UNKNOWN ARTIST – HOLY MOUNT ZION / ZION IS MY HOME

holy mount zion joe gibbs

A: Unknown – Holy Mount Zion (?)

B: Unknown – Zion is my home (?)

 

To celebrate the new website I thought I’d post a nice, obscure and very rare record. In fact, it’s so enigmatic that I can’t even tell you who the artist is. I’m not sure about the title either, although taking the lyrics in account I’d say it’s either ‘Zion is my home’ or ‘Holy Mount Zion.’ Riding a tough, nyahbinghi based riddim the singers lament about repatriation to the promised land – it’s not singing per se, it’s more like they’re chanting. Pleading to God the Almighty to take them back to Holy Mount Zion and in the process making this song as roots as reggae will ever get.

Joe Gibbs recorded more songs in this vein in the early seventies. It was quite a break away from what he usually released on wax – although the Gibbs imprints were never afraid of a little musical experiment – but it makes sense, because reggae was moving fast forward in the beginning of the decade. Tempo’s changed, styles changed, deejays were now recorded on disc and dub music came about – which changed the game altogether. Reggae was becoming ever so more versatile and the dawning of roots reggae was part of that movement. Perhaps that is why Joe Gibbs took a chance on a group of singers who sang about deliverance and nirvana. Whether the group was comprised of well known artists, joining in for the occasion, or just a bunch of hopefuls trying their luck, I don’t know, but Gibbs didn’t grant the song a full release. Whatever the reason may have been, ‘Zion’ never got past the stage of pre-release and thus never saw the light of day as a labelled copy. Perhaps Joe Gibbs liked Max Romeo’s take better, because his ‘Don’t be prejudice‘ sounds well-nigh the same and that song did see a release (JoGibs). In fact, it was with ‘Don’t be prejudice’ Gibbs and Romeo entered the Song Contest! (which, incidentally, was won by Eric Donaldson with Cherry Oh, a way happier and far more positive song). If anything, the reason Gibbs scrapped ‘Zion’ from his release roster was not because he found the song too precarious..

Listening to ‘Zion is my home’ it sounds like Max Romeo is also involved in this one. The lead vocals are by an unknown singer (to me) but Max’s voice shines through in the backing vocals. Or so I thought, because when I sent him an e-mail asking if he sang on it he was quick to reply that he didn’t. Unfortunately, he too couldn’t help shed a light on ‘Zion.’ Which leaves me right were I started. With a superb roots tune on the turntable and a load of questions. Could it be Leo Graham then…? Do I hear Jimmy Riley in the background??

 

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Label: blank (Ja)
Release date: 1970 / 1971 (?)
Riddim: original
Matrix: Dyna J.G. 3979 / Dyna J.G. 3980

Posted: 18-12-2014

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