In the late summer/early autumn of 1979, Barrington Levy, with the help of his producer Henry Junjo Lawes, and Jah Life, reshaped reggae music to how it is known today.

This kind of fundamental change occurs in the music every five years or so. What took everyone by surprise with this change was its speed. Other eras had been slow stop/start processes. For example, Channel One's domination of the rockers sound took at least a good year to get going, and, during that time, the music could have gone in any number of directions.

So, what caused the music to change so quickly? The only possible answer can be Barrington Levy. If Henry Junjo Lawes had voiced anyone else over those Roots Radics rhythms, at that time, it is unlikely that the effect would have been/ the same.

Barrington gave those rhythms an edge. He was young, only 17 at the time of release of the albums, and seemed to have elements of different vocal styles without having a direct influence. In otherwords, he was original. That originality also came out in his lyrics. He had an interest in all aspects of life. From the cultural implications of ›A Ya We Deh‹ to the more basic observations of the ›Shine Eye Gal‹. Lyrically, he was never content with just simple explanations. If he made a statement about anything, he would usually back it up with a certain amount of detail.

When he did do over a song, he also picked material that was very close to his own. So many young singers end up singing the classics. Instead of that we find a selection, that although still classic, were not over cut. Songs like ›Moonlight Lover‹ and ›Skylarking‹. And even they were recreated into something new using ›The Style‹, which although he didn't invent, he must be credited with being the first to bring it forward in a form that won massive popularity.

The release of ›Bounty Hunter‹ in New York on the Jah Life label, ›Shine Eye Gal‹ in London on Burning Sounds, and ›Shaolin Temple‹ in Kingston on Jah Guidance, really got things off to a very confusing start.

Everyone assumed that they were the same album, more or less. In fact ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ share only one track ›Shine Eye Gal‹. The track listing on the ›Shaolin Temple‹ is unknown to me. So there could be another different selection. Even so with just ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ we have 17 tracks. ›Shine Eye Gal‹ does not give any musician credits, but it would be safe to say that the line up is the same as on the ›Bounty Hunter‹ album. Out of the three, the New York release appeared first, so it's seems the best place to start.

What you get apart from the music with ›Bounty Hunter* is a very thick black and white, very American, cardboard sleeve. It may sound strange, but this alone gives the album not only a special look, but a special feel. It feels heavy and it is heavy.

When you get to the credits on the back of the sleeve, back in 1979, you found yourself looking at the line up of a new band. The Channel One All Stars. Errol ›Flabba‹ Holt on bass, Carlton ›Santa‹ Davis on drums. Eric ›Bingy Bunny‹ Lamont on rhythm guitar, Christopher ›Sky Juice‹ Burt on percussion and Winston ›Jelly Belly‹ Anderson on organ. Other credits include Gladstone Anderson on piano, Bongo Herman on percussion and Scully on zenda.

These last three are well known. Santa is as well, the rest of them minus Winston Anderson and Santa went on to become the Roots Radios. Along with a young engineer, also credited on the album, called Scientist, they were part of the team that not only turned Barrington Levy into a star, but changed reggae music from rockers to dance hall.

The track listing on ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ also had a different mix to them. Very few artists up until that time, would mix together love songs, cultural songs and songs with titles like ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shaolin Temple‹, from the ›Bounty Hunter* album and ›A Ya Ve Deh‹ and ›Christmas Day‹ from ›Shine Eye Gal‹ which was yet another interesting title.

All this confusion, the titles, the line up of the band, the engineering credit to the Scientist, the 3 albums, the two different producer credits Jah Life on the ›Bounty Hunter‹ album and Henry ›Junjo‹ Lawes on ›Shine Eye Gal‹, all created huge interest. It was a marketing man's dream or possibly his worst nightmare, because everyone knew something had just happened, but they weren't quite sure what. In this state of flux, a company well tuned to the reggae market could make some very interesting moves. In the UK, such a company was and is Greensleeves.

