Barrington Levy Bio

The arrival of Barrington Levy also marked a change in Reggae rhythms as the decade turned. Over rhythms that were altogether slower, sparser and that had a far more darker Urban feel, Barrington’s sweet vocals attracted a strongly youth audience.

 

The music was supplied by the 'Roots Radics', who would go on to define early Dancehall music, and whose style was partly driven by the needs to cut costs: hence there's no horns section. Recorded at Channel One and produced by the Dance Hall Don Henry 'Junjo' Laws and New York based Hyman 'Jah Life' Wright, Barrington's debut album 'Shaolin Temple' (Jah Guidance JA) or 'Bounty Hunter' (Jah Life US) was a key statement of the new Dance Hall era.

 

To under line this change the mixing, though carried out at King Tubby's studio, was actually by a young man by the name of Scientist! He would become the last great Jamaican dub-mixer. It was these very rhythms that took him to the top. An album that pitted the mixing of, the then, 'Prince' Jammy against Scientist was released as 'The Big Showdown' (Greensleeves). Its success meant that a follow up soon appeared that also featured Radics/Levy/Scientist. (Scientist: Heavy Weight Dub Champion)

 

The whole vibe of the industry was moving on from the late seventies and it's Roots, Steppers and Rockers music. Fashions were of course also changing and the dapper young Levy was dressed to impress.

 

'Shaolin Temple' included ' Ah Yah We Deh', 'Collie Weed' 'Shine Eye Gal' and 'Looking My Love' which had all sold well both in JA and in the UK on the Burning Sounds imprint. The era also marked the rise of the 12" Disco and several of the tracks are presented in that format. We also feature the DJ cuts that came on these 12" Discos mostly from Jah Thomas, who was on the rise during this period. His straightforward, and simple, Toasting style carried the swing for a few years during the early Dance Hall period.

 

The rest of the tracks that grace this set are from the 'Get Ready' album that Levy recorded for Alvin 'GG' Ranglin in 1983 and show just how effortlessly Levy could lay down a top vocal performance over whatever rhythm he was presented with. His themes remain similar with both 'Loving your Brother man' and 'Jah' still very much part of his lexicon. The last track 'Young Free & Single' shows how Barrington was not afraid to cover mainstream Lovers hits and make them his own.

 

The usual avalanche of recordings looked set to drown the talented Levy until he developed a new production relationship. Junjo Laws went on to lead a career that reflected Reggae's darker side: He was to spend much of the nineties in Jail on drug charges and after his release he was shot dead in London on the notorious Stone Bridge Estate. Infact his shooting was one of a series of crimes that led the Metropolitan Police Force to set up a special 'Black on Black' gun crime unit.

 

Barrington Levy hooked up with Jah Screw and his career started to look like crossing over. In 1984 Under Mi Sensi became a massive club hit in the UK's urban centres. The follow up Here I Come took off in Soul Clubs and even saw some mainstream UK chart action. The music that Levy was releasing marked a new phase for crossover Reggae and he for some time everything looked bright. For a while his music could be heard across London: from cars, out of open windows, on the radio and of course at good dances everywhere. As so often happens in the Reggae world he lost his hard-core following and the mainstream crowd was, of course, looking for the next new thing! But once again Barrington came back to the mainstream with a successful album for Island in the early 1990's. In the middle of the nineties he revisited some of his greatest tracks with the aide of the cream of current DJ's. Living Dangerously becoming a hit in it's own right.

 

Barrington's career was based on his fabulous voice and his ability to deliver a great tune. The subject matter tended to reflect the more inward and parochial nature of Dance Hall music. Gone were much of the Rasta beliefs and language, though Jah still made appearances in the songs. The music went back to its source and its audience was once again predominately Black, as much of the music alienated the white middle class followers of Reggae.

 

JEREMY COLLINGWOOD