I’m thinking that this will be the first of a series of intermittent riddim history posts, describing the genesis and progression of my favourite instrumental tracks.
I know i’ve already posted about Sugar Minott’s Oh Mr. DC, but this riddim is just too good and deserves another look in.
Prince Buster originally penned the tune Shaking Up Orange St to this riddim in 1966, a classic Jamaican paean to Buster’s undeniable talent, ability and confidence.
For over a decade the riddim remained unused, gathering dust in the vinyl holsters of the Island’s selectas, until 1978 when Sugar Minott released Oh Mr. DC. His sweet, mellifluous voice takes the tune to the next level, reworking the backing track and incorporating some of Buster’s best lines in describing to the local constable the pressures of trying to provide for his family by selling sensimilia. Minott’s cut is soulful, classic reggae, dropping hard on the three and highlighting the injustices of Jamaica’s drug policy and the struggles of just getting by.
Once recognised few great riddims stay hidden for long and Pressure and Slide was no exception. Within three years new cuts were being made across the Island culminating in Yellowman’s Two To Six Supermix a super slowed down raga jam from King Yellow, all bravado and cocksureness. But the riddim only reached its apex in 1985 when reworked entirely on the now ubiquitous Korg synthesiser. Pressure and Slide exploded with Beres Hammond’s internationally successful What One Dance Can Do, tons of new artists soon composing stellar renditions over this classic beat. Johnny Osbourne’s Rock-A-Dub (my personal favourite) is a call to arms while Sugar Minott even has another crack with Cool Down. The riddim was bigger than ever and the bass is just that quintessentially early dancehall sound, more prominent and powerful than anything heard before or since.
Pressure and Slide was mixed up and altered many times over the next two decades with numerous artists cutting tunes (i’d be remiss not to mention Anthony B’s Cut Out That which almost inconspicuously appropriates Percy Mayfield’s Hit the Road Jack!). Finally, a brand new (albeit slightly cheesy) remix of the tune was realised in 2004 as the Pressure and Slide/Invasion riddim. Named after the eponymously titled Capleton song which despite the over the top backing track gives every other artist who has worked with this song a run for their money.
The history of Pressure and Slide is not just the story of one riddim, it is a microcosm of Jamaican music in general. The effortless shift from rocksteady to reggae then dancehall akin to the transition music has experience in Jamaica. It highlights the fluidity of genres on the Island and the expectation that artists be attuned to its natural progression. It is a unique quality of Jamaican music that instrumentals nearly 50 years old still retain their pertinence and influence. It shows the importance Jamaican musical history plays in the contemporary culture and the true knowledge and respect Jamaican artists have for the music which has preceded them. Pressure and Slide is not unique, there are hundreds of great riddims available which deseve recognition and in their reuse and appropriation are never forgotten.
- slengteng posted this