Kingston-born singer Mel O’Connor took the stage name Jah Mel after becoming a member of the 12 Tribes of Israel. A graduate of the famous Kingston College, which was home to Jackie Mittoo, Augustus Pablo, Tyrone Downey, Clive Chin, Alan ‘Skill’ Cole, and many other noted music figures, Jah Mel migrated to New York during the late 1970s, where he was discovered by producer, Roydale Anderson, whose Andy’s label was based in the Bronx. Anderson heard Jah Mel singing at a dancehall in Rochester, and was inspired to bring the singer back to Jamaica to cut an album at Harry J with an all-star cast that included the Barrett Brothers, Wire Lindo, Bongo Herman, Dean Fraser and Nambo, with Sylvan Morris in the engineer’s chair. ‘Sufferer’s Song’ was released as a 12-inch on Andy’s as a sneak-preview of the forthcoming album, and is a fine showcase for Mel’s quietly emotive voice, which contains a bittersweet quality as he entreats the Lord to make things better. B-side ‘Sinking Sand’ has an alternate reading in the form of a tough-edged toast, shifting the emphasis from the roots spectrum into the evolving dancehall sphere.
David Katz ©