The spirit is always whispering to me


The spirit is always whispering to me

Remembering the joyful noise of Justin Hinds

An ongoing project at Tortorello Sound Laboratories is a montage of the happiest songs ever recorded. For a while the project was limited to the happiest songs created by human hands, but in 2003, the Laboratories discovered a sound sample by a talented group of pachyderms who record under the name the Thai Elephant Orchestra and whose output could sneak onto any number of Sun Ra sides.

Note to irony traffickers (and ivory merchants, for that matter): These are serious musicians, not novelty whales. Profits go toward conservation programs (and, one suspects, elephant opiate binges.)

The Happiest Songs Project (HSP) is an unfinished one. Funding has been sparse, it is true. But the fact of the matter is that the HSP is, by design, unfinishable. The only way the Laboratory continues its research--the only way the Laboratory's director limps out of bed in the morning--is by clinging to the faint--and yet very real--belief that the day may yield a new song for the montage. To know that the list of song candidates is finite would cast a pall over the research director that no single happy song could remedy.


A longtime nominee for inclusion under the HSP has been the two-minute forty-four-second ska bubble gum masterpiece "Carry Go, Bring Come," recorded by Justin Hinds and the Dominoes in 1963. The trombone is the jolly yawp of a tipsy uncle at his nephew's soccer match (the kid's team is down 6-0). The bass jumps up and down on a trampoline. The drummer hits the cymbal twice a second, nonstop, throughout the recording--so often that you begin to wonder if producer Duke Reid offered him some kind of incentive pay for hitting the metal.


But the thing you'll remember about the track is the slightly reedy tenor of Justin Hinds. His delivery is a touch affected. Along with a tremolo, Hinds has got a British accent he lays on to words like "my dear." It's as if the 21-year-old cruise ship singer and country boy is applying some sophistication: Oh, and my dear sir, when I'm through with this take, would you bring me a glass of sherry and the keys to the Bentley?


"Carry Go Bring Come" has a few cryptic lyrics--words about "jezebels" and "the meek shall inherit the earth." Like fellow ska pioneer Toots Hibbert, Hinds was of a Biblical cast. "They inspire me a lot, the whispering spirit is always whispering to me," he said in an undated interview with Ray Hurford. "The reason for that is because I'm coming out of a spiritual home. My father is a Christian, my mother is a Christian, so I grow up that way. I feel it in myself, am I a righteous dude. I get this gift to do this work."


Hinds died March 17 of cancer in Steertown, Jamaica. He was 62 years old. He had, apparently, become something of a homebody in recent year, though he maintained a following in Europe.


Wondering whether Hinds' early pop wonder belongs in your personal HSP? Give it a listen here, at the fine audioblog the Suburbs Are Killing Us.


A noise as joyful as "Carry Go Bring Come" is a gift that can't be repaid.




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