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Black Black Minds

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Album Review

In 1977, Prince Jammy returned to Jamaica after several years abroad and began edging into production. That December, he sold the first fruits of his labor — Black Uhuru's Love Crisis, U Black's Westbound Thing a Swing, the Travellers' Black Black Minds, and the dub set In Lion Dub Style — to the British Third World label. It was a less than stellar start, though: none of the albums made much of an impact. Neither had the Travellers back home. Originally named the Black Aces, the group self-released a pair of singles on its own Travellers label, to little notice. A change in moniker to the Mighty Travellers didn't help their "Black Black Minds" single, either. But living in the same neighborhood as Uhuru did, and their friendship drew them into Jammy's orbit. The result was Black Black Minds, the Travellers' sole album, entitled after a recut of their previous single. That number kicks off the set in fine style, exalting in the end of slavery, while warning off all who would lead the brethren back into oppression — a well-worn theme given new impetus by emphasizing the freeing of not just bodies, but minds as well. Lyrics were definitely the Travellers' forte, their songs thoughtfully and intelligently exploring a variety of cultural concerns. Vocally, though, the Travellers were not as strong, and seemed not to have developed a style of their own yet, preferring to imitate their diverse influences. Still, the quartet delivered its numbers with suitable power and emotion, while the harmonies were uniformly flawless, as were all the musical backings. Laid down by the Aggrovators and the Hi Times Band, the album's atmospheres swing from the expectedly militant to more laid-back and even countrified auras. The latter style is best heard on "Jah Gave Us the World," its unity message wrapped in a luminescent backing. Jammy sold "Jah" as a single — backed with the lovelorn "Girl I Left Behind" — to the Pyramid label for release in the U.K. Equally notable are the heartfelt "Poor Man Cry"; the instructional "Know Yourself," laced with incandescent harmonies; the apt set-closer, "We Got to Leave"; and the lovely "Keep on Trying," a sufferer's song all the more beautiful for its gentle, lilting delivery. Boosting the original album, this reissue appends a pair of tracks with U Black's exhilarating DJ versions, while several further numbers are twinned with their extended instrumental/dub versions. These additions transform a pleasant album into a memorable one — a sharp reminder that full-lengths were intended largely for foreign audiences, with the best recordings oftentimes heard only in the sound systems.


Formed: 1952

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '50s, '60s

The Travellers were formed in 1952 by Sid Dolgay (mando-cello), Jerry Gray (banjo, singer) and vocalists Jerry Goodis, Oscar Ross and Helen Gray. The folk band's cover of "This Land Is Your Land" in 1955 granted them fame in their native Canada. Across Canada with the Travellers was their first album; over ten albums followed, including The Travellers Sing Songs of North America (1959), Quilting Bee (1960), Introducing the Travellers (1961), The Travellers on Tour (1962), Something to Sing About...
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