Wednesday, May 9, 2012

From the Mountaintop: Prince Far I

Prince Far I
Ever wonder what it must be like to hear the voice of the Almighty? Not as the still quiet inner voice but actually with your ears?

Listen to Prince Far I, the self proclaimed Voice of Thunder, reggae ‘chanter’ and King Cry Cry.

On this stunning piece of art/music/worship the Jamaican singer recites and riffs in spoken voice upon several Psalms from the Old Testament. In the background a band keeps the emotions swirling creating a ‘righteous’ platform to Praise the Lord.  This record was originally released in 1975 and was the Prince’s first. It sounds like the Lord of Hosts himself is issuing his commandments to mankind.  Indeed, according to Fari I he made the record for those who could not read and yet needed godly guidance.

Play this loud and forget about church/mosque/ temple/ bar/ club for the week. 

One of the many voices of the roots era, Prince Far I was absolutely unique. He certainly cannot be categorized as a singer, although at times -- especially during chanted passages -- there was definitely a singsong quality to his vocals, and in that respect the closest comparison was to Winston Rodney of Burning Spear. However, that group actually wrote lyrics, while Prince Far I vocals were a stream of consciousness that belongs in the DJ realm. But to call him a toaster is equally inaccurate. His delivery was reminiscent of an Old Testament prophet, railing at the wicked, a seething outpouring of religiously inspired righteousness. 

Born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, in 1944, Michael James Williams actually started his career in the sound systems, DJing for the Sir Mike the Musical Dragon setup. That certainly didn't pay the bills, however, and the young man also worked as a security guard at Joe Gibbs' studio. Eventually, he was then employed by Coxsone Dodd as a bouncer for the producer's own Studio One sound system. It was a sheer fluke that Williams ended up cutting his debut single for Dodd. The producer had a session booked for DJ King Stitt one day in 1970 and the veteran toaster didn't show. On the spur of the moment, Dodd allowed the bouncer to take the mic instead, the end result was the "Queen of the Minstrel" single. It was released under the moniker King Cry Cry, a name foisted on him by the producer, who'd witnessed more than once his employee bursting into tears when angered. Williams kept the name even after he began cutting singles with other producers. The following year, King Cry Cry scored his first minor hit with "I Had a Talk," recorded with Bunny Lee. Coincidentally, in the U.K. this song was paired with "Zion Train" by a still unknown Burning Spear. 

It wasn't until 1976 that Prince Far I recorded his debut album, Psalms for I. Produced by Lloydie Slim, it comprised ten tracks in all -- the Lord's Prayer and nine psalms, across which the artist first previewed the sermon-esque deliveries that would become his trademark. And while the album had a marvelously rootsy sound, the missing element was rhythms heavy enough to support the artist's apocryphal vision. (allmusic)

         Track Listing
01. Psalm 49
02. Psalm 48
03. Psalm 24
04. Psalm 87
05. The Lord’s Prayer
06. Pslam 95
07. Psalm 53
08. Psalm 23
09. Psalm 2
10. Psalm 1
11. Untitled

No comments: