Good things come in 12 inch packages. Delivering limited edition pressings of new and classic albums directly to your doorstep, Vinyl Me, Please operates under a simple philosophy: The Album Lives. With a carefully curated catalog of new and hard to find releases, the subscription service is more than just a record club…it’s a lifestyle choice for folks who wish Record Store Day could happen every month. In their living room.
Here’s how it works. You send Vinyl Me, Please some of your hard-earned money (plans start at $27/month) and they send you one meticulously selected album worthy of your time and attention. Easy, right? Each custom pressing (often on colored vinyl!) also comes with special features like original artwork and even a recipe for a companion cocktail. You’ll have membership privileges in the VMP shop, which means you can grab a copy of previous VMP selections from the archives – including June’s jaw-dropping reissue of TV on the Radio’s art rock masterpiece Return to Cookie Mountain – not to mention a bevy of rare and exclusive releases. Just FYI, the store is now open, and it’s chock full of sexy new discs that need a loving home amongst your perpetually incomplete collection.
Whatever styles or artists or limited edition pressings you’re looking for, you’re bound to find something in the VMP Store. While the store is open to the public, many of the covet-worthy selections are only available to members, so you’ve gotta sign up to get your mitts on them. If you’re peckish about relinquishing control of your record collection over to complete strangers, know that VMP’s Swaps Program is in full effect. That means you can flip any VMP pick you don’t like for a past AOM that’s a little more your speed. My advice? Don’t overthink it. Do yourself a favor and sign up today.
So, what’s in the box for July? Team VMP is out to soundtrack your summer with a dub-tinged classic straight from the Trojan Records vaults, courtesy of The Silvertones and their unheralded reggae classic Silver Bullets.
For the Love of Music, Please DO NOT BEND (or, coming to terms with the fact that you know next to nothing about reggae … and that’s a very bad thing)
In the history of popular music, few sounds have been as uniquely identified to a specific location as reggae. Concurrently, few record labels have helped to shape a musical style as much as Trojan Records. Like most music lovers, I can’t claim to know much about reggae as an art form, or Trojan as a label, or even The Silvertones as a band for that matter, except that they all originated on the island of Jamaica, of course. Don’t worry if you don’t know much either, Team VMP is here to begin our education. Silver Bullets is their text.
Lesson #1 – Concerning Lee “Scratch” Perry
Lee Perry began his life in music by apprenticing at Kingston’s legendary Studio One, splitting his time between menial studio tasks and recording his own songs. In 1968, Perry went on to form his on label (Upsetter Records). In 1973, he built his very own studio (dubbed “The Black Ark”) in his back yard. Backed by his legendary studio band The Upsetters, Perry’s distinctive sound would take the reggae world by storm, with Perry continuing to hone that sound by producing tracks for such acts as Bob Marley & The Wailers, the Heptones, and Max Romeo. Not to mention an up and coming vocal group that would come to be known as The Silvertones.
Lesson #2 – Concerning The Silvertones
When thinking about reggae music, one tends to focus on the lo-fi production values and laid-back vibes that propel impassioned songs of love and protest and spirituality. So much so that harmonies and vocal stylings rarely factor into the equation. Delroy Denton, Keith Coley, and Gilmore Grant (aka The Silvertones) were the rare reggae group that built their sound out of voice rather than instrumentation. Prior to getting together with Perry, the group’s sound could mostly be heard bringing dense harmonies and a penetrating range to the streets of Kingston. It’s there that Perry first heard The Silvertones perform. And it was there where Perry offered to produce their debut album.
Lesson #3 – Concerning Silver Bullets
The Silvertones’ electric debut, titled Silver Bullets, was released in 1974, and became a landmark album for everyone involved (The Silvertones as performers, Perry as a producer, and Trojan as a distributor). Still, with The Silvertones being a largely untested act, there was reason to think nothing much would come of the recordings at all. As such, there was little money to put into Silver Bullets‘ production. In fact, Perry managed to secure just a single night in King Tubby’s Studio for Denton and Co. to record the album’s vocals.
