These are the original liner notes for "Reggae Crazy," released in 1997 on Nighthawk.

The Meditations - comprised of Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson - are truly one of Jamaica’s greatest harmony trios. They formed in 1974 and over the following decade released some of the greatest reggae music to ever be recorded. Before the group’s inception, though, Ansel explained that in 1967, he “was in a group called the Linkers. When I started, my main interest was the harmony. Ya see, the Impressions, they dominated Jamaica, right? When I was a youth them used to play more foreign sounds in Jamaica. That was the music you heard when you turned on the radio. The Drifters, Impressions, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, James Brown...but the Impressions, they just totally dominated the Island.

“So with the Linkers, I was trying to do the harmony, but a couple of the guys just couldn’t manage it so well. After Linkers break up [in 1971], a bredren bring Winston to me and I did an audition with him and Michael Wisdom, but Winston could not handle the harmony at that time. So I said I need somebody who is ready now. So it happen that after awhile, Danny came down and I was doing a song [‘Sitting On The Sidewalk’] and Danny blow the melody on it, and he also started to show me some more chords on the guitar. That was around ‘72. Winston would still come down and try to jam with us and we’d just sing, sing, sing. We’d do harmony and sing Impressions’ songs like ‘Gypsy Woman,’ ‘I’m So Proud’ and ‘Keep On Pushing.’

“I did a song then called ‘Roots Food’ for Byron Lee and we were still harmonizing all the time. I was also working in a factory as a spot welder. After awhile [in late ‘72], we had a little band down in the ghetto. When I wasn’t in the factory, me and Danny and another friend and Winston would go around and play. A little later on [in ‘74], Jo Jo [Hookim] was doing an audition in Kingston and I went in to do [‘Woman Is Like A] Shadow.’

“One of the bredren I was with was supposed to do the harmony for the group, and while we was waiting Winston came up. We’re rehearsing, singing ‘Shadow,’ and I hear him sing, hear him touch that [he sings in falsetto] ‘shadow,’ and I go, YES! That’s the voice I want. So we went in and did that song, but it did not yet release.

“In late ‘75 I came home from work one day and Winston tell me that he did a song called ‘Woman Piabba’ and Danny do one named ‘Babylon Trap Them’ and ‘Longest Liver’ [aka ’Rome’]. They asked me to come and do the harmony for them, ‘cause that’s the way we work in the ghetto. I helped finish the lyrics to ‘Piabba’ and the song came out under Winston Watson and was a good seller in Jamaica.

“’Babylon Trap Them’ did not sell in Jamaica. It was popular in, like, London and New York and came out under Danny Clarke. Then ‘Longest Liver’ came out as the Meditations but that one did not sell.

“Then I did the song called ‘Tricked’ and it start to sell and that give us our first break now as the Meditations. When it came out it play on the television - we did a video for it - but it was a problem still with JBC. They didn’t want to play it on the air. Said it was a violent song. They called a meeting and after that decided to play it. So when that come out, a lot of people start talk about the group, say them group sound like the Wailers.

“We then went on our first tour around the Island - with Culture, Carl Dawkins, Tamlins, Leroy Smart and Shorty The President - we all tour with the We The People band. Then in late ‘76, ‘Shadow’ finally came out and that just paved the way for Meditations. We toured Bermuda from there, then did the Beacon Theatre a week after. We also did Madison Square Garden with Calypso Rose [in 1977].”

At this point, I questioned Ansel about his association with Bob Marley, as it is widely known that the Meditations sang backup on three of Marley’s compositions: ‘Punky Reggae Party,’ ‘Blackman Redemption’ and ‘Rastaman Live Up.’

“When Bob finally came back to Jamaica [after his lengthy excile following the assassination attempt on his life] I brought him our first two albums, ‘Message [From The Meditations]’ and ‘Wake Up.’ He had listened to us while he was in London. He used to really love our harmonies.

