Bitty McLean – Here I Stand

Release Date: Jan 1994
Chart position: 10

Vince
Rediscovering the talent of Bitty Mclean has been a highlight of documenting the Neggae movement on this blog. Here he is, barely 21, producing/mixing/engineering a very clever UK 90s take on the ska-slash-rocksteady sound of early 60s Jamaica. Ska doesn’t feature too heavily on the Neggae hot 90, so to hear it so lovingly recreated here is an absolute treat.
The original Here I Stand was recorded by Justin Hinds & The Dominoes – ska superstars and more or less house band on Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle Records. Like his other smash Carry go Bring Home and tons of other 60s reggae gems (Rudy A Message to You by Dandy Livingstone, Simmer Down by the Wailers) it adheres to a simple yet winning formula:

  • Three chords (usually C, F and G)
  • Punchy Brass
  • galloping backbeat
  • Beautiful, modal vocal harmonies

And as they say in Kingston, “If it nah brok, don’t fix it.”
Bitty stays true to the original, but adds some 90s digital sensibilites to the sound. His voice is in fine fettle, and when covers sound this good who needs originals.
Score: 8/10 – only wish it lasted longer.
bitty_mclean-here_i_stand

Jamie
Welcome back Delroy Mclean. What a wonderful tune this is. After the terrible pile of gospel tosh that was pass it on, Bitty is back with a Neggae Belter.
This must have passed me by first time around as I don’t recall it at all. On first listening it reminds me massively of The Specials classic “A message to you Rudy”. Not a bad thing as AMTYR is an all time UK Reggae classic. Perhaps the Specials themselves were in someway influenced by the original Here I Stand, recorded by Justin Hinds and the Dominoes on Trojan Records in 1963. The chord changes and melody are very similar. The musical arrangement is tidy, the production is crisp. Nice to see Bitty getting back to what he does best.
From the offset, Bitty is toasting his ex girlfriend. Asking her to come back as he’s all alone. 20 seconds later, the chorus, backed up by a tidy horn section and some great Steel Reggae guitar off chords, this tune doesn’t hang about. There is no 32 bar build up, there is no need. It cuts to the chase. Its 3 and a half minutes of Neggae sunshine. The Neggae equivalent of an early Strokes indie number. Why chuck in needless bridges and key changes that are unnecessary? Just keep it down to a decent pop song.
The main difference between this and the original is that after 2 minutes there is some free styling from the horn section. The Reggae piano joins in for good measure. You can tell there was a good vibe in the studio when this was made and it transcends to the ear of the listener. Despite being about break ups and getting used to being on your lonesome, the song is actually fun to listen to and you can almost see Bitty smiling broadly as he croons out the vocals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of him where he’s not happy and enjoying what he’s doing. Even when its raining its raining and he has tears from his eyes!
Score: I’m very surprised that this only reached number 10 in the UK charts. A message to you Bitty. 7 from me.

Jonny
A nice offering from Bitty and a solid follow up to his initial It keeps Rainin’; a significant improvement to Pass it on. It has a slightly different vibe to it as Bitty demonstrates his versatility in by producing a more chilled type of neggae as opposed to the upfront melody of it keeps Rainin’. I can easily picture myself walking through town with it playing on the walkman, making me feel happy and instantly giving me a glass half full outlook on life. OK, so it has minimal skank value versus some of the competition around at the time, but that’s not his intent so I can let that go.
Bitty’s dominance of the era gives us 7 chances to critique his work on this journey and although he will struggle to live up to the high expectations he set us after his first track this does nothing too drastic to damage the high opinion we have of him.
Score: A nice and pleasant 8/10 from me.

Norm
I must admit, I haven’t heard this one for a long time and the first time I did I probably wasn’t in the right frame of mind and thought it was so-so at best. That was a knee jerk reaction and I feel bad for that and to be honest I’m a little disappointed in myself. UB40 and Shabba got me off track (tha’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) Anyway, enough of the confessional and on with the review…
Bitty Mclean is back with Here I Stand to cheer us up and it’s a big improvement from the Yoobs’ offering last week. We are back to the roots of Neggae, simple island beats, with nothing fancy and no certainly no casio keyboard material here.
Again, the simple ingredients for my definition of neggae are present:

  • Fast paced island toast intro
  • Nice blend of island instruments
  • Smooth vocals, island stylee
  • It makes me feel like I’m in Jamaica sipping a malibu and pineapple

As long as you stay true to these rules, you cant mess it up too badly. Take note Jonny Gill and company.
As far as the material goes, I’m in. It has good substance to it and appears to be about being true to yourself and having the stones to be solid and upstanding member of society. I couldn’t think of a better person than Bitty to make this one.
Score: Put me down for 7/10 – solid, nuff said.
On a side note: I had this song on the Young, Gifted and Black album- Volume 2, Disc 2 Song 5 that was released in June of 2004. A sweet compilation that includes the likes of Pass the Dutchie by Musical Youth and Cocaine on my Brain by Dillinger. I’m sure Bitty is chuffed to bits with that one.

Gouldy
Guess who’s back, back again, Bitty’s back, tell a friend. After his last disappointing effort I’m expecting big things from the Bard of Brum and he doesn’t disappoint. Right from the opening patois declaration of ‘Bitty him come back again, oh come back again’ over a dub bassline you know Bitty has been listening to Neggae’s Sergeant Pepper and wondering how he’s going to compete, rather than taking the easy way out like Brian Wilson and going to bed for 15 years whilst wallowing in his own filth, Bitty has done a Richie Havens and gone back to his roots.
After the intro the song eases nicely into a traditional easy skank and continues along this relaxed path for the next 3 minutes, but it’s good, so in the words of the Rock and Wyclef ‘It doesn’t matter’ (I just had to sit through a Mumford and Sons advert to get that clip, really not worth it).
The overall theme of the song is that Bitty had loads of mates when he released ‘It’s Raining’ but as soon as ‘Pass it on’ came out they didn’t want to know. They were fair-weather neggaeists basically and not the kind of people the scene needs; they’re probably all wearing stupid sunglasses and listening to Pitbull now. To a lesser man than Bitty this would come as a crushing blow, but this man is pure neggae and the spirit of the Lion doesn’t need friends, they’ll stand alone, predominant. Overall this is a great return to form and is rumoured to have won him the hand of his wife Andrea. This song transcends Neggae with its rootsy style and appeals to all, not just the hardcore, underground neggaeists like our revered panel.
Score: 8/10 – A little bitty better than his last effort.

NEGGAE SCORE: 7.6

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