FREE DL: Amerigo Gazaway’s “The Big Payback Volume 3: J​.​B. & The Soul Mates”
Amerigo Gazaway has a way of getting the flavor out of the deepness of music, and he has done it once again by turning James Brown’s music inside out and creating The Big Payback Volume 3: J​.​B. & The Soul Mates, merging JB with Fela Kuti, Jeru The Damaja, Bob Marley, Busta Rhymes, Biggie Smalls Mobb Deep, Michael Jackson, and others. This one is a freebie, so stream and listen, then get to downloading.

REVIEW: Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Legend Remixed”

 photo MarleyLR_cover_zps621eea71.jpg Okay, so we know that Bob Marley’s Legend is one of the greatest compilation/catalog albums ever released. When it comes to Marley, people only want to hear the established/pushed hits, and aren’t willing to dig deeper unless they want to. Those that do dig deeper will be rewarded. So now, there is an album with brand new remixes of Marley’s Island Records output, and it’s called Legend Remixed (Tuff Gong/Universal) but is it needed? No. This album also shows that major labels don’t know what a remix is. Someone like Jim James can cover “Waiting In Vain” but that doesn’t make it a remix in my book. That’s a cover version. A COVER. Thievery Corporation? They know how to remix, and their remix of “Get Up Stand Up” is fairly decent. Roni Size doing “I Shot The Sheriff”? Eh. Photek handling “One Love/People Get Ready”? Eh part 2.

The best track on here happens to be Z-Trip’s take on “Punky Reggae Party” and when Z-Trip does things, he goes deep. He even went to Lee “Scratch” Perry to assist. Now is that remix worthy of an entire remix album? Does having remixes by some of Marley’s offspring merit… anything? It seems silly for Legend Remixed to exist, since this isn’t going to sell with every future generation? Lucky if anyone in this generation is going to care or know about this by the end of November. I would have picked a number of other people for this, and if you’re going to do remixes or covers, know the difference. Otherwise, don’t bother me.

VIDEO: “Always Together: Chinese-Jamaicans In Reggae” (movie trailer)

Official Trailer: Always Together: Chinese-Jamaicans In Reggae from Always Together on Vimeo.

If you are a casual fan of ska and/or reggae music, people of Chinese descent may not be the first image that comes to mind. However, if you become a fan and start to investigate deeper, you’ll discover that Chinese-Jamaicans played a major role in the production and creation of some of the most influential music not only in Jamaica, but eventually around the world. Always Together: Chinese-Jamaicans In Reggae takes a wide look at some of the names you may have only seen in passing in album liner notes or in magazines and blogs, and gets in-depth about the role people like Leslie Kong, Tom Wong, and Byron Lee had on the creation of what may be some of your favorite songs and albums.

VIDEO: “Marley” (Documentary trailer)

In the 31 years since he died, Bob Marley has attained a following, love, and appreciation he could probably see in his dreams but was unable to experience in his lifetime. Critics were split about this “boho island man”, as they saw him as either the wildest black hippie since Jimi Hendrix, or someone who could take on a praise not unlike Bob Marley, but go much bigger than that.

While there have been many documentaries about the music and life of Marley, this one was exective produced by son Ziggy Marley and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, so this comes with blessings from the Marley family. I love the statement he says when asked about being rich, and he says “my riches his life”. This will be very good.

THE LISTENING EXPERIENCE: Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”

This song is significant for me, for I remember it as a song that goes back to a time when I was light enough to sit on top of a fish tank.

I remember the record vividly: it was a 7″ 45 on Epic Records with the yellow label, which would mean late 60’s/early 70’s. In this case, Johnny Nash‘s “I Can See Clearly Now” was released in September 1972, which means it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The question though is “why were you sitting on a fish tank?” I clearly remember being about 3 or 4 years old when my dad would play music in the living room. During one of those moments, he sat me on the fish tank and he would sing the song. I’d look over and see the record with the yellow label spinning at 45 revolutions per minute. Then he reached to the bridge and started to sing very loud:

look all around, there’s nothing but blue sky
look straight ahead, nothing but blue sky

He looked so happy. I was too young to remember anything else other than the bridge was “his moment” in the song, and he would continue singing about how it would be bright and sun-shiny day. That song has remained in my mind and consciousness from that point on.

