Mainroom / 8:00 pm / 18+ BARRINGTON LEVY with THE ITALS and T.U.G.G.
$20.00 adv | $20.00 door First Avenue
Barrington Levy's outstanding career as a top-class reggae vocalist began more than two and a half decades ago. Called reggae's 'Mellow Canary' by virtue of his strong, pure vocal style, he's renowned as the first original singer of the dancehall era.
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Barrington was born in West Kingston, Jamaica but spent much time as a youth in Clarendon, where he developed his signature riff by experimenting with different vocalizations and bouncing sounds off of the surrounding hills. As a youth, his biggest influence was Dennis Brown, but he also admired Michael Jackson, the original Jackson 5, and other American R&B artists. He began performing in dance halls at age 14 in a band that he formed with his cousin Everton Dacres, called Mighty Multitude.
In 1975, Barrington recorded his debut track "My Black Girl" with the Mighty Multitude. During these early performances, his singing was often informally recorded and sent to places in England and the U.S. The first foreign release, "A Ya We Deh", was followed by a major hit, "Collie Weed", produced by Junjo Laws for Jah Guidance, and others like "Twenty-One Girls Salute" and "Mind Your Mouth". Producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes discovered him singing on a local sound-system, and wasted no time in taking him to Channel One for the first of many hit singles in 1979. With the Channel One All-Stars - later to form the nucleus of the Roots Radics - laying the rhythms, and Scientist mixing the finished results at King Tubbys, the new singer caused a sensation right from the start, ushering in the dancehall phase at the same time. Those early singles "A Yah We Deh", "Shine Eye Gal" and "Moonlight Lover" were later collected on his debut album Bounty Hunter which appeared on the Jah Life label in the States. The follow-up Englishman on Greensleeves established Barrington as the reggae star of the early '80's, spawning hit singles with "Sister Carol", "Look Youthman", "Eventide Fire A Disaster" and "Mary Long Tongue". Again Junjo was the producer, and the third album Robin Hood only served to maintain his already rocketing reputation. In 1983, Levy made a big splash in Great Britain with "Under Mi Sensi", a tune that spent 12 weeks topping their charts. The tune quickly made its way to the States where it became an instant hit. "Under Mi Sensi" also became the basis for the 1985 dancehall mega-hit "Under Mi Sleng Teng" - primarily credited to Wayne "Jammy" Smith (although Barrington actually created the melody).
Levy's initial live appearances in England created a sensation. His astonishing self-confidence and obvious singing talent on stage at venues like the influential "100 Club" in London, enabled him to have audiences in the palm of his hand. With a plethora of original material and an outstanding, immediately recognizable voice, Barrington simply could not fail, having hit after hit for not only Junjo but also Alvin Ranglin (Life Style), Delroy Wright (Live & Learn Presents Barrington Levy & Beres Hammond) and in 1984 George Phang's Powerhouse label, who released the Money Move album to critical, and dancehall, acclaim. That same year Junjo produced Prison Oval Rock which took the reggae world by storm. Barrington had also shown himself to be a credible producer in his own right, releasing one track "Deep In The Dark" on his own BL label. Help came in the shape of Paul Love, aka Jah Screw, who had been the selector for U-Roy's King Sturgav sound-system in Jamaica before teaming up first with dee-jay Ranking Joe as a producer, then on his own. Their first release together was "Under Mi Sensi", a formidable and decidedly heavyweight cut which found Barrington wailing with a power and depth unequalled before or since. Immediately the song became a classic, staying in the reggae charts for weeks on end. It was closely followed by "Murderer" for Jah Life, and then Barrington and Jah Screw's "Here I Come" in 1985 which was a national chart-hit through a major label deal with London Records - ultimately leading to his first UK TV appearances, where he sang the pro-ganja anthem "Under Mi Sensi" on Number 73 (a children's television show!).
After the excitement of a national hit, it was to be nearly two years before Barrington rediscovered his winning touch. When the break did come it was for Black Scorpio in Jamaica with a song called "She's Mine", after which he once again joined forces with Jah Screw for a delightful cover of Bob Andy's Studio One hit "Too Experienced". It was a masterful move; not only did it serve to re-establish Barrington on the reggae market but prompted a rash of other versions which dominated the reggae scene in 1991. This success inspired Mango Records to sign him that year, releasing the Divine set to favorable reviews. "Dancehall Rock", again with Jah Screw became a notable hit but increasingly Barrington was relying on quality covers and new versions of old hits rather than concentrating on the self-penned material that had made his name. It was a formula repeated on his 1992 set Turning Point, again for Jah Screw and released by Greensleeves. The voice was as immaculate as ever, and the choice of songs impeccable: "Desperate Lover" and "Unchained" were again Bob Andy compositions; "Warm & Sunny Day" originated from his early days with Junjo Lawes but a standout track was "Something In My Heart", a duet with Reggie Stepper that made fierce inroads into the reggae charts on single release.
