To Be Poor – The Disciples/Christine Miller/Ras Macbean/Amy Nicholls – Black Tusk Records – Double 7″ release
This is the story of one man’s mission to get a long-lost track out to a wider audience. Step forward Jagu Fable, one half of West London’s Fable Sound System and The Disciples ‘To Be Poor’ riddim.
This fabled track began life as ‘It’s Jah’, originally sung by Ras Macbean (this version is also included on the release) as a vocal guide at The Disciples’ Backyard Studio in 2005. Disciples supremo Russ D later extracted this vocal track and created the ‘To Be Poor’ riddim especially for it. Russ invited Christine Miller to sing over the same riddim and these two vocal cuts comprised what was to be the ‘To Be Poor’ release. The tracks were due to be put out along with a string of other releases on Russ D’s Backyard Movements label. Unfortunately they never saw the light of day and consequently took their place in reggae’s mythology, only existing as exclusive dubplates in the hands of several of the major UK sounds.
Black Tusk Records
Fast forward ten years, and upon casually hearing them again on DJ Kulla’s Dublife radio show, Jagu began the Black Tusk Records project with the sole intention of releasing these two forgotten gems. Determined to release them as two 7” singles, Jagu took the opportunity to lay a third vocal over the riddim and recruited friend and singer songwriter Amy Nicholls to supply the vocal.
Quality tracks like these stand out and on hearing the clips on Facebook I jumped at the chance to pick these 7s up. Reggae is probably unique in how tracks, riddims, vocal cuts, dubplates etc. go through several incarnations and the sometimes confusing genealogy adds to the chaotic attraction of the music.
Spread across the four cuts you have very different styles, Ras Maclean offers very traditional roots vocals, his emotive, almost pleading voice complements the ‘To Be Poor’ lyrics, whilst Christine Miller’s voice is more soulful and restrained. The subject matter of poverty and deprivation on the streets of supposedly first world cities demands vocals with feeling, and these first two cuts hit the mark. Amy Nicholls has a lighter more ethereal take on the song, her vocals weave in an out in such a beautiful way. The instrumental ‘version’ gives the floor to the backing track and the instruments knit so well together, particularly the Jackie Mittoo(esque) organ which drives the track. The more you listen to the two singles, the more you understand why Jagu wanted to get these tracks onto vinyl, these are pretty much perfect slices of roots.
If you are not familiar with the tracks you can have a listen at the Black Tusk Records SoundCloud site and make your own mind up. Both discs should be available from all decent outlets from April 1st, they are worth hunting down, but be quick they won’t be around long!
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