Hey, everybody. My name is Dan Ubick, but I go by Connie Price when I spin records or get behind the drum kit. Call me Dan or call me Connie (short for Constantine, my middle name). I’m a music producer, musician, and record collector from California.
I’m on a mission to share the songs that catch my ear every month on the Soul Picnic Playlist. Think of them as flavorful dishes from the kitchen’s of my favorite musical chefs. I love all kinds of music regardless of genre or era but, full disclosure, I do have an ongoing love affair with the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by tons of talented people who are as obsessed with music as I am. They constantly turn me on to songs that make me think, How have I never heard this before?! I created Soul Picnic so I could pass my own discoveries on to you. I hope you find a new favorite here, and it makes you smile, feel understood, or keeps you positive.
As summer is almost upon us, I thought a playlist of my favorite roots reggae, rockers, and rocksteady tracks from Jamaica’s golden era might just do the trick. Play these over some nice speakers if you have them so you can feel the bass and let the sweet harmonies wash over you and take you away. Otherwise, pop on some headphones, wire yourself into a good set of speakers, and go hunt down the original copies on vinyl from your local record store for the full effect. These tracks all deserve it. Bon appétit!
The African Brothers—“No Cup, No Broke”
Vocal harmony at its sweetest, courtesy of a young Lincoln "Sugar" Minott, Winston "Tony Tuff" Morris, and Derrick "Bubbles" Howard on their one and only single for Coxsone Dodd’s legendary Studio One label in 1974. The group sings, ”No cup, no broke, no coffee, no dash wey,” meaning even if disaster strikes your home, it's always possible that all may not be lost.
Bob Andy—“Too Experienced”
A hit in 1990 for Barrington Levy, but this seminal version from 1968 by Paragons founding member and songwriting don Bob Andy delivers the goods for my money. After records with Harry Js and Studio One (like this one), Andy went on to form Bob & Marcia with future I-Threes singer Marcia Griffiths and scored a big hit with Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted & Black” and “Pied Piper.” The lyrics at first seem to have a romantic theme, but after learning that music producers ripped him off, it could be speaking to that just as easily. Andy sings, "I’m too experienced to be taken for a stroll. Too experienced for someone to rock and roll. I’m too experienced to be taken for a ride and I know it’s not my foolish pride.”
The Gladiators—“Downtown Rebel”
The first time my friend Ben Mor played The Gladiators, the game changed for me. Albert Griffiths, Clinton Fearon, and Gallimore Sutherland instantly became one of my top five Jamaican harmony groups, alongside the Wailers, Toots & The Maytals, The Abyssinians, and The Mighty Diamonds. The thing that sets The Gladiators apart is that all three singers are also top studio musicians as well, having played on numerous singles by Burning Spear, Stranger Cole, Yabby You, and productions by Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Busty Brown & The Clowns—“Soon I’m Gonna Make It”
Legend tells us that the original Wailers (Peter, Bunny and Bob…yes, that Bob) provided the backing vocals on this sublime single produced by Bunny Lee from 1972. Sounds like their voices to me, but even Pressure Sounds won’t confirm it on the press release for their long-awaited repress of this highly collectable gem.
The Jamaicans—“Ba Ba Boom”
The winner of Jamaica’s 1967 Independence Festival Song Competition, “Ba Ba Boom” was Tommy Cowan and Norris Weir and co’s biggest hit. Released on producer Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label, the song became their most well known, and is as infectious as they come. It features none other than Skatalites horn-man Tommy McCook and his group The Supersonics on yet another rocksteady classic.
Errol Dunkley—“Please Stop Your Lying”
From producer Joe Gibbs comes this rocksteady classic from 1967 about a conniving girl taking advantage of some trusting soul. The song features Lyn Taitt and his band, who provide an irresistible backbeat. Sixteen years old at the time of this recording, singer Errol Dunkley’s plaintive and concerned tone warns this double timer, “Please stop your lying, girl, and speak the truth. If you don't love that guy, tell him you don’t.” Dunkley went on to form the influential African Museum label with Gregory Isaacs, as well as his own Silver Ring label.
Phyllis Dillon—“Don’t Stay Away”
Phyllis Dillon was discovered by aforementioned Duke Reid session guitarist Lyn Taitt at The Glass Bucket Club in Kingston, Jamaica. She subsequently recorded ”Don’t Stay Away,” her first single, for Reid’s Treasure Isle label in 1966. “Don’t Stay Away” became a standard from the rocksteady era, perfectly expressing feelings of longing in song and defining the meaning of the word “catchy.”
