Thursday, January 17, 2008

Joe Gibbs - Reggae Christmas

This was a Christmas gift from my about to turn four year old daughter Josie (purchased with her mom's help). I don't think she's ever heard any reggae before in her life but she's a HUGE fan of The Backyardigans and they've sampled every musical genre under the sun so...

By the way, this isn't THAT Joe Gibbs (Hall of Fame football coach, NASCAR car owner). This Joe Gibbs was working in a music store in Jamaica back in the late 1960s who decided to become a record producer. Working with groups in the back of his music store, he soon began signing artists to his successful label and became an authentic music mogul.

Throughout the 1970s, his empire expanded. He set up a new studio, started three new record labels (Jogib, Shock, and Pressure Beat), and was everywhere on the reggae scene and helped record many of the top artists of the day.

This album was originally recorded in 1979 under the title "The Joe Gibbs Family Wishes You A Merry Rockers Christmas". It features many of his family of artists on the lone eight tracks (barely 45 minutes total). However, there's more great sounds and reggae Christmas fun here to power two FULL reggae albums!

The first track is entitled "Medley: Joy To The World / We Wish You A Merry Christmas" that lasts nearly eleven minutes. I was pleased to find snatches of "Deck The Halls", "O Holy Night", "O Come All Ye Faithful", "Jingle Bells", "Hark! The Herald The Angels Sing", "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", and "The First Noel" sung throughout! They never broke stride once... amazing!

Track two was a fun version of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" followed by "We Three Kings" that has a great (dare I say it) funk feel to it. "Deck The Halls" is the fourth track and the shortest song on the album (it sounds like they upped the speed on the recorder!).

"Winter Wonderland" is track five and features Beres Hammond, whose voice cuts through the reggae beat and catches your attention. Not to be outdone is Horace Andy who is featured on "O Little Town Of Bethlehem" (track six) and does an amazing job.

The seventh track is "Let X-Mas Catch You On A Good Mood", the lone original song on the album and, by far, the standout track of the album. It's a great mix of reggae and Christmas. This song will rattle around in your head for quite some time and you won't mind one bit!

The album ends with another stellar Christmas medley called "Sleigh Bells Chant / Auld Lang Syne". Hidden inside this medley are great takes of "Jolly Old St. Nicholas", "The Little Drummer Boy", "O Holy Night", "The Christmas Song", "I Saw Three Ships" (WOW!), "Caroling, Caroling" (DOUBLE WOW!), and "Silent Night".

That's the amazing thing about reggae - its simplicity allows you to adapt and expand any song into its pulsing, bouncy beat. This is a Christmas album anyone can listen to anytime of the year that doesn't have the total sound of a Christmas album!

Years before this release, Joe Gibbs had J.C. Lodge record a cover of a Charley Pride tune called "Someone Loves You Honey" that became a HUGE international smash hit. Unfortunately, Gibbs never paid a single dime in royalties to Pride, who sued Gibbs and, after a lengthy legal fiasco, won a massive settlement.

Gibbs was unable to pay and called it a career. Shortly before he closed up shop, this album was re-released in 1982 as "Reggae Christmas". Many copies of this re-release LP have been floating around eBay - seldom have I seen a copy of the original 1979 version.

Back in 1993, Gibbs began reissuing much of his music catalog on the "Rocky One" label (started by his son Carl) and dabbling in new recordings. Teaming up with VP Reggae, Gibbs has launched a new label - 17 North Parade (the music store address) and is continuing to reissue more catalog releases.

Thanks for the Christmas present, Josie!


No comments: