Kingman & Jonah
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Kingman & Jonah

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One of reggae’s greatest singers has resurfaced with a superb compilation of works spanning the late ‘60s to the mid ‘80s. Claudius Linton’s “Roots Master” (Sun King) has all his great solo records on it – records I’ve played for years on “Reggae Central” (KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles) off scarce 7” singles – including “Put Your Shoulder to Jah Wheel,” “Backra Massa” and “Crying Time.” Other classic early records include “Reach Out,” “Woman Wash Your Hair,” “Reduce the Arms Race” and “Twentieth Century.” Linton’s voice is as distinctive and crisp as the late Joseph Hill’s or the great Winston Rodney’s and his songs – backed in the studio by the Soul Syndicate, Jackie Mittoo and other Jamaican greats — are second to none.

The set is a collector’s dream including new stereo mixes from the original analog tapes, alternate original mono mixes of the major songs, versions and dubs and a previously unreleased track called “Road to Life.” There’s a 10-minute video documentary included as well. Hearing these records all together is like rediscovering an old friend. “Crying Time” was number one in Jamaica and huge in the UK as well, so many of you will know the voice as soon as you hear it (even if, like a friend of mine, you thought the record was originally done by Burning Spear). Absolutely one of the best new releases of classic material to show up in years, this is an essential set for lovers of classic roots music. - By Chuck Foster, The Beat magazine


Linton is a living Jamaican reggae pioneer, having emerged from Kingston's Trenchtown ghetto and the late ska/rock steady scene with friends and fellow disciples of godfather Joe Higgs, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. His molasses soul voice was his business card; so although his lyrics conveyed social protest, this vintage singles collection spotlights the pleasant, feel-good soul of his gratifying voice. These are digital stereo mixes from extremely rare (expensive!) singles from 1969-1986, arranged by Baltimore's Sun King honcho/producer Ian Jones. Jones somehow tracked down original tapes and vinyl, and also located the vanished Linton himself—unheard for a quarter century—in Negril, Jamaica, to co-produce these mixes. The pair carefully preserve wells-deep grooves. From the 1976 Jamaican #1 "Crying Time," to the blunt "Reduce the Arms Race," to the behind the scenes DVD look at Linton today, Roots Master is ganga for reggae lovers—the "roots" of Burning Spear and Culture to come.

And if Jones hasn't done enough with Roots—more volumes are likely, too—he also convinced Linton ("Kingman") to record again, with him ("Jonah"), for the surprisingly spry Sign Time. 22 years has done zero damage to Linton's mellifluous vocal chords, full of butter and syrup, still. And the all-star oldster band assembled for Marley's old Tuff Gong studios (Dwight Pinkney, Ansel Collins, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Keith Francis, Bongo Herman), ensures that Sign has a vintage feel/touch/throb despite cleaner '00s recording. Linton's awareness has also not faded, as per "World War III," the folky "Redemption Song"-ish "Baghdad"—how little humans learn—and the anti-corruption "In the Street." - By Jack Rabid, The Big TakeOver magazine


Claudius Linton “Roots Master” (Sun King). Now here’s a surprise treat. Even longtime reggae aficionados may not know of this Trenchtown singer who was a pal and cohort of Bob Marley and recorded many revered roots tracks from the ‘60s onward into the ‘80s. Here is a selection of long-lost gems, with superby backing from the likes of Jackie Mittoo, Chinna Smith and the Soul Syndicate. Top ranking and rating for anyone seeking something truly great and previously unheard from reggae’s peak era. If you still check for vintage Spear or Culture, say, try this and you won’t be disappointed. - By Steve Heilig, The Beat magazine


Sign Time (Sun King, 2008)

