Tag Archives: Rocksteady

Intoxicating rocksteady on Lynn Taitt’s greatest hits

lynn-taitt-the-jets-rock-steady-greatest-hitsLegendary Trinibagoan guitar ace Lynn Taitt is one of the key architects in rocksteady and reggae and played on countless of sessions in the 60s and 70s. And he also has a number of tunes and albums credited to himself.

One of those is the rare and recently reissued Greatest Hits, originally issued in 1968 on the Merritone label. On this beautiful set he has arranged instrumental versions of rocksteady classics, cuts which he graces with his tuneful guitar playing.

But this set offers more than just magnificent guitar licks. Several tunes also come with spectacular horn blasts and horn solos.

This is the swinging and hip-shaking sounds of the 60s.

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Painfully sweet rocksteady on The Frightnrs debut

dap-042-lp_f-low-res2New York quartet The Frightnrs – nowadays a trio since singer Dan Klein tragically died on June 9, 2016, from A.L.S. – celebrates the soul of rocksteady on their debut album Nothing More To Say, a set following their dark EP Inna Lovers Quarrell, which was released via Diplo’s label Mad Decent last year.

Nothing More To Say was recorded last year, prior to Dan Klein’s A.L.S. diagnosis. Dan Klein sings about aching love and lost relationships, and these themes now gain second meanings, making reference to a lost life, a life that was too soon.

Dan Klein’s pleading, vulnerable voice – sometimes singing with a captivating falsetto – suits the melancholic melodies and raw and stripped down rhythms very well. He and his three bandmates treat rocksteady with respect, care and devotion and together with producer Victor “Ticklah” Axelrod they bring vintage sounds to a new generation.

This is the first reggae album released on Daptone Records, home to Sharon Jones and several soul bands and singers. And hopefully more releases like this will come.

But for now, I have nothing more to say than just get this charming and mesmerizing album. It’s painful and sweet at the same time. Just like rocksteady should be.

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Elegant and melancholic rocksteady from Derrick Harriott’s vaults

unnamedAfter reissuing the epic Derrick Harriott’s Rocksteady Party Japan’s Dub Store Records returns with a compilation collecting both stone-cold classics and rare collector’s items from Derrick Harriott’s vaults.

Derrick Harriott Rocksteady 1966-1969 showcases masterpieces such as Derrick Harriott’s own Do I Worry, Keith & Tex’ Stop That Train and Tonight alongside beautiful instrumentals like Ike Bennett & The Crystalites’ Illya Kuryankin and Bobby Ellis’ Step Softly. The selection also features three obscure cuts from Junior Soul, who would later score a hit with Police & Thieves as Junior Murvin.

Derrick Harriott is one of the forerunners in Jamaican music and started his career as a singer in the late 50s and would soon find fame as part of the Jiving Juniors. Later he turned to production and his recordings have always been crisp and elegant.

This stellar compilation collects timeless, melodious and stylish rocksteady produced by one of Jamaica’s many musical giants.

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Derrick Harriott’s epic rock steady party

MI0004046584When I started listening to reggae some 20 years ago my first love was rock steady and one of the many holy grails I wanted in my music collection was Derrick Harriott’s Rock Steady Party, a twelve track various artists compilation from around 1967. Unfortunately a copy has always been way too expensive for my finances. Up until now.

Because the stars over at Dub Store Records has reissued this sublime collection of hits in its original version. It’s a faultless set and every cut is a certified gem. Derrick Harriott has produced the album and also sings on five tracks, including the beautiful and melancholic album opener Walk the Streets.

This is rock steady at its very finest. Close harmonies, sweet melodies and smooth grooves. It’s all there and expertly crafted by legendary musicians like ace guitarist Lynn Taitt and trumpet maestro Bobby Ellis.

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Beware – sweet sounds from Jr Thomas & The Volcanos

jr-thomas-the-volcanos-bewareU.S. singer Jr Thomas has together with The Volcanos dropped an absolutely astonishing debut album. Jr Thomas – bred on a diet of 60s and early 70s rocksteady and early reggae artists – has a passionate vocals and is no stranger to beautiful minor key melodies.

All 16 cuts on Beware echoes from a time when the Jamaican music scene was starting to take form. The album has a sound firmly based in the mid to late 60s, just when smooth and slick rocksteady was making way for the more up-tempo early reggae sounds. Producers like Phil Pratt, Bunny Lee and Leslie Kong would probably hear themselves in these songs.

The sound is warm and organic and it’s soulful to the bone with sizzling organs, picking guitar and infectious melodies.

Beware certainly pays respect to one of the best eras in the history of Jamaican music.

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John Holt has died

1970 - On The BeachLegendary Jamaican singer John Holt died yesterday evening in a hospital in London. He was 69 years old and had been ill for some time according to Jamaica-Gleaner.

