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Originally Mr. Clarke

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Album Review

Originally Mr. Clarke was first released in 1980 on Brad Osborne's Bronx-based Clocktower label, and it is Osborn's involvement that gives this unsung little gem its unique sound. The basic instrumental and vocal tracks were recorded in Jamaica, most likely under the guidance of producer Bunny Lee (although singer Johnny Clarke himself may have supervised the sessions) and featured veteran studio pros like Glen Adams, Sly & Robbie, Tommy McCook, Earl "Chinna" Smith and Winston Wright (more or less the Aggrovators). The raw tracks were then taken to New York, where Osborn overdubbed flute, additional vocals and percussion and oversaw the final mixes. The end result was a wonderfully cohesive sequence that featured light, airy and yet active arrangements, full of well-placed and effective horn charts, all of which perfectly framed Clarke's sweet, soulful and elegantly unhurried vocals, making Originally Mr. Clarke that rarest of reggae artifacts — an album that sounds like it was meant to be an album and not just a collection of singles. Two of Clarke's better-known songs are included, "Blood Dunza" and "Every Knee Shall Bow," as well as the heartfelt and wistful "Moving on to Zion," which examines the urge to leave Jamaica and contains some of the best lyrics Clarke ever wrote.


Born: January, 1955 in Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of Jamaica's most outstanding vocal talents, Johnny Clarke has never achieved the international acclaim of some of his compatriots, and he even fell from favor in his homeland in the 1980s. However, in his heyday, during the mid- through late '70s, the singer recorded a stream of crucial cuts, as well as a bundle of seminal albums. Clarke has also had an inestimable impact on the dancehall scene, which in his day was still the preserve of DJs. His ability to write new lyrics, mostly in a cultural...
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Originally Mr. Clarke, Johnny Clarke
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