Singer Earl Anthony Johnson, who was raised in the west Kingston ghetto of Greenwich Farm, got the stage name Earl Zero because his father was a fisherman, based at a spot known as Zero Wharf. During his youth, he and guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith used to rehearse some songs together, and one day, in 1974, local impresario Bunny Lee heard them singing a song Zero had written, ‘None Shall Escape The Judgement,’ and took them to Duke Reid’s studio to record it. However, Lee felt the vocal could be stronger, and ultimately had Johnny Clarke voice it instead. Zero went on to record a series of roots classics, including ‘Righteous Works’ for Allan Campbell’s New Flower label, ‘Shackles And Chains’ for Freedom Sounds, and ‘Please Officer’ for King Jammy, before moving to California in the early 1980s. Out of action for many years, it was a pleasant surprise in 2008 when Roberto Sanchez, one of Europe’s most impressive roots producers, teamed up with Zero for an initial 10-inch release; the subsequent album, And God Said To Man, was well received by roots connoisseurs, since Sanchez drew out the best from the singer, and provided suitably organic backing that tastefully references the past, without ever being enslaved by it. This single, first issued in 2012, gathers alternate takes of two of the album’s most compelling tracks, namely the contemporary sound of ‘And God Said To Man,’ plus an inspired re-make of ‘None Shall Escape The Judgment,’ each of which are presented here in extended format, spilling directly into lengthy dub segments.
David Katz ©
LABEL: IROKO RECORDS