Veteran roots singer Claudius "Kingman" Linton returns with his first recordings in over 20 years, teaming with Baltimore-area producer/musician Ian Jones as Kingman & Jonah. If there's any rust on Linton's game, it isn't apparent on Sign Time, an eclectic, heartfelt album with a sound that remains true to the singer's roots in music of the '50s and '60s. Tunes like "Lonely Nights," "Baghdad," and "Windows of My Mind" have a rustic, strumming guitar mix of reggae, blues, and country akin to Toots & The Maytals -- particularly with a more uptempo groove like the get-up-and-dance "Sun Sun." It's a refreshing blend of styles, although acoustic ballads like "I Need You" and "Amazing Grace" might be a bit too slow and lacking in "reggae-ity" for some listeners' tastes. Linton's penchant for conscious lyrics remains intact, with as biting, anti-war titles like "World War III," "Star Wars," and "Baghdad" attest. "Star Wars" is not only the highlight of the album, but it's one of Linton's best compositions of all time, balancing a sobering nuclear disarmament message with a soaring, horn-driven musical groove. Jones sticks mostly to the background in the Kingman & Jonah equation, singing harmony and playing guitar and organ, although he performs a duet on the country-tinged ballad "Lonely Nights," adding a bit of a Sting vibe to the proceedings. Joining him in the back is a sparkling array of legendary musicians, including Ansel Collins, Dwight Pinkney, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Bongo Herman, and Dean Fraser, solidifying the high-level content of Sign Time. Hear more at www.sunkingrecords.com. - Reggae-Reviews.com


Roots Master: The Vintage Roots Reggae Singles Volume 1 (Sun King, 2007)

Claudius "Kingman" Linton is an originator in the field of roots reggae, a Trenchtown contemporary and friend of Bob Marley who was part of the wave of Jamaican musicians who ushered reggae from '60s ska to '70s roots. Unfortunately, despite a string of successful singles, he's largely been forgotten -- partly because he hasn't released any material since the mid-'80s. But thanks to indie musician/producer Ian Jones, AKA Jonah, his legacy lives on in this collection of singles from Linton's heyday. Listening to Roots Master, it's amazing that so much great material is just now seeing the light of day on CD (and one, "Road of Life," was previously unreleased in any format). The songs were recorded between 1969 and 1986 and aside for the ska track "Woman Wash Your Hair," are vintage roots reggae. His biggest hit, 1976's "Crying Time," is indicative of his style: bouncy bass line, rural guitar, strong R&B-styled melody, emotional delivery, and a socially conscious, righteous message with the world's sufferers in mind. Songs like "Crying Time," "Put Your Shoulder to Jah Wheel," "Backra Massa," and "Reach Out" just sound like classics, capturing the musical artistry of the Golden Age of Reggae. Linton's scratchy vocals are reminscent of Culture's Joseph Hill with a touch of U-Roy in the more "scatty" elements of songs like "Cry Now," lending an air of immediate reverence to his tunes that many people strive for years to attain. The potency of his lyrics only add to his stature, particularly when they prove as timeless as they do in "Put Your Shoulder to Jah Wheel" -- which cites economic and energy crises that continue to this day -- and "Reduce the Arms Race," which pleads for a reduction in world conflict. I can only hope that a Volume 2 will follow shortly. You can hear samples at www.sunkingrecords.com. - Reggae-reviews.com


Sign Time by Kingman and Jonah

When this CD came my way I found myself in need of educating in regard to both major parties involved. I was vaguely aware of Claudius Linton, AKA Kingman, veteran roots singer who went from group to solo success in the ‘70s. Even so, he’s been rather inactive the last 20 years or thereabout and his work is mostly new to me. Ian “Jonah” Jones is the founder and overseer of Evil Genius Studio in Arlington, Virginia, where he reportedly produces and plays on independent rock releases that wouldn’t be likely to cross my path. He must be a great guy, though, since he’s here applied his hand to a deeply heartfelt and soulful mix of roots reggae and acoustic balladry. I’m not sure how these two hooked up, but they sure do bring out the best in each other.

