Sister nancy
Sister Nancy: Bam Bam
Roof Over Me Head
Only Woman D.J. With Degree
From One Two (Techniques, 1982)

There’s a new record store in my neighborhood, Strictly Grooves, and I couldn’t be more excited since it’s the kind of used store that’s right up my alley: strong soul, Latin, jazz, etc. representation. I’ve been picking up a slew of stuff there on just my first two trips, including this Sister Nancy LP. This is the origin of “Bam Bam,” by far, her best known song/single and arguably one of the few dancehall songs that hip-hop fans will know, if any. I wanted to know a little more about how this song got so big and when I posed it to the Soulstrut cloud, I got this back from AKallDay:

“i was a teenaged intern at Profile records in 1994 and we had a dancehall division and Bam Bam was on several of the compilations which were heavily pushed at the time, alongside cutty ranks, super cat, shabba ranks etc.”

So clearly on a wider radar back in the early 1990s and once folks began sampling it, that only served to increase its radar (but arguably, it was already “out there” even before that).

The album features a rather lengthy bio on the back, noting that she was one of fifteen children, including her older brother, DJ Brigadeer [sic] Jerry who she credits as being the inspiration for her own entry into the scene. I was also struck about how the bio highlights her education in Industrial Training: “if she has the opportunity to go to America or England, she will finisher her automobile mechanic training.”1 Perhaps that why the album also includes the highly specific boast: “Only Woman D.J. With Degree.” Big bout yah, Sister.

I also included “Roof Over Me Head” because it’s done over one of my favorite riddims: “Gonna Fight” by the Heptones.2

  1. One of the hits off this LP was, of course, “Transport Connection“.
  2. And “Bam Bam” was over Winston Riley’s “Stalag” riddim; he produces Sister Nancy’s LP.


Roots Underground: High Times
Makka Root
From Tribesman Assault (City Line, 1977)

It may seem ironic for someone nicknamed “O-Dub” but this is one of the first dub albums I’ve actually acquired. For whatever reason, despite my deep appreciation for Jamaican music and a particular love for rocksteady, I never really “got” dub. On paper, it doesn’t make sense why I wouldn’t be all up into it: deep basslines, atmospheric effects, stripped down rhythms. I can’t really explain it and maybe I simply decided, years ago, “I don’t get dub” and left it there. It’s probably time for a reevaluation.

One shouldn’t judge a record by its name and cover but let’s see: the group is called Roots Underground. The album, Tribesman Assault. There’s a song on here called “Disco Reggae Rocker” and one called “Shotgun Skank.” Seriously, how was this going to be anything but amazing?

Might as well just start with A1, “High Times,” which should be played at high volumes, preferably in a residential neighborhood. Deep dub meets one of the heaviest breakbeats I’ve ever heard, plus those ill fills. It’s good stuff, no doubt, but to be honest, the song that hooked me into trading for this LP was the next song.

I am a straight up sucker with this kind of bright, rocksteady rhythm, especially with the interplay between the rhythm guitar and the piano. I love the groove on here; so cheery but with a twitchy rhythm anchoring the whole affair. These two are my clear favorites but the rest of the album isn’t slacking; incredibly, consistently great tracks. Very dangerous stuff as now I”m suddenly curious about the rest of the Wackies catalog from this era.


Stranger Cole: Crying Every NIght
From 7″ (Treasure Isle, 1969/1970). Also on Bangarang.

U-Roy and Hopeton Lewis: Tom Drunk
From 7″ (Trojan, 1970). Also on Your Ace From Space.

The thing I love about being totally underinformed when it comes to riddims is discovering both re-uses of certain riddims, or in this case, the originating riddim. I got turned onto “Tom Drunk” because of Reflection Eternal and certainly, if there’s any song that’s associated with this riddim, it’s the U-Roy single. Huge hit, big deal for him at that point in his career.

But it wasn’t until years later (10+!) that I realized, “oh, that was someone else’s riddim?” And as it turns out, it seems to have originated first with Stranger Cole and his cover of “These Eyes (aka Crying Every Night)”. Awesome OG, love the use of female back-up singers, and, of course, the production is incredible (Duke Reid I presume?)

There’s a few other tunes with the same riddim, including instrumental versions by Herman Marquis and Tommy McCook.


