25 years ago a young, Trench Town born Donovan McLeod a.k.a. Danny Coxson a.k.a Ever Red stepped into a London studio. In one tuff take he created some of the most revered, most whispered about tracks of the 1980s digital revolution. And then, like some mythic Keyser Soze, he was gone.
The records that were created that day were produced and written by Danny Coxson with a great assist by the phenomenal engineer Patrick Donegan.
In London, two of these tracks were released in 1988 on the SUPER TONE label with Danny Coxson being credited as EVER RED.
The other tracks were released on Danny Coxson’s own label GEM STAR when he had returned to New York in 1989.
Only a few hundred copies of these tunes ever existed and soon Danny was back in Jamaica unable to help promote the records.
The tunes themselves were exquisite. Working together, Coxson and Donegan managed to unearth some of the darkest, digital riddims of the era – thunderous, rolling bass music inundated with analog synth stabs and drum patterns that seemed to pre-figure some early 90s drum & bass. The sound was the perfect amalgamation of the organic depth of classic, Jamaican dub and the futuristic edge of the U.K. digital programming revolution. On top of these amazing riddims came Danny Coxson’s vocals and his skills at crafting melody with a serious, rough and rugged sing-jay style that alternated between yearning and menace, between tone and staccato speed while remaining utterly catchy. And then…well then there were the lyrics themselves. Danny Coxson had serious lyrics. He weaved together dense metaphor, story-telling and vivid commentary to paint portraits of real ghetto sufferation and survival while taking on even larger, world-wide issues. Together, these three elements acted as a Holy Trinity lifting these tunes into the strata of the incredible.
No matter the greatness of the tunes, without anyone around to promote them they soon faded into total obscurity. As the decades passed and the internet revolution ushered into the information storm of Google searches, Ebay, reggae blogs & message boards, podcasts, You Tube and the like, those handful of tracks morphed into legend. While collectors and critics had long dismissed 80s reggae, a new generation had fallen in love with the sound and soon those original Danny Coxson and Ever Red twelve inch singles were fetching astronomical prices and being spoken about in hushed tones by the most serious record fiends out there.
All of which was news to Danny Coxson himself. After he returned to Jamaica in the early 90s, he cut a few more tunes (most notably for George Lemon’s Photographer label) but primarily felt disappointed in music and soon gave it up altogether. He gradually drifted into his other love, painting, with which he has supported himself and his family with over the last 25 years; all the while his boxes of wrapped and sealed master tapes were gathering dust under his bed.
Until…Danny Coxson Googled himself. Suddenly, and to his own amazement, he began reading about himself and how much his music had touched people around the world. He saw mixes from sound systems ranging from Iceland to Japan that included his tunes, he saw label scans, he read obsessive posts about his songs on various message boards and he saw expired auctions that were hitting $500 plus. After doing some research he called Deadly Dragon Sound, a vintage reggae specialist shop based in New York City. Deadly Dragon was so excited to hear from the man that they hopped on a plane to Kingston to meet him face to face. There they found Danny Coxson, full of energy, with his voice intact and his master tapes in perfect condition. They soon developed a partnership to reissue the original tracks that came out in the 80s and to press up, for the first time, a number of unreleased songs.
Danny Coxson and Tiger Cat Kingston, November 2010
The first tunes to be released from the Danny Coxson / Deadly Dragon Sound collaboration are:
Danny Cosxon - Dem Nuh Ruff Like We (Gem Star/Deadly Dragon Sound) 7"http://deadlydragonsound.com/v3_records_info.php?id=23583
Danny Coxson - President Botha (Gem Star/Deadly Dragon Sound) 7"http://deadlydragonsound.com/v3_records_info.php?id=23580
All tunes were mastered from the original tapes and pressed in New York City on high-quality virgin vinyl. The vinyl mastering was done by the legendary Paul Shields. The pressings were limited to 500 pieces.
Paul Shields mastering the tunes
With this series of reissues, the music of Danny Coxson is finally available to be heard by all lovers of reggae music. And hopefully, where once his tunes were whispered about by only the most hardcore of reggae collectors, his talents will now be recognized as an essential part of Jamaica’s storied musical history.