DENNIS BROWN & PROFESSIONALS - NO BONES FOR THE DOGS



















A: Joe Gibbs & The Professionals - No bones for the dogs

B: Mighty Two - Throw it Joe


Jamaica is probably best known for their immense musical output. It never ceases to amaze me that an island so small, relatively speaking, produces so vast an amount of great music and, in the process, is able to influence the entire world with their unique and one-of-a-kind sound. But there is more to Jamaica than just the music alone, ofcourse. It's isolation has granted the island with extraordinary flora and fauna, including thousands of plants, manifold sorts of reptiles and numerous kinds of butterflies. If birdwatching is your thing, a visit to Jamaica even seems mandatory. Currently Jamaica hosts an impressive 324 species of birds, of which a whopping 160 are rare and an elite class of 28 are exclusive to the island. The Doctor Bird is one of those endemic species -the Arawaks called it the "God Bird", for they believed it possessed magical powers - and is one of the national symbols of the nation. 

Naturally, the music scene of Jamaica took influence from their surroundings, although less than you'd expect with that rich an avifauna. The legendary engineer Graeme Goodal named his label after the humming bird, Jackie Mittoo imitated a songbird and Alton Ellis wondered "Why birds follow spring." The latter was a big hit when it was released by Treasure Isle in 1967 and it has never stopped to grasp the attention of musicians, singers and fans alike. Even today the riddim is very popular and it can pride itself in receiving an update every few years or so.

Joe Gibbs, never one to deny a good Treasure Isle riddim a new lick, also made good use of it. The Professionals recorded their version ten years after the original cut was released and it can be found in various shapes and forms. Errol Thompson had big fun with it on 'Tribesman Rockers" - which may very well be the best known cut, as it was included on the popular African Dub Chapter 3 album - and Cornell Campbell used it on his version of the Alton Ellis hit. I have yet to come across a seven inch release of the Cornell take, but the song, a great effort, is featured on the superb United Dreadlocks Volume 2 album. Cornell later released another track called "Wise Bird" on the Roots label, but with a different backing. He has also recorded it for Studio One.  The most stripped down version of the Joe Gibbs cut of the riddim can be found on the seven inch that is on display here. "Throw it Joe" thrives on its heavy drum and bass footing, with some percussion thrown in for good measure, a creepy flute sticking its head around the corner and horns coming in and out of the mix. If you feel African Dub is too heavy with beeps, carhorns, flushing toilets and whatnot, then "Throw it Joe" is definitely the one to check out.

No Bones for the Dogs itself is an outstanding instrumental in the renowned Professionals style and my favourite cut of the whole bunch. The horns are blazing, the flute and piano swirl nicely around them and the backing is rough, giving it exactly the edge it needs. This was the song that immediately caught my attention when Pressure Sounds named a sampler of Gibbs material after it, back in 2002. Although I don't think him very good at the job, it was the intro and interjections by the deejay -that and the horn section- that lured me towards it. But who is that deejay, shouting 'barky!' and offering one offs such as "Right there, Joe. Throw it" ? Well, it seems Errol Thompson decided to have some more fun with the "Why Birds" riddim, but this time he wasn't using sound effects. Instead, he used his top ranking singer: Dennis Brown. The crown prince of reggae is a natural on the mic and his energy and strong voice are unrivaled. A talent that is also on display on "No Bones", for it is with great capability that he handles the mic and his enthusiasm is contagious. As a deejay Mister Brown lacks the skills of his contemparies, boasting an almost old-fashioned style of toasting, but it works really well on this particular record. If anything, 'No Bones" sounds like a lot of fun was had in the studio, and exactly that sentiment oozes from the speakers. The real winner here, though, is the contrasting sound to the frolicsthat is provided by Vin Gordon. His trombone solo is nothing short of awe-inspiring...

(Dennis Brown caught the deejay bug, apparently, as he also recorded a toast over Junior Delgado's "Trickster", which was released on Dennis' own label. - Thanks to the Pama Forum members for sharing this knowledge)

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Label: Town & Country (Ja)
Release date: 1977
Riddim: Why birds follow spring / wise birds follow spring
Matrix: DSR 3732 / DSR 3733