Lloyd Brown interview on Colourful Radio 29-March-2020
Over the course of the past five decades, Lloyd Brown has risen to the very pinnacle of his profession, and with a string of hit singles and critically acclaimed albums to his credit, is now hailed as one of this country’s best ever reggae vocalist/songwriter/producers.
Born and raised in London to Jamaican parents, he began his career in 1979 by dee-jaying in “blues-dances” before progressing on fully fledged sound-systems in the early eighties with London-based sound-systems Jah Marcus, Exodus and East Man. After taking a sabbatical in Jamaica, he then joined vocal harmony group Sweet Distortion, who were voted Best Reggae Newcomers by the readers of Black Echoes in 1984, just prior to their guest appearance on the BRAFA (British Reggae Artists Famine Appeal) single, Let’s Make Africa Green Again. Led by Lloyd’s namesake and early source of musical inspiration, Dennis Brown, this record helped raised funds for Ethiopian famine victims, and remains a milestone of UK reggae history.
By 1987 Sweet Distortion had successfully auditioned for the part of the Jackson Five in the acclaimed British musical, Black Heroes In The Hall Of Fame produced by the late Flip Fraser, but split up soon afterwards, leaving Lloyd free to pursue a solo career. His earliest singles included Music Medley, Ring Up My Number and The Love In Me, all of them released on Robert ‘Ribs’ Fearon’s Unity label circa 1987. In the meantime, he’d started performing more demanding roles with Black Heroes In The Hall Of Fame – most notably those of Otis Redding, Marcus Garvey, Haile Selassie and Nelson Mandela. Sharing The Night (produced by the late Junior Frost), then provided him with his first No. 1 hit, and was voted Reggae Single Of The Year in 1990. You Can’t Hurry Love, For The Love Of You and Love U Down (his second No. 1 hit, and another Reggae Single Of The Year) soon followed, together with a version of Otis Redding’s These Arms Of Mine.
Despite his success with other people’s songs, Lloyd was increasingly writing his own material by this time, as demonstrated on It’s A Love Thing, which marked the start of his long-standing partnership with Saxon sound system dee-jay Tippa Irie. Their follow-up smash hit, Stress, caused controversy since it put into song what many men were thinking about their female partners, but both singles duly topped the UK reggae charts, then won the duo a well-deserved contract with Arista, who released their follow-up single, Baby Mother (another vibrant slice of social commentary), in 1995. An album recorded for Arista during this period was subsequently released as Combination on Discotex at the end of 2001 – Lloyd & Tippa’s association with Arista having ended as unexpectedly as it had begun.
Undaunted by such disappointments and eager to reclaim his popularity among grassroots reggae fans, Lloyd began recording with leading UK lovers’ rock producers Groove And & Quarter, who issued his debut album, Straight No Chaser, in 1996. Among the many highlights was A Mother’s Prayer, which he recorded with a veritable Who’s Who of UK soul and reggae talent and dedicated to the memory of his mother, who’d recently died of cancer. Two other tracks, Jah Works and Increase The Peace, offered early evidence of the roots and culture content he was to showcase on his next double CD set, Rhyme & Reason, which he recorded for Saxon. Prior to its release in 1998, the singles We Need A Revolution and Power Of Jah had marked a turning point in both his life and career. His new head of dreadlocks illustrated this change of direction, and he began writing lyrics with far more spiritual content than before, even whilst continuing to make sublime lovers rock hits such as Night Shift, Blackbird and Real Love. He named Buju Banton’s ‘Til Shiloh LP as a formative influence during this stage of his career, and after announcing that the emergence of the new cultural artists had taken reggae to a different plane, said he wanted to sing songs that will uplift people.
