| 2023 | EU | Original
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2023 / EU – Original
Reggae & Dancehall
shipping from 2023-12-15
a Sino/Japanese twist.
In the early 1960s Justin Yap and his brother Ivan [aka ‘Jahu’] ran the Top Deck sound system from their family’s ice cream parlour and restaurant in Barbican, Kingston. The local success of the sound system encouraged them to venture into the recording business, and by 1962 Justin had recorded singers Larry Marshall, Ephraim ‘Joe’ Henry and Ferdie Nelson. The fledgling label enjoyed a modest local Jamaican hit in 1963, with trumpeter Baba Brooks and the Trenton Spence Orchestra's “Distant Drums” issued on Top Deck Records as the b-side to Larry Marshall’s hit “Too Young To Love”. As a fan of exotica composer Martin Denny, Justin had heard “Jungle Drums” on Denny’s 1959 LP “Afro-Desia”. His liking for Martin Denny would prove fruitful later, when Justin recorded the Skatalites in a mammoth all-night session in 1964 at Clement Dodd’s Studio One on Brentford Road.
By 1963-1964, hundreds of ska tracks were being recorded by Clement Dodd, Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid, Vincent Edwards, Vincent Chin, Leslie Kong and Prince Buster and others. Justin had linked up with Allen ‘Bim Bim’ Scott, a friend of Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd, owner of the Studio One label who had already recorded the musicians who became the Skatalites.
Justin and Ivan organised a session in November 1964 at Studio One; it lasted 18 hours. The length of the session allowed for alternate takes to be recorded, but the highlights of the sessions were the five original compositions by Don Drummond – “Marcus Junior”, “The Reburial”, “Confucious”, “Chinatown” and “Smiling”. The first two are in tribute to the Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey; “The Reburial” refers to the occasion of his interment in Jamaica in 1964, his remains having been brought from the cemetery in Kensal Green London, where he was originally buried in 1940, and reburied in King George VI Memorial Park Kingston [later renamed National Heroes Park].
Along with these originals were some well-chosen cover versions. Two came from the Duke Ellington songbook: “Ska-Ra-Van” is of course Ellington and his trombonist Juan Tizol’s classic composition “Caravan”, while “Surftide Seven” is Ellington’s “In A Mellotone”. The LP title track “Ska-Boo-Da-Ba” is a version of Bill Doggett’s 1958 “King” US 45 “Boo-Da-Ba”. “Ringo” had also appeared on Arthur Lyman’s “Taboo” LP  as “Ringo Oiwake”. Originally it was sung by Hibari Misora – a very famous vocal song in Japan, recorded in 1952, the melody composed by Masao Yoneyama. Yet another tune copped from Lyman’s “Taboo” LP is “China Clipper”, composed by the pianist / arranger / orchestrator Paul Conrad.
The last track on this fine LP is “Lawless Street”, a feature for Roland Alphonso. Unlike the other Skatalites, Roland wasn’t a graduate of the celebrated Alpha School, like many of Jamaica’s top musicians from Bertie King to Yellowman. Alphonso was a graduate of Boys Town School in Denham Town. “Lawless Street” was another tune that was recorded twice at the session – the second version features vocal ‘peps’ and exhortations by DJ King Sporty.
By late 1966, Justin emigrated to the USA, settling permanently in New York. There he took up US citizenship and was called up to serve in the US Army in Vietnam, In the early 1970s he worked in computers and eventually drove a New York cab. In his all too brief involvement in the competitive Jamaican music business he certainly left his mark as a producer. He produced some of the best ska ever made, and the LP reissued here is perhaps the most coherent LP in that genre, deriving as it does from a single session.
The celebrated record producer at Randy’s Studio, Clive Chin:
“It wasn’t the fact that they [the musicians] really love Justin; it was the fact that Justin used to pay them the right money and make them comfortable. Make sure them have them smoke, them food, them drink, and after them finish they got paid.” Unlike many other producers, Justin actually attended the sessions.
It stands as his defining legacy in Jamaican music history.