At the age of 9, I was already reading Rolling Stone. Some might think “were you reading or just looking at your musical heroes and wishing you were a rock star?” It was a mixture of both. I know I’d look at the concert tour dates and see if any bands were going to perform in Honolulu. Not that I was a frequent concert goer at that age, but the idea that these people I was listening to might be on my island was kinda cool. I remember one year, when they opened a new section of the Pearlridge Shopping Center, they brought in singer (and later actor) Rex Smith, whose sole hit was “You Take My Breath Away”. I was a kid who did listen to my share of pop radio (and it was always AM stations like KKUA-69 and KIKI-83, I hadn’t discovered the wonders of clarity with FM radio just yet), but when I heard Smith was coming to Hawai’i, all I could think was “this guy has Leif Garrett hair, yuck”. He was teeny-bopper, a guy for the girls, he was of no interest to me. Yet I’d keep on reading Rolling Stone in case someone I liked would show up. At the time, I think the only concert I had been to was the last concert Loggins & Messina did in support of their Native Sons album. It was also the first concert I remember going to. I wanted more, and wouldn’t start going to shows on a regular basis until I hit the double digits.

Back to Johnny Nash. Over the years, “I Can See Clearly Now” was simply a song I related to my dad, or at least a song he loved, and I did too. In the early 80’s, with the music of Bob Marley making the rounds in Hawai’i, reggae music was being explored. I had seen photos of Marley in Rolling Stone but he was still alive and was just “the island rocker”, not someone who would gain the kind of praise he would receive after he died in May 1981. I would see the album reviews and if it had a good review, I would log that in my head and think of it as something I might want to listen to. I would also see ads and if it looked interesting, I’d log that as well. One day, my dad said he wanted to test his new cassette deck in his new Cherry Red Karmann Ghia. He was a gearhead, someone who would take me to junk yards for the sake of finding the right car part, and he loved cars. After work, he was probably outside tinkering on his Volkswagen or looking to fix other people’s cars, for fun. He loved VW Bug’s, and for years I used to think a Karmann Ghia was a model of VW. I figured eh, they’re German, must be the same. But, when my dad saved enough to buy a Karmann Ghia, he cherished it. Anyway, he wanted some new cassettes and I clearly remember going to Records Hawai’i, a record store that was across the street from Ala Moana Shopping Center, and him asking the cashier how he wanted to buy some new reggae albums on cassette. The guy suggested Bob Marley, and wanting to feel like I was “the big boy”, I told my dad “don’t get him, everyone listens to him. Buy Third World‘s Rock The World and Steel Pulse‘s True Democracy. Yes, at the age of 11, I was already giving “expert suggestions” on what people should listen to, even though I had not heard either of them myself. My suggestion was based on Rolling Stone‘s praise and ads. My dad looked at the cassettes, he looked at me and said “are you sure?” I told him yes, and he bought them. My dad really loved the groove of Third World’s “Rock The World” and “Standing In The Rain”, but when he opened the Steel Pulse tape, popped it in the deck and the music started, he beamed. The music boomed, and it felt good:

Rejoice, rejoice
good tidings I bring you

When my dad wanted a new tape, it would often mean he would go cruising, or to drive around for an hour or two. This was his “peaceful time” and he would do this on a regular basis, sometimes as a family, but sometimes just me. He would play Side 1 all the time, so while I didn’t know all of the words just yet, I would remember the sequence of “Chant A Psalm”, “Ravers”, “Find It…Quick!”, “A Who Responsible?”, and a song that would become my favorite song on the album, “Rally Round”. As a kid, I became aware of politics from some of the things I had learned from hearing John Lennon and some of his songs, and the idea of preaching and living peace was something that has stayed with me to this day. However, I was not aware about the “red, gold, black and green”, so it was through this song I learned that:

red for the blood that flows like the river
green for the land Africa
yellow for the gold that the stole
black for the people they looted from

The song spoke on how people were held captive, but for some reason the line “I and I patience have now longtime gone” had spoken louder than anything else in the song. Back then, I had learned about the struggles of Hawaiians throughout history, and some of what I had learned seemed to relate to Steel Pulse as well. Side 2 would be played, and then the album would play “Dub Marcus Say”, which was just an instrumental of “Rally Round” but with various words isolated and echoed. This would be the first time I had ever heard a “dub” version of a song, and I would actually mimic the way the voices would cut off and echo into the unknown. You might catch me going “wit’… (wit wit wit wit)” and what I also loved was that the song turned up the bass significantly, it was just basically drum and bass. I ate that up like crazy. For a year, Rock The World and True Democracy became two of my dad’s favorite albums, and for years I used to think that it was I who introduced my dad to reggae. I felt good about this.

