New Music for Old People: Reggae-fied Versions of Classic Songs

By , Columnist

Marcia Griffiths

This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.

I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

TMR0127 by Lisa on Grooveshark

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The reggae community in Jamaica was heavily influenced by American R&B records of the '60s and '70s. The American A&R men and producers were then influenced by the original reggae records. This is a brief study of the cross-pollination between the two countries and what resulted. These are American records and Jamaican ones as well.

1. "Walk On By" — The I-Tones (2:59)

This was a local Boston band in the '90s featuring Luke Ehrlich on vocals and bass. I heard this just around the time the band was splintering in 1997. It’s still a big favorite of mine and a great alternative to the Dionne Warwick/Bacharach-David classic version.

2. "My Funny Valentine" — Sonya Kitchell (2:03)

Sonya has graced this column before. To my ears, this sounds like an improvised jam on a recording session it was not planned for, some arrangement conceived on the spot by quick-thinking studio guys and actually quite well performed by all.

3. "Tell Her" — Freddy Henry & Betty Wright (2:46)

A reggae remake of The Exciters' early '60s hit “Tell Him.” This was an arrangement I always had in my head and I confess to producing and arranging this extremely obscure number. Freddy was an LA singer-songwriter I offered a solo deal to when he was in the Elektra band Jelly. I asked Betty to join him on a duet on his 1977 album Get It Out In the Open. Easy to do and a great deal of fun. Never released on CD and almost impossible to find on vinyl.

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4. "Until You Come Back to Me" — Marcia Griffiths (2:57)

Taking on a number made famous by The Queen of Soul was probably not intimidating to the woman commonly known as The Empress of Reggae, Marcia (pronounced mar-SEE-ah) Griffiths. A Jamaican-born girl from Kingston, she broke into the biz at age 15, and in no time became a member of Bob Marley’s troupe as backup vocalist in the famed I-3s along with Marley’s wife, Rita.

5. "Slave to Love" — Elan Atias (3:18)

Bryan Ferry goes reggae! This is amazingly well done. Born to an Israeli/Morrocan dad and Native American mom in Los Angeles, Elan used great ambition to become The Wailers' posthumous lead singer from 1997-1999. This track was cut for the film 50 First Dates and jumped right out of the soundtrack album into your ears today.

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6. "Words" — Gladstone Anderson & The Jets (2:04)

Known in his native Jamaica as "Gladdy," he is one of the top studio keyboard players and an occasional vocalizer. Here he takes a stab at the Bee Gees classic, but sorta falls apart in the fadeout. The rest is fun, however.

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7. "Break Up to Make Up" — Fiona & Lloyd Brown (3:30)

Ya got me right away — a Thom Bell song originated by The Stylistics in the '70s, these lovers know how to sing together and a great job they do. A 2005 Grammy nomination for best reggae record didn’t hurt them either; it wasn't this track, however, but I don’t think you’ll hate this.

8. "Theme from Shaft" — Chosen Few (2:35)

This is sooooo bizarre it can’t be put into words. Not bad…but bizarro!!!

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9. "Games People Play" — Inner Circle (2:30)

A band that is constantly in the limelight because of their theme song “Bad Boys” for the forever-running TV series Cops. Usually thought of as a one-hit wonder in America, their one hit survived generations because of Cops. Maybe we can make them a two-hit wonder with this bouncy Joe South cover.

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10. "Sexual Healing" — Jimmy Riley (2:59)

A Jamaican look at the Marvin Gaye hit. Fortunately they keep the original guitar parts and go Kingston in other ways.

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Legendary musician (Bob Dylan, Blues Project, Super Session, Blood Sweat & Tears), producer (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Nils Lofgren, The Tubes) and author (Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards), Al is happy to join the staff of The Morton Report in an effort to help his fellow listeners stay in tune!

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