‘FIRE HOUSE ROCK’

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Wailing Souls, 1981, George ‘Buddy’ Haye, Rudolph ‘Garth’ Dennis, Lloyd ‘Bread’ McDonald, and Winston ‘Pipe’ Matthews.
George Williams

As Greensleeves Records, of the Jamaica, Queens-based VP Records Music Group, celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2022, VP Records brings back a classic 1981 Greensleeves title, “Wailing Souls’ Fire House Rock.”

Remastered in high definition and packaged in a deluxe gatefold for Record Store Day Drop 2, June 18, the original LP is augmented by a 12-inch single of alternate mixes, including two from the legendary Jamaican Prince Jammy, according to Carter Van Pelt, director of Catalog Development, VP Records.

He said the package also includes contextual liner notes and previously unpublished photos by original photographer George Williams.

“A touchstone LP from the beginning of reggae’s post-Bob Marley era, Greensleeves released Fire House Rock, on June 3, 1981, to enduring acclaim,” Van Pelt told Caribbean Life on Monday. “The title track has become Wailing Souls’ most popular song, found on any short list of all-time reggae classics.

“More than 40 years later, it is the group’s most-streamed song, populating classic reggae playlists across the digital streaming platforms, including Spotify’s One Love and Apple Music’s Roots Reggae Essentials,” he added.

Cover of “Wailing Souls Fire House Rock.”

For this special edition, Van Pelt said the original master tapes were transferred by Kevin Przybylowski at Sonicraft A2DX Lab and a new master cut by Chris Muth, former Sterling Sound and Masterdisk engineer, of Taloowa Mastering.

Van Pelt said “Fire House Rock” was Wailing Souls’ third LP at the time of release, “but the group had built a solid catalog of singles and a reputation through more than a decade together, largely from a foundation established at Coxson Dodd’s Studio One.”

By 1980, with a settled and seasoned four-part harmony line-up of Winston “Pipe” Matthews, Lloyd “Bread” McDonald, Garth Dennis, and George “Buddy” Haye, Van Pelt said the group was convinced to record for the “hottest up and coming producer of the era, Henry ‘Junjo’ Lawes.

“Pairing the singers with the Roots Radics band at the apex of its recording career and Channel One studios during its golden era, with Scientist as the mixing desk, the results were nothing less than the stuff of legend,” he said.

For Greensleeves Records’ 45th anniversary and this special edition, Van Pelt said an animation of the original “Fire House Rock” was commissioned from illustrator Costantinos Pissourios.

In addition, Van Pelt said the 12-inch mix from engineering icon King Jammy, then known as Prince Jammy, will see its first digital release, while also included on the bonus 12-inch single for the first time since 1981.

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