"And you don't know what tomorrow's gonna bring... Life is one big road..." - Cecil "Skelly" Spence.
The next mainstay of classic roots reggae has broken away and headed to its ancestors towards Mount Zion. Cecil "Skelly" Spence from Israel Vibration died on August 26th in a New York clinic at the age of almost 70. For this sad occasion I have for the umpteenth time the "Israel Vibration: The Same Song Dub“ belongs. I'll say it right away: A fascinatingly beautiful record that has accompanied me almost my entire "reggae life". Skelly's death hit me all the harder. This fragile man, to whom we owe such glorious songs as "The Same Song", "Why Worry", "I'll Go Through", "Prophet Has Arise" and many other beautiful songs, has died of complications from an untreatable cancer.
Kingston, Jamaica was the birthplace of reggae harmony group Israel Vibration. After a polio epidemic swept the island in the early 1950s, many children contracted polio. Polio vaccines were still in their infancy, and many children around the world were still contracting this insidious disease. Cecil "Skelly" Spence, Lascelle "Wiss" Bulgin and Albert "Apple Gabriel" Craig met as children when they met at the Mona Rehabilitation Clinic. In the 1970s they formed the roots reggae ensemble Israel Vibration.
After hearing the three men sing in a wooded area outside of Kingston, Hugh Booth, a member of the Twelve Tribes Of Israel, raised funds for the three boys and gave them the opportunity to record their first album. Their first release was the single Why Worry, recorded at Treasure Isle Studios in 1976 and released later that year on the Twelve Tribes label. Due to the popularity the group gained with the release of the single, many Jamaican artists such as Dennis Brown, Inner Circle and even Bob Marley asked them to open for one of their concerts.
Israel Vibration then began collaborating with producer Tommy Cowan, releasing the single "The Same Song" on the Top Ranking label in 1977. The following year, 1978, they released the album of the same name. On "The Same Song" they were joined by members of the Inner Circle Band. The plate and you Dub- counterpart "The Same Song Dub' were internationally successful, leading to a partnership with EMI label Harvest to release the album in the UK.
Now for the Dub-Album: The relatively unknown Jamaican singer/songwriter Paul Donaldson sat at the mixing desk, of whom very little exists. But with the albums The Same Song and The Same Song Dub“ he has set a monument to himself, because both albums are great moments of reggae/Dub. For example, listen to my favorite song “Ball Of Fire” from the Dubalbum, you might hear that an opus like this doesn't show up in reggae heaven every day. Simply a masterpiece full of sadness and fragility. Skelly's voice fragments whizzing through the room make me humbly get on my knees again and again.
Note: There is a second, completely different mix of the album: "Fatman Riddim Section: Israel Tafari', also produced by Tommy Cowan and released on the Lewis brothers' Top Ranking label. Both albums deserve the title "particularly valuable".
RIP Cecil "Skelly" Spence, your live performances will never be forgotten.