Prince Far I

Pressure Sounds * PS18 * 1997

Health And Strength

Health And Strength

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During the late seventies stories were circulating amongst reggae producers, record companies and artists about a huge demand for Jamaican music in Africa. Rumours of sales exceeding one hundred thousand albums were common and U Roy's 'Natty Rebel' and 'Madness' by The Maytones were supposed to have sold in huge quantities. In reality few knew the true sales figures. Suddenly however, Virgin Records with one John Lydon in tow turned up in Jamaica and seemed to open the cheque book and be signing anyone that was capable of breathing into a microphone. Island Records expanded their already fairly large 'reggae roster' and companies like Chrysalis entered the arena. Seemingly every major company was signing a reggae act.

On the surface all looked well. Studios in Jamaica were working non-stop. Tape after tape arrived at London based record companies ready to be released. Virtually overnight things went wrong. The Governments of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast imposed a complete ban on the import of 'luxury items' - this included records.

The record companies in London had signed the artists on deals that allowed them to do what is known as 'drop the artiste' - meaning either accept the next album and pay the agreed amounts of money - or simply not accept the next recording and then to tell the artiste/producer that they would not be releasing any future works.

This resulted in a flood of releases and many recordings being 'shelved' in other words unreleased for financial or political reasons which brings us to 'Health And Strength'.

Dating from 1978/79, the master tape almost from the time of delivery disappeared. Despite requests for the tapes whereabouts - no luck. Prince Far I's widow similarly drew a blank - the tape seemed lost. During a conversation with Pete Stroud aka Dr Pablo in early 1997 I said how tragic it was that a truly classic Prince Far I album was lost forever. Pete was aware that Richard (one of the original Hitrun staff) had made a cassette copy at the time from the original master tape and had it in his drawer at home. What?

We took the cassette to On-U Sound studio and listened in amazement, the quality was better than we could ever have hoped. In transferring the cassette to DAT and SADIE systems virtually nothing more than a little equalization and editing was necessary - 'Health and Strength' was found.

This is a truly classic Far I album, ranking alongside 'Psalms For I' and 'Under Heavy Manners'. 'Frontline Speech' and 'Weatherman Tam' were both Cry Tuff 7" Jamaican singles, 'Brother Joe' features Gregory Isaacs in a witty snipe at producer Joe Gibbs (Far I at one time was the security guard at Joe Gibbs Studio). There are several other cuts that have a Gregory Isaac's connection: 'House Of Jah' being a version of Gregory's 'Handcuff' and 'Health Warning' utilising Gregory's 'Sacrifice' rhythm.

The album features a version of George Calstock's 'The Ungodly' as 'Clean Hands Pure Heart'. We are also treated to Far I singing 'Easy Squeeze' and 'When The King Comes On Earth' where he is joined by Blackskin the Prophet deejaying against Far I's apocalyptic lyrics.

Having thought this album was lost forever I am truly delighted that it has been found for us all to hear and enjoy.

Adrian Sherwood
December 1997


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