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Bertram Brown

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Charlie Chalk
Golden Festival

Joined: 19 Aug 2011
Posts: 8841
Location: Oxford

PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2017 10:35 pm    Post subject: Bertram Brown Reply with quote

Obituary - The Guardian:

Bertram Brown

Key producer of Jamaican roots reggae - David Katz

Friday 5 December 2008

The Jamaican record producer Bertram Brown, who has died aged 58 while swimming off Jamaica's north coast, was the founder of the Freedom Sounds record label, one of the island's most noteworthy roots reggae concerns of the late 1970s and early 80s. Through it and related labels, Brown helped to revitalise Greenwich Farm, the West Kingston ghetto area, a home to many outstanding singers and musicians.

The last of 10 children of a cooper and his wife, who sometimes sold produce at street markets, Brown was born at the family home at 14 East Avenue, next door to the New Style Lawn, a gigantic dancehall that regularly featured leading sound systems such as Sir Coxsone's Downbeat, Duke Reid the Trojan and Sir George the Atomic.

By the time Brown reached his teens, Greenwich Farm was a musical hotspot, as the leading producer Bunny Lee was based there, making use of an upcoming band called the Soul Syndicate, and the hit-makers Ken Boothe and Cornell Campbell were residents also. Brown started working with his father and, after studying accountancy at the College of Arts, Science and Technology, he worked briefly as an accountant for rum producers, but music was always his motivating force. So, as soon as he had enough cash to run a recording session, he took the neighbourhood singers Milton Henry and Keith Blake into Randy's recording studio to cut Blake's Judgement Time, released on the Libra label, and Henry's Cornbread and Butter, neither of which were hits.

Brown formed Freedom Sounds in 1975 and over the next five years made a series of excellent recordings with local unknowns, typically at Channel One studio. Brown was financially unable to flood the market with material, as had some of the better-established producers. Instead, he concentrated on message music crafted by neighbourhood singers who were often rejected by the reggae mainstream. Working solidly with the guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith, bassist Robbie Shakespeare and the Soul Syndicate, with King Tubby typically employed for dub B-sides, Brown teased excellent material from friends and neighbours, especially Blake, now known as Prince Alla, who voiced the exceptional Stone, Lot's Wife and Bucket Bottom, all of which sold well in the UK and Jamaica. Other gems included Philip Fraser's Come Ethiopians, Sylvan White's World of Confusion, Rod Taylor's Ethiopian King, and Earl Zero's debut album, Only Jah Can Ease the Pressure, issued in the UK as In the Right Way.

In the early 80s, Brown helped some of his peers to set up labels, notably co-launching the High Times imprint, which he ran with Chinna Smith for several years, the home of early material by Frankie Paul and the dub poet Mutabaruka. He also helped to set up the Roots Tradition label that his friend Don Mais ran during the early 80s, and the Corner Stone label established by another friend, Michael Chin. But when High Times ran into difficulty and most of the other labels ceased trading, Brown reverted to relaunching Freedom Sounds, issuing sporadic material by the singer Michael Prophet, a gravel-voiced DJ called Pompidou, and material co-produced by local artists such as Al Campbell.

Although less active during the 90s, and spending increasing periods in New York, Brown retained the Freedom Sounds headquarters as the last remaining focal point for roots music in Greenwich Farm, operating a record distribution service from the premises, which also served as a regular gathering point for local artists, particularly if Brown was cooking fish for communal meals.

He is survived by Claudette, his wife of 33 years, eight children and grandchildren. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a determined and conscientious individual who provided a badly needed outlet for Greenwich Farm's musical talent.

Bertram Brown, record producer, born February 17 1950; died September 8 2008

Natty ago watch the baldhead hairdresser; real live wire.
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