Years later, “I Can See Clearly Now” came on the radio and at the time I was doing a bit more research on reggae music. I loved ska too but on a much lower level. I grew up at a time when there was a ska revival in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Due to bands like The Police, Madness, and The Specials, ska was pushed as being “white man’s reggae”, as in “white people are playing reggae and this is how it is interpreted.” I had not been aware that ska actually came before reggae, nor was I aware that a lot of bands who were doing ska in the late 70’s/early 80’s had heard them from the first wave of groups who made them famous, as they were either imported from Jamaica from expatriates or pressed by British labels with the growing Jamaican population, which would in turn create a craving for ska, rock steady, and reggae that remains in the UK five decades later. Eventually I read some information about “I Can See Clearly Now” and it was then that I realized for the first time that the song was in fact a reggae song, or at least a song that was on the thin line between ska and reggae. As a kid, I was not aware of reggae music and it was then I realized oh wait: my dad has been a fan of ska and reggae far longer than I assumed. Perhaps my suggestion of Third World and Steel Pulse was “in the cards”, I’ll never know.

Yet away from genre classification, “I Can See Clearly Now” is my first introduction to the music of Jamaica. I’ve been fascinated with the music and culture of Jamaica for a long time, and it is a place that is very high on my list of countries I want to visit.

My dad died at a time when I was only a few months away from becoming a teen, so I often think how I missed at those “essential times” I could’ve shared with him, the transformation of boy to man, to have the kind of discussions I could never get from my mom. However, I think of the music he would often play and how they may have been subtle messages for me. The lyrics to “I Can See Clearly Now” is about someone who may be going through a down time in their life, and how if one gets through “all the obstacles in my way”, they will eventually see the sunshine. The last time I was home was in 2000, and before I arrived, Honolulu were going through a few days of rain. Upon arrival, the clouds cleared up and there was sun for the whole week. I had done an online diary and at the end I had thanked my dad for making the skies blues for me and my family. Afterwards, I was afraid that it would be interpreted as something spiritual in nature, but in truth it was a Johnny Nash reference and the link the song has with my dad.

The song would be very helpful for me when I went through almost two years of having some down time, realizing I was going through some dark clouds. In time I’d find a way to let go of some bullshit and came out of it stronger, with a bit more clarity and acknowledgment of a sun-shiny day.

BOOK REVIEW: “Bob Marley and The Golden Age Of Reggae” by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

Image and video hosting by TinyPic There are hundreds of books on the legacy of Bob Marley, and how reggae music became the unofficial ambassador of Jamaica through his music, but you’ll generally see the same 50 photographs over andover. Bob Marley and The Golden Age Of Reggae is a coffee table book that shines the spotlight on the photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker, and allows Marley and reggae fans to see and sense an insiders look that most have not known about or completely forgotten for five decades.

Gottlieb and her husband, Jeff Walker, both worked for Island Records between 1975-1976. If you know your reggae history, then those facts alone probably gave you chills. For many, this is considered the golden era of reggae music, and the photos document the period between Marley entering the mainstream and slowly embracing the rock star status some in the rock media wanted him to become. You’ll see photos of Marley and The Wailers kicking back at home and in the studio, smoking fat doobs and just kicking back. Eventually you see them becoming greater world travelers than they already were. Marley had visited the UK and Europe a number of times in the early 70’s, before Marley became known to Americans in the mid-70’s, in fact it’s safe to say that for a generation, the first Marley song they heard was not by Marley himself, but Eric Clapton‘s cover of “I Shot The Sheriff”. By Clapton, a guitar “God” to many, covering a song by an upcoming reggae superstar from an island nation, many felt this was iconic. It also didn’t hurt that Marley had an incredible push from Walker, who through his then-girlfriend, were able to capture the start of a phenomenon that continues 28 years after Marley’s passing.

Through the photographs you’ll also read essays from Gottlieb-Walker, Walker, Roger Steffans, and Cameron Crowe, all of whom share their views on this island music that North America had once considered novelty music. Marley is free to be who he is, and you see that throughout, even as the camera captures a confidence the public loved and mythologized. What’s also remarkable are the photographs of other reggae artists who have become legendary, everyone from Toots Hibbert, Third World, Burning Spear, The Heptones, and Lee “Scratch” Perry to Johnny Clarke, Augustus Pablo, Delroy Wilson, and Dillinger. For the last 30 years, most people have experienced their knowledge of reggae and ska through the filter of Marley, and nothing wrong with that, that’s what the core of this book is about. But there was a time in our history where the brotherhood in Jamaica was based on making a little money, making love, and making people happy, all through making music. Reading Bob Marley and The Golden Age Of Reggae will make you feel like you could join them in a backroom and pass a joint, and you will see Marley in a number of photos with huge amounts of the tasty ganja.

The photographs and the essays are not about what reggae became, it looks fondly as what it was like as it was happening. Let the photos speak for themselves, and it may make you a new fan of Marley and reggae music if you aren’t one, and a greater one if you are.

