From the Raver vinyl vaults we have a rare Yabby You production featuring Cornell Campbell on the vocal…
From the Raver vinyl vaults we have a rare Yabby You production featuring Cornell Campbell on the vocal…
Check this fascinating feature about Yabby You by our friend David Katz at FactMag.com…
The reggae world is populated by eccentric visionaries, from the shamanic excesses of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to the esoteric quietness of Augustus Pablo.
With Rastafari as their guiding light, such figures and their equally individual peers steered music into unheard directions. And in the pantheon of reggae strangeness, the singer-songwriter and music producer known as Yabby You is perhaps the ultimate outsider. Although he wore long dreadlocks and lived amongst one of the most militant Rastafari communities of the western Kingston ghettos, Yabby was a committed Christian that contested the divinity of Haile Selassie, leading to the ironic sobriquet, ‘Jesus Dread,’ which was first levelled at him as a barbed insult, but later worn as a badge of honour. This double-outcast was responsible for some of the most compelling and individual pieces of roots reggae ever recorded, having worked closely with King Tubby, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the Gladiators, Tommy McCook and members of the Wailers band, fronting the harmony group he called the Prophets during the 70s and 80s. He also helped initiate the careers of several early dancehall innovators, including Trinity, Wayne Wade, Tony Tuff and Michael Prophet, the latter named through his association with Yabby.
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Big up Versionist Radio for highlighting the excellent Yabby You Dread Prophecy box set recently issued by Shanachie. Rare selections from Disc 3 of the set include previously unreleased tracks by Half Pint and Patrick Andy…
Peter Van Arnhem
Here we have a rare interview with Yabby You which appeared in the August 1995 issue of Forward Magazine. Make sure to check the new Yabby You box set from Shanachie titled Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You which will be available for purchase next week. Also, check Jah Raver’s review of the forthcoming release at FDRMX.
The corrupt system exhibits signs of illness indicative of immediate reaction:
Brand new and about-to-be-released tracks from Yabby You, Casper Loma Da Wa, Dub Syndicate feat. U Roy, Rashani, and The Tamlins join righteously riveting music from Rocky Dawuni, Roots Nation, Super Man, Spider Man, Third World feat. Bunny Rugs, Clinton Fearon, Hooligans feat. Pato Banton, Jean “Binta” Breeze, Bob Andy, Elijah Emanuel & The Revelations and many more wonders in this very special Reggae MD Symptomatic radio broadcast boom shot. It’s a scorchin’ 77 minutes of fiery sounds for many healthy doses. Hold tight to your radio receptacle for an audio elixir application to heal the nation.
On February 16, 2015 Shanachie Entertainment will release the long-anticipated ‘Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You’ a three-disc box set in “long” digipak format. The set features the transformational roots reggae music of Vivian Jackson AKA Yabby You – reggae’s enigmatic “Conquering Lion.” The digipak also includes an extensive compilation of essays by people who knew him best along with many previously unreleased photographs. ‘Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You’ is not only an essential introduction to the music of one of reggae’s most revered ‘dread prophets,’ it also includes many rare vinyl singles, alternative mixes, and tracks that have never before been released.
‘Dread Prophecy: The Strange and Wonderful Story of Yabby You’ is filled with the artist’s “lightning, thunder, brimstone and fire” brand of roots reggae – a weighty, atmospheric sound created within the broken and battered walls of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark studio and translated through King Tubby’s 12-channel, custom-built MCI mixing desk. An avid reader of the Holy Bible, Jackson’s lyrics are not as prophetic as they are a dramatic and introspective revelation of prophecies contained within the scripture. However, these lyrics take on a more reverential tone when sung by Jackson, who often uses the same revelatory cadence characteristic of the great nyabinghi chanters like Ras Michael.
WILLI WILLIAMS SITS DOWN FOR AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MIDNIGHT RAVER
The long-awaited Willi Williams/Yabby You project Unification: From Channel One To King Tubbys With Willi Williams And Yabby You was released by Shanachie records on September 30, 2014. However, questions, comments, and suppositions about the project started to bubble in the reggae underground as soon as Shanachie leaked the track list. Weren’t these tracks previously released? Is this track in a different mix? Did Yabby You produce this or that one?