His Saxon album thus had transformation at its artistic core, and with its emphasis on self-penned material, proved a masterly showcase of his talents. Once Saxon producer Lloyd “Muscle Head” Francis had decided to concentrate on his sound-system, rather than production, the durable Mr. Brown embarked on a run of hits for Jet Star that still shows no sign of abating three years later. Their most significant triumph to date has been a massively successful cover of Craig David’s Fill Me In, as included on Vol. 2 of Jet Star’s Pop Hits In A Reggae series. With Fill Me In getting regular airplay in Jamaica – where Lloyd enjoys widespread support – Jet Star then helped further his dominance with several other notable single releases, including Hook It Up, Put It Down and Memories, which like Humanity Part 2 (recorded for Mikey Koos’ ARM label), is another joyous celebration of old school reggae vibes, and so steeped in nostalgia, it could bring tears to the eyes.
In-between voicing for Jet Star and making preparations for his starring role in yet another musical, The Best Years Of Our Lives (starring alongside the great Pam Hall), Lloyd then began work on an independent project with former international hit maker Bitty McLean, who’d served his apprenticeship with UB40. Aided and abetted by Bitty’s production and engineering skills, and with his own creative ideas going into overdrive, Lloyd completed the nucleus of his album Deep at Bitty’s Platinum Suite studios in Birmingham before adding a choice selection of Jet Star material into the mix. It was the kind of album only true craftsmen could produce. Its dazzling range of lyrical perceptions being matched to some of the most enthralling, contemporary reggae and crossover rhythms heard all year. I Know (inspired by Bob Marley’s Kinky Reggae) subsequently became one of 2001’s biggest reggae hits, even as Deep was being acclaimed as a masterpiece and his best album thus far. By the time the follow-up, Against The Grain, was released two years later his tally of hit singles had swelled to include You Must Know, co-starring Don Campbell; Bless Me and the unstoppable Main Squeeze, which rocketed into the Reggae Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic.
Like its predecessor, Against The Grain was another world-class collection, showcasing tracks like the popular Mr. Brown, Food For Thought (a version of Aswad’s Warrior Charge); he and Omar’s stunning cover of Stevie Wonder’s Feeding Off The Love Of The Land and the magical Love Within The Music, co-starring a galaxy of UK talent. Against The Grain was nominated for Best Album at the 11th Annual Reggae Soca Awards in Florida; an event that saw Lloyd being crowned Best Newcomer for the second time in his career. His next set was Dreams To Remember, produced by Lloyd Campbell and released on VP Records in 2004. This album, recorded in Miami, yielded four hit singles in the shape of Bless Me, Since You’ve Been Gone, Heartaches and Bongo Nyah, which soon gave Lloyd his second Reggae Top 5 hit in New York. Songs like that, voiced over Lloyd Campbell’s more traditional style reggae rhythms, fuelled growing demand for his sublime vocal and writing talents in America. Its success prompted the release of an album shared with Peter Hunnigale as part of Jet Star’s celebrated Toe 2 Toe series that same year. Here was an album that made artistic, as well as commercial sense, since both singers epitomise the best of UK reggae music.
Three of Lloyd’s more recent hits were included, namely Full Hundred, No Watch Dat and the compelling Black Bags, together with other tracks that inspired comparisons with reggae legend Beres Hammond. Red-hot form like this saw him embark on a string of European tour dates with Sanchez throughout the summer of 2004, as he continued on his journey towards some long-overdue international recognition. His follow-up album for VP Really Together featuring Fiona was cited by Lloyd as a “true labour of love” as Fiona was an artist he really admired and wanted to work with-which proved its point in the finished product, also with the reggae panel of the Grammys who have shortlisted the album for nomination for Best Reggae Album 2005. Armed with album number 10 called Said And Done in the bag (entirely self-produced) and his own studio Riddimworks Production House, truly demonstrated his skills as a producer in his own right with all he has absorbed culminating thus far.