Denton, Coley, and Grant made the most of the moment, bringing their signature mix of dense do-wop tinged harmonies and sunny pop sounds no fewer than 12 songs. Armed with a vision for the album’s overall sound, Perry then decamped to his own Black Ark Studio with some of the best session players in Jamaica to lay down the album’s arrangements. The resulting album was nothing short of transcendent, seamlessly blending rastafied covers of classics like “Sugar Sugar” with soulful, dubbed-tinged originals like “Soul Sister” and “Rock Me In Your Soul.”
Though Silver Bullets would remain a landmark work in Jamaica, it never quite found its place in the world at large. In the near 35 years since its release, the album has all but been lost to that world, earning “coveted, crate-digger” status for die-hard reggae enthusiasts. Leave it to Vinyl Me, Please to dig through the Trojan Records vaults and change that narrative. This lavishly produced reissue is certain to ensure that reggae devotees and neophytes alike will giddily spend their summer nodding gently to Silver Bullets‘ sultry blend of dub, doo-wop, and dance hall. And they’re likely to be nodding for many summers to come.
Silver Bullets is an album of cleverly orchestrated, stylishly produced reggae tracks. But those tracks would seem hollow if not for the three voices they’re built around. So here they are.
Hey, while you’re gazing at Silver Bullets‘ back cover (and noting that Produced by Lee Perry credit), be sure to take notice of VMP’s Essentials label in the bottom right corner. This album more than earns that slick little foil-stamp. And if you’re looking close enough, you can ogle that old school tip-on the sleeve that all the kids are going crazy over.
But What’s in the Box!?
Now, let’s get down to business and check out some of the goodies included with July’s release. But before we do, let’s all take a moment to note the information on this important little sticker:
VMP Exclusive pressing? Check. Remastered from original tapes? Check. Colored vinyl? Check. Heavyweight tip-on jacket? Check. Custom lyric sheet? Check. If those features don’t make for an Essential release, I don’t know what does.
Now, once you’ve got that protective sleeve off, you’ll want to take a moment to appreciate VMP’s slick packaging, which features their own take on the coveted OBI strip. For the record, there’s some seriously vital information on that strip as well. Like the band name/album title/VMP catalogue number.
There’s also a few notes on why The Silvertone’s debut album was selected as an Essential.
Not to mention the recipe for Silver Bullet‘s companion cocktail, the aptly tilted “Soul Sister.” Shout out to the folks at Houston’s Lei Low Bar (which is located about five minutes from my house) for bringing us this deliciously rum-soaked confection.
Keep digging and you’ll find this album inspired, pastel fever-dream of an art print courtesy of London-based illustrator Kit Agar. Feel free to @ her if you wanna let her know just how much you dig her work.
Take a look inside that tip-on sleeve, and you’ll uncover the custom lyric sheet you read about earlier.
Be sure to flip it over, ’cause there’s some bonus artwork on the back as well. Which is pretty sweet.
Now, let’s have a look at that vinyl already, ’cause Team VMP really outdid themselves with this little beauty.
They’re calling it “Vanilla Sky” colored. And I can assure you that it’ll bring a little sweet and a little heat to your turntable.
How’s it sound? Like a doo-wop group found themselves hopelessly stranded somewhere in Jamaica. With no way to get home, they make a go of it in their new tropical domain. They get to know the people. They get to know the language. Most of all, they get to know the music. When the time is right, they head into a neighbor’s garage studio, and hit record. If you don’t hear that in the clip below, then you are not listening my friend.
Give It a Spin
Here’s the thing, joining a record club is always going to be risky, if only because it’s impossible they’ll satisfy your personal tastes with every album they select. That’s a good thing, because one of the best parts about being a music fan is discovering amazing music you’ve never heard. I’d never heard of The Silvertones prior to Silver Bullets being selected as July’s AOM, mostly because (outside of my undying devotion to the late, great Keith Hudson and a requisite high school obsession with Bob Marley) I’m shockingly ignorant of reggae music. Team VMP is calling Silver Bullets a gateway album to that scene, and now charging that gate full steam ahead. Thanks to Vinyl Me, Please for lighting the way, and for making every month another musical adventure.
A big THANK YOU to our friends at Vinyl Me, Please for sponsoring this subscription. Don’t forget to check out the official Vinyl Me, Please website and sign up to get some choice wax delivered right to your door each and every month! Can’t wait to see what tasty treat they send our way for August!