Monday, January 25, 2010


Like many of the early players in the Jamaican music industry (Leslie Kong, Justin Yap, the recently departed Charlie Moo), Vincent Chin’s family origins lay in China. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1937, and the son of a carpenter who made the move from China in the 20s, Chin’s schooldays witnessed a burgeoning fascination with US radio programmes, particularly a rhythm & blues show sponsored by Randy’s Record Mart of Gallatin, Tennessee.

Chin’s fascination with the show saw his schoolfriends dub him ‘Randy’ – a nickname that would stay with him for the rest of his life. His first job on leaving school was with jukebox operator Isaac Issa, who had machines across the island, and the young record enthusiast would collect the takings and replace outmoded records with the latest in-demand tunes.

Founded in 1958 by Vincent and Patricia Chin, Randy’s was the first complete package - studio, distribution, sales and most importantly vibes. Producers and artists crowded Idler’s Rest—a famous spot around the corner of Randy’s—to get a chance to record in the studio. Many legends today made their mark at this historic location from Bob Marley and The Wailers’ ground-breaking album Catch A Fire to Peter Tosh’s first two solo albums Legalize It and Equal Rights. According to reggae luminary Pat Kelly, Randy’s had “the sound people want. We can call it the ghetto sound. The real roots sound.”

From the very start, Randy’s linked itself to the popular yet controversial musical styles of the day – particularly ska, roots and dub reggae. Disc One 1960-1971 features the early politically motivated ska tunes “Independent Jamaica” from Lord Creator and “Malcolm X” from the Skatalites, the Bob Marley & The Wailers cover of the Archie’s pop single “Sugar Sugar” and “John And James” by a youthful Toots & The Maytals displaying their spiritual and subtly subversive style. The first album also features musical pioneers like the great trombonist Don Drummond on “Machine Shop”, organ player Jackie Mittoo on “End Dust” and the original sound system deejay Winston ‘Count Machukie’ Cooper on “Warfare”.

From ska to reggae, to dub to Jamaica’s leading singers, Reggae Anthology: Randy’s 50th Anniversary is a history of reggae culture from its beginnings in the 1960s to perhaps its most ingenious peak in the 1970s. This commemorative release puts these influential music-makers in their proper place, the hands of reggae collectors and music fans everywhere. Respect to Randy’s every time.