Linton is the primary singer, and his Jimmy Riley-like tones blend with Jones’ bluesy coloring in a manner that’s rough but perfect, particularly on the electrified nyabinghi of 'Lonely Nights' where the two trade off with unpolished grace. The more straight-up reggae tunes like 'Draw My Sword', 'So Wrapped Up' and the title track get an extra jolt from Jones’ subtly rockish guitar while the few tracks that aren’t powered by a skanking groove keep the pace regardless. Best among these is 'Baghdad', with softly treading acoustic guitar, plain-spoken lyrics and droning background sounds suggestive of Sufi trance music combining to create a song very much of our times but echoing with the weariness of wars past as well.

The promotional materials accompanying the arrival of Sign Time draw comparisons between Claudius Linton and such masters as Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Culture. Pretty weighty parallels, but Linton lives up to them. Let’s hope he and Jones get together again sometime. Welcome back, Kingman. All hail. - By Tom Orr, UnitedReggae.com


DC Soundclash: Aye, Claudius

The backstory behind the making of these two recordings featuring roots singer Claudius Linton actually achieved some attention in DC's City Paper recently. Sun King Records was started by longtime DC indie-rockster Ian Jones, who now lives in Baltimore. On a 2006 trip to Jamaica, while mulling about on the beaches in Negril, Jones made the rather happenstance acquaintance of Linton. A long story shortened reveals a musical bonding that took place between the two, with Jones inspired enough to front the money for the reissue of Linton's back catalogue, as well as new studio time for 2008's "Sign Time."

You'd have to say that was a bold move for someone who knew little about the reggae world. And as far as reissue compilations go, "Roots Master" is a decently put-together little package, showcasing a singer who might otherwise have languished in relative obscurity. The accompanying 10-minute "behind-the-scenes" video shows two gents that clearly have grown fond of one another. One cheers for this revival project, though Jones lets his newfound bias get the better of him with the opening caption claiming Linton "invented" the roots reggae style of singing.

Linton's is a rich, evocative voice with a gruff gentleness to it that reminds of fellow '70s roots icon Burning Spear. Linton's hit song "Crying Time" (and the accompanying Tubby's dub) put him on the roots aficionado's map, and throughout you can hear his vocals reach strongly for an impact that is defining of "conscious" roots reggae. That big production sound of the mid-70s (so majestically defined by backing band Soul Syndicate) was always going to suit a voice like Linton's, and he rides an almost exact vibe on 1975's "Put Your Shoulder To Jah Wheel." These are the high points of what was a sporadic recording career, and they provide the first two tracks to this compilation of Linton's various singles from 1969-1986.

Many of the singers that thrived in the '70s got their start in that mint vocal era of the '60s, and so it was with Linton who was part of the late '60s duo the Hofner Brothers. The reggaematic 1969 skinhead skank that is "Woman Wash Your Hair" is a fun example of that genre, but you can hear Linton's voice looking for higher ground. And so we make it to the later decades eventually in this narrative, with Linton's aesthetic finally petering out during the digitized era of the '80s.

It's this soulful, R&B and country-influenced sound of Linton's that lay dormant over the last twenty years, a fact that comes as no surprise to those of us who've seen the direction of Jamaican music. The old musicians remain, of course, scattered about and occasionally employed in the old studios. Names like Horsemouth Wallace (drummer & "star" of the Rockers movie), Ansel Collins, Dwight Pinkney and Dean Fraser you can find on any number of roots era LPs, and here they all are again, sitting in Marley's Tuff Gong studio, recording an album with a faded old singer and an improbable "producer" from Baltimore. The result surprised me.

