Thursday, 9 July 2009

Out On A Funky Trip

You can buy this album here:

Taken from the album. Please turn up the bass when listening. This is reggae music!

above Generation Gap

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Taken from the Motion Records collection of rare funk, soul and soulful reggae cuts put together by some of Jamaica's finest musicians, with a little help from their friends. The album includes some hugely collectable rarities, much sought after by DJs. The majority of the tracks were recorded at Kingston's legendary Randy's Studio, some produced by the late Vincent Chin and the rest by Clive Chin. The Lynn Taitt cuts were produced by Victor Chin in New York. Clive trawled the Randy's Studios archives to come up with several of the rare unreleased tracks here. Motion's 'Funky Trip' project consists of two 10-inch EPs, a CD album, plus a special collector's LP pressed on 180gm vinyl with a gatefold sleeve. There are slight differences in the tracklists of the CD and LP.

Although reggae was the dominant force in Jamaican music at the time, there was still a demand for covers of the soul, funk and disco tunes heard at dances and on the radio. But with the 1973 release of the stunning Lynn Taitt 7-inch 'Stepping Up' backed with 'Out On A Funky Trip', Taitt broke the mould by coming up with two compositions of his own that bear comparison with any American funksters like The Meters or The JBs.

Also included on the album are Jablonski's 'Soul Makossa', possibly the wildest and most dancefloor-friendly version of the Manu Dibangu classic. Generation Gap offer their take on Edwin Starr's 'War', funk fans Skin, Flesh & Bones provide three of their trademark floor fillers, and Barry Waite & Ltd's 'Funky Sting' (Parts 1 & 2) are sparse wah wah funk gems, from a 7-inch much sought after by collectors. There are also soulful cuts from The Maytals, Tommy McCook, King Cole and Eric Frater.

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OUT ON A FUNKY TRIP – Review in The Beat (USA)
The Chin family has been one of the most successful in the Jamaican music scene. Their empire was established by the late Vincent “Randy” Chin, who built the business from his Randy’s record shop into a grand enterprise that includes the famed studio of the same name and a host of successful labels and imprints (including the American VP label). Chin moved into production in the early Sixties, his eldest son Clive followed in his footsteps a decade later, with other family members also intimately involved in the business.
This compilation focuses on one segment of their output during the first half of the Seventies, honing in exclusively on the Randy’s label funk and soul styled singles. The accompanying booklet tells the story and contains a wealth of information on both the Chins’ progression into the genre and the bands featured within this set. Most notable was Skin, Flesh & Bones, the Randys’s houseband band in the latter part of this period, and who shortly after evolved into The Revolutionaries. Here, they offer up some startling tough funky numbers, along with hints of their rockers style with which they made their name. Lynn Taitt’s two tracks have an even more authentic funk feel, not surprising as they were cut in the States with American musicians. Be sure to check out Taitt’s amazing, psychedelic organ on the title track. Tommy McCook brings his flute to funk-jazz, while guitarist Eric Frater shines on a surfy styled number that is sublime, but doesn’t really suit this compilation. But the the rest of the set fits the bill to a tee, with most leaning towards hefty, heavy slabs of militant funk in a party mood. As for soul, DJ Charlie Ace offers a splendid number in true American style on 'Childhood Days', one of four superb previously unreleased tracks found within.

Producers credits are as follows:


Tracks # 1,3 and 6 are Victor Chin
Tracks # 2,5,7 and 9 are Vincent Chin
Tracks # 4,8,10,11,12,13,14 and 15 are all Clive Chin

1 Stepping Up - Lyn Taitt
2 War - Generation Gap
3 Soul Makossa - Jablonski
4 Having A Party - Skin, Flesh & Bones
5 Who Knows Better (Version) - The Maytals
6 Out On A Funky Trip - Lyn Taitt
7 Bubble Strut - Tommy McCook
8 Funky Sting Pt 1 - Barry Waite & Ltd
9 Knock Three Times - King Cole
10 You Haven't Done Nothing (Version) - Skin Flesh & Bones
11 Reggae Stomp - Skin, Flesh & Bones
12 Reggae Stomp Dub - Skin, Flesh & Bones
13 Last Date Part 1 - Eric ‘Rickenbacker’ Frater
14 Funky Sting Pt 2 - Barry Waite & Ltd
15 Childhood Days - Charley Ace #
# previously unreleased