OPINION: Bob Marley estate lose fight to own his music

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An article at talks about a case between Rita Marley on behalf of the late Bob Marley and Universal Music Group (UMG) over the rights to the music of Marley himself. A judge on Friday handed down the decision which says Universal are the sole owners of Marley’s core musical output between 1973-1977, considered to be the period in which reggae music moved from being isolated islander music to becoming a worldwide sensation. By being the sole owners of publishing and masters, it means Rita Marley and her entire family are not entitled to damages they had sought to recover from what they felt was the abuse of Marley’s music being used in advertising and movie placement. In other words, the case suggests that when you heard “One Love” or “Waiting In Vain” in a movie or cell phone ad, Universal received all of the money for its use and none went to the Marley’s. The court case basically states that this is perfectly okay.

To make it a bit more clearer, the Marley estate felt that they should have been consulted when it came to the use of any of Marley’s music, the same way the John Coltrane estate had demanded that his music could not be used without direct permission from his family (the late Alice Coltrane had received countless requests from hip-hop producers who wanted to use his music, all of them denied. If you hear a Coltrane sample in a hip-hop song, 9 times out of 10 it’s unauthorized.)

The article goes on to say that all claims the Marley family wanted were denied, claiming that the contract clearly stated that Universal owned it and are allowed to do anything with what they own, no matter what. Contractually, they are probably correct in doing so. However, by being a label with ownership rights, they probably did not inform the Marley family about new things that could have benefited them. You might say “oh, but they are an estate of a musical artist, should they not have been advised by a manager or lawyer about such technological advances as an MP3?” I mention this because the Marley family also seeked royalties from MP3 downloads, since it is the primary means of musical commerce in 2010. This was denied.

So how could this happen? Unfortunately, this is part of a battle between the ownership of one’s intellectual property vs. ownership. Most artists do not own their own music, this is fact. As someone who has signed a recording contract, it clearly states that when you sign with a label or company, you are essentially signing up for your music to be “exploited” in anyway possible. You are now working for “the man”, and by using their services to exploit you and your creation, you give up a cut of the proceeds. Can you promote the music yourself? Can you place your music in television commercials and shows, or movies? Can you appear on late night talk shows? If you can do this on your own, congratulations, you really don’t need a label. In 2010, you really don’t, because the state of the music industry indicates that labels can’t help themselves, so why in the hell do you think they can really help you? If the music industry is the sinking ship as many critics indicate, you’re merely dipping your hands in Crazy Glue and grabbing for the anchor. Not wise.

While I am not a fan of his music, someone like Ray J. (brother of singer/actress Brandy) can have hit singles simply by promoting himself. Of course he has a team behind him, but he owns his music and can do whatever he wants. The guy knows how to hustle, he learned it from the best (i.e. his mom), so take a few tips from his means of execution.

Now look at the late Frank Zappa. By the mid-70’s, he wanted to own the rights to his own music, both publishing and master recordings. He was denied this, and he fought for years, almost going broke but he was able to get back the music that was rightfully his. Prince, on the other hand, still fights, or at least deals with the conditions he was given. He played with the idea of him not being himself anymore, called himself “The Symbol”, “The Artist Formally Known As…”, “TAFKAP”, “SLAVE”, everything which was a tactic to let people know “Warner Bros. fucked me over.” He wanted the rights to his music, and so far he’s only won half the battle. Publishing moved from Warner Bros. to Universal, while the music he recorded for Warner Bros. between 1978-1996 is owned by the bosses who signed his checks. He cannot touch his own music, unless he re-records his own songs but who wants that? I want to hear the vibe captured on tape back then, even though he’s fully capable of pulling it off. I want the urgency of young Prince, not the carefully crafted Prince who is recreating due to lack of ownership.