There are other songs that could have made this list but I really went with those songs that, at the end of the year, I still enjoyed as much as when I first heard ’em. Interesting trends I noticed in my listening taste as a result of putting this playlist together: gospel was obviously big for me this year, reggae was not, and despite a wealth of Latin, only a few songs really stayed with me. As always, soul was huge but not so much funk. Jazz was totally shut out. We’ll have to see what 2011 brings…

2010 MIX (RS)

Little Ann: Deep Shadows
Tammy Montgomery: Sinner’s Devotion (From Come On And See Me: The Complete Solo Collection)
The Five Stairsteps: Danger, She’s a Stranger
Mayer Hawthorne: I Need You (From 12″)
Al Sharp: Gentle Is My Love
Carlton & The Shoes: Never Give Your Heart Away (From Love Me Forever)
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings: Better Things To Do (From I Learned The Hard Way)
Lord Echo: Thinking Of You (From Melodies)
Quantic y Conjunto: Dre en Cumbia
Trio Servando Diaz: El Viejito Cañandonga
Los Exciters: Morning
Ralph Thamar Featuring Mario Canonge: Siboney
Lee Moses: Got That Will
T.N.T. Band: Making Tracks (From Making Tracks)
Las 4 Monedas: Buena Suerte
Akwid: Esto Es Pa Mis Paisas [Explicit] (From Clasificado R)
Betty Moorer: Speed Up
Sugar Pie DeSanto: I Don’t Wanna Fuss
The Inspirational Gospel Singers: The Same Thing It Took (From Good God! Born Again Funk)
Numonics: You Lied (From Groove Merchant Turns 20)
Lou Bond: Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards (From Lou Bond)
Chicano Batman: Itotiani (From Chicano Batman)
Donnie and Joe Emerson: Baby
Kanye West: Devil In A New Dress (From My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy)
T.L. Barrett & Youth For Christ Choir: Like A Ship (From Like a Ship)
Marius Cultier: Nathalie
Erykah Badu: Out My Mind, Just In Time (Part 1) (From New Amerykah Part Two (Return Of The Ankh))
The Gospel Hummingbirds: Trouble Don’t Last Always


Back in August, me and Rani D put together two different summer songs themed sets right towards the end of the season. Devil’s PIe now has ’em available for download. Here’s the tracklisting:

1. Heatwave “Star Of The Story”
2. Smif N’ Wessun “Ain’t Nothing More But the $”
3. Erykah Badu “Fall In Love”
4. Stro “BTL”
5. Fat Joe “Slow Down”
6. Gary Wright “Love Is Alive”
7. Big City “Love Dance”
8. Organo Bailable “El Preso”
9. TNT Band “Making Tracks”
10. Byron Lee “Soul Ska”
11. Grupo Yoyi “Banana”
12. Skye “Ain’t No Need”
13. Cumbia Moderna De Soledad “Cumbia En Ingles”
14. Billy Stewart “Summertime” (Live)

1. JR Bailey “Just Me n’You”
2. Tommy & the Shondells “Crystal Blue Persuasion”
3. Patti Drew “Tell Him”
4. William Devaughn “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got” (interlude)
5. Donovan Carless “Be Thankful For What You’ve Got”
6. Brent Dowe “Reggae Makossa”
7. Barry Biggs “Love Come Down”
8. Black Harmony “Don’t Let it Go to Your Head”
9. Dennis Brown “Black Magic Woman”
10. Sade “Love is Stronger than Pride” (Mad Professor Remix)
11. Commodores “High on Sunshine”
12. De La Soul “Sunshine”
13. Outkast “Crumblin’ Erb”
14. B.U.M.S. “Free my Mind”
15. Boogiemonsters “Honeydips in Gotham”
16. Bush Babees “S.O.S.”
17. Sergio Mendes “Promessa de Pescador”
18. Os Ipanemas “Jangal”
19. Seu Jorge “Bem Querer”
20. Betinho “Supermanoela”
21. Guem “Topil
22. Giovana “Tatarue”
23. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band “Sunshowers” (Remix)
24. Manu Dibango “Senga”
25. Luciano Perrone “Samba Vocalizado”
26. Jorge Ben “Carolina Carol Bela”
27. Martinho Da Vila “Disritma”



Was watching this:

Which reminded me of a song and in the midst of trying to remember what it was, my friend suggested it was this:

Which is how I discovered this:

But then I finally remembered what I was really thinking of. It wasn’t Blondie. It was this:

(P.S. Apologies for the lack of posts from me; I’m in the midst of an intense writing period and have only surfaced for air at times when I’m completely burnt on MORE writing. C’est la vie!)


Carlton and the Shoes: Love Me Forever
From Love Me Forever (Studio 1, 1978)

Heptones: Heptones Gonna Fight
From On Top (Studio 1, 1968). Also on 22 Golden Hits.