They had already done very well for themselves and a certain DJ called Dr Alimantado, by releasing an album ›Best Dressed Chicken In Town‹ to reggae fans who had been waiting for such an album for at least 3 years.

When they released ›Englishman‹, Barrington Levy's new album, they well and truly established themselves as the UK's top reggae label. ›Englishman‹ had the same mixture found on the other albums, and tracks like ›Sister Carol‹, ›Look Youth Man‹ and the title track, gave it the same edge. It was a magnificent set and another big success for all concerned.

The great success of the ›Englishman‹ album was enough for Greensleeves to risk releasing another album from Barrington within a year. ›Robin Hood‹, also produced by Junjo, with the Roots Radics supplying the rhythms, could have been held back. The reason it wasn't, was probably due to another side effect of the incoming dance hall style. All of a sudden it was the fashion to have 2,3 or even 4 albums all released at the same time.

If Greensleeves didn't release the ›Robin Hood‹ album, which is a very good album, someone else would have. The result was that Barrington was over exposed. People simply got fed up with him. In the same way that they were getting fed up with Sugar Minott and Johnny Osbourne. Of all the positive things to come out of the Dance Hall Style, this was a very serious negative thing, and yet from the artist's point of view, it was a case of simple economics. It just wasn't possible to survive by recording one album a year.
By 1981 Barrington was producing himself for the first time. In the UK, JB Music released ›Doh Ray Me‹ which was his first self produced album. Another album in the same style was released in Canada on the Puff label. ›Run Come Ya‹ is a nice album. It's a showcase album, 6 tracks plus dubs, with all the power of the Henry Junjo Lawes productions, which isn't really surprising because it features the Radics, working out at Channel One.

What makes it interesting is that most of the songs sound like alternative takes of songs found on the Junjo albums. The best of them, are ›The Love Of Jah‹ and ›Run Come Ya Man‹. They have a strong dub-plate feel about them, but do not contain the throw-away lyrics now associated with the term. Although encouraging, Barrington was not breaking any new ground with this album. What he needed now was a good boost.

This came with the release of the ›21 Girls Salute‹ album, released in 1982. This was another Jah Life release, only this time the production credit is a true credit in every sense. Produced by Henry ›Junjo‹ Lawes and Hyman ›Papa‹ Wright, mixed by Scientist and featuring the Roots Radics now including Style Scott.

Working together, Junjo and Jah Life successfully update the '79 Dance Hall sound, and give us an even stronger sound. ›River Jordan‹ and ›Mary Long Tongue‹ are the stand out tracks on the album. Barrington sounding fully inspired once again.

The whole vibe of the album, gave Barrington back the respect he fully deserved. At the time, he could have got caught in a downward spiral of indifferent releases. This album stopped that, and Barrington was now into the next phase of his career.

This phase built upon the success of his years with Junjo, without going in a new direction. What he seemed to be doing was concentrating more on his songwriting.

The first album with great emphasis on this. Is ›Teach Me Culture‹ which was produced by Helana. Hall and Barrington, and was released on Delroy Wright's (Papa Life's brother) Live and Learn label. Included on this album, was the great ›One Foot Jo—Jo‹ one of Barrington‹ s best songs. It had been first heard on dub plate on Gemini Sound System tapes in 1980. If it had been released then it would have been a massive hit, as it was, it was just nice to have it available on plastic. The really good news about this album is that all of the other tracks are on a par with or come very close to that tune. Especially interesting is the title track, which was another dub plate favourite. 1983, also saw the release on GG's of the ›Life Style‹ album. Produced and arranged by Alvin Ranglin, this album is a little known but classic set. Alvin Ranglin had a great deal of success in the late seventies with Gregory Isaacs and Lone Ranger, but by the early to mid eighties he seemed to be very low profile.

