Old-time toaster Jah Stitch began his career with the Tippertone and Black Harmony sound-systems before cutting his first sides for Flabba Holt and the ubiquitous Bunny “Striker” Lee, who contributes the majority of tracks here, some taken from the dee-jay’s No Dread Can’t Dead album. The exceptions are “Judgement” and the “Black Is Our Colour” version “African Queen”, both produced by Vivian “Yabby U” Jackson.
One of a number of cultural deejays who rose to prominence in Big Youth’s slipstream circa 1976 – with Jah Youth subsequently replacing him as Tippertones lead MC – Stitch had the distinct advantage of riding some of the era’s toughest rhythms. “Watch Your Step Youthman” and “Crazy Joe” are both cuts to Johnny Clarke’s “Crazy Baldhead” and it’s the famed Jamaican rootsman’s vocals behind “Militant Man”, “Sinners Repent Your Soul”, “King of the Arena” and “Real Born African”, the latter being versions to “Death in the Arena” and the classic “We Are Africans” respectively. “Cool Down Youthman” is a dee-jay cut to Linval Thompson’s “Cool Down Your Temper” whilst “Ragga Muffin Style” strides majestically over the rhythm track to Horace Andy’s “Money Money”.
Just to whet the appetite of revival fans even more, it should be pointed out that “Every Wicked Have to Crawl” arrives complete with vocal cut, which happens to be Horace’s sublime “Zion Gate” – surely one of Bunny Lee’s finest ever productions. “African People (3 in 1)” is a toast to his piece of “Declaration of Rights” whilst the opening “Give Jah the Glory” – a tune which led to Stitch and Big Youth falling out – is a wicked interpretation of Burning Spear’s “Wadada”.
If that’s not enough to tempt you, then what is? The final track is “No Dread Can’t Dead”, a song with Cornell Campbell’s vocals soaring heavenwards in the mix and one which marked Stitch’s comeback after miraculously surviving a shot to the head in a Kingston street dispute. It changed his voice (and appearance!) as you’d expect, but with no serious consequence where recording was concerned. This story and other intimate recollections of the period are contained in the accompanying booklet presented by Steve Barrow. Original raggamuffins can’t miss. John Masouri – Echoes, April ’96