The next chapter of his distinguished career came as a surprise to his many fans, who'd remained convinced that a next national chart hit couldn't be far away given his talent as both singer and songwriter. After a stunning performance on the 1993 Sunsplash, he signed to MCA and promptly began work on an album with Sly & Robbie in Jamaica. The first single, "Work" was a revelation; Barrington delivered an uplifting cultural message over an infectious dancehall bogle riddim which seemed a certainty to follow Chaka Demus & Pliers' "Tease Me" into record charts world-wide. It was not to be; after selling by the cart-load on pre-release the record company was unable to capitalize on the initial interest. The resulting album Barrington, encompassed many eclectic styles, all beautifully sung but to no avail. Nothing's Changed and then Vice Versa both suffered a similar fate and for the time being, his chance had gone. Interestingly, Barrington revived his own Lipstic label and produced artists like Pinchers and Jigsy King.
The next step came from the past, thanks to inspired remixes of "Two Sounds" and "Under Mi Sensi". First came hardcore reggae remixes from original producer Jah Screw, who invited dee-jay sensation Beenie Man to chant like fury over those revamped heavyweight riddims alongside Barrington's classic vocal tracks. Ever mindful of the grassroots audience, Screw got the balance exactly right. Both these tunes were subsequently transformed into jungle anthems. By the summer of 1994 furious drum breaks had been welded to reggae bass lines and jungle music had taken the world by storm, with "Under Mi Sensi" creating a sensation in it's new guise. Within a few months - despite his high profile on the underground - Barrington left MCA due to artistic differences. Loyal to his favored artist as ever, Jah Screw began work on Duets - a whole album of remixes - overdubbing the hottest dee-jays from Jamaica onto further classic vocal tracks. These included former single "Looking My Love" with Cutty Ranks, the aforementioned "Under Mi Sensi" and "Two Sounds" (with Beenie Man), as well as cuts of "Living Dangerously" (with Bounty Killer), "Struggler" (with Reggie Stepper), "Don't Run Away" (with Spragga Benz), and a remix of "Here I Come", now a massive combination featuring Mega Banton. He came back larger than life with Bounty Killer on the song "Living Dangerously" - undisputedly the biggest reggae song of 1996, both in Jamaica and the United States, and for months held the #1 spot on the dancehall charts worldwide.
In 1998, the album Living Dangerously was released on Breakaway Records, and features tracks with Snoop Doggy Dogg, Bounty Killer, Lady G, Jigsy King, Terror Fabulous, and others. Barrington was lifted to the top of the charts, and continues to stay at the top of play lists on every radio station in Jamaica, and dancehalls throughout the world. Throughout his professional appearances, Barrington has shared the stage with a veritable who's-who of the reggae and world music scene: Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, Dennis Brown, John Holt, Gregory Isaacs, Freddie McGregor, Maxi Priest, Shaggy, Beenie Man, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Lady Saw, Lady G, U2, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Shine, CeCile, Tony Rebel, Garnet Silk, Capleton, Sugar Minott, Coco Tea, Spanner Banner, Little Kirk, Sanchez, Papa San, Mutabaruka... just to name a few. Barrington continues to record and tour extensively throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, and remains Jamaica's #1 headliner. He's currently working on his latest album, It's About Time, featuring collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Damian Marley, Lil Wayne, Jadakiss, Buju Banton, Beres Hammond, Kardinal Offishall, Gentleman and Busta Rhymes. Barrington is developing a high end clothing line called “Black Roses” and works with the Californian clothing company “seedleSs” on merchandising as well.
Out of Savana La Mar, Jamaica, the original mighty Itals - Keith Porter, Ronnie Davis and Lloyd Rickets - will reunite for the first time in over 20 years to tour the U.S. Known for their tight harmonies and uplifting songs, these reggae ambassadors have been touring strongly since the early eighties without Lloyd, who was unable to obtain a visa until now. After many years on the road, the Itals are living examples of the “Rasta Philosophy” that brought them a Grammy nomination in 1987.