This alone would account for this album being virtually unknown. A producer's profile can make a lot of difference to an album's acceptance, and yet if people had listened to this album then, it could have made a big difference to Alvin and Barrington. Once again, it confirms Barrington's new songwriting direction. Nine out of the ten tracks on the album were written by him, and all are of a very high standard. The production work on the album is excellent with some fantastic horn work coming from the likes of David Madden, Glen DaCosta and Dean Frazer.

Of all the albums released at this time 83/84, the ›Money Move‹ album for Junjo's big rival at the time, big George Phang, is without doubt the best and most successful.

Included on it are two big hits, the first was ›Suffer The Little Children‹ a powerful cultural/reality tune set over a bouncers rhythm supplied by Sly & Robbie and the Taxi Gang.

And then there was the title track ›Money Move‹, one of Barrington's biggest hits. It had all the elements of a Barrington song, a very topical subject, but with a very serious message. After all the great artistic success of 83/84, which, hopefully, also materialised into financial reward for Barrington, the next few years (really to the present day) saw him slowing down. The quality was still there though, and that is the most important thing.

Around 1984/85, Henry Junjo Lawes released Barrington's ›Prison Oval Rock‹ on the Volcano label in Jamaica. Like all of the Junjo produced albums, it's a special album for a number of reasons. First of all, it's got one of the biggest hits Junjo ever had with Barrington, › Prison Oval Rock‹ , which used the Wailing SoulsFirehouse Rock‹ rhythm to magnificent effect.

Another reason comes with the ›Hammer‹, another great tune that came out around 1983. The most important reason is that it's a great album in every respect. Even then, Junjo was bringing in new ideas, like Prince Psalms, the melodica player, to nice up one or two of the tracks.Not long after the release of this album, Junjo was imprisoned in America. And it was then that Barrington started to work with Paul Love/AKA Jah Screw.

Paul Love had been in the business for years, starting off as a selector for U.Roy's Stur—Gav, then Ray Symbolic. Around that time, he started producing music with his good friend Ranking Joe. The success that their Sharpe Axe label enjoyed, gave Screw enough encouragement to set up his own label, Time.

And so in 1984, Paul Love started laying some rhythms in London, one of them was a version of ›African Beat‹. It was this rhythm that Barrington was to turn into one of his biggest hits ›Under Me Sensi‹ . He followed it with an even bigger hit ›Here I Come‹. Both tunes can be found on the highly successful album ›Here I Come‹. The album and the singles, showed that Barrington, with the right production was more than capable of going mainstream pop.

Ever since then Barrington and Paul have worked really well together. The main reason for this seems to be respect. Each know their trade very well. Their most recent success being a very good example.
Barrington is not really known for covering other people's songs. So the re-cutting of Bob Andy's classic ›Too Experienced‹ was a great move. People were taken by surprise by it. It gained their attention, and once the pair had their attention, they have set about keeping it.

This attention/success was enough to draw the attention of major record companies. And in 1991 Barrington Levy's great new album ›Divine‹ was released on Mango/Island. A mixture of old and new material, it is by any standard a great album, and one that should take Barrinton Levy to even higher heights.

»Heckle and Jeckle, that was like a joke ting, a name picked by Barry Biggs. We didn't pick that name for ourselves.«

And who was in this duo with you?
»Me and my cousin, Everton Dacres

Did you ever record?
»Yeah we did two songs, as The Mighty Multitudes, ›My Black Girl‹ and ›A Long Long Time‹, just two songs and then the group split up.«

And that was for Dynamics?
»Yeah, the first one was for Dobby Dobson. Dobby Dobson was living in America, so we couldn't tag along with him. It was just a one-off thing.«

When did you record those tunes 75/76?
»Yeah, about then.«

Tell me about the Mighty Multitudes?
»There's not much to tell. We just did two songs.«

You recorded for Sonia Pottinger?
»No, Dynamic Sounds, and Dobby Dobson, that song has never been released in England or Jamaica, just America.«

How did you meet up with Junjo?
»After the group split up, we started to go to studios. We went to Joe Gibbs for around six months, just keep going and going. Then I decided to start sing at dances and clubs and things like that. That's how it started.«

So you actually sung on Sound Systems, before you met Junjo?
»Before I met Junjo, yes. Junjo hear me on a sound and said to come and call him.«

What sound was you on then?
» I was on loads of sounds, but the sound that I started on was Burning Spear, but in them times I was on every sound. I was working, and people started to hear about me on cassette.