Title track "Sign Time" can hold its head up as a wonderfully sung modern roots song. Jones' own vocals are an oddly different accompaniment in the pan-African reggae vibe, but I have to give full credit to "Jonah" Jones (Linton's pet name for Jones) and his ability to connect where Linton and he are essentially sharing communion: soulful, inflected roots music, wherever it may be found. "Sign Time", "Windows of My Mind," and "So Wrapped Up" are all classic roots tunes, with Linton and Jones harmonizing throughout in the soulful tradition reggae fans have become accustomed to. On "Lonely Nights" Jones gets a few solo bars, and the song's distinct pop-soul inflections will not necessarily convince reggae heads, but the tone of musicians and singers alike is assured and natural, an indication of Jamaica's native love of these very American pop sounds.

It's hard to shake free from the sense that this record belonged in 1976 somehow, so strong do the influences reveal themselves. But on "Baghdad," Linton takes a current topic and, with acoustic guitar in hand, crafts a sorrowful paean to the dying that is remarkable both for its melancholy and its vaguely experimental production. The likes have never been recorded by a Jamaican artist, I have to think, and Jones' influence is perhaps at play here.

Whether Linton's career can take off again is uncertain, but to be rejoiced in is the fact that a tourist's willing and trained ear came across a fellow artist's beating heart that still had expressions to bring to light.

– Mark Williams
kaiser@dcsoundclash.com - By Mark Williams, DC Soundclash


Ian Jones’ Jamaican trip two years ago wasn’t the kind of vacation that sells Sandals travel packages. The beach was full of hustlers, the boat drinks were in short supply, and the strongest personal connection he made was with a 65-year-old Rastafarian man. Though the trip wasn’t romantic enough to float a decent Jimmy Buffett B-side, it did make for a pretty good reggae record.

Jones, 37, has been a business journalist his entire adult life, but throughout the ’90s he was also a musician and engineer in D.C.’s indie-rock scene. He worked on several recordings—1994’s The Pink Album by local twee-pop band Tuscadero was among the best-known ones—and toured with Eggs as a conga player. Later he was the frontman of Bombardier Jones and put out records on his own label, Sun King Records. But his 2003 relocation to Charm City put a strain on his hobby. “When I moved to Baltimore I didn’t have anybody to play with,” says Jones. “I was just kind of figuring out the next thing to do.”

Enter Claudius “Kingman” Linton, 65, a Jamaican reggae singer. Linton has been a musician ever since he was a teenager, when he ran away from the sugar plantation where he was raised and wound up on the streets of Kingston’s impoverished Trenchtown district. During the ’70s he hung out with Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, and he released some popular singles with a vocal group called the Hoffner Brothers. In 1976, after parting ways with his old group, he scored a No. 1 hit on the Jamaican charts with a solo single, “Crying Time.” During the ’80s, though, roots reggae stopped getting much airplay in Jamaica, and the bottom dropped out of Linton’s music career. He moved to Negril and raised his family, playing in pickup groups on the beaches and around town.

One day in March 2006, Linton was on the beach in Negril just as Jones’ change in latitude was failing to produce the promised change in attitude. On the second-to-last day of his trip, Jones was alone and bummed out. “I went to the beach by myself,” he says. “When you’re walking along the beach there’s a lot of hustling going on, and I didn’t find it to be very relaxing. I decided to go home. I was about 10 steps from leaving the beach when these two old Rastas approached me with a guitar.”

Linton admits that he was messing with Jones at first. “I see this gentleman coming down,” says Linton, speaking by phone from Negril. “I stretch out my guitar and say, ‘Hey man, can you tune this guitar for me?’ It’s a joke, but he took it.”

“I sat down with him and tuned the guitar,” says Jones. “Then he started singing an old Sam Cooke tune. Then I started to play some lead, and he got really excited. We sat on the beach for a few hours and played, and he told me that he was from Trenchtown and that he knew Peter Tosh and Bob Marley.”