Side One
1 Stepping Up - Lynn Taitt
2 Soul Makossa - Jablonski
3 Funky Sting Pt 1 - Barry Waite & Ltd
4 Reggae Stomp - Skin, Flesh & Bones
5 Having A Party - Skin, Flesh & Bones #
6 Run Babylon Run - Roots Convention
Side Two
7 Out On A Funky Trip - Lynn Taitt
8 War - Generation Gap #
9 Who Knows Better (Version) - The Maytals
10 Soul Makossa Pt2 - Jablonski
11 Funky Sting Pt 2 - Barry Waite & Ltd
12 Reggae Stomp Dub - Skin, Flesh & Bones
13 Childhood Days - Charley Ace #
#Previously unreleased


Lynn Taitt’s Stepping Up and the funk soul sound of Randy’s

Although Clive Chin, dub pioneer and eldest son of Randy’s founder Vincent Chin, has been living in New York for 27 years, he’ll soon be relocating back to Jamaica. “I’ve had enough of America, put it that way! This president, [George W Bush] he makes life unbearable. Not for the wealthy, I should say, but for the middle class and poor class it’s a nightmare. And they’re going to vote him back in, that’s the terrible thing about it. There’s not another Bill Clinton around.” Despite current feelings, Clive always had strong links with the USA. In 1977, he founded New York’s VP Records, which has become the world’s biggest reggae distributor outside Jamaica. VP’s day-to-day business is nowadays dealt with by his three sons; Noel Chin, who runs the A&R department, recently signed the likes of Sean Paul and Elephant Man.

But his Chinese-Jamaican family’s musical history dates as far back as 1958, when Vincent Chin founded the Randy’s empire. In ’62, he moved his operation from the original building on East Street to its better known location, opposite Idlers Rest at 17 North Parade, in the bustling heart of Kingston. Randy’s Record Mart and one-stop was on street level, while Randy’s Studio - a.k.a. Studio 17 – occupied the floor above. The lane boasted the cream of local musicians; things would cool off a little only on Sundays, when the studio was closed. Not surprisingly, Clive received a precocious musical education. “The schooling there was a blessing. Studio 17. Sometimes when I go back home, and I go upstairs there, I spend about a good hour, just trying to rekindle myself back. How on earth did a studio like Studio 17 close? One of the most wickedest studios inna the Caribbean. The sound – trust me. Even [Lee] Perry – Scratch – will tell any interview that where him get all of his boom tune, all of him early tune them [including the likes of Beat Down Babylon, Duppy Conqueror and many other classic Bob Marley songs]. No talk ‘bout going to Dynamic, or Treasure Isle. When Randy’s close, that’s when Perry went and opened up the Ark. That building should be a museum.”

The Chin’s New York business connections began with Clive’s uncle Victor, who ran the Randy’s shop in Brooklyn. It opened around ’68, making it possibly the first specialist reggae outlet in New York, and developed out of Victor’s electrical store in Crown Heights. Initially, Victor had little enthusiasm for the record business, which he’d been convinced to venture into by his brother, who saw potential in racking imported Jamaican music amongst the electrical goods. But the records soon began to reap rewards. “It just kicked off”, remembers Clive. “Because at that time in Brooklyn, there were Caribbean’s flowing in by the dozen. We’re talking late ‘60s, early ‘70s. Crown Heights was a heavily Jewish neighbourhood back then – until the Caribbean’s moved in! Ha ha! Once we step in, we just control it! My uncle used to tell me [whispers] ‘don’t make noise, because the Jews don’t like it!’ Boy, did we make the noise! And they moved out!” The records developed, soon eclipsing electrical goods. Victor would generally receive 25-count boxes of new releases on the family labels, like Randy’s and Impact. And if a particular title took off locally in New York, he’d quickly arrange a license deal to press the tune himself, for which the lacquers would be shipped out from the Chin’s thriving Kingston HQ. Naturally, enough, he soon got involved in recordings of his own.