After listening to the album, one thing is sure: This project captures Willi Williams at his finest. The tracks he recorded between and 1977 and 1979 with help and guidance from his friend and fellow musician Yabby You are among the very best songs ever recorded by Williams. What is most striking perhaps, is the fact that the songs produced by Williams himself are every bit as strong as those produced by Yabby You.
I was blessed with the opportunity to sit down with Willi Williams, who has to be the kindest, most well-grounded, and humblest artist I’ve ever spoken with. For a man who is considered by the reggae establishment to be one of the more significant foundation singers to emerge from Studio One, he is unassuming and engaged and incredibly easy to reason with. For all of the struggles he’s had with his music being pirated by liars, thiefs, and criminals, he doesn’t seem bitter or vengeful about it like most would if they were in his shoes.
“I met Yabby You at Federal Records, which is now Tuff Gong. We usually go there to manufacture our records. We had a friendship from day one. He invite me to his place to hear some songs because he want me to see if I could get the songs distributed in Canada. He had King Sounds in the UK so he want me to see about distributing the records in Canada. But I actually became much more than that and I became a member of his group The Prophets. He thought my sound would fit well you know. And there were several people who would be a part of the group from time to time like Alaric Forbes, Tony Tuff. In the band he use the Gladiators as his studio band. And me and Albert Griffiths go way back. I meet him when we play in a bmad with Bobby Kalphat called the Set Takers with Albert on guitar. But Yabby You was well-revered by the artists and musicians and he worked only with the best – Sly and Robbie he worked with and others too you know.”
The UNIFICATION album is comprised of 12 tracks – several produced by Yabby You and the others produced by Williams himself. All tracks are the original mixes and they are presented as they were originally recorded without post-production overdubs. According to Williams, some of these tracks were released in limited fashion as vinyl singles on his own Soul Sides/Drum Street labels or as dub plates for the Jah Love sound system (aka Jah Love Muzik system) in Jamaica.
Several tracks from the album have been included on what Williams alleges are “pirated” records released by the Uptempo and Smugg record labels. The tracks “Children,” “Natty, Natty,” “One Destiny” (as “One Love”), “Righteousness” (as “Jah Righteous Reign”) and “Rock On” were released on a pirated 2002 compilation by Smugg Records titled ONE LOVE. The tracks “One Destiny” (as “One Love”), “Righteousness” (as “Jah Righteous Reign”), and “Natty Natty” were included on the alleged pirated 1984 Barry Brown & Willi Williams album ROOTS & CULTURE.
“The ONE LOVE record is a pirated record. These guys been releasing my records for years and no matter how you try to get to them to let them know that it is not legal they insist on doing it. I send plenty letters from my lawyers and every ‘ting but they are shady. Its a shadowy business but Smugg Records is one of the pirates, they just using that name to sell the records. Especially this new record was pirated by them at whoever is behind this Smugg Records. I even got to one of the guys one time and he was very shadowy and could not tell me how he got it because I have no agreement with them. You know I did some tracks way back with an individual named Steven King out of the UK – him have a label called Uptempo – I did a couple of tracks with him as producer and he went and took my tracks from these sessions along with some others and I suspect that is how they release these pirated records.”
According to Williams he never licensed these tracks for inclusion on any albums released by the Uptempo and Smugg record labels.
The album’s opening track is a heavyweight bluesy rockers tune titled “Rock On.” The track features instrumentation by the legendary Soul Syndicate, with an incomparable percussion performance by “Scully” Sims, searing guitars by Tony Chin, and Scientist on the mix with Williams singing in his “lazy, hazy, but can’t faze me” style:
“Yes I’m moving,
and I’m feeling good,
Feel like skanking,
and you know I could.”
“Yes, this song was released as a single. It was done back in the seventies at Channel One and voiced at King Tubby’s when me and Yabby You were working together. I produced the tune myself. It was released but only very limited because I did not secure any distribution deal at the time. It was a song I did about say 1977. The first place it was ever played was at a Jah Love dance in Jamaica, you know with the 12 Tribes. It was a starry night and everyone was there, even the Wailers with Marley, Third World, myself, Jackie Mittoo (it may have been 1978 instead of 1977 as Bob Marley was living in London in 1977, not returning to Jamaica until April 1978). I just made a dub plate for this sound because me and Yabby You used to do dub plates for them at Jah Love that tune I give to Jah Love Sound on a dubplate you know. That song really moved the crowd that night.”
