Barry Back - Music Tonight

1986, 10 Roosevelt Ave (Sunset)

  1. Music Tonight

  2. Version

Barry Back is one of the smaller-name artists who deejayed at Black Scorpio during the time that General Trees was the premier deejay on the sound. Other names from that era include Shuka Shine, Culture Lee, Colour Chin, and of course Shelly Thunder and Lord Sassafrass as other big name deejays. Barry Back only has a handful of recordings to his name, Discogs lists eight 7" singles including this one, and then three other tunes on compilation albums. No LP for this man, although in 2018 he did an online release by the name of Roots For The Youths which I have yet to listen to. And there are also a number of tunes by him in recent years on Youtube, including Out Deh and Missing You, and a whole bunch on a channel by the name of "natchize" which has 17 subscribers. Ranging from three to ten years old.

But today I want to draw attention to this '86 single Music Tonight, and when it comes to hidden gems in reggae this tune is where I first struck gold. It is on Harry J's cut of the Revolution Riddim, which is a well versatile version of a crucial riddim. Strong fifths in the bassline, heavy downbeats, loud drums, all cut by some quiet guitar and keys on the skank. Barry Back's deejaying on the tune is of course what carries it into a higher category, and I think Music Tonight is a perfect example of just how far a riddim can be pushed when the deejaying on it is just right. He brings the most hardcore deejay delivery that predates Dem Bow, a little bit volatile and over-excited on the mic but sharp as a razor and executing a very ambitious tune with nuff style and confidence. It's a fast tune, but unique in that it sounds like an original thought instead of just piggybacking off of the fast UK style, which can't be said for other fast tunes in this era like Walking Rocking by General Trees, Plain Truth Lyric by Colour Man, Dance In A Africa by Peter Metro and so on. Now I love those songs and I love the style but there's no denying that it's copycat stuff, which Music Tonight is refreshingly not.

Lyrically it's an anthem tune, with a little repetitive motif that goes like:

"Me no ramp, no skin, no ramp, no skin, no ramp, no skin, no play..."

"Worries and trouble and worries and trouble and music tonight..."

"Some a sting and some a shock and some a dem a bite..."

It starts hardcore, and it just builds and builds in energy, dramatically climaxing with Barry Back's voice starting to crack and give out as he does "Hold up your hand cause you a live stock, mask your face cah you a dead stock, dead stock dey a have fe stay round the back", and immediately after that the tune fades out and finishes. I know this is par for the course in Jamaican dancehall recordings and that tunes don't necessarily have starts and ends and that any way you finish a dancehall recording is going to be some kind of compromise; I also know that there are plenty of UK recordings from the era with painfully bad 'written' endings, but it's still frustrating when there is so much energy going on right before the ending of a killer tune. The best way to scratch the itch is to put on another tune from the same riddim, and nothing tops Music Tonight on Harry J's Revolution, but 85 Plan by Shelly Thunder is a very close second, and hopefully one day that will become the beginnings of a mixset somewhere.

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