Brooklyn, of course, was far from the only destination for Caribbean émigrés. Like Alton Ellis, Jackie Mitoo and many other well-known musicians from Jamaica, master guitarist Lynn Taitt moved to Canada. He remembers the date of his departure clearly. “The 8th of the 8th, 1968. I never forget it!” He enjoyed an initial two-week tour engagement so much that he decided to stay on, and soon found regular work on the session and tour circuits. He initially settled in Toronto, before later migrating north-east and laying down roots in Montreal. His story is an interesting one. Originally from Trinidad, he visited Jamaica in the early ‘60s in a touring Calypso band and, after getting ripped off by the group’s manager, never returned home. “He got a lot of trouble with music, a lot of hard times”, Clive Chin recollects. “The Jamaican Music Board, they actually didn’t recognise him, didn’t give him membership as a Jamaican musician. But he did a lot of work, and people love it, beca’ him have ‘im style.” Indeed, Taitt was a Ska pioneer, much loved and highly respected for his innovative work during the music’s transitional period as it slowed into Rocksteady (including Hopeton Lewis’ Take It Easy, considered by some to be the first rocksteady/reggae song). He played on records like The Wailers’ Nice Time, Desmond Decker’s Israelites and Roy Shirley’s Music Field, various Skatalites sessions, and is known for his album Rocksteady Greatest Hits (Merritone) besides other solo work. His work appears on numerous labels including Lee, Gay Feet, Treasure Isle, Sir J.J., Merritone and Beverly's. He musically directed and played multiple instruments for many of the studios he was involved with. “He was a good guy, a jazz type of musician”, Clive notes. “Music script, you know? The kind of man who would use script. He was very freelance. He would never take long to learn anything.”

Perhaps it was his inventive tendencies and knack for adapting quickly to new situations that helped Taitt make a success of his widespread musical and geographical travels. One day in 1973, an unhappy phone call resulted in an urgent trip to the States. “My mother lived in Brooklyn. She had a heart attack, so I went to New York, and stayed there for about two, three months”, he recalls. Despite the miserable circumstances, Taitt’s stopover proved fortuitous in other ways, since it resulted in the unlikely creation of a monster Funk 45: Out On A Funky Trip / Stepping Up (Randy’s VC9121). Side A is a crazed, uptempo moog track, punctuated by messy drum breaks. Yet Stepping Up, also an instrumental and perhaps the best-loved of the pairing, and is in a different league entirely. Underpinned by tough mid-pace drums and bass, it’s primarily horn-led. Taitt’s subtle, reverby, syncopated picking - a little down in the mix - adds extra depth and feeling, and lends the song a unique character. He finds space amongst the weaving horns, which sound like a take on the early ‘70s JB’s sound, to answer with a solo of his own; it’s a remarkably hard-hitting, sophisticated and original record.

Well prior to recording the 45, the Trinidadian was already familiar not just with funk, but with a whole spectrum of American music. “All West Indians play American music, from long time”, Taitt observes. “Country and Western, and slow songs, you know.” “The funk era was late ‘60s, early ‘70s. But it went back a little bit further”, Clive Chin expands. “My father played a lot of Jazz, and Doo-Wop. Coming in from Miami, Nashville… People would go to Britain and come back with records, they’d go to Miami. It was fun. We wanted to be as broad as possible. My father listened to a lot of Mento, a lot of calypso, a lot of Quadrille - that’s the music that slaves came over with, and that labourers came over with, in that period of time. We wanted to make that music for ourselves, and we started to take patterns from jazz, and from doo-wop, and makes things on our own formula.”