Further expanding his all-round skills, Lloyd broadened his Riddimworks “imprint” on other projects in 2007, co-producing fellow U.K Lovers King Michael Gordon’s “Poems and Rhymes” set, also U.K Lovers Queen Donna Marie’s “Next Chapter” and various music-video projects showcasing his extraordinary skills as a director, headed by his truly cinematic offering of “I’m Sorry” which co-stars his peer and friend Peter Hunnigale. His eleventh landmark release entitled Silver, celebrates Lloyd’s 25th year in the music industry and has undoubtedly stood testament in his long and distinguished career. The album’s opener “Show Me That You Love Me” voiced on Tarrus Riley’s monster hit riddim “She’s Royal” proves that Lloyd’s song-writing skills are in effect and leans not solely on the riddim to carry his songs..far from it. When he does put pen to paper, as on “From The Root”, “Up To You”, the powerful and haunting “Charcoal Bridges” and the truly wonderful “Seacole”, a song commissioned by Flip Fraser to feature in the hit musical Black Heroes In The Hall Of Fame, and written about nurse Mary Seacole, the quality shines through like a beacon, and you remember just how lucky we are having a reggae artist like him in our midst.
2008 saw Lloyd’s appeal grow to a more international status, amassing fans in Japan, North and South America and numerous territories. In turn, Lloyd concentrated towards embarking on promotional tours in the U.S, starting off in California. The tour proved so successful, that he was booked speedily to tour California again in early 2009. In between time, Lloyd worked on his twelfth album entitled “Brownie Points”. This album was a slight departure to material he had recorded before, but nonetheless had the unmistakable Lloyd Brown imprint that has been skillfully carved throughout his career. Covers and originals blending beautifully to present another concept album, headed by 12 various “Brownie Points” describing in song his observations and also, what makes the man tick. Covers such as “It Takes Two” duet with Lovers Rock chanteuse Sylvia Tella, Dennis Brown’s “Ray Of Light” and Nicky Thomas’ angelic “Love Is” simply describes what love is in musical terms so well, that the coldest of hearts will truly melt to it. Originals, such as the salsa-tinged “Loco Theng” takes you on a heady trip to Acapulco in the first two bars, and “Forgive Them” duet with friend and peer Peter Spence takes you to the hills in Jamaica amongst the Rasta brethren and sistren citing forgiveness as the way forward for humankind.
Not being a man to rest on his laurels….Lloyd released his thirteenth album entitled “For Your Consideration” accompanied by his Riddimworks Films produced music video “It’s Not About…..” released thru Riddimworks/Cousins Records November 2009. The album featured hits such as Dean “Cannon” Fraser production of “Know Yourself” “Empress One A Way” and the awesome “Badbwoy” featuring fast rising Dancehall DJs Mr. Williamz and Juxci D was toured extensively on the US West Coast throughout most of 2010 to crtical acclaim.
In 2010, Lloyd’s consummate consistency had now produced his fourteenth studio album entitled “Cornerstone” which was released entirely independently through his Riddimworks Productions label, which on this occasion had an American import release, the first for a UK based Reggae Artist. The seventeen track album boasts a large eleven collaborations, which not only features long established artists such as Macka B, General Levy, Nereus Joseph, Rodney P and Top Cat, but also features bright new talents such as Dancehall act Babyboom, U.S Hip Hop act Krytykal: Tha’ Problem and songstresses Miss Kjah and Adele Harley. His decision to feature new talent proved wise and fruitful for all concerned as their respective profiles have raised to further works and recognition with other producers. Highlights from the album includes, Rootdown Records’ Thilo “Teka” Jacks produced ska-tinged “She Nuh Easy”, Lloyd’s self-produced homage to Joe Higgs with his version of “There’s a Reward For Me” and Lloyd’s duet with Miss Kjah on “In Every Way You Can”.