“Home” is featured here in its original mix. Some may recognize the lyrics from the tune “Sweet Home” which was previously released on a Black Victory 12″ reissued by Dug Out in 2011. The tune features members of The Aggrovators on riddim and Carl Harvey in fine style on guitar. Williams talks about the recording of this song.
“‘Home’ is another song done by myself. It involve Jackie Mittoo, Carl Harvey who worked extensively with Toots and the Maytals later on. At the time we had the original members of the Soul Vendors Joe Isaacs, Brian Atkinson, Jackie Mittoo, Hux Brown, and Vin Gordon. Here we have the riddim section with Joe Isaacs and Brian Atkinson. We record this song in Canada using these musicians from Studio One.”
I asked Williams about the inclusion of tracks on this Willi Williams/Yabby You collaboration project that seemingly have no connection with Yabby You.
“All of these tracks were recorded during a period when myself and Yabby You were working together and recording music together. I help him and he help me and sometimes we even exchange riddims you know. Yes, some of the tracks are not Yabby You productions but he contributed you know. It’s not like he would say ‘change this word change that’ word or change this note, it doesn’t work that way. The musicians in Jamaica are very skillful people. They just want to know the key and the tempo and then they do the rest. It was his livity. His livity was always present in the studio when we record regardless of who produce the track.”
“Daughters of Zion” is roots tune produced for Williams by Yabby You featuring The Gladiators Band. The track was recorded at Channel One and voiced at King Tubby’s circa 1977. The song also appears on the 1995 album JAH WILL (as “Zion Daughters”) released by Williams’ own Drum Street label. “Children” was previously released on the pirated Uptempo and Smugg record labels, albeit in a mix far inferior to the mix featured on UNIFICATION.
“This track was produced by Yabby You and I produce the vocal. From time to time he would come to me if he thought a track suited my style. And this was one of those tracks. It was recorded at Channel One and the vocal at King Tubby’s. Channel One had the space to do these songs by Yabby You. King Tubby’s was just a voicing place and we would get Tubby, or Jammy, or Scientist to do the mix and get the sound we want out of the song.”
“Unification” is classic Willi Williams singing spiritual over the “Rockfort Rock” riddim. This track was previously released as an extended version on a Soul Sounds 12″ and on an Inland label 12″ in 1981 (backed with “Armagideon Man”).
“Natty Natty” AKA “Natty With A Cause” was first recorded for Jah Shaka’s label in the mid-1980s. It also appears on the 1995 Willi Williams album JAH WILL on the Drum Street label.
“I did a song called ‘Rebel With A Cause’ and it was not released at the time so I just change up the lyrics giving it a more Rasta vibe you know.”
“Rally,” which was produced by Sugar Minott for Willi Williams, was initially released as “Come Mek We Rally” on a Black Roots 12″ backed with Yabby You’s “Thirty Pieces of Silver.” It has also been released on previous Willi Williams solo efforts on the Drum Street label.
“Armagideon Man” is probably Williams’ most well-known song produced by Yabby You, first appearing on a Vivian Jackson 7″ circa 1980 and again on many re-pressed 7″ singles. It was also released as a b-side to “Unification” on the Inland record label and has surfaced on several albums released by Williams’ Drum Street label. “Righteousness,” produced by Willi Williams and the Drum Street Crew was initially released as a 12″ on the Soul Sounds and Drum Street labels backed with “Live Good.” It also appears on the unlicensed Uptempo and Smugg albums as “Jah Righteous Reign.”
“Yabby wanted me to do something on this riddim. It was one of his most popular riddims you know ‘King Pharoah.’ He come with the riddim and me write the lyrics.”
While this album will surely stand the test of time as it has since these tracks were first recorded in the late seventies, by no means is it the last we’ve heard from Willi Williams.
“Myself and Bobby Kalphat are working on a melodica album that I hope to release later this year.”
On September 30th, 2014, Shanachie Entertainment will release Unification: From Channel One To King Tubbys With Willi Williams And Yabby You, the long-lost roots reggae treasure so long anticipated.