The jazz-inclined Taitt certainly created something unique. Though he claims not to have played much in the style prior to ‘73, he was sufficiently inspired during the Brooklyn visit. “At that time, they had a lot of James Brown, and a lot of funk music in the States”, he recalls. “So I just decided to compose something. Randy’s said ‘Let’s do it’, and we did it! That was the thing at that time, this James Brown funky music!” Taitt played keyboards as well as guitar on the session, and recalls overdubbing some instruments, although unfortunately he has no memory of who else played what on either track. “Most people don’t understand Lynn Taitt. I’m not a businessman. I’m a musician”, he reflects. “Totally – 100% music. Mr [Chin] got the musicians for me. He look after the studio, paid the musicians – all I did was compose the songs, arrange it, go in the studio, and record it. I [didn’t] know these American musicians.” The session was originally thought to have taken place at North Parade, because during the process of salvaging piles of master reels that had been languishing in Studio 17 since it closed in the ‘70s, Clive Chin discovered what appeared to be a full-length, unreleased LP. But Taitt insists the two tracks on the 45 were Brooklyn-born and stand alone; Chin's ensuing research recently revealed that the Stepping Up session took place at Brooklyn's Art Craft Studio, where it was engineered by Mike Selvey and mixed by Bill Garnett. Bump Jackson was most likely the bass player.

Although it achieved modest success in New York, the 45 only got as far as the test pressing stage in Jamaica. “‘Ear what happen now. I feel – this is my gut feeling – I feel them tunes are too advanced for Jamaica”, Clive reflects. “You know? Them kinda tunes too advanced. Jamaica never too ready for them tunes. And true, it wasn’t a tune from America. It wasn’t a hit, it wasn’t The Meters, or The Commodores, or Booker T and the MGs, or Kool & the Gang. But in America – it fell in New York more.” It seems 1000 copies would’ve been a minimum run for Victor Chin at that time, so presumably he pressed at least that quantity of Stepping Up. Sadly, he died several years ago, precise details of the record’s history accompanying him to the grave.

By the early nineties, a fanatical new generation of DJs, collectors and hip-hop producers were racing to uncover long-obscured music, and, sure enough, Lynn Taitt’s 45 resurfaced amidst the fracas. “I first knew of the record because it was on one of Frankie Inglese's playlists back in the day at the Soul Kitchen”, recalls ego trip’s Chairman Mao. “[Inglese]’d play stuff hip-hop people sampled. There was a real immediacy to it back then, because the same week, say, Done by the Forces of Nature came out, you'd go to Soul Kitchen and he would play the S.O.U.L. record that the Jungle Brothers sampled. Anyways, I guess he was playing the other side, Out On A Funky Trip... I always remembered the title and would ask the funk and soul record guys that I knew if they knew the record. Turns out none of those guys were up on it because they didn't deal so much with Jamaican records. A few years later I got the 45 in a trade with a friend who used to dig for records at the reggae stores in Brooklyn a lot. It sort of clicked then that Randy's was the Jamaican label. When I heard the B side, Stepping Up, I was blown away because the groove on that track was so much heavier. I’m not sure if anyone else was playing it out. I wound up putting it on a mix CD [with Citizen Kane, for Selects clothing] that people seemed to like, so maybe that helped spread the word.” In the well-traveled tradition of its creator and origins, Stepping Up’s funky trip continued, gaining new-found popularity with a funk 45-collecting community in Southern California, the UK’s collectors and DJs, and beyond.

Following the brief sojourn in Brooklyn, Taitt returned to Canada. He resides in Quebec to this day, where he continues to make a living, as he always has done, by playing music. “I’m working with Italians. I play out every week”, he relates of his current gig with a wedding band. “It’s a little difficult in Montreal, maybe in Canada, maybe in England too, to survive on calypso and reggae music as a living, you understand. So for survival reasons, I’ve switched a little, and I play for the Greeks, Italians, Jewish people, you know. But I still love my reggae and my calypso and stuff!” If you happen to attend a nuptial celebration in eastern Canada, be sure to look out for a softly spoken but musically vital ska and rocksteady legend up on the stage.

The best and most unique example of soul’s impingement upon the Randy’s catalogue may have been prompted by Taitt’s New York excursion. However, many other titles flowing out of Studio 17 were influenced too. “My father wanted to do as much recording, use the facilities as much as possible”, explains Clive Chin. “To make the most of it. We did jazz music, soul, a little gospel as well. It helped the reggae, it kind of broadened the whole thing... He didn’t want to just stick into one groove.” The drive toward soul and funk in particular spawned records in the style by Inner Circle, Tomorrow’s Children, the Dragonaires and Skin, Flesh & Bones amongst others, propelled in part by an increasingly apparent influx of American music onto the island. Although Jamaica’s sound system culture was founded on US imports, by the late ‘60s, JA plants like Record Specialist, Dynamic and Federal had licenses to press labels like Motown, Stax and Volt locally. Meanwhile, hip US clothing was also becoming more visible. “It enlightened a lot of these guys, especially the ones who that wanted to become involved in that fashion”, Chin reminisces. “My dear friend Charlie – people in the world know him as Sly Dunbar… Charlie come down with Skin, Flesh and Bones, and the man wear bell bottoms. Big high-heeled boots and bell bottom pants! I say ‘boy, Charlie, them American people influence you big-time, man’.”

