PHILIP ‘Fatis’ Burrell, one of the leading reggae producers of the past 25 years, died Saturday evening at the University Hospital of the West Indies UHWI). He was 57 years old. Burrell had been admitted to the UHWI last month shortly after returning to Jamaica from Zimbabwe where he had gone with singer Cocoa Tea. His son Kareem Burrell told the Observer he had suffered a mild stroke and his condition gradually deteriorated.
The bulky Burrell was one of several executive producers who came to prominence during the 1980s. His approach was similar to that of his contemporaries including Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes and George Phang.
Burrell and his Xterminator label were responsible for some of the biggest hit songs out of Jamaica in the 1980s and 1990s. He helped nurture the careers of roots singers Ini Kamoze, Luciano and Sizzla.
At the time of his death, Burrell was still part of Sizzla’s management team.
Drummer/producer Sly Dunbar worked as a musician on many of Burrell’s biggest productions including Where There Is Life, the 1995 album by Luciano. Dunbar admired Burrell’s approach in the recording studio.
“What we (musicians) would do most of the time is lay the tracks and he would take things from there,” Dunbar said. “He did things in a very cool way.”
Burrell formed Xterminator in the 1980s and recorded mainly roots singers. He had a series of hits with Beres Hammond (Full Attention), Kamoze (Here Comes The Hotstepper), Sizzla (Praise Ye Jah, No White God) and Luciano (Lord Give Me Strength). The latter was taken from Where There Is Life, a modern reggae classic distributed by the Chris Blackwell-owned Island Jamaica Records. Burrell was also at the helm for Luciano’s follow-up album, The Messenger, which yielded hit songs in the title track and Guess What’s Happening.
Backed by the Firehouse Crew, Luciano had a golden run with Burrell before the duo split in the late 1990s. One Way Ticket, Sweep Over My Soul and Ulterior Motive were among his other hits for the Xterminator camp.
Burrell had a strong bond with Sizzla, acting as producer, manager and mentor to the fiery singer. Praise Ye Jah remains a Sizzla standard. One of Burrell’s unheralded projects was Watch Over We, an album by British singer Prince Malachi. Produced by Burrell, the impressive set was a minor hit in London’s reggae circles.