Of course, if you’re on a beach full of Jamaican hustlers and some guy tells you that he was tight with the original soul rebel—well, you’d be a little suspicious. But Jones’ curiosity was piqued. When he returned to the hotel he mentioned Linton to a security guard, who backed up the story. Later that evening Jones met with Linton again, and the singer proposed that they cut a record. “He told me, ‘Tomorrow I want to go into the recording studio,’” says Jones. “He told me that he had been working on some tracks, and he wanted me to sing harmony on them.” Jones was initially cautious—he didn’t want to get hustled and wind up face-down at the bottom of Dunns River Falls—but playing music with Linton had been the sole enjoyable aspect of his weeklong vacation. He agreed to go along.

They wound up at a shack in nearby Lucea called the House of Black, where they recorded two songs in a converted broom closet with an engineer named Brains. Once Jones returned to Baltimore, he overdubbed some other instruments, mixed the songs, and mailed the finished tracks to Linton, who was delighted with the music. “The Jamaicans were very surprised,” says Jones. “When I put on the bass line, they were amazed that an American knew how to put down a reggae bass line.”

They were right to be surprised, not just because Jones was an American, but because Jones didn’t really follow reggae. In fact, much of his prior musical output owes a sizable debt to They Might Be Giants. “I don’t have a huge background in [reggae],” he says. “I’m a fan but not a fanatic.” But Jones was probably the world’s No. 1 Claudius Linton fan, and Linton reciprocated that admiration. “He had presence, that spiritual connection,” says Linton. “This man has released energy, which I for a long time was locked up and put down. He released energy in me so I can stand up strong.”

Jones soon began taking steps to promote Linton’s career. He tracked down Linton’s old 45s, put up a MySpace page for him, and began working with him on new songs, written and arranged during long phone calls over a period of eight months. In January 2007, Jones returned to Jamaica to record, and Linton called up som - By Aaron Leitko, Washington DC City Paper


A rare gem has been unearthed in Claudius Linton, otherwise known as Kingman. The seminal roots reggae master was (re)discovered by Sun Records’ Ian Jones and the world would soon be treated to his precious seminal gift; pained vocals steeped in the plight of the oppressed, the melody of the impoverished, the meek, the quiet and the unheralded; indeed, his life and music is a redemption song. The Sun Time and Roots Master CD’S are musical treasures spanning over 30 years of reggae. As bands like Rancid, The Aggrolites, Bedouin Soundclash, and Saint Alvia Cartel have fused roots influences with the soul of their new music, it’s no doubt that the world will find in Kingman and Jonah the heritage from where it all started. - By Dixon Christie, Publisher, PunkTV.ca


“Every time the new hit tune Crying Time is
played on the air, the name of Claudius Linton gets
another boost up the ladder of recognition. Claudius not
only wrote the lyrics and composed the music for the
song, but put the whole thing together... People are listen-
ing to Claudius and waiting for his next release. He says
there are a few more even but he is waiting for the right time.”
- Jamaica Gleaner, April 6, 1976


Discography

KINGMAN & JONAH
April 2008: "Sign Time" CD (Sun King Records). 13 songs plus 10-minute video documentary.

CLAUDIUS LINTON
Nov. 2007: "Roots Master: The Vintage Reggae Singles, Volume One" CD (Sun King Records). 16 songs plus behind-the-scenes video.

Claudius Linton/Hoffner Brothers/Angelic Brothers
Jamaican Singles 1964-1984

Crying Time
Backra Massa
Ten Virgins
Reach Out
Open Up the Gates
Woman Wash Your Hair
Black Star
Star Wars
Third World
When I Drape You
20th Century
Hail The Man
Let Me Dream
King Man is Back
P&B Mountain Music
Put Your Shoulder to Jah Wheel
Arms Race/Chun Pon Nannie

Photos

Bio

The rediscovery and artistic rebirth of Claudius Linton, aka Kingman, is the reggae resurrection story of the decade. Indie rocker-producer Ian Jones (aka Jonah) met Linton, the artist behind 1976’s #1 hit "Crying Time," on a Jamaican beach and struck up the partnership that created Linton’s 2008 comeback album: Kingman & Jonah’s “Sign Time.”

