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.