And then Junjo come over, and said ›You think you can be a big star‹ and he come up with some rhythm tracks, and we do ›A Yah We Deh‹, and after that we do ›Collie Weed‹. That was the big one, it mash up the place. It was then that we made the album ›Bounty Hunter‹. «

You had released at the time two albums ›Bounty Hunter‹ and ›Shine Eye Gal‹ ...
»It was the same album, but a different title.«

How about the connection between Jah Life and Junjo, who are both credited as producers on the album?
»I was just working for Junjo, but Junjo do a deal with Jah Life, for America. And then do a different deal for over here in England.«

How do you feel about the ›Bounty Hunter‹ album now, because with that you started the ›Dance Hall Style‹ and all the fuss it has caused since then?
»Well the people who are doing dance hall style now, they don't want to give no credit. They are biased.«

So you would say the music has been fought down?
»No, I would say they have tried to copy the pattern. Which for me, I think that's good, because at least I'm doing something good, for them to follow. I think they have followed me, more than I have followed them. I have to create things you know.«
»The dance hall style was going before I was born. It is an international music. Take for instance ›Here I Come‹ is a dance hall music. And ›Here I Come‹ crossover. So dance hall music is nothing that should be looked down on. The lyrics now, they should be looked down on. The DJ's what they are calling Dance Hall is not Dance Hall, it's slackness.«

That's a different thing.
»Oh, but they can change that. If they got together, and write some sensible lyrics, riding the rhythm on the same melody, they would-be safe..«

What gave you the inspiration to bring in R. Dean Taylor's ›Indiana Wants Me‹?
»Well that song was right for the style of the song. We are talking about pushing the dance hall vibes all over the world, and it fits. [Barrington starts to sing it] I did like the song from when I was little anyway.«

It really is what the dance hall style is all about, taking one thing, mixing it up with something else and creating something new. You have worked with a lot of producers, how did you get on with Junjo?
»Junjo was alright, but I enjoy working with Paul Love (aka Jah Screw). He look on it as a career, and not as a hustling you know.«
»Junjo was a different person when it come to that. He was more interested in how much money he could make, rather than what he was going to use to make the money. «

Junjo seemed like more of a vibes producer. How about other producers, you did a lot of work with Linval Thompson.
»Yeah, Linval is alright.«

How about your own label ›B L Sounds‹. Your first own production for it was ›Deep In The Dark‹, which got a very good response, was that an original tune?
»It was a cover, but no one seems to know that song.«

Most of the reggae fans know your cut. They don't know where it come from before. [Barrington laughs] Why didn't you follow it up?
»Well you see I can't keep up with it, to press and distribute and also write song, it's too much.«

How's your brother?
»Michael, he's alright.«

Is he still in the business?
»Yeah, yeah he's still in. He's in Jamaica at the moment taking care of some things for me. He's supposed to being going to Canada. He's got a song out called...You know the ›Spanish Harlem‹ song? He's changed the lyrics to that.«

Is it released on Lipstick
»No it's on Jah Life.«

When did you set up the Lipstick label then?
»I'm going to introduce Lipstick to England soon. Well say I'm going to introduce London . I'm going to put out some songs, not just mine other people's music. Cutty Ranks, Michael, and that's about it. Like I said I don't have the time to sit down and produce records with people, when I'm busy with my own career.«