“One of the most gracious times, I call it, was when we was about to do the Peace Concert with Bob. We were rehearsing with him up in the hills. We was singing ‘Keep On Moving’ together and then Bob say, ‘Meditations, your turn now,’ and we was doing the harmony, really letting it go, then I went front and did the lead voice, ya know, and I remember Bob, when he hear our sound, he turned to Tyrone Downie, laughed and said, ‘Is the Wailers this?’ Ya see, it was just that we really reminded him of the harmony style of the Wailers. So after rehearsing with him in the hills, him say, ’Meditations, you have band now?’ and we go no, and he says, ‘all right, look what you do, tell Lloyd Parks to back ya up.’ So we go rehearse with Lloyd Parks and we opened the concert up that night with the two songs [‘Life Is Not Easy’ and ‘Shadow’]. We was supposed to do two other songs with Bob later in the show but the timing was wrong. Them spend too much time on the stage; I think Peter Tosh took a lot of time and Jacob Miller, ya know. So we didn’t get to come back and sing with Bob.

“After this time, Bob sent for us to do the harmony on some of his songs. I remember besides the three, we did another with Bob. I don’t think it released but we did that one with ‘Scratch’ [Lee Perry]. We were also about to do the ‘Guidance’ l.p. at the time - I just remember now - and that’s when we asked some of Bob’s musicians to play, so they come and play on five songs, everybody but ‘Family Man.’

“That was the album that we was supposed to sign with Island at the time. The deal did go through, but it just happened that when the other members come up from Jamaica, there was a misunderstanding about the money and Chris [Blackwell] said we had a deal and to just sign it. I remember Earthskin Thompson was our representative at the time. So Chris left - that was when Bob was going to do the first Sunsplash and Chris went to see that - and he was all about and didn’t return for awhile. So we were waiting, and Island was at the time going through some changes then, ya know? With Mango music and things. And things just fell through.

“In ‘83 [after the group’s next album, ‘No More Friend’] we were touring and that’s when the disagreement and breakup come about. Certain things were not right on the road. At the time our record company sent me to do some rehearsals in Jamaica and the others didn’t do the rehearsals, and that’s when the group broke up. I then heard they were touring in America by themselves while I was in Jamaica doing my own things” [which included the recording of two albums with Sky High and the Mau Mau, entitled ‘Thunder On The Mountain’ [1988] and ‘African Vengeance’ [1990].

That same year, 1990 - after a six year hiatus and due mostly to increasing fan interest - the Meditations re-formed and recorded new material for ‘Return Of The Meditations.’ But the disc you now hold contains fifteen killers from the group’s heyday.

“I picked these songs,” said Ansel, “because they haven’t been out on CD before. ‘Really Have To Worry’ has never been released before this. This was around 1983, the time when things were going - not really worse - cause they’re still going, but every day you hear the economy rising while people’s wages are staying at one place. Just frustration, ya know?

And ‘Patting On Shoulder’ has never been released, too. Ya see, when I used to work at that factory, the boss would always come and pat me on the shoulder and say, ‘good job, good work, Cridland,’ and he’d pat me on the shoulder. Then when it come to Holiday time, they always give you a little bonus. I put a lot of work in and was expecting that bonus. Well, he didn’t give it to me and after I come back [in January] he’d come around and pat me on the shoulder again. I finally leave the factory in early ‘76 to focus on the group so that’s why I write, ‘patting on shoulder/days are over.’

“’Cry On My Shoulder’ was an A-side in Jamaica, around 1980 and ‘Reggae Crazy’ was the B-side of ‘Quiet Woman’ [their last single before their breakup]. The others were all on the first three albums. We still have a lot of tracks that have never come out still. Songs like ‘Give Praise,’ ‘As Long As The Sun Keeps Shining’ and ‘Can’t Believe.’ I’ll have to try and have the tapes ‘baked’ before I can possibly use them in the future.”

Until that time, ‘Reggae Crazy’ will help compliment your CD collection of this outstanding group. More importantly, though, it’s essential listening. So sit back - or get up and skank - crank the volume and enjoy almost one hour of classic tracks from the one and only Meditations.

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