Quintessential roots singer Barry Brown emerged from the amateur west Kingston talent contests of the early 1970s, along with Johnnie Clarke, the African Brothers and the Mighty Diamonds. He also impacted on sound systems like Tape Tone, together with other young dancehall-oriented singers such as Barrington Levy, Tristan Palmer, Sammy Dread and Rod Taylor. Singer-turned-producer Linval Thompson was one of Brown’s main vocal influences, and after Brown began recording prolifically for resident big man, Bunny Lee, who had already helped Thompson make the shift from singer to producer, it was only a matter of time before Thompson and Brown joined forces. ‘Separation,’ first issued in 1980, is one of the meanest and moodiest recordings that either ever served up, the rock-solid rhythm provided by the Roots Radics at Channel One being the perfect backing for Brown’s tortured wail about mankind’s waywardness; for some reason, the B-side is not a corresponding dub to Brown’s vocal, but is instead a sparse dub cut of ‘Willow Tree,’ which Linval voiced in the same era with another dancehall-oriented singer, Michael Black, here stripped down to its bare essentials by the young Scientist at King Tubby’s studio. All of which makes both sides absolutely essential listening.
David Katz ©
LABEL: IROKO RECORDS