Innocent Youths by Earth, Roots and Water was the first long player released on Jerry Brown’s Summer Records imprint, hitting the emerging Toronto reggae marketplace in 1977. In 2008, the original LP is virtually extinct, a highly coveted and extremely rare piece of Canadian reggae history (often described as the northern answer to Lee Perry’s Black Ark). For the uninitiated, we are talking heavy bass, drums, reverb, echo, roots vocals, keys, guitar, percussion, and Brown’s wild style touch behind the controls.
Earth, Roots & Water was initially formed in the mid-seventies to provide hard rhythms and tight backing tracks for the growing number of musical friends and family who ventured to Brown’s Malton, Ontario, basement studio. Over the years, a veritable who’s who of Jamaican music scene passed through Summer Sound to record with like-minded brethren. Jackie Mittoo, Willi Williams, Johnny Osbourne, Carl Dawkins, Leroy Sibbles, Stranger Cole, and King Jammy are just a handful of the label’s impressive roster.
By 1977, Earth, Roots & Water had developed into an engaging live entity as well, based around the talents of Adrian “Homer” Miller (vocals), Anthony “Base” Hibbert (bass), Colin “Zuba” Suban (drums), Matt Shelley (guitar), and Tony “KB” Moore (keyboards). Both a sonic and visual force, the charismatic youths soon found themselves performing in and around the Toronto area, opening up for The Police and The Stranglers while extending the UK-born punk/reggae love affair to North America.
Last year I interviewed producer and musician Roberto Sanchez about the showcase album he did with Milton Henry. In the interview Sanchez says that he tries to emulate the Summer Records sound on his records.
The original pressing of Innocent Youth is one of the rarest reggae records ever pressed outside of Jamaica. The album is packaged in a heavyweight cardboard album cover. It also came with a collectible album/promo poster which was printed in blue ink. The poster is even more rare than the record itself. If you are lucky enough to find an original copy of the album, it almost never contains the original poster.
The album was re-issued in 2008 by Light In The Attic Records. It also came with a poster, however, the re-issue poster is printed in black ink.