Monday, February 3, 2014

Good Morning, Righteous Teacher

Nitty Gritty was a major reggae dancehall artist in the 70s and 80s who started in Jamaica but eventually found his way to both London and New York, where he recorded some of his biggest hits. In 1991, he was shot and killed outside a record store in Brooklyn. And in 1995, one of his earlier Jamaican classics called "Good Morning, Teacher" was included on a pretty generic compilation called Dancehall Days: The Old To the New on Profile Records.

That last sentence sounds like a big load of "who cares," and it basically is... It's just one of the many forgettable compilations that used to get released back in the 90s, full of previously released songs - all obvious song selections by obvious big name artists. But one thing makes it worth bringing up in 2014: the single they released for it.

The single Profile put out was "Good Morning, Teacher" by Nitty Gritty. But, it's not the version he originally recorded in 1984, which is the only one he ever made and also the one that's actually featured on Dancehall Days. No, this is a new, unique version that isn't even from the compilation. It's a new Crush Sounds Poppa Fred Mix by Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers (who, of course, were signed to Profile at the time).

According to the back cover, this is "'LIV'ICATED TO THE MEMORY OF NITTY GRITTY." I guess because dedicated sounds like it has the word "dead" in it; and, um, they're telling us the artist who made this version is still alive? Well, okay, eye-rolling pun aside, what we ultimately have here is kind of a little dedication project that came out well under the radar. And it's... fucking terrific.

Seriously, this is right up there alongside any of PRT's greatest hits. The production is fantastic. It has the feel of the stuff they were doing with Tony D, but it's actually produced by King Jammys. It's really atmospheric and kind of dark. it uses just the right amount of the original, including Nitty Gritty's own voice for the hook. But it's also very different and original. Wise's delivery is also perfectly brilliant; he's at the top of his game for sure. And just to seal the deal, it ends with some really affecting scratches by a then unknown DJ EV, who went on to DJ for The Def Squad. Even if you're not in love with the point where reggae and hip-hop meet, this is going to be one of the rare exceptions for you.

The B-side is just a generic Bounty Killer song. I mean, it's not bad... it's "Cellular Phone;" if you're a BK fan, I'm sure you remember it. But, you know, it's just one of his singles that has nothing to do with Nitty Gritty or anything (although, coincidentally, it is another King Jammys production). It's just another obvious choice for Profile's fine but bland Dancehall Days CD, previously released on his Down In the Ghetto album and even as its own single. He had a video for it and everything.

The artwork is just an isolated piece of the artwork for the Dancehall Days cover. Seriously, this version of "Good Morning, Teacher," which is really its own, original song, rather than just the cheap remix it appears to be, was completely thrown away under the radar. This is the kind of song the phrase "best kept secret" was coined for, and you'll be doing yourself a favor by seeking it out.

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