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Interview: Chris O’Brien, Yellowman Reggae Anthology Compiler

Interview: Chris O’Brien, Yellowman Reggae Anthology Compiler

Interview: Chris O’Brien, Yellowman Reggae Anthology Compiler

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"I'm pleased we weren't limited to just three tracks it was hard enough to stop at forty!"

Sampler

In This Is Reggae Music: The Story of Jamaican Music, author Lloyd Bradley accurately sums up how a recording artist like King Yellowman couldn’t have originated from anywhere but JA: “Nowhere else in the entire world could a six-foot plus albino black man survive a childhood spent in orphanages as a virtual outcast, start boasting about how attractive he was to women and become a reggae phenomenon.” Moreover, Yellowman, born Winston Foster, has outlasted the majority of peers in the entertainment world. At age 57, having beaten back cancer via surgery that has left him permanently disfigured, the King remains active and upbeat.

Yellowman - Young, Gifted and YellowFitting, then, that his key work from the 1980s should be reexamined and expanded on, which is what Reggae Anthology: Young, Gifted and Yellow does thoroughly. Over 40 tracks and a DVD with live footage from 1988’s Reggae Sunsplash, the set showcases what Yellowman perfected: riding a riddim–driving it really–with a jovial wit, sharp social perspectives and plenty of bawdy boasts. Gems like “Operation Radication,” on a cut of the Itals “In Dis Ya Time,” the duet “The Girl Is Mine” with Peter Metro or the other crucial collaborations with Fathead and Sister Nancy make this as complete a collection as has ever been assembled.

All the best Junjo Lawes-produced Channel One-era cuts are here, with Scientist on the mixing board and Roots Radics as the house band, but the anthology also showcases Yellowman’s recordings with different producers and diverse collaborators over multiple decades. Sure, it still includes “Blueberry Hill,” a cover some find unlistenable, but it is the only dud among a mountain of gold. Yellow-gold that is. The following is a short conversation with the compiler of this selection, VP Records’ Chris O’Brien.

There have been other Yellowman compilations, what sets this anthology apart from previous collections?

Stretching out to a 40 track two-CD set gave us the freedom to represent Yellowman as never before. Many of those past compilations have stuck to one producer (Black Scorpio) or one label (RAS) Young, Gifted & Yellow is unchallenged as a complete overview of King Yellowman at his peak, and of course it uniquely backs it up with DVD evidence. 

These tracks demonstrate Yellowman’s mastery of riding a riddim. What song is your favorite example of this technique?

“Galong Galong Galong” would be a good example, but there would be many others. His sound system apprenticeship set him up well as the real ram jam master.

There are quite a few tracks I've only heard on 7" 45s. Was it a goal to present more rare tracks?

The goal was to present the best. Some have never previously made it to album before and we are very happy to make these classic rare sides more freely available.

We also hear amazing combination tracks, with Fathead, Sister Nancy, and Peter Metro etc. Why did you decide to include these duets?

Fathead is a major part of the story. Together they brought in some of Yellowman’s biggest hits. Combinations like ‘King & Queen’ with Sister Nancy and ‘The Girl is Mine’ also deservedly remain extremely popular.

Of course there are plenty of Junjo Lawes’ Channel One productions on this comp, but who are some of the other contributing featured producers of the backing tracks?

While his most accomplished and consistent studio work was with Junjo, without the hits laid down for Joseph Hookim, Lloyd Campbell, George Phang, Joe Gibbs, Sly & Robbie and others we would not be telling the full story.

The political content is often subtle and masked honor, like on "Soldier Take Over" or "Gregory Free."  What do you think of Yelloman's social commentary?

YellowmanYellowman’s lyrics are drawn from his life experiences, as an albino orphan in Jamaica. Not many have had it harder and that has giving him a unique take life’s struggles.

Several songs are intentionally sequenced next to each other, like "Mr. Chin" and "Mr. Wong," or "Getting Married” and "Getting Divorced." Tell us a little more about the track ordering and sequencing process.

It would make no sense any other way, we sequence them to make what we hope is the best listing experience and glad you approve

What do you think fans will learn by listening to all these tracks again in 2013?

While he is still touring and putting on a fantastic live show, there is a tendency to forget how important Yellowman was. Hopefully these 40 classic tracks serve as a reminder as in his prime reggae had no bigger superstar.

Now for the hard question: Name your three favorite tracks on the comp, and tell us why you like them?

Today it’s “Mad Over Me,” “Lost Mi Love,” “Galong Galong Galong.” Yellowman rides these rhythms to perfection with great humor and lyrical aplomb, but truthfully I’m pleased we weren’t limited to just three tracks it was hard enough to stop at forty!

Anything else you'd like to say about this anthology?

Who can make the dance ram? Yellowman can!

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Posted by Bellyman on 06.12.2013
Absolutely amazing compilation! Contains all original hits from 7" and 12". The most essential Yellowman you can have, ever! Don't even think about that you might know all the tracks. 37 out of 40 are dancehall's finest ever (we will forgive for the last three).
Thank you for you first real historical record, VP.

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