Reggae Anthology ~ Young, Gifted & Yellow
17 North Parade
2CD + DVD
May 8, 2013
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 5|
Yellowman, born Winston Foster, 1959, Kingston, Jamaica, was the dancehall sensation of the early 80s and he achieved this status with a fair amount of talent and inventive and amusing lyrics. He grew up in a Catholic orphanage known for its musical alumni called Alpha Boys School in Kingston, where he mastered his craft. Yellowman built his early career around the fact that he was an albino and his success has to be viewed within its initial Jamaican context. The albino or "dundus" is virtually an outcast in Jamaican society and Foster's early years were incredibly difficult. Against all the odds, he used this background to his advantage and, like King Stitt, who had previously traded on his physical deformities, Foster paraded himself in the Kingston dancehalls as 'Yellowman', a deejay with endless lyrics about how sexy, attractive and appealing he was to the opposite sex. Within a matter of months, he went from social pariah to headlining act at Jamaican stage shows and his popularity rocketed; the irony of his act was not lost on his audiences. |
His work not only contains the usual tunes about the opposite sex - obviously a favourite topic for many a deejay - but deals with conscious matters as well, Soldier Take Over being a fine example. He also was the first to release a live album - not of a stage show, but recorded live on a sound system - called "Live At Aces", which proved hugely successful and was widely imitated. It captured him at the height of his powers and in full control of his 'fans'; none of the excitement is lost in the transition from dancehall to record. The records he made at his peak contain plenty of style, originality and humour, as well as the necessary ability to ride some of the strongest riddims of the time.
Consistently outselling vocalists and fellow deejays alike, during the period 1981-1984 he was reggae's figurehead. He toured the USA and UK to ecstatic crowds - his first sell-out London shows caused traffic jams and roadblocks around the venue. It seemed that he could do no wrong, and even his version of "I'm Getting Married In The Morning", entitled Yellowman Getting Married , sold well just like his own 'answer' version with Fathead - I'm Getting Divorced. His releases for Henry 'Junjo' Lawes have been among the biggest sellers in the entire catalogue of Greensleeves Records.
In 1984 when his reign in the dancehall was coming to an end he was signed by the US major CBS as 'King Yellow', the first Jamaican deejay to be thus honoured. During this newfound success, he faced the hardship of battling cancer and had to undergo an invasive jaw surgery to remove the malignant tumor. His bouts with the disease pushed him into more thoughtful, socially conscious territory. By the mid-80s it had become difficult to sell his records to the fickle reggae market. Nevertheless, by this time he had been adopted by pop audiences all over the world as a novelty act and while he has never become a major star, he is still very popular and his records sell in vast quantities in many countries.
He has released more records than a great many other reggae acts - no mean feat in a business dominated by excess. Yellowman is reputedly the second best selling reggae artist of all time (Bob Marley being the first). Having become both rich and successful through his work, it is mainly his ability to laugh at himself and encourage others to share the joke that has endeared him to so many. He is also embraced by the hip hop community in the States. Yellowman has collaborated with Run DMC and his iconic 1983 hit "Zungguzungguguzungguzeng" has been sampled by rap heavyweights like KRS-One, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Dead Prez and Black Star (Mos Def and Talib Kweli).
VP's vintage label 17th North Parade has unlocked its vaults once again to unveil the latest Reggae Anthology, Yellowman's Young, Gifted & Yellow, from the undisputed king of dancehall. This vintage dancehall collection features 40 fully remastered essential tracks of both classic and obscure material throughout the albino deejay's prolific career. As an added bonus, the deluxe package includes thorough liner notes written by reggae historian Noel Hawkes and a 25-minute DVD of Yellowman's 1988 electrifying live performance at Jamaica's longstanding annual music festival Sunsplash.
The first set of the anthology opens with early '80s breakthrough hits like Mad Over Me recorded for Channel One, Death of Barnabas, his answer to Lone Ranger's hit, Operation Eradication and the infamously 'slack' Shorties, his answer to Michigan & Smiley's tune "Diseases". The bulk of the tunes here are produced by Junjo, but there are also some nice slides from producer Lloyd Campbell. The second disc moves toward his later (monster) hits like Who Can Make The Dance Ram (a successful rewrite of "The Candy Man" across the "Three Blind Mice" riddim), Zungguzungguguzungguzeng (one of Jamaica's most sampled songs to this day), Ram Jam Master aka Wreck A Pum-Pum and a cover of Fats Domino's Blueberry Hill. The tune Bunn The Kutchie relicks the hit by The Mighty Diamonds, "Pass The Kutchie" in fine style and samples Jackie Mittoo and Sound Dimension's "Full Up".
What can we say? If you really want to know how dancehall sounded in the pre-digital era, check out this impeccable package!