Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Judgment Time

"Judgment Time," sometimes called "Perilous Time" by '70s roots trio Mystic Eyes (Mystic I) is currently that one song I can't seem to be able to get my hands on. The tune is highly appropriate listening for these dread economic days.

The song also appears on their quite rare, and not-yet-reissued (as far as I know) album Mysterious, produced by Linval Thompson and released on Burning Sounds in 1979. The song was also issued a while back on a Thompson Sound 7" 45 -- and trust me, I've asked Ernie B to restock it, as the tune gets regular airing on top internet radio site 1.FM reggae channel, but he shrugged off the request.

The song was versioned by Trinity for his track "Pope Paul Dead and Gone," one of Jamaica's most ardent anti-Papist anthems all-time. Hear them both below:

Some of the only commentary I've found on the group appears in David Katz's essential tome People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee Scratch Perry.

Katz writes:

Often miscredited as the Mystic Eyes and sometimes Mystic M, Mystic I was a trio based at the Rastaman camp in Selassie Drive, close to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Western Kingston; the street was so-named because Selassie walked there on his 1966 state visit [to Jamaica] and established an Amharic school nearby. Lead songwriter and chief vocalist of the group was Les Clark, a furniture-maker with short dreadlocks who lived for many years in Canada; harmony was handled by a nightclub chef from Maxfield Avenue named Balvin Fials and a singer from Trench Town called Anthony Johnson (interview), who occasionally sang lead. Johnson was the only group member with previous recording experience, and it was his contacts in the industry that lead to the establishment of the group.

Of course Johnson is best known for his Channel One rub-a-dub era hit "Gunshot." Johnson now lives in the UK and recorded recently with Mike "Teams" Brooks.

Mystic Eyes' Lee Perry produced "Forward Jah Orthodox," with it's Rasta-ized pseudo-libertarian rhetoric ("Forward Jah orthodox, and get rid of the income tax!") is another good example of the haunting harmonies and deeply affecting roots music the group produced.

Mystic Eyes "Forward With Jah Orthodox" MP3

Now, the question remains, will I ever solve the mystery of how to track down this tune?