Sunday, 7 June 2015

“Young, Gifted and Black – The Story Of Trojan Records” by Michael de Koningh and Laurence Cane-Honeysett (2003 Sanctuary Books) - A Review by Mark Barry

Amazon UK Link Above - Amazon USA Link Below

“…Lively Up Yourself…”

I've contributed large numbers of entries to the UK's "Record Collector Price Guide” (and on several occasions too) and have worked in the rare record mail-order business for 'too' many years. Why do I say all this - because I can tell you that its REGGAE MUSIC - and especially information about it 7" singles - that is so scarce, hard-to-find and problematic. 

Details are always sketchy. Sure, most of the Island Records and later Virgin Label Reggae stuff is now listed and documented, but you go off-the-beaten track a little bit and it's a whole different ballgame. Usually produced on a shoestring, pressed up as one-off pressings, then sold off vans to shops in the city that specialized in it...much of it never charted in the pop charts and is therefore something of a mystery. I've found that hard info about reggae (LPs or 7"s) is in the mitts of a handful of dedicated collectors and dedicated shop sources (like the now sadly defunct and brilliant "Daddy Kool" in Berwick Street in London) and the general public never gets a shoe in on what's what. Which is why this book is such an absolute sensation. 

After the main story of Trojan Records itself (which is a fantastic read) - Pages 119 to 156 give you all the supplementary stuff - Lists of R and B, Motown and Pop Covers that the label did, Musicland & Muzic City shops stocking Trojan from their incorporation in 1963 to their closure in 1976, pages of detailed Suggested Listening, then Suggested Reading, the Sources used to compile it all and Profiles of all the labels under the Trojan umbrella. But then - wait for it - there’s a discography that takes up much of the book stretching from Page 157 to 305. The detail and accuracy is astonishing and in many cases - first time info into the public domain. 

A nice touch also is that there’s a set of 16 full-sized colour plates inset at the centre - photos of Bob & Marcia from 1970 (the hit and title of the book - “Young, Gifted and Black”), trade adverts for Symarip’s “Skinhead Moonstomp” and Judge Dread’s “Big 8”, a cool-looking Toots and The Maytals standing by the railings as they contemplate “Funy Kingston”, an LP advert from December 1971 for a whole range of releases, publicity photos of Bob Andy, John Holt, The Dynamites (Clancy Eccles’ studio band) as well as several label bags and 7” single variations. 

It should also be noted that while the TROJAN name and label is well known, its subsidiary labels are not. The discography includes both singles & LPs of the following labels for the first time: 
Amalgamated, Attack, Big, Big Shot, Black Swan, Blue Cat, Bread, Clandisc, Doctor Bird, Down Town, Duke, Duke Reid, Dynamic, Explosion, Gayfeet, GC, GPW, Grape, Green Door, Harry J, High Note, Horse, Hot Rod, Jackpot, J-Dan, Joe, JJ, Jump-Up, Moodisc, Pressure Beat, Pyramid, Q, Randy's, Smash, Song Bird, Spinning Wheel, Summit, Techniques, Treasure Isle, Trojan and Upsetter. Wow!

As if this isn't good enough, there's a superlative 12-track CD attached to the inside of the front sleeve with both rare and well known Trojan titles - its track list is:
1. Everything Crash by The Ethiopians, 1968 UK 7" single on JJ Records DB 1169
2. Pressure Drop by The Maytals, 1969 UK 7" single on Trojan Records TR 7709
3. Poor Rameses by The Pioneers, 1969 UK 7" single on Trojan Records TR 698 
4. Mr. Midnight (Skookiaan) by Clancy Eccles & The Dynamites, 1969 UK 7" single on Clandisc CLAN 200
5. Shocks Of Mighty by Dave Barker & The Upsetters, 1970 UK 7" single on Upsetter US 331
6. Skinhead Revolt by Joe The Boss, 1970 UK 7" single on Joe Records JRS 9
7. Shanghai by Freddie Notes & The Rudies, 1970 UK 7" single on Trojan Records TR 7713
8. You Don't Know by BOB ANDY, 1973 UK 7" single on Green Door Records GD 4060 (Recorded in 1970, released in 1973)
9. Melody Maker by Keith Hudson, 1972 UK 7" single on Summit Records SUM 8541
10. (That's The Way) Nature Planned It by KEN BOOTHE, 1974 UK 7" single on Trojan Records TR 7910 (a cover version of The Four Tops hit)
11. Red, Gold & Green by I-Roy, 1973 UK 7" single on Trojan Records TRLS 63
12. Nice & Easy by Susan Cadogan, 1974 UK 7" single on Trojan Records TR 9028 (a Lee Perry production)

Another really cool touch is that the singles discographies provides ‘both’ the A&B side info and the Producer on almost each entry because that often determines the collectability of a single in the world of Reggae collecting. Each label is presented in rising numerical order with those catalogue numbers that are unreleased, not known about or not yet found - given a NYT entry - not yet traced. 

I can't praise this book enough and its researcher’s extraordinary work. I dragged out my 8 "Tighten Up" album compilations and have been petting them and playing them like a favourite child ever since. 

A sensational book then with a groundbreaking and detailed Discography - I can’t recommend “Young Gifted And Black - The Story Of and Trojan Records” enough (something I'll be dipping into for years to come). Lively up yourself and your musical world by acquiring it…

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