From Japan’s eminent Dub Store Records comes another epic rocksteady compilation and yet again it shines light on Jamaica’s Federal Records and producer Ken Khouri.
Merritone Rock Steady 2: This Music Got Soul 1966-1967 collects a hefty 21 cuts including novelties such as The Federal All Stars’ Merritone False Starts 2 and a rehearsal version of Lynn Taitt & The Jets’ version of the Batman theme.
But the real gems on this superb and sweet set are the vocal groups and their beautiful, yet sometimes a little rough around the edges, three-part harmonizing. Check for example The Tartans’ catchy Rolling Rolling, with its intense keys, or The Zodiacs’ Walk On By, with its lingering guitar and strong chorus.
60 minutes of early rocksteady. It’s the birth of reggae music.
Following two epic rocksteady compilations showcasing Derrick Harriott comes a set spotlighting a somewhat lesser known producer – Ken Khouri and his Federal Records.
Ken Khouri was a talented entrepreneur and started in the music business in the mid-50s. He opened the first record manufacturing plant in Jamaica and his studio helped to create ska, rocksteady and reggae.
Ken Khouri is not as well-known as some of his peers – including Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid – but his output was superb as showcased on Merritone Rock Steady 1: Shanty Town Curfew 1966-1967, a set collecting a hefty 21 tracks ranging from frenzied ska to the softer rocksteady.
It features a selection of vocal cuts and instrumentals and some are probably well-known, but most are – at least to this writer – new. And as usual with Japan’s Dub Store Records the audio quality is superb and most of the tracks are sourced from their master tape.
Highlights include two scorching cuts from The Tartans – Dance All Night and What Can I Do. The tracks are quite similar with a frenetic piano setting the tone. When this quartet split up three of the singers – Prince Lincoln Thompson, Cedric Myton and Devon Russell – would pursue international careers as both solo artists and as part of The Royal Rasses and The Congos.
The extensive liner notes feature extracts from extensive interviews with Paul Khouri whose knowledgeable recollections of working with Federal Records, not only as a producer but as an engineer and musician, are enlightening and educational.
The second volume of this superb compilation is released on October 28.