A similar influence affected recording expectations. “[Sly Dunbar] said to me, ‘When we go in the session, I want you to mic all my instrument’”, Clive continues. “I say ‘No, we only have two mic for the instrument. One for the bass drum, and one for the tops’. He said no, he want mic on tom-tom, mic on the snare, mic on hi-hat, mike overhead… I say ‘Raaas! Why you want so much mic?!’ But him say, ‘When I listen to Buddy Miles, his drum set is all mic’d. And that is a clean sound.’ But I said ‘Sly, you can’t get a clean sound when you use two mics.’ So you see how influenced they are. They look on these albums, they see all these huge microphones all over the instruments, and they want the same thing! Ha ha ha!” Despite being unable to fulfil such lavish expectations, Chin remains proud of the facility at North Parade. “The acoustics in that room were superb. We had no leakage coming in from [the Record Mart] downstairs – they’re playing records downstairs, and we couldn’t hear it. Once that door’s closed – that was it. And we used the best microphones that were on the market. No cheap stuff with the equipment. And we used the best musicians! So we get the best sound!”

Besides one-off ‘funky’ tracks, which were usually cover versions of US hits, there is more to come from the studio’s tape vaults, including an unreleased Cedric Brooks jazz and funk LP. Vincent Chin worked with the legendary saxophonist regularly; the tapes recently discovered date back to Brooks’ pre-Light Of Saba group, Divine Light. “He went away for a year [to Philadelphia], then he came back to Jamaica”, Clive Chin recalls. “And he was into his jazz. Him and [Tommy] McCook. We didn’t ever title or release that album.” Some other Divine Light material recorded at Randy’s can be found on the compilation Cedric IM Brooks & The Light Of Saba (Honest Jon’s, 2003).

Deep players like Brooks - immersed in the pursuit of underground American music - were rare, on the island, however. And notwithstanding “funky reggae” like the type of songs collected on Soul Jazz compilations, the raw funk style heard on Lynn Taitt’s record remains highly incongruous amongst Jamaican catalogues. There were typically two divisions of JA musicians. Those who jobbed in big bands on the club circuit and in hotels would play soul, funk and a little reggae for a wealthy crowd. “[Besides tourists] you had an upper class of Jamaicans that get entertainment from it”, Chin observes. “And the Chinese, the Syrians, and the Europeans – there were quite a few Europeans who had investments in Jamaica at the time. They were all uptown. Uptown is St Andrews.” Those bands steered well clear of ghetto music - hardcore reggae. “It was a separate scene entirely”, he continues. “It was the first time I see strobe lights, and dance floors with different colours coming through the ground, everybody have their soul gear, bell bottom pants…”

Chin, who first got an eyeful of sandals, dashikis, beads, afros, and shades in ’69 when Johnny Nash’s entourage visited Studio 17 to record JA groups for US release, and once owned a sound system called Black Moses, retains an affection for the era. “I was influenced by soul big-time, man. That was my time, my period. Late ‘60s, early ‘70s. After then, that drift on, and we start getting into the roots, and the dub. It was a really refreshing time. We were very deeply involved in funk.” Lynn Taitt, Now 71, remains as nonchalant about his brief funk venture as he does about much of his innovative musical past, and is philosophical of the outcome. “I’m a musician 100%. I do a song, I do it. I don’t think about the market, I’m not a businessman. I did it for Randy’s, we try to make some money, that’s it. I’m an introvert. I don’t go out. Even when I go out to play music, I don’t look after other people’s business – I look after my own. Lynn Taitt. Music. It’s strange, but it is true!”