Reggae rarities from Canada

by Jan 17, 2024Articles, Report

Reggae rarities from Canada
Toronto ON, Canada quickly embraced Reggae music in its early days. By the 1970s, Jamaican culture had firmly rooted itself in the city and continued to flourish. Toronto became a focal point for those seeking and immersing themselves in Jamaican culture. The city boasted a plethora of record stores that served as a central hub for enthusiasts of Jamaican music. Much like their counterparts in Jamaica, these stores in Toronto not only sold records but also housed record labels like Abrahams, Imperial Records, Half Moon, Summer Records, King Culture, and S&W Soul King. Some of these stores even had recording studios tucked away in their back office spaces.
BOBBY SOUL

Regrettably, it has become exceedingly difficult to find most classic releases from Canada nowadays. And even when they are found, they are sold at high prices. However, there are occasional fortunate moments when one comes across a reissue, such as in the case of Bobby Soul. In recent years, the UK-based Roots Man label has released two 7″ vinyl singles featuring the mysterious roots singer’s 1975 tracks Message From The Congo b/w Congo Dub as well as God Is Love b/w Unity Rock. Both Message From The Congo and God Is Love are vocal cuts produced during the mid-70s collaboration between Milton “Billy Hutch” Hutchinson and the late Linton “Bob Soul” Williamson.

The album Roots by the enigmatic singer is just as intriguing as the artist himself. Released on the Amal-Jam Production imprint with a plain cover, this LP appears to be a joint effort between Winston Jarrett, Bobby Soul, and Billy Hutchinson, with the involvement of King Tubby. Featuring a total of ten tracks, the album includes a mix of instrumentals, dubs, and vocals. Interestingly, the opener and title track, Roots, is actually the same dub piece as the previously mentioned Unity Rock. The following track, Drums Of Love/God Is Love, combines the instrumental with the vocal piece. Also remarkable is the third track called Mad Mad World, which presents King Tubby’s mixed version of the riddim taken from Winston Jarrett’s Too Much Confusion. Side A concludes with the vocal track Babylon Burning, which is then reprised as an instrumental titled Burning Consideration on the other side. Additionally, Side A features the instrumental rendition of Winston Jarrett’s Slaving In Babylon, titled Slave Driver, as well as an instrumental version of Lloyd Parks’ Your Mama Say, mistakenly attributed to Winston Jarrett and titled Memories. Notably, the album also includes Righteous Consideration and Righteousness Is The Key, both credited to Soul Syndicate & Amalgamated Coop.

Bobby Soul – Roots (Full Album)

S&W SOUL KING

The S&W Soul King store, now closed, was situated at 566 St Claire Avenue in Toronto. Alongside the store, they also had their own reggae record label which put out noteworthy music on 7″ & 12″ vinyl. These releases showcased the talents of artists like Reggae George, Eric “Fish” Clarke, Lloyd Young, Errol Dunkley, Horace Andy, Prince Heron, and Alrick Carter. S&W Soul King Records also released LPs and CDs featuring renowned names such as Delroy Wilson, Owen Grey, The Pioneers, Carlene Davis, Bunny Lie Lie, and Willie Francis.

BUNNY LIE LIE

S&W Soul King’s catalogue number SWLP 001, Bunny Lie Lie’s 1981 album Give Me Love, was the very first full-length album released by S&W Soul King Records. The LP, along with an additional track, was later re-released in the US under the title Musical Pressure, a highly sought-after private press LP on Caldor Records. Bunny Lie Lie, also known as Bunny Lye Lye, was born in Kingston and began singing in Spanish Town at the age of 12. Encouraged by the opportunity to record his first song, You Got To Be Sure, he decided to pursue a career in the music industry in 1978. He gained recognition with his popular track, Miss Popular. The Give Me Love LP, produced by Eric Scott (aka Lord Koos), the owner of a UK sound system, features a total of eight tracks, including extended versions of songs, Sympathy and Natty Youth Man, on the B side. These two, along with Coming & Coming (originally titled What You Gonna Do When Jah Jah Comes), were previously released as 12inch singles on the (Linval) Thompson And Koos label in 1980.

Bunny Lie Lie - Give Me love (Full Album)

WILLIE FRANCIS

Willie Francis’ self-produced untitled LP, which is the second full-length album release from S&W Soul King Records, is even more intriguing. Willie Francis, one of Jamaica’s pioneers in reggae music, gained fame with his hit song Oh What A Mini in 1971-72, which made it to the top ten of the Jamaican and Caribbean charts. His untitled album includes this renowned track and eight others. The album consists of two instrumentals, Marcus vs Bob Marley featuring the harmonica play of Charlie Organaire and the remarkable organ-led Ripe Sour Sop with some enthusiastic shout-outs. Additionally, it features the extended version of the enchanting love song Leaving (But It Won’t Be Long) and a captivating talk-over tune titled Man From Etoper. For fans of roots reggae music, the powerful tracks Born Again and Marcus Is Alive will undoubtedly bring great joy. In December 2011, the LP with six additional tracks, including Malcolm X and Motherless Children, was digitally released on download and streaming platforms under his Little Willie Records imprint.

Willie Francis started his music career in the ’60s, initially recording four songs for Prince Buster. However, he didn’t get any financial benefits from it. Working as a clerk for the AMC (Agricultural Modeling Corporation) he saved some money to record his own music. It led to recording songs like Stars, Motherless Children, and I Am Not Afraid in the late ’60s. In 1974, Willie Francis, in his producer’s chair, played a key role in starting the recording career of then 12-year-old reggae singer Cocoa Tea. He enabled the now renowned Jamaican artist to record his debut song Searching The Hills at Channel One. After working in England during the late 1970s and spending several years in Canada, Francis eventually returned to his home country of Jamaica. Like many of the early pioneers, he unfortunately received little recognition or reward for his tireless efforts in helping to popularize reggae music. It is a common occurrence in life for the true essence of something to go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Willie Francis - Untitled (Full Album)