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Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Police and Thieves"

Junior Murvin - "Police and Thieves" (1976)

I can't tell you if he sang every song in falsetto, but every song I found on the Internet he sure does.

Written in response to Jamaican martial law, Singer Junior Murvin went to burgeoning legendary producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark Studio with an idea that he wanted to record a kind of protest song.  Recorded that day, and out on the streets in less than a week, the song became a hit. Dub versions and other covers followed quickly, but this original cut actually made it across the Atlantic to England. It became a huge hit when riots broke out during the Notthing Hill Carnival, a Caribbean themed weekend long festival in London. Less than a year later, The Clash covered the song; something that apparently didn't really sit well with Murvin.

Perry's studio was known for being the best in Jamaica, capable of effects that other studio's wouldn't get right for years. The underwater feel of this song is accomplished with reverb and was something that Perry was experimenting with and would use on a number of tracks during 1976. Two other things to point out on this track. One, the bass drops out completely on this track way more than any other reggae song I've ever heard; sometimes for almost three beats. Two, the percussion is cymbal driven, with accents thrown in on the snare drum, as apposed to what we are used to in Rock with cymbals being the accents. That cymbal driven rhythm is heard in disco and other dance styles, but to hear it slowed down here is a very different feeling, I think it goes well with the underwater guitar to make the whole song sound somehow slower than intended.

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