“One of reggae’s greatest singers has resurfaced,” renowned reggae critic Chuck Foster writes in The Beat magazine.

Recorded at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, “Sign Time” reunites Kingman with the band heard on his classic singles -- an aggregate of reggae veterans dubbed the "Buena Vista Social Club of reggae": Ansel Collins, Dwight Pinkney, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Keith Francis, Bongo Herman and Dean Fraser.

“If there’s any rust on Linton’s game, it isn’t apparent on ‘Sign Time,’ a refreshing blend of reggae, blues, and country akin to Toots & The Maytals,” says Reggae-Reviews.com. “Jones adds a bit of a Sting vibe to the proceedings (and) a sparkling array of legendary musicians solidify the high-level content.”

“Sign Time” is steeped in tradition and experience, but the music is no relic – it’s the roots reggae sound of today, as evidenced by its popularity among both reggae DJs and indie-rock DJs on radio stations around the US and around the world. “This is the reggae album of 2008,” says DJ Greedy G of NE1-FM in the UK.

“A deeply heartfelt and soulful mix of roots reggae and acoustic balladry… Linton’s Jimmy Riley-like tones blend with Jones’ bluesy coloring in a manner that’s rough but perfect,” writes Tom Orr at UnitedReggae.com. “The promotional materials draw comparisons between Claudius Linton and such masters as Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Culture. Pretty weighty parallels, but Linton lives up to them.”

With a recording career that dates back to the early ‘60s ska movement and a musical and personal kinship with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Kingman is more than a veteran reggae hit-maker - he is one of the originators of the roots reggae vocal style associated with Culture and Burning Spear. As a member of the Angelic Brothers and the Hofner Brothers, Linton rose to popularity with singles like “Kingman Is Back” and “Reach Out” before cutting his solo hits in the ‘70s, backed by a who's who of Jamaican reggae greats.

Kingman & Jonah “Sign Time” comes on the heels of the first-ever CD collection of Linton’s essential roots reggae, “Roots Master, Volume One.” Sun King Records’ critically acclaimed reissue of rare vintage material includes the timely energy crisis track “Put Your Shoulder to Jah Wheel,” which hit No. 1 on the Australian Indie Radio reggae chart in May 2008.

“Absolutely one of the best new releases of classic material to show up in years, this is an essential set for lovers of classic roots music,” The Beat magazine says of the “Roots Master” CD. “Top ranking and rating for anyone seeking something truly great and previously unheard from reggae’s peak era.”

Despite their different musical and cultural backgrounds – Jonah, or Ian Jones, co-founded Evil Genius Studios in '90s indie-rock hub Arlington, Virginia – Kingman & Jonah’s collaboration is no experiment in fusion. “Sign Time” is a classic roots reggae album on par with Kingman’s highly collectible 1970s singles.

The music on “Sign Time” is timeless - if not for the lyrics’ social and political references, it could have been recorded at any point in the last 30 years. The mesmerizing rhythms, soulful vocals and roots reggae style of Kingman’s vintage singles are fully intact, and his acoustic folk songs carry on the tradition of Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song." Regarding his topical lyrics then and now, Kingman says:

“We were telling people of what Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King said, but they wouldn't listen... Today it's Baghdad, today it's Iraq. But it's the same oppression, it's the same urgent message coming through on the new CD.”

If his early recordings collected on “Roots Master” show Linton to be a peer and an equal to his better-known contemporaries, then Sun King Record’s release of “Sign Time” proves that his creative powers have not diminished in the 20 years since we last heard from him. “How this major talent could be left on the sidelines is beyond belief!” says reggae blog SmallAxe.eu. As the Hofner Brothers once sang, "Kingman Is Back."

Both CDs include a 10-minute behind-the-scenes video documentary. To learn more and watch the making-of EPK, visit www.SunKingRecords.com. Sun King Records is distributed worldwide exclusively through Morphius Records (www.morphius.com). Publicity: www.FlyontheWallMedia.com.