flashing another serving of pedestrian lyrics in a very fresh style which would influence early 90's acts like Beenie Man and Bounty Killer. And lyrics continue to flash non stop for the rest of the side, with no shortage of wit in the latter two tunes, Mosquito Bite in particular recalling childhood woes in wonderful imagery.
All of these tunes are done over Mr. Biggs' signature lo-fi production style which you may have heard on Tiger's debut "Me Name Tiger". The tunes are extremely simple, with rarely more than a drum machine, a bassline and some skanky keys. It's typical of the '87 style to be like that, but this set in particular pushes the minimalism extra far, and it only gets thinner on Tonto Irie's side. New York Life is, save the hi-hat, entirely on the clave for the main section, occasionally interrupted by a super corny walking bassline while Tonto Irie pays tribute to General Trees' tune Wo Wee. Carman Style is equally barebones, and the skanks are so low-pitched, so lo-fi and so understated that the riddim almost sounds like a joke. A full four beats of total silence as the "fill" before Tonto's verse starts elevate the bizarre vibes. In Cooker, we hear words like "Hot Up Bout Ya", "Budu Bye", and respect given to hit songs by Josey Wales, Early B, General Trees and Lord Sassafrass. The General Trees influence continues to ring through, especially loud in this tune, where Tonto boasts his skill in the kitchen to cook for his mother. Considering that "Jammy's Posse" was not yet released at this time, this is actually Tonto's first appearance on LP; the effort is still as fresh as it was on his earlier recordings, and the musical results are more consistent than his later LP "Love Uhno Bad". In my last post I cited Tonto Irie as "militant", and while that is true musically, he is a culture deejay through-and-through and the tunes here are pleasant, positive reflections of the influences from his peers from the mid-eighties.
My picks: News Flash Time, Mosquito Bite, Cooker
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