Listen Up! Rocksteady
May 18, 2012
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 4||Sleeve : 3|
There is a celebration going on in Jamaica. 50 years of being an independent nation. As a result, London based Kingston Sounds is releasing a flurry of releases that show the evolvement of Ska and all the way up to today's Dancehall. No musical stone is left untouched. The second chapter in this series concerns The golden era of Rocksteady.
The Rocksteay Era ruled this nation from late 1965-1968; a small amount of time but the musical imprint still stands today. The fast paced horn driven frenzy of Ska Music gave way to a slower paced music that emphasized three part harmonies; electric bass more prominent; horn sections scaled back and advanced technology (two track!). These new and exciting songs initially told stories of happiness and love that was (and is) the island. Toward the end of the Rocksteady Era, there were more songs commenting on the increasing violence and the presence of rude boys.
Arguably, the first Rocksteady song was composed by Lyn Taitt & The Jets and sung by Hopeton Lewis with "Take It Easy"; a commentary that Kingston was moving too fast. The music took off like a jet! Producers like Duke Reid, Bunny Lee, Sonia Pottinger and Sir Coxsone Dodd took full advantage. Groups and singers like The Melodians, The Paragons, Derrick Morgan, The Clarendonians, Stranger Cole and Alton Ellis churned out hit after hit; many of which have been revisited again and again. Roacksteady no dead.
The Uniques' People Rocksteady is a classic period piece produced by Bunny Lee. This 1968 anthem is magically voiced by Slim Smith, Lloyd Charmers and Jimmy Riley. This was the second incarnation of this group as founder Roy Shirley had left for solo adventures. The tinkling piano and picking guitar riddim is a great example of the musical style. Roy 'High Priest' Shirley & Glen Adams' Musical Train is a feel good with prominent percussion and beautiful chorus that was not Ska music's trademark.
The Uniques' My Conversation is one of the most recognized songs of this era; rankin' with the Melodians 'Rivers Of Babylon' and Paragons 'Tide is High'. Note: Bunny Lee sold this song to Rupie Edwards that resulted in the very first one riddim album. The Sensations' Long Time Me No See You Girl has an early dancehall style with wheel and turn command. Dawn Penn is best known for her 1967 Studio One classic 'You Don't Love Me (No,No,No)' that was revisited in 1994 to international success. A lesser known gem is here with I'll Get You, a powerful song of defiant love with Hux Brown and Gladstone Anderson providing a finger snapping riddim.
The Uniques come back again with The Beautitude(a.k.a Blessed Are The Meek); an example of the emerging spirituality that filtered into the music. The riddim was revisited by Dr.Alimantado about a decade later to enormous success. The late, great Slim Smith's Love And Devotion is another building block of Jamaican music. He was so talented that he founded two legendary groups, The Techniques and The Uniques, before embarking on a great solo career. The late Delroy Wilson made impacts in Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae. His Till I Die showcases a voice that was an inspiration for many artists to follow. The lead guitar in the song further progresses this song.
The lesser known Winston Samuel's It's Been So Long is a very rare track that shows off a gentle voice that depicts missing his woman. Roy Shirley's Warming Up The Scene is the most joyful track with a keyboard that sounds like Jackie Mittoo. Both artists are sorely missed! Ken Parker (founder of The Blues Blenders) shows off his falsetto mastery with the closing track How Could I; a beautiful love song that stirs the soul. Sounds distinctively like Cornell Campell, who started with the Uniques. Ken recently played a legendary gig at San Francisco's Rockit Room. The audience was taken back to 1967!
Listen Up! Rocksteady delivers. The song selection and quality give an accurate portrait of Jamaica Rocksteady in the pure form. There are only so many songs that can be put on one release but certain crucial components are missing. Stranger Cole, Alton Ellis, Ken 'Mr.Rocksteady' Boothe and Hopeton Lewis are indeed critical components of this musical time. Overall, this release is a great introduction to those unfamiliar and a great thing come back again to those who recognize The Roots Of Reggae -- ROCKSTEADY.