Beat Down Babylon: The Upsetter Years

by: Junior Byles

After two albums and a series of highly successful singles, the Wailers, Lee "Scratch" Perry's most dynamic group, decided to strike out on their own in 1971. A further blow was served to the producer months later when Aston and Carlton Barrett, his formidable rhythm section, joined them. Perry subsequently turned to his vast network of musical associates to build a new session outfit. These players, including bassists Val Douglas and Lloyd Parks and drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, would cut the next series of classic Upsetter rhythms. The first years of the 1970s found Perry working closely with Junior Byles, the singer who would temporarily fill the gap left by Marley. From the moment Douglas and the Now Generation band backed the singer on "Beat Down Babylon" in 1971, Scratch ensured that nothing but the finest rhythms were sent his way. Beat Down Babylon: The Upsetter Years includes the whole of Byles' excellent 1972 debut, adding classic singles from the same period, including "King of Babylon," "Pharaoh Hiding," and the sublime "Curly Locks." Byles has a soulful delivery that is probably rooted in the church services he attended as a child. It's the perfect vehicle for expressing his concerns as a young Rasta and a member of Jamaican society. Both "King of Babylon" and "Pharaoh Hiding" captured the optimism prior to the island's 1972 election, while "When Will Better Come" expressed the discontent many felt a year later when change failed to arrive. "Curly Locks," one of Byles' most enduring songs, is a touching tale of Rasta love for a non-Dread. Included among the plethora of bonus tracks are a handful of Perry's versions: trailblazing, proto-dub productions that reveal the muscle beneath the Byles material. Beat Down Babylon represents some of the finest product mixed by the Upsetter's hand and the pinnacle achievements of Junior Byles' career. ~ Nathan Bush

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