Tell me how you come to write certain songs. Like ›One Foot Joe Joe‹, because that was an amazing song?
»That song was about a man, with one foot called Joe Joe. He was my friend, Sammy Dread's father. He never want to do nothing when he come in from work, he was a one foot man, but he works. He would come home with his money, and go to the bar and get drunk. And when he come home he would just chase out everybody out of the house. Joe Joe died now, about five months now.«

How about ›A Yah We Deh‹ that was an interesting song.
»What it means is that here we are, giving thanks and praise, praying to god. The things that you do, the father is watching you, everything you say he's hearing you. What the song is saying, is that just live up right. That is what ›A Yah We Deh‹ means.«

All your songs have little stories within them. ›Here I Come‹ is a great example of that.
»Here I Come‹ is a reality song. It is all about what these young girls are thinking. They want to have fun, they want to have boyfriend, but when they get pregnant, they don't want no kids to tie them down. They want to have fun. They want to live life to the fullness. Until they get older and they are thinking of settling down. I make that song from a girl.«

So it's based on a personel experience?
»It's a real thing. After she had the baby, she find out that she can't do what she used to do. She had to start to think about her kid, and she can't leave her kid to go raving. She didn't have no babysitter, so she started to get mad. And I take the baby to him and leave the baby at the baby's father's mum's house. Then one day, me and him was walking, he buck up upon her and he said to her ›Why don't you go home and look after our baby‹ She said ›Yeah, I must go home and look after baby, while you go out and have fun. I'm still young.‹ And that is how the idea came to me, and I make the song from that.«

It is a great song with a lot of attention to details, like the lyrics about the lift.
»If the lift doesn't work, run up the stairs and come. Like she called me up and said, ›Well the baby is here now, you must come and see your son.‹ So I grab some rose and started to run. «

And yet in ›Here I Come‹ there is another song within a song, the bit about describing Volcano.
»When you come to Volcano it's like a stage show, you have man that sing, dj and blow. It was the only sound you had hornsman blowing in a dance. Junjo originate hornsman blowing in a dance, on live rhythm. It mashed up the place.«

The big hit before that was ›Under Mi Sensi‹ which was also recorded for Jah Screw and Time Records.
»That one has a story behind it as well. ›Under Mi Sensi‹. There is this sound, Junjo's sound, Volcano. It was one of the top sound in Jamaica, and when it played out the police always came and tell it to turn off. And they always pick on the dreads. They said the dread always have the weed. And one of them ›A you where you come from, A dread where you a come from.‹ So me take off me dread hat, so me observe and me observe and then I say - ›Hey natty dreadlocks where you come from, you must have two stick of sensi, under your tam, I said no officer, you must be mad, I only smoke cigarette...but I put in the shag as well, so it was I only smoke cigarette and strictly shag.‹ Basically all them stories are what happened in real life.«

Then there was ›Money Move‹ for George Phang's Powerhouse label, what inspired that?
»A that in Jamaica, when I make ›Money Move‹ everybody was coming out with ›Shoulder Move‹, ›Body Move‹, this move and that move. So I said everybody is making moves, I hope they make the right move, and make the money move. At the time we did need money. Kids have to go to school, lights have to pay. So I come with ›Money Move‹ and it was a hit.«

More recent success for Barrington has come from doing over a couple of Bob Andy tunes ›Too Experienced‹ and ›My Time‹. What made you want to recut those tunes?
»It come to a test, or should I say it come to a stage, where people were into these foreign artist songs. And the reggae that was coming from Jamaica was just foreign artist songs. And I was sitting down and thinking that I like that song. and well, why not do it, and make some money for the older artists. If you do over a song from someone who's got a couple of million in the bank, it doesn't make sense.

Help out the reggae industry, because we do need new equipment and new studios. We need proper promotion, we need more money in it, but you see Sanchez and most of those guys, they are doing over foreign artist, and they don't need the money they are safe.