The album is a collaboration between two of reggae’s most enduring legends, Yabby You and Willi Williams. Recorded at both fabled Channel One studio and King Tubby’s studio, the album utilized a diverse group of top-shelf Jamaican musicians, including Sly & Robbie and the Revolutionaries, Soul Syndicate, The Gladiators, Jackie Mitoo, Bobby Ellis, Cedric “IM” Brooks and Bobby Kalphat.
“Of course everyone knows Willi Williams from ‘Armageddon Time,’” says Shanachie’s Randall Grass, “but he’s produced so much good music that has been under the radar, known only to the deepest roots aficionados, often released only on his own label with limited distribution. This album he produced with Yabby You is truly a “lost classic” that I think ranks with his best work. We hope that releasing it on Shanachie will give him the wider attention he deserves.”
Here is an EXCLUSIVE first listen to the long-awaited album…
1. Rock On
3. Daughters of Zion
6. Armagideon Man
7. Natty Natty
8. One Destiny
11. Free Dem
12. Any Day
Many thanks to MIDNIGHT RAVER’S Peter van Arnhem for sharing this 1984 feature on Willi Williams…
Vivian Jackson AKA “Yabby You” was a man with such unique talent that he continues to make news in reggae circles even today, four years after his death.
It was 1972 when Yabby You gathered Wailers bassist Aston”Family Man” Barrett, drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, and guitarist (and future member of the Wailers) Earl “Chinna” Smith at Lee Perry’s Black Ark to lay down a riddim that would become the foundation of Yabby You and The Prophets’ most enduring anthem. “Jah Vengeance” was voiced at King Tubby’s by The Prophets (Yabby You, Alaric Forbes, Bobby Melody). While some recall Gladiators’ lead singer Albert Griffiths voicing that session as well, Yabby doesn’t address the subject directly in his 1995 interview with David Katz only adding “through me being poor, the man had to look to alternatives. When it was time to record the whole of the persons was like Albert Griffiths….”
Aston “Family Man” Barrett would record many songs backing The Prophets throughout the 1970s. “Run Come Rally” (also laid down at the Black Ark); “Conquering Lion” (credited to Vivian Jackson and the Ralph Brothers and on which Fams plays bass and organ); and the timeless “Love Thy Neighbour” (which is also produced by Fams, then an alternate bass player in Yabby You’s Defenders band which also showcased Robbie Shakespeare when Fams was on tour or in the studio with Bob Marley and the Wailers). He explains:
“[I] use Horsemouth, Chlnna and Family Man. Then Family Man trained Robbie [Shakespeare], and Robbie do that thing named Revolutionary. Whenever me can’t use Family Man me use Robbie.”
(Sly Dunbar and Anthony ‘Benbow’ Creary sat in on drums for Horsey from time to time when he was not available.)
Family Man produced and recorded “Love Thy Neighbour” at Randy’s using Robbie Shakespeare on bass, Carlton Barrett on drums, with Fams taking on rhythm guitar. For the horns arrangement, Fams relied on Vin Gordon’s trombone, Herman Marquis’ clarinets and Dirty Harry’s sax. Interestingly, Fams uses this same riddim for the Wailers’ “Distant Drums.”
As an aside, I love Carly’s drumming on this track, which is my favorite of all of Yabby You’s work. Not being a musician, I am unable to point to the elements of his drumming that really stand out here except to say that when you hear a roll or fill it sounds so perfectly timed and placed that you cannot imagine anyone else having played it any better.
While Family Man is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and Yabby You’s go-to-guy for organ and keys, it is Earl ‘Bagga‘ Walker who is selected to play organ on tunes like “Anti-Christ” and “Warn The Nation,” most likely because Fams was recording in the studio with Bob Marley. It is clear that Yabby You selected Family Man not only for his musical talents but also for his character, which Yabby praises in an interview with John Masouri (for his book Wailin’ Blues: The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers):
“Family Man, when him see that I’m ill, him come every Saturday and cook food and thing. He bring a little bush, buy ganja, but any time him up by Bob Marley and Peter Touch, him stay in the background doing his work, but that is the significance of the tune ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ and Family Man have nuff creativity.”
A review of Yabby You’s DELIVER ME FROM MY ENEMIES which appeared in the December 3, 1977 issue of New Musical Express.
Here is a playlist of Yabby You vinyl transfers from my personal record collection…