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Last revised: 6/19/14
According to interviews given in 2004, Stanley Beckford never saw a great difference between mento and reggae. For the first part of his career, spanning the 1970 through the 1990s, he recorded mento-infused reggae. Stanley then greeted the new millennium by leaving reggae recording behind to record mento. It is interesting to note that while some mento performers went on to reggae (such as Lord Tanamo, Count Lasher and Count Sticky), Stanley Beckford is the only reggae performer to move to mento.
Stanley was born February 17, 1942 in the parish of Portland. He was orphaned as a child and wound up living in Kingston. Taking a path that other Jamaican recording artists followed, he began singing in church, and then gained prominence by winning on the Vere Johns radio talent competition. Stanley recorded reggae as Stanley & The Turbines, The Starlites, and, briefly, as Bellfied. Although clearly reggae, his music had a tinge of mento, displaying a country sound, especially due to Stanley's mento style vocals. (He sounded like the great mento singer Harold Richardson.) When the mento influence was stronger, his recordings could best be described as "mento-reggae".
Before moving to mento, Stanley Beckford released several reggae albums and numerous singles from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, enjoying hits such as "Soldering" and winning Festival three times.
In addition to original compositions, Stanley recorded reggae covers of a number of mento songs, such as "Balm Yard", "Big Bamboo", "Banana", "Sweet Jamaica" (with new lyrics), "Dip Dem", "Samfie Man", "Maintenance and Chi Chi Bud", "China Man From Montego Bay" and others mentioned below.
Late in 2008, I heard via DJ David Pablo of Colton California from Tony Chin, who offered the following information on the recording of Soldering:
Above, on the Tuff Gong label, is the Stanley and The Turbynes CD, "Brown Gal", produced by Barrington Jeffrey. This CD is recommended as an excellent example of reggae-mento. Piano is a dominant instrument, harkening back to mento's pre-electric sound. The rhythm is bouncy reggae, influenced by mento's proto-reggae beat that came before. Stanley's rural voice, as well as the lyrics add to the country feel. The back cover reveals that instrumentation is provided by Sly and Robbie and familiar cohorts such as Tommy McCook.
There are many fine songs, and no bad ones: "Brown Gal" stands out, as does "Dada Beg Your Pardon" and the original version of "Broom Weed". Better mento reggae would be hard to find. "In My Prime" and "Leave My Kisiloo" (based on Count Lasher's "Mobay Chinaman") are fun.
As far as mento covers go, "Leave My Kisiloo" is an adoption of the Count Lasher song released on Chin's , "Don't Fool Roun Me Gal", also known as "Mo Bay China Man". Another track, "Dumplings", I believe, is a Jamaican folk song. The mento-reggae track "Bredda Ram Puss" is a different song from mento song "Miss A Ram Goat".
"Africa" features an African music introduction, in which Stanley's singing lays bare the strong connection between African vocal traditions and the mento vocals of rural Jamaica. "A Little of Your Love" finds Stanley performing a soul song.
Above, on the Jamaica Gold label is the 1992 CD re-release of the 1981 "Big Bamboo" LP by Stanley and The Turbynes , produced by Alvin Ranglin.
This set is not nearly as strong as "Brown Gal". It is not distinctly mento-reggae. Many tracks have a calypso influence, resulting in a less interesting compromise between reggae, calypso and mento. This CD can be found very inexpensively. It features liner notes that put Stanley into context with calypso and mento. Boo Richards on drums, Lloyd Parks on bass, Willie Lindo, BoPe and Andy Bassford on guitar, Winston Wright on keys, Dave Madden, Dean Fraser and Glen DaCosta on horns, Ruddy Thomas on percussion, Barbara Jones and The Tamlins on backing vocals.
As far as mento covers go, there is the Harold Richardson and The Ticklers' "Healing In The Balm Yard" (written by E. F. Williams ), "Calypso On The Island" is adapted from the old mento "Banana", and "Carnival" is adapted from "Sweet Jamaica" by Lord Lebby.
Here is the 1993 CD collection on the Heartbeat label, "Soldering" by The Starlites featuring Stanley Beckford.
This is a good collection of Stanley's singles, with liner notes that trace the success of his first single, "Wanted Man", the mixed success of his next six, and the monster hit "Soldering" that followed.
This collection is clearly not mento-reggae, but reggae proper, replete with 12" disco mixes and guest DJs. But as is almost always the case with Stanley's recordings, there is a rural feel. Two tracks lean towards calypso rhythms.
"Dip Them Jah Jah Dip Them" is a cover of the old folk/mento "Dip Dem". Other mento covers on this CD are less obvious from the song listing. "Don't Call Daddy (Chiney Baby)" is neither Derrick Morgan's ska song "Don't Call Me Daddy", nor is it "Chinese Baby" by The Hiltonaires. It's actually "Maintenance" with some additional lyrics first. "Boderation (Some A Weh A Bawl)" contains "Chi Chi Bud Oh".
The 1979 LP "Gipsy Woman" by Stanley Beckford (Starlight) on the GG Records label, produced by Alvin Ranglin. The Revolutionaries (Sly and Robbie, Tommy McCook, and others) provide the instrumentation which is primarily reggae more than mento-reggae. One track, "You Mother Never Know", has a calypso influence.
There are two songs from the mento repertoire. "Back To Back" is one. "Chinese Baby" is a version of "Maintenance", not The Hiltonaires song of the same name. There are also a couple of songs that Stanley recorded on other releases, such as "Soldering". These are different versions.
From 1981, on the GG's Records label, produced by
Alvin Ranglin is "St. Thomas Chicken" by Stanley Beckford
in both 7" and 12" formats. The b-side
is a dub version.
Recorded as a duet with a female vocalist, "Domestic Affair" is a mento-reggae waltz -- the first Jamaican waltz recording that I'm aware of since those by Chin's Calypso Sextet two decades earlier. The lyrics have a mento richness -- complete with double entendres -- as Stanley and Clover debate their relationship. The playing is detailed and rich as well, with the musicians sounding excited to be participating. Guitar is the star until a sax appears and conjures the old-time sound of mento clarinet.
a series of audio interviews in Real format posted on the
web site, Stanley explained how in 2001,
he was visited by promoters from France who asked him to record a mento
record. Stanley considered the Rod Dennis
Mento Band, but, after conferring with his wife, decided instead
to work with
The Blue Glaze Mento Band, who he believed was the best active mento
band. (As Dan Neely's
article in Global Rhythm magazine
shows, Stanley had been performing for a time prior to this with the Rod Dennis Mento
Band. See below for more on this article.) In
2002, he recorded, "Stanley Beckford Plays Mento", backed by
Blue Glaze . It's the great mento album that Stanley was born to
record, but did get to until he was 60! Along with a side order of
Bob Marley covers, it's a fine collection
of mento remakes of some of Stanley's self-penned hits (including a
rendition of "Broom Weed", alone worth the price
of the CD) and mento standards.
This CD is recommended as an excellent
example of the resurgence of mento releases that began in the late
1970s. This release can be purchased at better record stores and on-line
Here are five songs from a live 2003 performance by the late Stanley Beckford with The Blue Glaze Mento Band featuring the late Vincent Price at the "Festival Jazz à Juan" in Les Pines, France. Thanks again to David Pablo of Colton California for bringing this to my attention. Here is the full band lineup:
1. A song that I do not recognize:
2. Wheel and Turn Me (on which Stanley cuts loose):
3. Rich Man (lovely!):
4. Big Bamboo:
5. One Love (The Bob Marley song):
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