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The Trojan Story

[The Trojan Story front cover] Trojan Records was founded in 1967 by Jamaican-English producer Lee Gopthal as something of a sister label to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. It became one of the best-known and successful reggae labels, but it also bought out several independent Jamaican labels and ended up with a pretty good ska and rock-steady back catalog. In 1972, it went through these archives and put out a fantastic (if somewhat inaccurately-named) compilation, The Trojan Story.

Although the liner notes were somewhat sparse and the sound rough, you couldn’t want a better overview of 1960s Jamaican music. The first tracks, from 1961, are embryonic ska in which you can hear the R & B influence; it takes us through the height of ska to its migration to rock-steady, and then winding up with early reggae (it even includes what could be called the “original” rock-steady and reggae songs: Alton Ellis’s “Rock Steady” and The Maytals’ “Do the Reggay”, respectively).

The three-disk box was only in print for a short time, and was reissued briefly in 1980 (in 1976, Trojan released a different compilation and also called it The Trojan Story, ensuring eternal confusion). In 1988, it was released on a 2-CD set, which also quickly went out of print; copies today sell for $50–75.

I’ve had the LP set for some time, but I was trying to track down a copy of the CD for the last few years. I finally found a reasonably priced copy, and the sound was awful. It’s one of the worst mastering jobs I’ve ever heard. They didn’t go back to the original masters, but clearly just copied the LP, and didn’t even do a very good job of that. The copy I made off my LP sounded much better. So that’s what we have here. Be sure to at least check out “Housewives’ Choice” and “The Great Wuga Wuga”. Also Jimmy Cliff when he was just 14!

  1. Laurel Aitken and the Carib Beats – Bartender [1961]
  2. Derrick Morgan – Fat Man [1961]
  3. Eric “Humpty Dumpty” Morris and the Drumbago All Stars – Humpty Dumpty [1961]
  4. Jimmy Cliff – Miss Jamaica [1962]
  5. Derrick and Patsy – Housewives’ Choice [1962]
  6. Jackie Edwards – Tell Me Darling [1963]
  7. Kentrick Patrick – Don’t Stay Out Too Late [1963]
  8. The Stranger and The Duke Reid Band – Rough and Tough [1963]
  9. Kentrick Patrick – Man to Man [1963]
  10. Stranger Cole – Unos-Dos-Tres [1964]
  11. The Skatalites – Confucius [1966]
  12. The Mellow Larks – Time to Pray (Alleluia) [1961]
  13. The Blues Busters – Soon You’ll Be Gone [1965]
  14. Lord Tanamo – I’m in the Mood for Ska [1965]
  15. The Riots – Yeah Yeah [1965]
  16. Don Drummond – Man in the Street [1965]
  17. Baba Brooks and His Band – One-Eyed Giant [1967]
  18. Honeyboy Martin and the Voices with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics – Dreader Than Dread [1967]
  19. Owen Gray – Darling Patricia [1962]
  20. Joe White and Chuck with the Baba Brooks Band – Every Night [1966]
  21. The Astronauts – Syncopate [1966]
  22. The Clarendonians – Rules of Life [1966]
  23. Slim Smith – The New Boss [1966]
  24. Winston and George – Keep the Pressure On [1966]
  25. Roy Shirley – Musical Train [1967]
  26. The Techniques – Oh Babe [1966]
  27. Sir Lord Comic – The Great Wuga Wuga [1967]
  28. Dandy – Rudy, a Message to You [1967]
  29. The Ethiopians – Train to Skaville [1967]
  30. The Three Tops – It’s Raining [1966]
  31. The Ethiopians – The Whip [1967]
  32. Desmond Dekker and the Aces – Pretty Africa [1967]
  33. Alton Ellis – Rock Steady [1966]
  34. Baba Brooks and His Band – King Size [1966]
  35. Evan & Jerry with The Carib Beats – Rock Steady Train [1967]
  36. Sugar Simone – King Without a Throne [1967]
  37. Phyllis Dillon with Tommy McCook and The Supersonics – Perfidia [1967]
  38. Derrick Morgan – Do the Beng Beng [1968]
  39. Lynn Taitt – Way of Life [1968]
  40. The Tennors – I’ve Got to Get You Off My Mind [1968]
  41. Lee “King” Perry – People Funny Boy [1968]
  42. The Supersonics – Second Fiddle [1968]
  43. The Maytals – Do the Reggay [1968]
  44. The Slickers – Nana [1968]
  45. The Pioneers – Mama Look [1969]
  46. The Maytals – Pressure Drop [1970]
  47. The Maytones – Black and White [1971]
  48. The Charmers – Rasta Never Fails [1971]

Time Flies When You’re Gangster Fun

[Front cover of Gangster Fun's Time Flies When You're Gangster Fun] Probably the posting request I’ve gotten the most is for Detroit ska band Gangster Fun’s second release, Time Flies When You’re Gangster Fun (I posted their first album last year). This seems to be the most popular of their albums among their too-small fanbase; I prefer their third album, Pure Sound, Pure Hogwash, Pure Amphetamines, but all their albums were great. Like their first album, this was produced by slightly famous producer Mike E. Clark.

It’s arguable (or at least has been argued by one person, to me) that this is the last true Gangster Fun album, and that the second two were really more solo albums by chief songwriter/guitarist David Minnick (by the way, “Minnimal Stress” below is a pun on Minnick’s name, not a misspelling). I suppose that would make Pure Sound… their Pet Sounds, and this their Sunflower. Well, whatever.

I’m a sucker for ska covers of popular songs, so my favorite tracks on here are “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book and a version of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination”. Of the original compositions, “I’d Buy a Gun” is the best, and quite catchy; I often hear my girlfriend singing “Life would be so groovy/If I owned an Uzi” around the apartment. Not totally sure how to take that.

  1. I Wanna Be Like You
  2. I’d Buy a Gun
  3. Stop the Presses
  4. Nutritious
  5. Periwinkle Blues
  6. Bank of Love
  7. Minnimal Stress
  8. Brown Paper Bag
  9. Just My Imagination
  10. Don’t Lay About
  11. Fat Lady Skank!

Gangster Fun: Come See Come Ska

[front cover of Come See Come Ska] Gangster Fun was a Detroit Third-Wave ska band active in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although beloved of the local scene and an influence on later bands that would be better-known such as The Suicide Machines, they never really hit it big. That was a shame, because they were one of the best ska bands ever, even outranking heavyweights like Bim Skala Bim and The Toasters.

This is their first LP, Come See Come Ska. It was produced by Mike E. Clark, who would later produce albums by George Clinton, Insane Clown Posse, and Kid Rock, and issued by the imaginatively-named English label “Ska Records”. Very few copies were pressed, and I’ve even had a member of the band ask me for a copy (I found mine for 50¢ at a Kiwanis sale).

  1. Wish You Were Here
  2. I Don’t Care
  3. Can’t Remember Her Name
  4. Find a Way Out
  5. O-Soo
  6. Social Animal
  7. Informer
  8. Red Light
  9. 32 Train
  10. Old Hat New Tie
  11. Mario’s Hideout