One of my favorite fantasies (not involving Italian actresses of the 1970s) is imagining I had infinite time to learn everything worthwhile there is to know about different kinds of music. It’s flattering that people think I’m remotely an expert in anything; I’m not. I know a little about a lot but only a lot about very little and given the ridiculous expansiveness of music, it’s hard to feel like you’re more than a babe in the woods with anything but a tiny handful of styles.

I’m always reminded of this anytime I listen to Jamaican music. There’s much of it I absolutely adore, especially the rocksteady soul tunes of Alton Ellis, but what I know about reggae, ska, dub, etc. amounts to barely anything. Yet, I wish I knew more. I wish I knew what, besides the two songs above, I absolutely should be up on because frankly, that Carlton and the Shoes’ song (which I discovered by hearing a Prince Jazzbo song over the same riddim) is killing me right now and the Heptones’ “Gonna Fight” is similarly making me wonder how I’ve gone nearly 40 years without having heard any of this earlier. (By the way, I read, perhaps erroneously, that this Heptones song is the riddim that Slick Rick flips for “Hey Young World.” I don’t know if I quite hear that but maybe someone else could shed some light.


The blog, Themes for Young Lovers, recently interviewed me about my songs o’ love, sex and romance. Yeah, it’s true, I had absolutely no music at my own wedding. Like Will Hung, I have no regrets.

As I noted, when asked “Name 3 songs that would be no-brainers to put on a mixtape for that special someone you were trying to woo”…I included nary a soul/R&B song on there. I think part of it is that my favorite soul songs tend to be about breaking up, not making up but taking a quick spin through my library, there are some soul tunes that would easily go onto my “Woo You” mixtape:

The Impressions: Fool For You
From This Is My Country (Curtom, 1968)

First of all, I wouldn’t trust any potential lover who doesn’t like this song. Deal breaker. Second, it’s a powerful song that doesn’t necessarily rain down with “too much/too soon” overtures (the danger of a more powerful ballad). This says “I’m crushed on you but I’m not trying to have our name tattooed in blood on me. Yet.”

Shuggie Otis: Inspiration Information
From Information Inspiration (Epic, 1974)

Just tell him/her, “looking at you makes me feel the same way I do when I listen to this song.” Shameless but highly effective.

Aretha Franklin: You Send Me
From Aretha Now (Atlantic, 1968)

It’s a groovier flip on Sam Cooke’s classic and it’s fun enough without laying it on too thick.

Dennis Brown: Things In Life
From 7″ (Sound Syndicate, 197?). Also on Money In My Pocket.

Because lovers rock never fails. Because the melancholy in this song is deep enough to bond anyone within earshot. Because if your intended recognizes it as “that song from Chungking Express, that’s enough to confirm their exquisite cinematic taste.

Michael Jackson: We’ve Got a Good Thing Going
From The Stripped Mixes (Universal, 2009)

Early MJ is charmingly innocent with just the right touch of grown-up sentiment. And the stripped mix is so irresistibly on point.

So much more I could throw on. Feel free to add your favorite “woo tunes” in the comments.


I’ve had a few individual songs that I’ve been meaning to post up and usually, I wait for some kind of thematic opportunity but I realize this is an inefficient way to go about things and instead, I just took ten of these stragglers, whipped up a quick sequence for them and if you download them in order, you’ll have yourself a half-hour mix.

Paul Kelly: Only Your Love
From 7″ (Dial, 1965)

This single (backed with “Chills & Fevers”) originally came out on Lloyd but turned out to be enough of a hit that Dial picked it up for distribution and, strangely, Atlantic UK also issued it (but not until the late ’70s). My man Brendan first played this for me and while “Chills and Fevers” was the big hit, it was always the flipside ballad that captured my attention. I could be crazy but this definitely sounds influenced by Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” – the arrangements seem remarkably similar though not a copy. But like Cooke, you have this impassioned delivery and the kind of deep, deep soul track I simply can’t get enough of.

Marvin Gaye: It’s Love I Need
From I Heard It Through the Grapevine (Tamla, 1968)

Confession: much as I recognize the greatness that was Marvin, I actually own very few of his albums besides a few anthologies. I basically missed out on buying a lot of classic Motown-era LPs (I’m starting to make up for it though) and it wasn’t until the other month that I finally picked up one of his biggest selling albums of the ’60s, I Heard It Through the Grapevine. Besides the now-ubiquitous title track though, I really liked listening to what some might call the “filler”, LP-only songs because you will always find little gems tucked away. Motown knew what the f— they were doing in that era and even the non-hits sound like potential hits. This track in particular has a nice, funky twang to it, anchored by fatback drums. Reminds me a little of this, an absolute favorite of mine from Tammi Terrell’s catalog.

