Friday, January 13, 2006

Big Youth Album Review

Shout-outs to Miz Ninja for her review on Big Youth's classic album, Screaming Target.

Big Youth (Manley Augustus Buchanan to his mother) made it big back in 1972, with his debut album, Screaming Target. Although just 17, Big Youth had by this time built up a solid following in Kingston, as the resident DJ for one of the biggest sound systems, Lord Tippertone’s.

Screaming Target progresses through a solid line-up of classic rhythms which roll gently under Big Youth’s laidback toasting flow, punctuated by the occasional exclamatory yelp or nerve-shattering scream. Among the tunes given the Big Youth treatment on this album are ones originally recorded by Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and Augustus Pablo, and the title track samples KC White’s ‘No No No’. The rootsy, steady pace of Screaming Target allows Big Youth’s chatty, chanting vocals and rasta-inspired lyrics to dominate.

This album established Big Youth as a hugely popular, innovative and influential reggae sound, who added to the growing Rasta consciousness of the dancehalls in the early 1970s. Rasta morals seep through his lyrics in songs such as ‘Honesty’ (‘you’ve got to help the old while you are young’) and ‘the Killer’ (‘you should never do a ting dat is wrong’).

The album is undoubtedly a classic, and is well-worth a listen for any reggae aficionado, or those interested in the man who many credit with providing an early but important influence on the development of American hip hop vocal styles.

Waitangi weekend this year gives reggae fans of Aotearoa the chance to catch a flash of Big Youth’s red, green and gold jewelled teeth at Raglan’s Soundsplash festival.

Miz Ninja


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