During the late 1970s, the emergence of dancehall music was significantly influenced by the contributions of deejay and producer Jah Thomas. His record label, Midnight Rock, stood out as one of the rare artist-owned labels of that era and experienced remarkable success. The exceptional sound that played a pivotal role in his accomplishments was crafted by the talented Roots Radics band, while the expertise of esteemed technicians such as Peter Chemist, Sylvan Morris, Soljie Hamilton, Bunny Tom Tom, and Scientist ensured the excellence of Jah Thomas’ recording sessions at Channel One.
Jah Thomas, being a prolific artist and producer, possessed an extensive body of work. In addition to crafting successful vocal albums for esteemed artists such as Triston Palmer, Junior Keating, Johnny Osbourne, and others, he also delighted audiences with his own deejay albums released under his own name. In 1978, Greensleeves Records released Stop Yu Loafin, followed by his own label, Midnight Rock, releasing Dance On The Corner the following year, which featured the popular track Cricket Lovely Cricket. Additionally, in the same year, the New York-based label Jah Life released Dance Pon De Corner, a compilation that included deejay versions of Barrington Levy’s tunes.
In the subsequent years, Jah Thomas unveiled the three deejay sets that are showcased on this double CD by Burning sounds. Following that, three additional deejay sets were released, and then there was a period of silence surrounding Jah Thomas. Additionally, he was involved in the production of various dub sets, such as Black Ash Dub and Allied Dub Selection, both of which were released in 1980. Moving into the 1990s and beyond, numerous compilation dub albums were released, including King Tubby’s Hidden Treasure and Jah Thomas Meets Scientist In Dub Conference. More recently, Jah Thomas recently made a comeback with the release of the albums Dub Of Dubs and Highest Grade. Read the review of these albums here.
Nah Fight Over Woman
Originally, Nah Fight Over Woman was first released in 1980 by Gorgon Records in Jamaica and Tads Records in the US. However, it wasn’t until 1983 that the LP made its way to Britain through Vista Sounds. Fast forward to last year, over forty years since its initial release, Burning Sounds reissued the LP, making it available once again. Now, this tasty LP has become a part of this CD edition, allowing a new generation of listeners to experience its timeless music. Nah Fight Over Woman showcases the distinct and minimalistic Roots Radics riddims, which perfectly complement Jah Thomas’ streetwise vocal delivery. These riddims were recorded at Channel One and skillfully voiced and mixed by Scientist at the renowned King Tubby Studio.
Throughout the album, Jah Thomas incorporates various classic riddims, such as The Royals’ Pick Up The Pieces, which sets the tone for the opening track, Hear It In The News. Additionally, for the song Mary Lou, he draws inspiration from Jackie Mittoo’s Studio One tune, One Step Beyond. Furthermore, Jah Thomas collaborates with Sister Jackie on the playful Cockee & Pussy, reimagining Dawn Penn’s signature tune, No, No, No, originally produced at the studios on Brentford Road. The riddim for the provocative track Hotel No Lack is recognized as Take Five. Another explicit song on the album is Morning Ride, which leaves little to the imagination with its lyrical content. Riddimwise, it is a reimagining of Larry Marshall’s Mean Girl. Among the socially conscious tracks on the LP are Please Mr Officer and the aforementioned Hear It In The News.
Tribute To Reggae King Bob N. Marley
Following the untimely passing of reggae legend Bob Marley, numerous tribute releases flooded the island, including this one by Jah Thomas. In 1981, he put out this album in both Jamaica and the UK through his Midnight Rock label and Gorgon Records, while Vista Sounds handled the European release. Burning Sounds also reissued the LP version this year. In terms of style and approach, this collection bears resemblance to Jah Thomas’s previous work, Nah Fight Over Woman. Once again, the talented Roots Radics deliver their best performances, Scientist ensures a crisp mix, and for the riddims Jah Thomas again delves into the rich history of Jamaican music. Despite the somber atmosphere surrounding Bob Marley’s demise, Jah Thomas’s album features tracks that encourage listeners to keep dancing. One such tune is Keep On Dancing, which incorporates the bass line from Freedom Blues. Additionally, Tribute To Reggae King serves as Jah Thomas’s personal homage to Bob, complemented by the infectious Shank I Sheck riddim.
Triston Palma’s Reggae Taking Over serves as the vocal version of Jah Thomas’s toast, Feeding Of The 5000. The energetic Midnight Blues rides the Things And Time riddim, albeit with a slightly rushed tempo. Notably, Push Lady Push captivates listeners with its catchy melody and clever lyrics, set against the backdrop of the Weather Balloon riddim from U Brown. This song gained significant popularity on the island, with Johnny Ringo’s version, produced by Carlton Patterson, also making waves. Then there’s Happy Birthday To You, a reimagining of the Answer riddim that offers intriguing lyrical content. Lastly, African Rub-A-Dub pays homage to the skanking style of rub-a-dub, delivering a delightful and rhythmic ode to this genre.
Dance Hall Stylee
The album Dance Hall Stylee was released under the supervision of Daddy Kool’s renowned record shop in London’s West End in 1982. It appeared on both the Silver Camel label and Daddy Kool’s imprint. The album was produced by Silver Camel aka Tony Gorman who was the owner of the soundsystem of the same name. Silver Camel was highly active during the early 1980s and showcased numerous works by Jah Thomas and his Midnight Rock crew. Read here more about Silver Camel. After Jah Thomas’ Dance Hall Stylee was remixed and edited in London by Silver Camel and Jah Thomas, it hit the number one spot on the (then named) Black Echoes LP charts.
Jah Thomas himself provides a spoken introduction before almost every track on Dance Hall Stylee. In contrast to the previous two albums, these tracks were voiced, remixed, and edited in London at Pathway Studios by Silvel Camel. The riddims were laid down in Jamaica by the Roots Radics and mixed by Scientist. Although the overall sound remains largely consistent with the previous sets, there are several tracks that possess a more vibrant quality. Notably, Love Pon Corner is a lengthier singjay tune that extends for nearly seven minutes.
The track African Thing showcases Studio One’s Hi Fashion riddim beautifully. If you’re looking for a vocal version of this riddim, you can find it on Junior Keating’s LP Weekend Lover under the title Baby Please Be True. The aforementioned tune Love Pon Corner, is a lively, slackness interpretation of Willie Williams’ renowned roots tune Armagideon Time. Barry Brown’s exceptional piece Peace & Love is the vocal rendition of Jah Thomas’ enjoyable toast Dance A Fi Cork. Moving on to the next track, Seek & Find, it presents a tough remix of the riddim called Letter From Zion by Junior Keating. Triston Palma’s 1982 release Time So Hard and Barry Brown’s 1980 hit Girlfriend also utilized the same backdrop. As we listen to the tune Part Two, we can also perceive the familiar Pick Up The Pieces riddim, which was also employed by Little John & Toyan in their song Jah Guide I. The mix of Jah Jah Guidance is truly captivating and stands as one of the top-notch songs, with Jah Thomas delivering his flavorful toasting over the No No No riddim. The widely recognized My Conversation riddim forms the foundation for the track Mr Barrister, where the artist passionately pleads not to be prosecuted for his use of ganja. Lastly, Gwine A School, across the Mean Girl riddim, serves as Jah Thomas’ plea to the youth to prioritize a quality education.