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.
Legendary 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.
New 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.
After 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.
When 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.
U.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.
Legendary 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.
Three 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.
UK-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.