DENNIS ALCAPONE & NINEY – YOU MUST BELIEVE

Dennis Alcapone & Niney - You must believe me

A: Dennis Alcapone & Niney – You must believe me

B: The Destroyers / The Observers – You must believe me version

 

Without the Impressions, I often wonder, would reggae have sounded the same as it does today? It’s without doubt that the Chigaco soul outfit has had a huge influence on the flourishing music scene in Jamaica. Formed in 1957 as The Roosters the group quickly found success with ‘For your precious love‘, credited to the new name Jerry Butler and the Impressions. The real fireworks, however, began when Butler left the group to pursue a career on his own. Having written a few of the hits Butler scored as a solo singer and being part of the Impressions from the early days, on and off, the soulful fella Curtis Mayfield took over as leadsinger, songwriter and bandleader. His ‘Gypsy Woman‘ became a smash hit for the Impressions in 1961, as did ‘It’s Alright‘ some two years later. But it was the man’s message; one that more and more portrayed a social awareness and one that would increasingly personify the struggles of a black man living in America; his style and his delivery that would be of great significance to Jamaican performers of that time. Bob Marley, Slim Smith, The Gaylads, The Heptones.. they were all taking in the Curtis Mayfield approach and, over time, gave it a shape of their own.

Always the funkiest cat on the Jamaican scene, Niney The Observer; or Winston Holness as his parents named him; also drew heavily from the US soul and funk scene. Both lyrically as well as musically Niney tuned in to what was happening in the States, not unlike other producers of the time. Still, his output and his style of producing is distinctive and easily recognizable as it has a certain flow to it. There is always that particular shuffle that makes Niney’s tunes funkier than the rest of the Jamaican songbook. The mighty Soul Syndicate band, Niney’s premier choice of musicians for a great length of time, are certainly a big number in this particular equation. They can be heard on many Dennis Brown songs Niney recorded for Joe Gibbs, giving them that raw soul feel, and I’m pretty sure they play on the Impressions cover that is on display here as well.

Originally released in 1964 on ABC Paramount and featured on their groundbreaking album ‘People get ready‘ Niney revisited the classic in 1971 – well after Curtis Mayfield had left the group and Leroy Hutson took over vocal duties – and he made it into something else completely. I’m not sure if he ever recorded a full version of the song, I have never heard or seen it, but on this release only snippets of the song are intact. Niney sings the lead, after which Dennis Alcapone is brought in. The man who had his voice insured for half a million dollars, rides the riddim in his own unique fashion. A fashion that is very much rooted in gospel; talk and talk back. On ‘You Must Believe’ Dennis keeps things sparse and he talks back in an old fashioned soundsystem way. Indeed, very much like he used to do on records for the great Keith Hudson. Dennis is bigging up the band (The Observers, he states), commenting on the topic at hand and introducing the fine, fine saxophone part that is played by, I think, ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennet. It is exactly this interaction between the different performers that makes this record so much fun and what gives it its hook. A statement that is all the more exemplified by the rather plain version that makes up the b-side.

 

you must believe me

 

The uncredited and unnamed Jamaican single, released as a blank only, is dubbed ‘Funk the funk’ on the Pama Supreme (UK) release. Although an apt name for the basis of the tune, as that is without doubt a funky footing; the version of ‘You Must Believe’ unfortunately lacks momentum. A heavy organ workout or a brutal horns cut, or both, would definitely have spiced things up. Sadly, though, that is not the case. I don’t know if the “Funk the funk” title also braces the Success version of the this song, but both releases credit Rupie Edwards as the producer. Maybe Niney sold the track to him for its UK release? Or maybe Rupie licensed the tune to Gibbs? Was the backing track Rupie’s and did they finish it at Gibbs’?

None of the above, Rupie Edwards explains: “The recording you’ve made inquiry about has nothing to do with Rupie Edwards. And is no doubt one of the many mistakes made by the record [..] companies, which released Jamaican music during the old days in the U K.

Well, at least that mystery is solved. Blow your horn, brother….

 

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Label: Jogib blank (Ja) / Succes (UK) / Pama Supreme (uk)
Release date: 1971
Riddim: You Must believe
Matrix: Dyna “Niney”25

(originally posted on 26-04-14)

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