2012 saw another landmark year for Lloyd as he had released his fifteenth 20-track studio album celebrating three decades of making music simply entitled “30” released in February 2012 via Riddimworks Productions and Phoenix Music International The standout track which garnered him a Top 3 Reggae Chart hit was the crowd-rocking “Get To Know Ya” utilizing Dennis Brown’s seminal Lovers Rock hit “Someone Special” also utilising Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Could You Be Loved” with his Disco/Reggae rendition of “Catch The Feeling. Still on the Wailer’s tip, Lloyd collaborated with three of his peers and friends Don Campbell, Delroy Pinnock and R n B singer Wayne Marshall and covered the awesome “Pass It On” from their “Burnin” album A master stroke was performed when Lloyd collaborated with Diva Grace Jones on the remix of the Pretenders’ Chryssie Hynde’s penned “Private Life” featuring the Riddim Twins Sly N Robbie which coincidentally was thirty years old [at the time of recording] and still sounds fresh today.
2013 had seen a level of ambition not realized by Lloyd before as he had released TWO albums, the first being his “New Veteran” set, again released via his Riddimworks Productions and Phoenix Music International which consummately provides the all-round versatility that his peers and fans come to know and love, featuring highlights such as the roots filled collaboration with R n B songstress Kele Le Roc entitled “If You Want Good” the first music video release from the album, also a latin/salsa tinged dancehall collaboration with the exquisitely lyrical Tanya Stephens on “Bada Boom, Bada Bing” alongside sparkling solo efforts such as the hits “Crush On You” and “My Baby Loves Me” produced by veteran artisans Willie Lindo and Bunny Lee respectively as well as the moving and awesome posthumous collaboration with the “Crown Prince of Reggae” Dennis Emmanuel Brown with their rendition of the Eagles’ country classic “Lyin’ Eyes”.
The second set of the year saw a third party release in conjunction with acclaimed Florida/Virgin Islands production outfit Zion High Productions whom Lloyd had recorded various projects with prior entitled “Rootical” an entirely original recording project released in October 2013. The first release from the “Rootical” set was the haunting and deep “What You Sow” taking an old time proverb and reiterating it in such a way that it paints a picture to the mind immediately. Other highlights feature the title track featuring chanter Pressure Buss Pipe which sets the tone for the whole album in one fell swoop. Other collaborations such as “How Could I” include rising artist Yisrael Immanuel, “Keep On Keeping On” featuring Jahdan Blakkamoore and the anthemic “Together” featuring lioness roots singer Queen Omega.
Spring 2014 saw Lloyd return to his productive form with yet another milestone album entitled ‘LB50’ celebrating his 50th birthday, with a collection of eighteen varied tracks featuring collaborations with veteran DJ Sarjant D on his introduction track ‘Fiddy’, Homefront Productions Patrick Anthony on joint production and performing collaborations on the sound boy killing ‘My Sound’ and tropically lovers rock tinged ‘There You Are’ also the standout hit track ‘All About You’ featured on the Mighty Diamonds’ ‘Country Living’ riddim, culminating with the ‘father and son duet’ entitled ‘Faith’ featuring his son Courtney, his first commercial debut recording.
Autumn 2015 saw the release of TWO albums from Lloyd. The first being a collection/compilation of sixteen tracks recorded on Studio One/Treasure Isle/Rock Steady compositions across his eighteen albums called ‘From The Old School’ featuring two new tracks, one of which was an ode to his childhood residence and childhood memories entitled ‘Pembroke Road’ and the second, a cover of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ ‘Pimpers Paradise’.
