In 2019, musicians Zak Starkey and Sharna “Sshh” Liguz launched the Trojan Jamaica record label, in partnership with BMG. The label’s critically-acclaimed debut offering, Red, Gold, Green & Blue, was a compilation of classic American soul, r&b, and blues tunes, as interpreted by legendary Jamaican reggae artists. That eclectic blend of stars and styles quickly landed RGGB on the pages of media outlets like Rolling Stone and Relix.
The full collection now gets a remix treatment from UK sound designer Rob Jevons, whose credits include work on The Prodigy’ s No Tourists album, which debuted at number one on the Official UK Albums Chart. With label founders Starkey and Liguz producing, Trojan Jamaica proudly releases the 12-track Red, Gold, Green & Blue RMXZ album.
Big Youth ‘s version of Bo Diddley’s “Gunslinger” now fires off like a militant dancehall march through a Spaghetti Western. Big Youth’s rhythmic chat rides the snares as he tells the story of his dub slinging precision. The charismatic deejay makes an appearance later in the tracklist on the ska-rocking remix of “Temperature,” a song originally recorded by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer bluesman, Little Walter.
Freddie McGregor’s take on Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” delves into classic rock territory, as psychedelic guitar solos soar over a slow and steady processionary stomp. Already a standout number from the original RGGB release, newcomer Phylea Carley’s fiery vocal delivery on her version of Muddy Waters’ “Baby Please Don’t Go” is now supported by a head-nodding hip hop beat, complete with a lush brass arrangement and a touch of jazz piano.
Black Uhuru’s Mykal Rose, who is featured on three tracks, shows that his silky voice will shine through any music bed, whether it’s the dub-drenched one-drop riddim of “I Put A Spell On You” (originally a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins tune), the city street beat of his rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “44 Blues,” or his execution of Johnny and Shuggie Otis’ “Bad Luck Shadow” over a hauntingly dark trip-hop arrangement that progressively builds in intensity until it becomes a manic drum ‘n bass exploration.
Andrew Tosh, son of reggae icon Peter Tosh, contributes vocals to Willie Dixon’s classic “Don’t Go No Further,” a song previously recorded by acts like Muddy Waters and The Doors. Rob Jevons, who also designs sounds and programs synths for such electronic instrument giants as Nord Keyboards, Steinberg, and Native Instruments, among others, flips the new version into a dubstep expedition that rides out through the end of the track.
The only song included on RGGB RMXZ that did not previously appear on the original RGGB album is a version of Paul Gayten and Robert Guidry’s “But I Do,” performed by musical luminary, Cyril Neville, the youngest Neville Brother, and vocalist/percussionist in the original New Orleans funk pioneers, The Meters. Cyril’s netherworldly rasp over Jevon’s moody remix is a far departure from the upbeat Charlie “Frogman” Henry version heard recently in Expedia commercials.
Trojan Jamaica co-founder and SSHH band vocalist Sharna “Sshh” Liguz brings powerful angst to her bluesy, yet punk versions of Willie Dixon’s oft-covered “Wang Dang Doodle” (creatively blended with Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” here) that is elevated to arena-rock heights at the song’s crescendo. As the fledgling record label forges ahead with its first release of 2020, Sshh appropriately warns:
Gonna break out all the windows
Gonna kick down all the doors
Gonna fuss til midnight
And we’re gonna fight til daylight
Closing out the set is a rousing presentation of Willie Dixon’s “Bring It On Home,” with renowned Jamaican bassist Robbie Shakespeare taking the helm at vocals. The innovative musician/producer’s versatility here serves as a fitting metaphor for the Red, Gold, Green & Blue RMXZ project, as he leaves his comfort zone behind the bass, to create something unique and beautiful.
Label chiefs (and SSHH bandmates) Starkey and Liguz jointly offered this elaboration about the project and its intention:
“The initial Trojan Jamaica release Red, Gold, Green & Blue is all about taking a new approach with Jamaican flavor, to classic blues songs that inspired so many people — not only musicians/artists but people from all walks of life. In particular, the suffering people that ‘society’ didn’t/don’t acknowledge. The power of music gave and continues to give a voice, a sound, and a sense of hope to anyone who needs it. Music gives unconditional love. it doesn’t discriminate & it has no borders. Music is the universal language. It can speak to one and all. RGGB RMXZ is once again breathing new life into those classic songs. By approaching the tracks in new and various evolving, electronic ways, it is our goal to continue the legacy of the legends, without whom, the journey to contemporary music and its landscape would be a very different view. We give thanks and praise to those who came before us and those who will carry the flame once we are gone.”
Rob Jevons added:
“It was a complete honor and a pleasure to be asked by Zak and Sshh to work with them on this remix album. Being given the vocal tracks of pioneers, legends, and extremely talented people, and to be able to put my own spin on it, was a dream. Zak said that he didn’t want “ four to the floor” stuff that remixes have generally been known for in the past. He and Sshh wanted to put something out there that was a bit off-kilter, and luckily for me, they asked me to help them on that journey.”
About Trojan Jamaica:
The story of Trojan Jamaica began in 2016 when Zak Starkey – known for his superlative work as the drummer in The Who, Oasis, and Johnny Marr and the Healers, among countless other musical efforts – and Australian-born artist-musician Sharna “Sshh” Liguz, united as the band SSHH. They traveled to Kingston to reinvent such seminal songs as Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Get Up Stand Up,” performing alongside rock legend Eddie Vedder and pioneering reggae musicians Carlton “Santa” Davis, George “Fully” Fullwood, and Tony Chin, all alumni of the elite Jamaican session band, Soul
Syndicate. A video of that performance made its way to Jamaican entrepreneur Kingsley Cooper, who immediately invited Starkey and Liguz to perform at the November 2016 opening of the long-awaited Peter Tosh Museum in Kingston. Another invitation followed in 2017, inspiring the duo to begin work on what would soon become an incredible new venture. In February 2019, the new frontline label, Trojan Jamaica, was announced. Distributed globally by BMG, the company’s mission is to bring newly produced, Jamaican-made music to the world.