Presenting Gussie Clarke

VP Records and 17 North Parade recently released Gussie presenting:  The Right Tracks, a 40-track set, remastered, which chronicles the work of producer Augustus “Gussie” Clarke with such notables as Horace Andy, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Augustus Pablo, Leroy Smart Jacob Miller and more.

Clarke’s very first production for I-Roy (one year after producing Big Youth’s Screaming Target) is a well-imagined and even better-performed response to Big Youth’s debut. I-Roy’s “Magnificent Seven,” signals that the young Clarke was a talent to be reckoned with.  Clarke kicked I-Roy’s career into high gear with “Magnificent Seven” and the follow-up “High Jacking” and the pair seemingly could not stop making hits.  It is Gussie Clarke who gives the most eloquent deejay of the time a harder edge and a sense of bravado that is unchecked on I-Roy’s debut album Presenting. The album is bubbling over with Gussie-produced hits and still stands as one of reggae’s greatest time capsules, hailing a period when Jamaican deejays would take shots at each other at every opportunity.  Iron Sharpen Iron.

He would go on to produce noteworthy, even classic albums for the likes of Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Freddie McGregor, Mighty Diamonds, Cocoa Tea, and countless others earning his place in reggae history alongside the great producers like Lee “Scratch” Perry, Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, King Tubby and other giants.  Gussie Clarke is a giant even among giants.

This latest release from the archives of 17 North Parade is as refreshing for its sense of history as it is a great listen.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that several of Clarke’s productions with the great Tommy McCook are included as well as his collaborations with Augustus Pablo.  Each track, re-mastered for presentation with this set, has a bold, crisp, yet authentic sound which will surprise even the most skeptical vinyl devotees.

Clarke has been so successful with so many different artists that VP/17 North Parade should be commended for digging deep and giving us 2-CDs filled with foundation reggae from early in Clarke’s career.

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