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Barry Brown - The Thompson Sound 1979-82

Barry Brown - The Thompson Sound 1979-82

Barry Brown - The Thompson Sound 1979-82

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A singer and producer who could do no wrong at the time.


As the 1970s became the 1980s, roots reggae was in transition towards what would become dancehall. The rhythms of the Roots Radics or Sly and Robbie became heavier and increasingly mechanical. And a new generation of singers arose, whose voices sounded nothing like US soul artists who had once been the bedrock inspiration; whose style owed more to improvising on sound systems than performing on stage in hotels or talent shows. 

One of the greatest and most tune-for-tune consistent of this era was the late Barry Brown. He came up through local sounds in the 70s and got his break singing impressive sides for Bunny Lee. Sadly his life was cut short by a head injury under mysterious circumstances in 2004, underscored by the persisting reports of drug abuse that have followed some of the biggest names of all. 

Barry Brown - The Thompson SoundAn asthma sufferer, Barry Brown’s high, breathy, hypnotic delivery recalled that of a singer who by Barry's rise was making his own transition to producer - Linval Thompson. This compilation of their work together was laid at the turn of the 80s, got a Jamaica only vinyl release from Thompson's label in the 2000s and has now been reissued by Cherry Red subsidiary Hot Milk (who continue both their master purchasing relationship with Linval - that yielded 2013’s Boss Man’s Dub - and with author David Katz who again writes the liner notes here). 

Recorded at Channel One, engineered by Scientist and played by the Roots Radics (with the odd uncredited turn by the Revolutionaries) these 11 vocals with 3 dubs bear Thompson’s slow, scorching, hazy mood with his signature gleaming sheen to the guitars and drums. Like Linval, Barry is more of a vibe creator than a songwriter: his entrancing languid tone works its magic on the most off the cuff reality lyrics. During foreboding Ketch A Fire over the backing to Linval’s Everybody Needs Money he makes a possible reference to the death of Pope Paul VI and improvs on the words to Horace Andy’s Money Money (he had voiced his own cut on Bunny Lee’s rhythm, Politician. Free Dreadlocks finds him calling the names of friends - presumably in the studio for the recording - but it all feels by design. The best known inclusion for 7” collectors is likely to be the bewitchingly romantic Love is Pure – using the same base as Rod Taylor’s Moving Out Ever – which has surfaced under the different name of Spotlight. 

Decent sound quality, enlightening liner notes and a very dependable performance from a singer and producer who could do no wrong at the time maintain Hot Milk’s position as a trusted re-issuer in a less than trusted arena. A worthy companion to 2012’s reissue of Barry Brown’s Right Now by VP.

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