Tag Archives: Slim Smith

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.

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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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Den jamaicanska musikens inspiratörer

Clyde McPhatterHäromdagen skrev jag en krönika på Rebelmusic om kopplingen mellan reggae och de förenta staterna. Faktum är att även om USA har dåliga reggaegener, så har landet haft stort inflytande över den jamaicanska musikens utveckling, och reggaen härstammar i ett krokigt nerstigande led från tidig amerikansk r&b och storbandsjazz.

Amerikansk r&b dök upp på Jamaica på 50-talet genom handelsresande och säsongsarbetare. De som hade radio kunde också lyssna på favoriter som Nat ”King” Cole, Fats Domino och Clyde McPhatter genom amerikanska radiostationer. När populariteten började dala i USA och delvis övergå till rock n’ roll, bestämde sig de jamaicanska herrarna Prince Buster, Clement Dodd och Duke Reid för att producera sin egen r&b.

Den jamaicanska versionen påminde en hel del om sin amerikanska motsvarighet. Men upphovsmännen valde att också använda influenser från latin och mento (tidig jamaicansk musik som bygger på afrikanska rytmer) samt sångteknik och klassiska melodier från England och Irland. Eftersom flera av dåtidens musiker var jazzskolade andades dessutom vissa låtar swing och bebop.

Klassiker från den här perioden är exempelvis Boogie in My Bones med Laurel Aitken, Donna med The Blues Busters och Easy Snappin’ med Theophilius Beckford. Det finns även ett antal instrumentala rökare från The Blues Blasters och Duke’s Group.

Rocksteadyns intåg
Rocksteady-perioden i den jamaicanska musikhistorien var kort – 1966 till 1968. Men genren har haft ett enormt inflytande på hela reggaens utveckling. Under den här perioden fick basen och trummorna en ännu mer framträdande roll. Rocksteadyn är cool, lugn och melodiös, och tempot är långsamt.

Dessutom hade 60-talets soul ett betydande inflytande på rocksteadyn. I boken Reggae: The Rough Guide, av Steve Barrow och Peter Dalton, menar reggaeradiostjärnan och selectorn David Rodigan att soulsångaren Curtis Mayfield är ”godfather of reggae”. Och det stämmer nog rätt väl. Lyssna på klassiska jamaicanska falsettsångare som Slim Smith, Ken Parker och Pat Kelly, så är det tydligt varifrån de hämtat en stor del av sin inspiration.mavado

Rocksteadyn och dess rytmer byggdes till stor del kring dessa Curtis Mayfield-imitatörer och därför kan soulens – och inte minst Curtis Mayfields – bidrag till rocksteadymusiken inte överskattas.

Reggae, rocksteady och jamaicansk r&b delar en gemensam  kärlek  till amerikansk musik. Relationen har varat i över ett halvt sekel, och ännu brinner lågan. Nutida dancehallstjärnor som Mavado och Sean Paul för traditionen vidare genom framgångsrika jamaicansk-amerikanska samarbeten.

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