“Wake the Town”

and tell the people about these U-Roy records

A couple of days ago, I chided NPR's “Here and Now” program for choosing a less-than-stellar record to excerpt in their U-Roy obituary. After hearing the piece, I compiled a short list of U-Roy recordings from my collection that, in my humble opionion, would have been better examples of his work. And certainly worth listening to even if you're not producing an on-air tribute to the deejay originator.

“Wake the Town”
This is one of the trio of singles that launched U-Roy's career (the others are “Rule the Nation” and “Wear You to the Ball”). U-Roy's introduces the record thus: “Wake the town and tell the people about this musical disc coming your way!” Which is how he might have introduced it live at a sound system performance, telling the crowd what's coming next. But here, the introduction is the what's coming next because it's the name of the disc. The artform is nothing if not self-aware. The rhythm is a version mix of Alton Ellis' “Girl I've Got a Date.”
“The Hudson Affair”
No need for a dub mix. The backing track is the standard a-side mix of the intrumental “Riot.” Players of instruments are the Soul Syndicate, producer is Keith Hudson.
“Number One In the World”
U-Roy delivers a great boast over a killer rhythm from producer Glen Brown. The reverb-drenched drum-only introduction is alone worth the price of admission.

“King Tubby's Special”
A tribute to King Tubby, whose innovative dub mixes helped lauch U-Roy's recording career. The producer is Bunny Lee, the rhythm a synthesizer version of Gregory Isaacs' “Don't Believe In Him,” itself a cover of Delano Stewart. There's a different cut on this rhythm by U-Roy, with different lyrics and no synth, titled “King Tubby's Skank.”
“On Top of the Peak”
Another boastful lyric on another killer rhythm, a horn version of Eric Donaldson's “Lonely Nights.” Produced by Alvin “GG” Ranglin.
“Dynamic Fashion Way”
After name checking saxophonist Val Bennett and “the great producer K[eith] Hudson,” U-Roy observes “studio kinda real cloudy like I say” before informing the listener that this is the third version of “Old Fashion Way.” Strange, because this is reportedly the first ever deejay record. So what is the second version of “Old Fashion Way”? And while we can clearly hear elements of the Ken Boothe original, Hudson overdubbed a new bass line before voicing the deejay. So the purist might complain that that disqualifies it from being truly a deejay/version record.
“Hard Feeling”
There's a really innovative drum pattern opening this record. I had this for some time before I realized it's a version of Paul Simon's “Cecilia.”

“The Higher the Mountain”
A version of Errol Dunkley's “Baby I Love You” and a contender for best U-Roy record ever, introduced by a classic deejay lyric: “The higher the mountain The cooler the breeze The warmer the couple (as I would tell it you, good gosh!) The tighter the squeeze”
“You Keep On Running”
This is credited to Delroy and U-Roy on the label. “Delroy” is Delroy Wilson. I've seen Coxsone Dodd miscredited as the producer but he was not involved, nor is this a version of Wilson's “Run Run,” which Dodd did produce.
“Joyful Locks”
A celebratory outing on Linval Thompson's rasta anthem “Don't Cut Off Your Dreadlocks.” U-Roy incorporates Psalm 68 into his lyrics. Produced by Bunny Lee.
“Jump For Joy”
Another Bunny Lee production. The intro has a wonderfully echoed excerpt of Johnny Clarke, over which U-Roy exclaims, “shake your festival.” Was this intended for Jamaica's annual song festival contest?
“Festival Wise”
U-Roy expertly rides Eric Donaldson's “Blue Boot” for perhaps another festival song entry? Donaldson's lyrics are inscrutable, so it's hard to say.
“Wet Vision”
A fantastic cut produced by Bunny Lee, using a synthesizer version of Max Romeo's ribald “Wet Dream.” This record is also known as “Wet Version.” Romeo's original was a hit record despite (or because) it was banned for suggestive lyrics.

“Rightful Ruler”
Ok, this was included in the “Here and Now” piece, but I'm adding it to this list anyways because it's such a great cut. “Rightful Ruler” is a 1969 collaboration with Peter Tosh, who introduces the record with a prayer in Amharic and English. Then U-Roy takes over, reading from Psalm 1 while Tosh shouts “Jah! Rastafari!” in the background. The music includes a brief acoustic excerpt spliced with a version of the Reggae Boys' “Selassie.” It's an unusual record for any artist in the late 60s, certainly for U-Roy, whose early lyrics were mostly dancehall inspired boasts and chats.
“Rightful Ruler” (extract)
“Love I Tender”
From the Duke Reid organization, and specifically Byron Smith, Reid's sound engineer and the producer for this cut. The rhythm track is the Ethiopians' “Mother's Tender Care.” On the intro, U-Roy shouts, “wow wee papa girl!” I've always wondered if that lyric inspired the name for hip-hop/raggamuffin/dancehall artists Wee Papa Girls. Wikipedia says their name comes from the French expression oui papa, but what does Wikipedia know?


If you want to know where to get these tracks — which album or compilation — or have any other questions, get in touch. My email is at the bottom of the page.