Jamaican deejay Prince Jazzbo may have posed the question that unwittingly inspired this venture. He opened his 1975 “Gal Boy I Roy” with:
“If deejay was your trade….”
For a host of legendary Jamaican artists whose trade, indeed, was deejay—the Jamaican antecedent to American rap born in the island’s dancehalls of the 1960s—they were summoned to record for Los Angeles’ Tom Chasteen, founder of the Dub Club and producer of Foundation Come Again and its dub counterparts, Signs and Wonders in Dub and Bubble Dub, all issued on L.A.’s Stones Throw Records.
“I’m a fan of the classic JA deejay style,” Mr. Chasteen tells The Examiner. “I think it’s underappreciated. It’s the starting point of hip hop. The lyrics can be funny, clever, or political, and I think are also underrated. The idea of multiple artists flowing on the same rhythm is a great, radical concept which the rest of the world still hasn’t caught up with.”
While many of the gathered giants—Big Youth, Dillinger, Trinity, Ranking Trevor and the aforementioned Prince Jazzbo—were at their acme in the 1970s (and one—King Stitt—peaked in the ’60s), Mr. Chasteen’s coterie of L.A.-based musicians crafted a distinctly rub-a-dub selection of rhythms that, with the chatters flowing atop, yields a sound that evokes the great Junjo Lawes and Linval Thompson productions of the early 1980s. This fact makes Foundation Come Again all the more engaging as many of these artists had fallen from the public’s favor by the 1980s, with the new school of deejays, led by Eek-A-Mouse, Yellowman, Toyan and Michigan & Smiley, among others, ruling the dancehall.
The 20 track album opens with a thunderous cut of Vin Gordon’s ‘Heavenless’ rhythm, upon which Ranking Trevor starts the proceedings with “Paper & Pen.” Other evergreen rhythms include Slim Smith’s ‘I’ll Never Let Go’ (Kojak’s “Hear Me Now Star,” Danny Dread’s “Every Herbsman Is A Star”), Grgeory Isaacs’ ‘Storm’ (Errol Scorcher’s “Ride Riddim,” Tullo T’s “Can’t Stop The Ras,” Pompidoo’s “Selassie I Rule”) and Jackie Mittoo’s ‘Drum Song’ (Brigadeer Jerry & Ranking Joe’s “Meditation Chant”). Elsewhere, a euphoric ska cut backs foundation deejay King Stitt and his spar Natty King on “Gimme Gimme,” while co-producer Tippa Lee’s “Hey Mr. Big Man” bears some of the bhangra flavors that once spiced Sly & Robbie’s early ’90s’ productions. Echoes of Sly & Robbie further resound in Trinity’s “Rolling Stone,” a potent rhythm that sounds like it was cut during Black Uhuru’s Sinsemilla sessions.
The collection’s only noticeable omission is the absence of U Roy, but as it features among the final recordings from Ranking Trevor, Errol Scorcher and the great King Stitt, all of whom passed away prior to the album’s release, Foundation Come Again is that much more endearing and crucial.
“It’s very bittersweet to listen to the tunes by Ranking Trevor, King Stitt and Errol Scorcher,” Mr. Chasteen reveals. “I love the music and am glad that we could work with these great artists, but it’s sad to think of not hearing their voices again. It motivates me to do more concerts and recordings with these legends of reggae.”