Dr. Alimantado

In the past few years Dr. Alimantado has built a strong cult following among reggae fans both black and white. His early self produced recordings are now highly sought after collectors items often changing hands for ten to fifteen pounds each. There is a freshness and vitality in these records that few artists have managed to capture on plastic. ‘Best Dressed Chicken’ is a compilation of the best of the Doc’s music from this Renaissance period of 1973-76. It includes his first excellent attempt at record production, the stark and urgent ‘Just The Other Day’, his comments on the delivery to Jamaica of a consignment of contaminated flour, ‘Poison Flour’, a plea for the right to protection from the ghetto gunman in the militant ‘Gimme Mi Gun’, and of course the title track, Alimantado’s neo-psychedelic tour de force, ‘The Best Dressed Chicken In Town’, certainly one of the most totally original and imaginative records ever to have come out of Jamaica.

Despite the fact that the crude production techniques will probably make those with a more refined sense of hearing cringe there can be no denying the appeal and excitement of the Doc’s music.

Alimantado was born James Winston Thompson in Kingston 1952. He grew up in the ghetto of the city’s west side, an area notorious for its poverty and violence. In his early teens Winston became intersted in the Rastafarian faith, grew locks and ran away from home but was soon re-captured by his parents who lost no time in trimming his dread. On leaving school and drifting between jobs he soon realized that music was a good escape from the dead end of life in Kingston. Winston’s talent was in deejaying (the art of jive talking over a rhythm) and he listened and learnt from the master and originator of the art, the great U. Roy.

He then set about getting his foot in the door of the record business hanging round the studios waiting to be given a chance. In the end ‘Upsetter’ Lee Perry gave the budding star a break, first just chanting a few lines on the version side of Junior Byles’ massive hit ‘Beat Down Babylon’. The Upsetter then went on to produce three more sides with him under the alias of Winston Prince, ‘Piece of My Heart’, ‘Macabee the Third’, and ‘Place Called Africa Version 3’. Winston Prince became Winston Cool, then Ital Winston as he continued his career. By 1973 Winston had a fair bit of experience of the Kingston music scene. Despite the fact that none of the records he’d cut for other producers had sold all that well, he decided to start his own label and produce himself. So his label Vital Food and Dr. Alimantado were born that year with his first release, ‘Just The Other Day’. Tado’s next records all dealt with social and Rastafarian themes, ‘Ride On’, ‘Plead I Cause’, ‘President Nyrere’ and ‘Oil Crisis’. All these tunes sold respectably on the local JA market and the copies that reached England as pre-releases were beginning to establish Alimantado as a strong underground artist. But still the Doctor was without a really strong seller that would mash up the radio station charts. He didn’t have to wait too long. Towards the end of 1974 he went into Lee Perry’s then new Black Ark Studio and cut what is one of the most unusual reggae records of all time, ‘Best Dressed Chicken’. Using the rhythm track of Horace Andy’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and drawing inspiration from a well known poultry advert on the radio, Tado and Perry created three minutes of musical madness. The song is echoed, reverberated and equalised, tapes are speeded up and down until the whole thing becomes a whirlpool of sound.

Although ‘Best Dressed Chicken’ proved very popular in JA it was in England that the record became hailed as a cult classic and Alimantado became not just another good artist to look out for but a legend.

Tado’s career made steady progress throughout 1975-76 with records like ‘Weak Heart Is Babylon’, ‘I Kill The Barber’, ‘Poison Flour’ and ‘Gimme Mi Gun’. Then on Boxing Day 1976 the Doc’s fortunes changed for the worse. While walking up Orange Street after an early morning dip in the sea Tado was struck down and nearly killed by a bus. He was out of action in hospital for some time with his legs badly injured. He eventually managed to recover and although penniless got a free session at Channel One Studio during which he recorded a passionate song that told the story of his accident, ‘Born For A Purpose’. In the song he tells of how the bus driver was intent on running him over for daring to wear his dreadlocks in the street – Tado pleads in the song “If you feel that you have no reason for living, Don’t determine my life.”

Again it was in the UK that the record really captured people’s imagination. It was soon picked up by the likes of Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten and became one of the few records to actually capture the spirit of 1977 and of the Punk movement.

At the moment, Dr. Alimantado is busy working on new music that he will probably unleash on the world next year. In the meantime ‘Best Dressed Chicken’ provides the opportunity to catch up on the background of one of reggae’s most colourful and innovative characters.

This is the original biography written for the release of the album “Best Dressed Chicken In Town” in September 1978 from Greensleeves.

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