Keithus I looks at Then and Now

Howard Campbell

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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KEITHUS I was a budding roots singer in the 1970s when he got the enviable opportunity to record with members of Bob Marley's Wailers band. Four decades later, he is dusting off his tapes to release those songs as part of his first album.

Then and Now is the title of the album, and as it suggests, it will also include recent recordings. Keithus I says he has never put a time span on his productions.

"I've never really looked at things that way, because I want to satisfy everybody. At the same time, I know there are people out there who want to hear the older stuff," he said.

Red Hot, the first song Keithus I ever recorded, will be part of Then and Now which will be released on his Jah Dynasty label. It was recorded in 1975 at the Tuff Gong studio with bassist Aston 'Familyman' Barrett, drummer Carlton Barrett and keyboardist Tyrone Downie of the Wailers, among the musicians.

Dreadlocks I, featuring the same musicians and Save The Children, which was recorded at Channel One in the 1970s, are also expected to make Then and Now's final cut. So too Keithus I's latest songs, This Love and Twisted.

Although he recorded an updated version of Dreadlocks I, Keithus I concedes it is never easy duplicating the classic sound of the roots-reggae period.

"That feel is not something you're going to get every day. Yuh have to remember some special musicians worked on the first song," he said.

Born Milton Samuels, Keithus I grew up in the central Kingston community of Allman Town. He moved to Clarendon in the late 1960s where he played for the powerful Vere Technical football team in the daCosta Cup, his team-mates including Orville Edwards, Corsel Blair, Kenneth 'Bop' Campbell and Las Shaw.

It was through his Vere connection that he met Alan 'Skill' Cole, the school's biggest star of the late 1960s. Cole was Marley's road manager in the mid-1970s and introduced Keithus I to the Barrett brothers who were the most famous rhythm section in reggae at the time.

Though he recorded sporadically, music took a backseat for Keithus I in the 1980s. He concentrated on a career in film production while living in Montreal, Canada and on his return to Jamaica.

While continuing to work in that field with television station WFFB, a CBS affiliate in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, he resurrected his music ties in the last decade. One of his latest productions is the Denial rhythm which has songs by Junior Reid (Make it Right) and Andrew and Wada Blood (Telling You Lies).

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