Tag Archives: Jimmy Riley

Stellar compilation presents Jimmy Riley at his best

366If you are in a hurry and need to know about Jimmy Riley’s Live It To Know It, five words – get it, it is essential. I you want the story you can continue.

Jimmy Riley – father of acclaimed contemporary reggae singer Tarrus Riley – started his career in the mid-60 as part of rocksteady vocal harmony group The Sensations, an outfit that also included sublime falsetto singer Cornel Campbell. After a while he left that group and formed The Uniques with another renowned falsetto singer – Slim Smith.

After several hit singles with The Uniques, including My Conversation, one of the best rocksteady cuts ever recorded, he went solo and started recording with the likes of Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and Sly & Robbie, with whom he recorded easy-skanking solo hits like Love and Devotion and Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, a song that topped reggae charts in 1983.

On UK reissue label Pressure Sounds’ 87th release they have focused on Jimmy Riley, but not his most well-known cuts. No, Live It To Know It collects self-produced material recorded approximately between 1975 and 1984. And this is message music. It’s roots music with sparse arrangements and minor chords, and Jimmy Riley sings about immigration, poverty, struggles, equality and justice.

Live It To Know It contains 17 songs and is long overdue. Jimmy Riley is one of many often overlooked Jamaican singers. He has a stellar tenor voice with a bit of grittiness to it. It’s emotive, pleading and heartfelt. He’s a bona-fide soul singer.

This album has everything a great reissue should have – excellent music, discomixes, devastating dub versions, good audio quality, scarce material and vivid liner notes. It collects nothing but the best and it captures Jimmy Riley at his finest.


Filed under Record reviews

Mecoustic more than a version album

Tarrus Riley is one of the most reliable singers in contemporary reggae music, equally at ease with both dancehall and one drop. And as the son of reggae/soul singer Jimmy Riley, his foray into music was almost inescapable.

On Mecoustic – his fourth album to date – Tarrus Riley has taken a new musical direction, and this new style is gospel-influenced and sometimes hymn-like.

It’s a sensitive journey accompanied by soothing acoustic guitar, relaxed bass lines, classy keys, African drumming and delicate horn arrangements.

Mecoustic offers new versions of previously released material, and modern classics such as She’s Royal, Marcus Garvey, System Set, One Two Order and Africa Await get a new warm and angelic treatment.

But these 15 tunes, of which one is a short nyabinghi version of Eye Sight, are more than just versions. Way more. New arrangements and new moods are created for each song. And the result is beautiful, enchanting and very impressive.

With Mecoustic Tarrus Riley secures his rightful place in amid the very best in reggae music, both among his contemporaries as well as the founding fathers.


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Absolutely essential from The Uniques

The late and great Keith ”Slim” Smith is one of the many great voices in reggae music and his delicate falsetto was heavily inspired by early American soul and artists such as Curtis Mayfield. Slim Smith recorded several magic tunes up until his way too early death in 1973, only 25 years old.

Slim Smith was a key figure in vocal harmony groups The Techniques and later on in The Uniques, a group that’s been responsible for timeless classic such as My Conversation and People Rock Steady. A part from Slim Smith, the group consisted of Lloyd Charmers and Jimmy Riley, two singers that would later on find fame as solo vocalists and producers.

Several compilations have been dedicated to both Slim Smith himself and to The Uniques. And one would think that yet another would be a waste of both time and money. I beg to differ.

On October 17, Pressure Sounds drops Absolutely Rock Steady, a compilation dedicated to the works of The Uniques.

This is not the first compilation of material from The Uniques on Pressure Sounds. About ten years ago the label issued Watch This Sound.

You might think that many of the tunes appear on both albums, but Pete Holdsworth – project co-ordinator and founder of Pressure Sounds – has managed to find a new set of songs. The duplicates are set to a minimum.

Bunny Lee is the main producer on both albums and many of the tracks on Absolutely Rock Steady have been re-issued during the years, for example on two compilations from Trojan. But that doesn’t really matter.

These tunes have been chosen with great love and devotion. Included are both popular songs alongside some of their less well known ones. And there aren’t hardly any fillers, just great tunes, such as the beautiful Blinded By Love and the much versioned Let Me Go Girl. The compilation also include its answer tune, I’ll Let You Go (Let Me Go Boy) by Dawn Penn.

And – as usual with Pressure Sounds – the packaging is well above par with great sleeve notes and some nice footage.

If you already own several compilations with material from Slim Smith and The Uniques, then this compilation might be superfluous. But if you don’t, Absolutely Rock Steady is a great addition to the record collection. It’s timeless music for fans of soul, pop and reggae.


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Kill your darlings Tarrus Riley

tarrus-riley540Först ut i sommar av reggaebarnen var Queen Ifrica med plattan Montego Bay. Hon är dotter till ska- och rocksteadysångaren Derrick Morgan. För två veckor sedan var det Tarrus Rileys tur med nya plattan Contagious. Han är son till Jimmy Riley – sångare i 60-talsgrupperna The Sensations och The Uniques samt solo med höjdare som Majority Rule, Tell the Children the Truth och Love and Devotion.
Precis som sin far har Tarrus Riley haft en lyckad karriär. Han har släppt plattorna Challenges (2004) och Parables (2006). Han blev 2008 framröstad till Best Male Vocalist och Best Song (She’s Royal från Parables) på International Reggae and World Music Awards.
Trots att det gått tre år sedan förra plattan har det inte varit tyst om Tarrus Riley. Han har under tiden släppt en handfull starka singlar såsom Back Biter och Protect Your Neck.
Contagious innehåller flera tidigare osläppta spår. En smula ovanligt i reggaesammanhang, där albumen brukar bestå av en stor mängd tidigare utgivna singlar. Det är faktiskt hela 15 färska låtar. De som sipprat ut är Start a New, Young Heart och Good Girl, Gone Bad.
Precis som tidigare skivor är Contagious en blandning av roots och lovers med pompösa arrangemang och körer. Plattan har slagsida mot lugnare låtar i balladstuk, exempelvis Superman och toksmöriga Let Peace Reign tillsammans med Duane Stephenson och Etana.
Tarrus Riley skulle tjäna på att tuffa till sig och samarbeta med producenter som Donovan Germain, Donovan Bennett eller Bobby Konders, snarare än smöriga Dean Fraser som ligger bakom ett antal låtar på Contagious. För det är i upptempospåren och i de hårdare takterna som det svänger snarare än i de honungsglacerade.
Men Tarrus Riley är rätt ute, det märks inte minst i duetter med reggaestjärnor som ligger en bit från hans eget sound. I Herbs Promotion delar han micken med Auto-Tune-älskaren Demarco samt hårda Vybz Kartel och på Good Girl, Gone Bad möter han upp med Konshens.

Tarrus Riley har blivit bättre för varje platta han släppt. Han har dock en bit kvar till ett helgjutet album. En väg kan vara att renodla och göra sig av med lovers-låtarna och fokusera på tyngre roots och dancehall. Han klarar bevisligen av även ett tuffare sound.

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