The same cannot be said about Bob Marley, who died in 1982. His music and popularity is bigger than it was when he was alive, he was still “Boho Bob” at the time of his death, music the hippie white kids loved in college and music that black stations refused to play because it was backwater island music that did not sound “black”. Today, most people around the world think of reggae music as a music Marley created, even though the music has a rich and deep history before him. Marley was a crooner and could have been a smoothed out pop or R&B singer, he was like the Ronnie James Dio of Jamaica, someone who started out making music one way and became popular for doing something completely different. Marley arguably made Island Records a superstar in itself. The label may have also been the home of Traffic and King Crimson, but it’s “Island” Records for a reason, its tropical logo was a specific way to let people know “this is that oasis you’ve been looking for”. When U2 became Island’s bread and butter, and as their logo moved from the familiar palm tree to a negative fish-eyed photo of skyscrapers that turned the palm tree into a concrete one, it was obvious that the Island of the past would never come back. This was made more obvious when Island moved from being distributed by WEA to a Polygram/Universal entity. Now that they’re the Island/Def Jam Group, the company neither looks or sounds like the Island or Def Jam of yesterday, and some might argue that they’re only a corporate company in name only. I remember years ago, when Polygram released the Eric Clapton box set Crossroads, there was an article in (I think) Goldmine magazine which said that when you walk into other record companies, you could find each department fairly easy. If you walked into the offices of Polygram, you could get lost. The promotion and marketing department, the mail room, the listening room, the interns, you were in a building that was probably as chaotic as any scene in the Terry Gilliam film Brazil. If a simple record company can make the average civilian feel lost, imagine what an artist, struggling to gain back the rights to a song, album, or entire catalog, must feel like.

Of course, it may be only music nerds and record fetishists who care about these things. Read between the lines of artist interviews in the last, oh, 40+ years. There’s no sense of care in the industry. When things moved from “record sales” to “units”, it became more faceless than it was. Now the industry is struggling with selling binary code, and they can’t even do that right. Bob Marley, one of the more influential music artists of the 20th century, can’t even get justice in death. He would be livid in knowing that his words of pain, suffering, and freedom is now being dealt with by his family. I used to doubt the idea of Bob Marley merchandise, seeing shoes and beach towels with Marley’s name and image, but now I understand even more why they were created.

In the end, I know that Rita Marley and her family will, as Bob Marley said himself, stand up for their rights. When it comes to music, no one should feel any pain, and this is just a company taking advantage of someone and something for their own benefit. That is nothing new when it comes to music publishing and ownership. The Marley family will get a chance to fight a little, as court-supervised settlement talks are scheduled for October 29th. Until then, keep this in mind. The reason you hear Eric Clapton‘s cover of “I Shot The Sheriff” is not only because it was a hit and is recognizable, but also because it feeds the trust funds of those who now own the music.

REVIEWS: Chris Macro presents Macro Dubplates Vol. 1 & 2

free image hosting The world may not be aware of who Chris Macro is, but if you’re from New Zealand and Australia, you’ll know him as someone who has worked with Katchafire among others. However, Macro is somewhat of a wiz in terms of creating electronic-based music, be it reggae, drum & bass, and hip-hop. If there’s a way to tap into the consciousness of American hip-hop fans, you’d do it right? The impact of the Wu-Tang Clan is worldwide, one sight of the sacred W and people will drop verses left and right. The Wu-Tang Clan have flirted with ska and reggae over the years, especially Method Man, who found himself dropping a verse for Supercat and years later doing a track for Capleton. In the days of the U-WU Newsletter I had suggested that Method Man do a full-length reggae album, or at least to do an album featuring various reggae and dancehall artists. It never happened, but Chris Macro shows what it would sound like with Macro Dubplates Vol. 1, an album that unites the classic dubs of King Tubby and unites them as nature intended with Wu-Tang and Wu-related acapellas. You’ll hear tropical versions of “Brooklyn Zoo”, “C.R.E.A.M.”, and “Pinky Ring”, but the one that works the best is “Criminology”, proving that Ghostface Killah sounds good on almost everything.

free image hosting If the Wu aren’t to your liking, maybe you want to hear Hova over the sounds of Jamaica. Macro Dubplates Vol. 2 puts together for the first time the rhymes of Shawn Carter with Robert Nesta Marley, soi if you ever wanted to hear what “99 Problems” would sound like over “Small Axe“, or “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” over “Put It On“, now you can. When Jay-Z allowed fans to create unique mixes from his acapellas, I don’t think he knew how much fans, producers, and DJ’s would give life to the process.

(Macro Dubplates Vols. 1 & 2 are available as free downloads from

SOME STUFFS: Groundation on tour to honor reggae music in sound and spirit

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They call themselves Groundation, and they are a reggae band from California who offer “roots music for the 21st century”. They’ve released a number of albums over the years and have played around the world. The group are currently on tour doing a tribute to Bob Marley and are about to perform in Hawai’i for the first time.

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They are heading to Lahaina on Maui for a show at the Hard Rock Cafe on February 18th (21 and over), and then fly to O’ahu for a show at the Pipeline Cafe in Honolulu on the 19th (18 and over). The Honolulu show will have Dubkonscious, featuring Paula Fuga, opening up for them. Tickets for the Honolulu show can be pre-ordered through Dynamic Clothing.

For other dates on the Bob Marley tribute tour, head over to the Groundation home page.