The second album release of the year saw yet another milestone for Lloyd, in which he released his twentieth studio album entitled ‘Twenty’ a sixteen track project which contained production collaborations with the late Lloyd Campbell [Joe Fraser] Willie Lindo [Heavybeat Records] David Simmonds [Heddrokk Productions] David ‘Jah D’ Goldfine [Zion High Productions] Patrick Anthony [Homefront Productions] Chris Peckings [Peckings Records] also performing collaborations with fellow Reggae artists Don Campbell, Peter Hunnigale on the hymnal ‘Never Leave You Lonely’, Veteran actor and artiste, the late Count Prince Miller covering comedians Morecambe and Wise’s ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, also Third World’s Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore on the beautiful Nyahbinghi themed ‘Give Thanks with Praise’
2016 saw Lloyd take a sabbatical before releasing his 21st studio album entitled ‘Vocalist’ in October 2017 to concentrate on producing his former backing singer Lyn’s first studio album entitled ‘Debut’ released May 2017 and fellow former Riddimworks Band backing singer Shade Aman’s set entitled ‘Travelling Hopefully’ which was released in November 2017 ‘Vocalist’ forms an entirely worldly and varied ORIGINAL set from the Reggae icon featuring production collaborations from Patrick Anthony [Homefront Productions UK/JA] Carlton ‘Bubblers’ Ogilvie [Nu-Edge Productions – UK] Peter Hunnigale [Street Vibes – UK] Dominic Gomes [D Rebell Productions – Trinidad] Oliver Schrader [Silly Walks Movement – Germany] and David ‘Jah D’ Goldfine Andrew ‘Moon’ Bain Laurent ‘Tippy’ Alfred [Zion I Kings/Zion High Productions – Florida/Virgin Islands]. Also featuring vocal collaborations from Fiona [US/Jamaica], Aleighcia Scott [Wales] and Babyboom [UK/Jamaica] also touring his live concerts with his Riddimworks Band.
2018 has seen a busy year for Lloyd in terms of his solo output of album material, one of which was the extended release of his ‘Vocalist: Digital Deluxe Edition’ which contains six bonus tracks featuring collaborations with Adele Harley, Chucky Bantan, Grantie Asher, Jacquie George, Chardel Rhoden and Dean Fraser and additional productions from Gary ‘Digitec’ Lewis, Carlton ‘Bubblers’ Ogilvie and Patrick Anthony.
2019 saw the releases of his 22nd compilation studio album ‘Collabs: Vol 1’ featuring collaborations with British and international Reggae, Pop, RnB and Hip Hop artistes such as Don Campbell, Don Ricardo, Michael Gordon, Paulette Tajah, Grace Jones, Sly n Robbie, Beres Hammond and Tanya Stephens to name a few [also a debut featuring his son Courtney]
Coupled with his his 23rd studio project album ‘Brown and Bubblers’ album featuring ten original riddim tracks built and produced by the legendary UK Reggae producer Carlton ‘Bubblers’ Ogilvie and original songs written and performed by Lloyd, exclusively released on Carlton’s ‘Nu-Edge label and website [www.nuedgemusic.com].
Spring 2020 heralded the release of Lloyd’s ‘labour of love’ various artists 24th studio album project entitled ‘The Salute Project’ with Lloyd now in the producer’s chair, featuring a wealth of fast rising vocal talent from the UK, simply re-interpreting [by way of musicality as well as vocally] some of Lloyd’s hits chosen by the artists themselves
The roll call of artists featured in ‘The Salute Project’ are, Shade Aman, Grantie Asher, Chucky Bantan, Tony Corbin, Garnett Cross, Harmonie Deja, , Steve ‘Stickz’ Heyliger, JayJayBorn2Sing, Donovan Kingjay, Mandee, Rafeelya, Stacey Phipps, Kareem Shabazz, Ann Sianab, Simon and El’Tee.
Lloyd’s landmark 25th studio album release ‘Therapy’ sees Lloyd in a deeply personal light as an album of tracks by way of closure from his past trials of life as a timely gateway to his progression as an artist, featuring collaborations with ever rising artist Ras Charmer, Harmonie Deja and Rafeelya as well as co-production collaborations with Diane Black and Caroline Williams [Real Talk Productions], Peter Hunnigale [Street Vibes Productions], Stevie P Productions, Patrick Anthony [Homefront Productions] and Carlton ‘Bubblers’ Ogilvie [Nu-Edge Productions].