Toots and the Maytals—“Time Tough”
From Toots and the Maytals’ debut LP, Sweet & Dandy, comes this passionate account of dealing with hard times. Toots sings, “I go to bed, but sleep won't come. Get up in the night, I couldn't stand my feeling, no. Early in the morning, oh mercy, it’s just the same situation. Deep in the landlord, he's a knocking up on my door. I’ve got $400/month rent to pay, and I can't find a dollar.” “Time Tough” was produced by the influential Chinese-Jamaican producer Leslie Kong and backed by Beverly’s house band, which featured guitar ace Hux Brown. Brown also played on “Rivers Of Babylon” by The Melodians, “Ba Ba Boom” (see above), and countless other Jamaican hit songs. RIP, Toots—we miss you terribly.
Bob Marley and the The Wailers—“All Day, All Night”
One of two outtakes from the Wailers Island/Tuff Gong debut, Catch A Fire LP, “All Day, All Night” was originally vetoed by label head honcho Chris Blackwell for inclusion on the release. Blackwell had his vision, and the LP is perfect as is, but how anyone could leave this masterpiece off the album is beyond me. Marley, Tosh, and Livingston’s vocals play off each other and then lock into perfect soulful harmony on top of the heavy rhythm supplied by the incomparable Barrett Brothers.
The Abyssinians—“Jah Loves”
Richard Branson’s Virgin Records signed and released so many great records by Jamaican artists in the 1970s, from URoy, Johnny Clarke, Big Youth, and Gregory Isaacs, to top harmony groups like The Mighty Diamonds, Culture, The Gladiators, and The Abyssinians. This gem from their Front Line masterpiece Arise features the nimble fingers of the mighty Earl “Chinna” Smith on lead guitar and boasts one of the toughest intros ever recorded. If life has you down and you feel alone in this world, remember the words of Abyssinians’ Bernard Collins and the brothers Manning: “Jah loves you, man. Jah needs you, man.”
Gregory Isaacs—“Mr. Brown”
Another killer from Front Line is Soon Forward, a prime-era LP from “The Cool Ruler,” Mr. Gregory Isaacs. “Mr. Brown” describes a tongue-in-cheek encounter between a young woman’s father and her lover, and features backing vocals by none other than Dennis Brown and Junior Delgado. Award-winning, fluttering horn parts come courtesy of stalwarts Deadly Headly, Bobby Ellis, Nambo, and the always-solid foundation of Sly & Robbie.
The Wailing Souls—“Back Out With It”
Alongside The Wailers, Jamaica’s Wailing Souls also learned harmony singing from maestro Joe Higgs and singers Winston "Pipe" Matthews, Lloyd "Bread" McDonald, and George "Buddy" Haye. It turns out to be a magical blend. “Back Out With It” comes from the band’s 1975 self-titled Studio One LP, which every reggae lover should own.
Culture—“Jah Far I”
“Too long in our little ghetto, wrongs been going on,” sings Joseph Hill, Rasta griot and lead vocalist of Culture, in a plea to bring attention to the evils of Babylon and the abandonment of righteousness. Hill calls upon the children of Israel to “fight down war and crime, and make way for Jah people.” Alongside Rasta elders like Mortimer Planno and fellow singers Marley, Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Winston Rodney from Burning Spear, Hill became one of the most respected voices of the Rastafari movement. He also wrote some of the most beautiful songs of the genre, like this stunner featuring the Aggrovators band. Jah Rastafari!
The Heptones—“Equal Rights”
Leroy Sibbles played bass on hundreds of Jamaican hits as musical director and key member of groups Sound Dimension and The Soul Vendors for Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One label and also formed one of Jamaica’s most beloved groups, The Heptones. This single, released on Coxsone’s Studio One label in 1968, is an anthem for civil rights. Its lyrics continue to resonate: “Every man has an equal right to live and be free. No matter what color, class, or race he may be.”
Listen to the playlist on Apple Music:
The Last Word: If you love these songs, please buy physical copies if you’re able. Spotify, YouTube, and other streaming services are great tools, but streaming doesn’t pay artists a living wage. We want these amazing folks to keep making the music we cherish.
Love music as much as we do? Then check out Dan Ubick’s production company, DanUbe Productions, and drop him a line if you’re so inclined.