And at the same time, there are many older artists, they don't have no money. And yet they have kids to send to school, and family to look after. So I did it to help me and to help them as well, and then at least they can get something from the publishing. Bob Andy is quite happy for me to do over his song, I see him the other day and we was talking, and he said ›It was nice man, Lovely‹.

And since I did that, everyone has gone over his tunes, and other old artists.«

Are you planning to do any more old reggae tunes?
»Yeah, I see Alton Ellis is the other day, and he was saying to me ›Yeah man, go ahead do some songs‹. John Holt said, ›Yeah go ahead‹. ›Too Experienced‹ went 13 weeks at Number 1 in America, 13 weeks. And ›My Time‹ went 9 weeks at Number 1. This latest song with Cutty Ranks. ›Dance Hall Rock‹ is at Number Two. While it's Number 1 here.«

It's a very good tune. It seems whenever you go away, you always come back even stronger.
»That's why I call the album ›Divine‹. Its a mix of my material and other people's material, I'm quite happy with it.«

The album looks like it was really worked on. There are credits for a number of studios, in Jamaica and London.
»Most of the good reggae artists now like, I won't call no name, they are drifting. They are just doing the poppy, reggae thing. And most of the heartical reggae artists are switching, changing. Someone has to defend the music. Someone was asking me, I was doing an interview — ›Who is going to be the next Bob Marley?‹ But there will never be a next Bob Marley, Bob Marley is Bob Marley. Someone's got to push the music, but it's got to be pushed in a different direction to Bob.

If anyone is trying to be the next Bob Marley, they are stupid. What are they going to do grow dreads, and. ..that's crap. You don't have to be dread to push the music, just do the right thing, and do it properly.«

Selective Discography
Bounty Hunter (Jah Life, 1979) Henry Junjo Lawes
Shine Eye Gal (Burning Sounds, 1979) Henry Junjo Lawes
Shaolin Temple (Jah Guidance, 1979)
Henry Junjo Lawes
Englishman (Greensleeves, 1980)
Henry Junjo Lawes
Robin Hood (Greensleeves, 1980)
Henry Junjo Lawes
Don Ray Me (JB Music, 1980)
Barrington Levy
Run Come Ya (Puff, 1981)
Barrington Levy
Poor Man Style (Trojan, 1982)
Linval Thompson
Twenty One Girls Salute (Jah Life, 1982)
J.Life & H.Lawes
Life Style (G.G, 1983)
Alvin Ranglin
Teach Me Culture (Live & Learn, 1983)
Helena Hall & B.Levy
Money Move (Powerhouse, 1984)
George Phang
Prison Oval Rock (Volcano, 1984)
Henry Junjo Lawes
Here I Come (Time, 1985)
Jah Screw
Open Book (Tuff Gong, 1985)
Tuff Gong
Love The Life You Live (Time, 1989)
Jah Screw
Broader Than Broadway (Profile, 1989)
Divine (Mango, 1991)
Jah Screw

A Yah We Deh 7" (Roots, 1979) Henry Junjo Lawes
Whom Shall I Be Afraid Of 12" (Germain, 1981)
Teach Me Culture 10" (Live Look & Learn, 1981)
Delroy Vright
Praise His Name 7" (Powerhouse, 1983)
George Phang
One Foot Joe Joe 12" (Jah Life, 1984)
Delroy Vright
Under Mi Sensi 12" (Time, 1984)
Jah Screw
Here I Come 12" (Time, 1984)
Jah Screw
Struggler 12" (Time, 1986)
Jah Screw
She's Mine 12" (Time One, 1989)
Jah Screw
Too Expericenced 12" (Time, 1989)
Jah Screw
My Time 12" (Time, 1990)
Jah Screw
Dance Hall Rock 12" (Mango, 1990)
Jah Screw

By Ray Hurford

(C)&(P) Small Axe 1992

(C)&(P) Small Axe 2007