John Holt was the essence of smoothness and made lovers rock before the genre was invented. He started his career – just as many of his peers – at Studio One and Treasure Isle in the mid-60s. He was one of the founding members of the highly successful vocal trio The Paragons, a trio that made immortal gems like On the Beach, Happy Go Lucky Girl and The Tide if High, later covered by U.S. pop rockers Blondie.

He soon left The Paragons to pursue a solo career and he put out several classics, including A Love I Can Feel and Strange Things. He also dabbled with disco and strings, but later moved on to dancehall. And it was with Henry “Junjo” Lawes he scored one of his biggest hits – Police in Helicopter, taken from the album with the same name.

John Holt continued to tour and perform almost up until the time of his death and he will be greatly missed.

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Yet another impressive set from Alpheus and Roberto Sánchez

disc-3153-alpheus-good-prevailsThree years ago UK singer Alpheus dropped the critically acclaimed rocksteady and ska-tinged album From Creation, and in an interview with United Reggae he said that he would from now on only record in the same vein. No more roots or one drop. Just the sweet and smooth sounds of early Jamaica.

He has kept this promise and together with Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez he has again recorded a sublime 14 track set that consists of striking relicks and fresh originals. And just as From Creation Good Prevails sounds authentic and vintage, almost as the album was recorded in the mid to late 60s.

Alpheus’ singing is warm and comforting and the live recorded riddims are heartfelt and soulful, spiced with plenty of bright horns and moody organ and guitar licks.

This album is impressive to say the least. So skip the poorly sounding rocksteady reissues and go for this meticulously constructed and well-produced set. This is the sound of real reggae music.

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Good prevails on Alpheus new album

disc-3153-alpheus-good-prevailsUK-based singer Alpheus teamed up with renowned Spanish producer Roberto Sánchez about four years ago and in 2011 the acclaimed album From Creation was released. It was a step in a new and different direction for both Alpheus and Roberto Sánchez.

From Creation was not the usual European one drop or hard Channel One roots reggae. It was something completely different – soulful rocksteady and swinging ska.

Now this duo has a new album – Good Prevails. It collects 14 tracks, of which two are melodica instrumentals. It also offers a mix of fresh originals and re-vitalized versions of riddims created by Coxsone Dodd, Phil Pratt and Winston Riley.

Good Prevails hits the streets on LP and CD on April 28. If you can’t wait to hear how it sounds, check Our Strength taken from the album.

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Pure quality on new Studio One compilation

Layout 1The latest Studio One compilation on one of the world’s premier reissue labels – Soul Jazz Records – is all about pure quality and as usual with these compilations an an all-star selection of artists is featured – Ken Boothe, Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Dennis Brown and more. Sure, a number of these lovely tunes have been reissued plenty of times before, for example The Eternals’ Stars, The Heptones’ Party Time and The Gaylads’ Joy in the Morning.

The title – Studio One Rocksteady – doesn’t tell the whole truth though. It surely includes lots of rocksteady, but also early reggae, like Alton Ellis’ Hurting Me, Jackie Mittoo’s Our Thing and Duke Morgan’s Lick it Back.

The sounds are gorgeous, bouncy and optimistic, but also moody and melancholic as in Cecile Campbell’s Whisper to Me and Ken Boothe’s When I Fall in Love.

Studio One may not have been a rival to Duke Reid’s Tresure Isle when it comes to putting out beautiful rocksteady, but Coxsone Dodd had two aces up his sleeve – master organist Jackie Mittoo and bass virtuoso Leroy Sibbles. Together this trio created countless of classics, and several of these are collected on this essential album, an album with excellent sleevenotes by Lloyd Bradley, author of the classic book Bass Culture – When Reggae Was King.

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Cross-generational vibes from Tarrus Riley

Tarrus-Riley-Love-Situation-AlbumOn his fifth album Love Situation Tarrus Riley and his fellow producers Dean Fraser, Shane C. Brown, Mitchum Khan Chin and Jordan McClure take a stroll down memory lane to Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studio.

Love Situation is a throwback to Jamaica in the 60s, a time when rocksteady and early reggae ruled the airwaves and U Roy, The Uniques and Ken Boothe dominated the charts.

The set mixes samples from the past with new instrumentation. Melodically and rhythmically it’s contemporary vintage, modern old-school or current classic. Just listen to Tarrus Riley’s version of The Gaylads’ excellent ABC Rocksteady titled 1, 2, 3 I Love You. This track also sets the theme for the full album. It’s mostly about relations and affairs of the heart.

It has the same timeless quality and feel as some of the best cuts coming from Duke Reid, Bunny Lee or Coxsone Dodd in their heydays.

Great riddims and strong vocals courtesy of Tarrus Riley’s warm tenor voice along with his invited fellow singers U Roy, Konshens, Big Youth, Mr Cheeks and Wippa Demus make Love Situation a tasty effort.

And with its 17 tracks Love Situation is certainly a long-player. But it still leaves me wanting more of the slick and polished intergenerational vibes that that this project has to offer.

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