Playlist Essentials: Wailing Souls – Stormy Night

Playlist Essentials: Wailing Souls – Stormy Night

The late 80s represent a robust but controversial period in the Jamaican recording industry, as DJs were on the rise with new lyrical approaches, and digital production ruled the day. 

In the centre of the storm was Lloyd James, better known as King Jammy who is credited for revolutionizing digital production several years earlier with Wayne Smith’s “Under Mi Sleng Teng.” This was the era the term ‘dancehall’ came widely into circulation to describe the new digital sound that came to commonly include slack lyrics and gun themes popular on the street.

Still relevant, the artists from the 1970s were working to redefine themselves in the digital era.
Groups like Wailing Souls remained active, even if their multi-part harmony vocals might have seemed overly ornate on these new digital backing tracks, replete with drum machines and sparse synthesized chords. Solo singers like Johnny Osbourne, Junior Murvin, and the up-and-coming Cocoa Tea found a place for melody alongside the new crop of emcees.

The neighborhood of Waterhouse provided a natural connection between the members of Wailing Souls and producer King Jammy. The Souls, like many, had moved from their original base and home in Trench Town at the dawn of the 1980s to Waterhouse and spent the decade in the area they helped make famous with their anthem “Fire House Rock” in 1981.

For King Jammy, the Souls found a new sound for a new era, still holding their epic harmonies, but with a downsized trio lineup that included co-founders Pipe Matthews and Bread McDonald adding Earth Messengers’ Devon Beckford. For these sessions, Bobby Digital was at the helm, bringing the latest sound straight from King Jammy’s Studio.

In the tradition of dancehall music, the 10-track album, originally released on the US Rohit label in 1989, included backing tracks found elsewhere in the King Jammy catalog, including the ace “Propaganda,” also voiced by Frankie Paul as “You Standing There,” and by Cultural Roots as “Sweet Lady“ plus a remake of their Studio One breakout track “Fire Coal Man.” Their popular single “Move On” appeared on this LP as “Carry On.”