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Jah Thomas' 12 Rulers

Jah Thomas' 12 Rulers

Jah Thomas' 12 Rulers

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After Henry 'Junjo' Lawes and Gussie Clarke, Greensleeves now focuses on the production talents of Jamaican deejay and producer Jah Thomas.


For their third 12 Inch Rulers release Greensleeves have given deejay turned producer Jah Thomas the extended disco treatment. Thomas cut his debut album Stop Yuh Loafin on Greensleeves but this set concentrates mainly on his work behind the desk for his own label Midnight Rock. The songs are all backed by the redoubtable Roots Radics, recorded at Channel One and feature a good range of turn-of-the-eighties vocal talent.

The first offering is ‘Entertainment’, a nice uplifting track calling for relaxed dancehall vibes over the Heavenless rhythm, sung by the honey-voiced Tristan Palma and followed up by a double header from Toyan and Thomas himself. A burst of distorted lead guitar (unusual for a production from this era) announces second tune ‘Ghetto Dance’ : a thumb in the eye for many European reggae fans raised on the story of Chris Blackwell’s embellishments to Catch A Fire - who refuse to believe Jamaicans don’t necessarily share their “anti-rockist” principles. It has a hypnotic vocal from Michael Palmer and a chorus that bridges the simplistic dichotomy between “hedonistic” and “conscious” reggae (“Ghetto Dance, Ghetto Dance, Babylon give us a chance”) in addition to a suitably diverse chant from Jim Brown, where he bubbles, hypes, shares his soundman experiences and talks culture in equal measure. Palmer returns later for more “dancehall reality” with poor man’s rave anthem ‘I’m Still Dancing’.

It’s quite possible to play the cult online game of “six degrees of separation” with Greensleeves reissues and collections. Just about every cd shares at least one song with another that came before. This time we have Billy Boyo’s ‘Scandal’ (from DJ Clash 3 The Hard Way) and Palma’s ‘Joker Smoker’ 12 inch mix (a bonus track on his album of the same name). The extended Joker has some extra horn stabs added to its familiar mocking brass motif and guitar refrain, but we also get a full length deejay cut over minimal backing from Papa Bruce straight after.

The long version of Anthony Johnson’s well loved ‘Gunshot’ makes a welcome appearance - with gritty turns from Toyan and Thomas bringing up the rear and some pleasingly dissonant piano - then Little John & Toyan ride a ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ relick for ‘Jah Guide I’. Little John takes the Sylford Walker route of singing neither in time nor in tune but sounding great nonetheless, before Toyan brings stability to the track with some musings on his women of choice.

This is another fine little compilation from Greensleeves, as they continue to educate a new generation of non-vinyl-buying reggae lovers about the early days of the dancehall. With their spotlight on Thomas, an underrated writer, producer and hitmaker, the 12 Inch Rulers series is shaping up very nicely indeed.

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