The Itals continue to champion the roots reggae sound they helped to create, beginning with Ina Dis Ya Time, one of the most enduring blueprints in Jamaica's musical history. The Itals are recognized as one of reggae's premier harmony trios, garnering international recognition that endures to this day. The idyllic seaside parish of Westmorland greatly influenced their laid-back singing style, and the righteous outlook on life often described in the Itals' music. In contrast to the violence and sexism that runs through much of dancehall's more recent tunes, the Itals' sound remains focused on positivity, love and harmony.
Following the release of the retrospective Ina Dis Ya Time on VP Records last winter, The Itals have come back strong with an all new set of uptempo tunes on Let Dem Talk, running the gamut from lovers rock to inspirational anthem, and featuring some of the finest studio musicians in Jamaica. The album opens with the ska-liciously tongue-in-cheek "It’s Not Easy," wherein lead singer Keith Porter confides he didn’t get his freedom today, he had to put it on layaway. "Who Reign" is vintage Itals, praising the Father inna stately style. The album’s title track states, “let dem talk, let dem scandal my name”, a topical number about the endless empty talk that fuels the nightly news as well as the neighborhood gossip pool.
Two Stingray Records’ dub rhythms are artfully adapted, first in "Chill Out," an atmospheric plea to stop the violence so prevalent in Jamaica and around the world today, and then "So Many Times" explores the search for true love and peace of mind, rendered with a healthy dose of Itals’ harmonies. The album’s first single, "My Way High Way," bounces along before snaring you with it’s catchy hook line, showcasing Mr. Porter’s smooth vocals. "There For Me" is an inspirational anthem crafted with strong vocal harmonies, while "Anything" is one of two tracks co-produced by Tad Dawkins, characterized by tight syncopated rhythms and heartfelt vocals.
Dawkins’ Hard Drugs rhythm reappears on "No Mercy," where those spine-tingling Itals harmonies take front stage again, urging the listener to “meekly wait and murmur not” while waiting for the meek to grow strong. "True Love" and "It’s You" are unabashed love songs, and don’t we all enjoy a good romantic story? This is lovers’ rock at its finest, with the emphasis on rock. Also rocking, "All Is Vanity" teaches the lesson that “the unexpected happens every day, even when you pray.” The album closes with a bouncing instrumental version of "It’s Not Easy," leaving the listener tapping a foot and humming along with the horn parts long after it ends.
The west coast of Wisconsin isn’t typically thought of as a hotbed of alternative reggae music, however, T.U.G.G. (pronounced tug) hailing from La Crosse, WI has done an admirable job channeling tropical grooves and breezy melodies and has quickly become one of the Midwest’s top draws. The band's sound is described as a fun and danceable mixture of reggae, rock, and ska. The group has always been careful to pay homage to the roots of the music they play, most notably with their song “Revolution” which features production from legendary reggae/dub Producer Mad Professor and a guest vocal appearance from international reggae star Pato Banton. T.U.G.G. has been fortunate enough to share the stage with: Slightly Stoopid, Cage the Elephant, Iration, The Dirty Heads, Karl Denson, Rusted Root, Pato Banton, The Ziggens, The Big Wu, Josh Heinrichs, Tech Nine, Shakedown and many more. They’ve spent the better part of the last two years earning fans all around the Midwest in clubs, bars, colleges and outdoor festivals with their high-energy live show and loyal fan-base. They recorded their latest album in a basement studio of a small Wisconsin town with none other than one of their musical heroes, Brad Ziggen who’s band The Ziggens came to notoriety in the mid-nineties as a member of Skunk Records as well as tour-mates and an ever ready source of song material for Sublime. It just so happens that The Ziggens drummer and T.U.G.G. both call Western Wisconsin home and after a chance meeting they have teamed up to record Come Sunrise…, a collection of 13 songs that seamlessly floats between reggae, ska, surf and acoustic music released on T.U.G.G.’s own independent record label Last Call Records. T.U.G.G. embarked on a Summer tour to promote the album which found the band playing 22 shows across 10 states, including a stop at the infamous Moboogie Loft in Denver, CO to film acoustic versions of a handful of their songs as so many great acts have done before them. Now with a winter tour under their belt, the band shows no signs of slowing down.
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