RKR obsessively documents singles released from the early 50s through 1986, a time when the 45 was far and away Jamaica's most popular musical format. Its 63,200 listings approximates 98% of the records from the golden era of Jamaican recordings, hence the information contained in RKR is also the real story of Jamaican music. Although RKR has evolved into a comprehensive historical document, it continues to exist mainly as a tool for record collectors, selectors, and fans. We use as our perspective that single record that you are holding in your hand, playing, or checking out online.
Our aim is to give as much information as possible about this record, whether it's explicitly given on the label or inferred through our detective work. This information breaks down into the following categories:
Artist. Correct artist identification is often tricky. Thousands of records were released only on blank labels, and although artists have been identified on most of these, a substantial number remain unidentified. Then there are the hundreds of miscredits, intentional and unintential, as well as a large number of misspellings. Furthermore, many artists recorded under different names, for example, Max Romeo used at least 10 different aliases during his long recording career.
For purposes of clarity we have employed a "dual" artist identification:
1) The artist's real name, that is, the one most generally recognized. Thus Slim Smith not Keith Smith, Eek A Mouse not Ripton Hylton etc.
2) The literal label attribution. Thus the listing for "Rule the Nation" will credit U Roy as above, but will also show “Hugh Roy with Tommy McCook and The Supersonics”.
Title: Again, correct identification is not always straightforward. Although most of the titles listed on original Jamaican labels are correct, the names tended to mutate over subsequent releases. This was particularly true for titles issued abroad. For example, the same Clancy Eccles record was released four times (in two countries) with three different titles; Africa, We A Black Man, We Want Go Home. Another example of mutation: The Soulettes' Time To Turn is also known as Time For Everything, the title given on the subsequent Studio 1 compilation Jamaica All Stars.We try to list all such title variants, with the the original appearing first and subsequent names listed parenthetically. Occasionally you will see titles written in lower case, these are generally speculations about blank label releases.
Matrix Number: The combination of letters and numbers etched into the run-out groove is with few exceptions unique to each individual recording. Matrix numbers are so reliable that we essentially anchor each listing around them. Over the years, as we've added these numbers, we have concomitantly been able to purge most of our redundant and superfluous information. One by one, we have added over 25,000 matrix numbers to the 32,000 listed Jamaican productions.
Although there are many variations, the matrix frequently identifies the pressing plant, the producer, along with a number. For example Melody Life by Marcia Griffiths, imprinted Wirl CD 4310, was pressed at West Indies Records Ltd. (WIRL) for Coxsone Dodd (CD). The combination of letters and numbers places the song in series with a number of classic Dodd recordings from 1968, including Larry & Alvin's Nanny Goat (Wirl CD 4398) and the Cables Baby Why (Wirl CD 4349). It’s easy to deride record collectors and their obsessions with minutiae, but in fact, the matrix number is often the only tangible data that locates a piece of music to its specific time and place.
Label Number: The label number is usually of secondary importance in Jamaican music, but the primary identifier in UK, US, and other “foreign” issues. Usually the label number corresponds to the matrix number, where exceptions exist these are noted.
Label: This is fairly obvious, as usually there was one label per matrix number. But popular records often came out on multiple labels, particularly from big producers like Coxsone Dodd. If there was a single uniting matrix number these would appear on the same line as in Coxsone/ Studio 1 or Randy's/ Impact.
Other label information. Blanks are listed as “pre”. Later pressings are noted as “reissue”.
Format: We currently list over 48,000 7" singles, 13,500 12", and a few hundred each 10", 78 RPM records, and EPs (multi- track singles).
Country: Refers to the country where a particular record was released (not recorded). Originally we aimed only to trace Jamaican productions. But as the Jamaican community dispersed abroad, so did Jamaican artists, many of whom made records in Jamaica, North America and the U.K. And even in the earliest times a lot of Jamaican music has been made by people who were not born in Jamaica.
The question has always been where to draw the line. In the end we decided to document all music made by and for the Jamaican community. This definition eliminates a lot of music done in "Jamaican" style, like reggae music made in Africa, Two Tone music and other revivals, pop adaptaions and imitations, and most other Caribbean singles. But even within our more narrow definition RKR contains listings from more than 20 countries.
Producer: Production credits became standardized through the years, but there are many obscure figures associated with early recordings. Some of the credits given here are at best educated guesses, particularly with regard to blanks.
Date:This is another ambiguous area. Many Jamaican records were done quickly - the year on a label usually references the time of recording, pressing, and release. But there could be considerable delay between any of these steps, and of course further passage of time when a recording traveled abroad. Matrix numbers are often quite useful but still fallible when determining a date for records without label information. A general rule of thumb is that a given date should be read as plus/minus one year. The main reason we try to assign a date to every listing is to give a general indication of musical style.
Riddim: If you’ve subscribed to this site, you already know what a riddim is. There are already some great websites that identify riddims, and they do a particularly good job with the many lickovers done in the digital era. Our listings are probably stronger in our coverage of older music and some of the more obscure riddims.
Origin: This section owes a lot to Peter Piper's excellent website: Skaville: Cover Versions In Jamaican 60s Music, http://www.skaville.de, which organized for the first time a topic much discussed by aficianados over the years: where did that song come from? This site remains in many ways the last word on this subject, although we have done a lot independent research and hopefully have expanded these musical origins somewhat, particularly with regard to Jamaican music from later eras.
Notes: We try to include a variety of miscellaneous information when possible, such as studio musicians and recording information (engineers, mixers, arrangers). Some of this info comes from labels, some from artist interviews.
You will also see occasionally dubious entry: referring mostly to missing JA issues which have been released as singles abroad. Many dubious entries are phantoms, and we would appreciate help from subscribers who actually own any of these titles.
Genre: Jamaican music is much more than ska, rocksteady, and reggae. Particularly in the 60s there was an active market for ballads, spirituals and traditional musics, as well as recordings done in various soul and pop styles. Some of our designations are somewhat arbitrary, for example we use the term blue beat to designate proto-ska, and dancehall is used for tunes that largely employ "digital" instrumention. Over the years I've spent a lot of money buying records that turned out not to be what I expected, the purpose of this category is in part to help a buyer avoid a "puss in a bag"!
B Side Information
Each RKR entry shows identifies the music on the B side. Up until 1970 Jamaican singles were two-siders, with different tunes on the A and B sides. There could be lots of variablity, for now we have not tried to document all pairings, the listing is limited to what found on the original release. (Whenever possible.)
After 1970 singles were increasingly released with instrumental versions on the B side. We list as much information about the version sides as we can. You will see the question Is the B Side A Version? which might seem odd but particularly of interest to selectors. Sometimes it's helpful to be able to answer this question, for example Road Block by Bob Marley and the Wailers, lists as its B Side Bob Marley and the Wailers Rebel Music, but this is a version side, not a different Marley vocal. Listing these versions also gives us an opportunity to credit the many studio bands which were the backbone of all this music.