Heartbeat 11661-7743-2
Like many jam fans, my reggae knowledge doesn’t extend very far past Bob
Marley’s "Songs of Freedom" box set, Peter Tosh’s "Legalize It", and a
handful of live reggae shows that mainly took me to those same places.
JamBands.com decided to give me a lesson by sending me back to 1970-1980s
Kingston, Jamaica this month to review "Touting I Self," a posthumous
compilation from reggae DJ pioneer, I Roy. Released on Rounder’s Heartbeat
label, which counts reggae legend Burning Spear among its stable, this
career retrospective is a treat that deserves to be heard.
According to the extensive liner notes authored by disc supervisor Chris
Wilson, Roy Reid got his start in the reggae club scene in Jamaica in the
late 60s. I Roy made a career of spinning records in clubs, laying down
grooves and creating new tracks in the studio with humorous and socially
topical lyrics (Repatriation Is a Must, Every Mouth Must Be
Fed) for a host of different producers and labels. I Roy was in high
demand as a DJ in the 1970s and his mixes consistently sold well on the
charts in Jamaica, at one time having 12 songs selling simultaneously. He
inked a rare deal with Virgin Records in 1977 that subsequently produced
five albums. After falling out of favor to younger DJs in the 1980s, I Roy
compiled the material for this disc himself just prior to his death.
Each of the 16 tracks samples grooves from various Jamaican labels’ reggae
releases and a few American songs. I Roy infuses his own humor and themes
over the various grooves provided him, creating a laid back and
light-hearted sound that is enjoyable if not distinctive. The recordings
were not made on today’s state-of-the-art equipment, so there is a low-tech,
raw, retro sound to the recording-true to the period that does not detract.
Tracks four and six, Knotty Down Deh and Walk Right In (which
banjo), are easy to get into and among the better tracks on the disc. Track
five, Setup Yourself Jazzbo, a friendly running jab at a
DJ Prince Jazzbo, includes my favorite lyric, "Jazzbo when you sneeze/You
remind me of a Japanese/Your teeth full of cheese."
While there is little in the way of ‘jam’ in this retrospective, and the
name I Roy may not be a familiar one to jamband enthusiasts, many reggae
fans will find this disc an enjoyable addition to their collection. Anyone
wishing an education in the DJ trade of 1970s Jamaica should get it — spin
for your friends and I think you’ll find them grooving along.