Great Pride: She’s a Lady
From 7″ (MGM, 1974)

I originally heard this back in 2003 when I got booted on a strange, one-off 12″. Even then, I remember it being some really crazy stuff but I had forgotten about it for years until recently, when I grabbed an OG copy of the 7″. It’s such a fantastically quirky song that mashes up some funky white dude rock, lush orchestral production and crazy psychedelic vocals. Call me crazy but didn’t the moment where the strings and beat come together at :15 remind you of this? Far as I can tell, this was the only release this 7-man band ever put out; pity – I would have loved to hear what an entire LP’s worth of material sounded like from these guys.

The Victors: Magnificent Sanctuary Band
From 7″ (Clarion, 197?)

This cover of Donny Hathaway’s tune retains the opening drum break and a mostly loyal arrangement that isn’t necessarily superior to the OG but it’s a fun listen and nice to have on 7″.

The Detroit City Limits: 98 Cents Plus Tax
From Play 98 Cents Plus Tax and Other Hits (Okeh, 1968)

Ironically, even though this album was mostly covering other people’s hits, as one of the sole original compositions by this short-lived group, “98 Cents Plus Tax” was the group’s biggest hit: a squawking monster of an instrumental cooker that’s been a favorite of DJs for years.

Big City: Love Dance
From 7″ (20th Century, 1974)

This excellent, mid-70s proto-disco jam is a real enigma. If you’ve ever heard “Mud Wind” by the South Side Movement, you’ll notice that “Love Dance” = “Mud Wind” – a minute + vocals. Does that mean Big City is actually South Side Movement? That’s my assumption only because I’ve never seen another Big City single but apparently, this isn’t the first time a tune on Wand ended up being re-released on 20th Century (see The Groove: “Love, It’s Getting Better”).

Juan Diaz: Hit and Run
From Thematic Music (New World, 197?)

This comes from one of the many NY-based New World library music records. New World isn’t anywhere near the level of KPM/DeWolfe library respectability but like most library series, there’s good tracks to be found if you’re willing to sift through. This is one of the better cuts I’ve found on a New World LP – a slick, disco-y instrumental that rides a nice little groove.

Willie West and High Society Brothers: The Devil Gives Me Everything
From 7″ (Timmion, 2009)

Finland’s finest teamed up with legendary NOLA soul man for this single that sort of flew under people’s radars from last year. Whether intentional or not, there’s just something slightly “off” about this deep soul recording but whatever that element is, it works for me.

Myron and E: It’s a Shame
From 7″ (Timmion, 2010)

And staying on the Timmion tip is the latest single from Oakland’s Myron and E who made a strong splash with “Cold Game.” This is their follow-up 7″ and hopefully paves the way for the duo’s long-awaited debut LP with the Soul Investigators. This one’s real catchy (but it’s not a cover of the Spinners’ song in case you were wondering).

Bitty McClean: Tell Me (remix)
From 7″ (Sir Peckings, 2007)

Straight up, McClean’s “Tell Me” and “Walk Away From Love” are two of my favorite reggae songs that I’ve discovered in years. I didn’t even realize “Tell Me” got a remix 7″ treatment but had to cop. This doesn’t change the song dramatically; it basically keeps the original rocksteady arrangement but then remakes it over with some heavy dub elements, basically stripping it down and letting McClean’s vocals echo out.


Banks is the middle man, literally

I’d be remiss in not noting the sad passing of the Dramatics’ Ron Banks. At this point, most of the original founders have all died in the last ten years and I don’t think a single one of them made it 60.

I don’t have a long post to write here – I can’t say I really knew the Dramatics’ catalog as deeply as that of other groups though obviously, I’m up on their big hits. I did find it fascinating that they were a Detroit group yet signed to the star of the South: Stax/Volt. Wonder if Gordy ever got pissed about that though by the early ’70s, he probably had his hands busy with moving Motown to L.A. anyway. In any case, here’s two songs I picked out in memmoriam: one being the Dramatics’ first hit (and one of their most enduring), “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” and I decided to pair that with a killer reggae cover of one of their other songwriting gems, “In the Rain,” done by the Debonaires (thanks to Hua for putting me up on that single).

RIP, Ron.

The Dramatics: Whatcha See is Whatcha Get
From Whatcha See is Whatcha Get (Volt, 1972). Also on The Best Of.

The Debonaires: In the Rain
From 7″ (Tobin, 197?)