Various artists album review
19 - 05 - 2002
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4/5||Backing : 4/5||Production : 4/5||Sound quality : 4/5||Sleeve : 5|
The compilation set 'Rock On' takes a 'best of' ride through the rich vaults of the legendary Observer label of producer Winston 'Niney' Holness. Niney The Observer (called Niney when he lost a thumb in a workshop accident) has been a singer, producer, engineer, dj, fixer, arranger, manager and virtually everything else in reggae. He was born Winston Holness in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1951. He regularly supervised recording sessions at Dynamic, Randy's, Channel One and Joe Gibbs studios, beside working with producers Coxsone Dodd and Bunny Lee. He launched his own "Observer" label in 1970. The single Blood And Fire (here present in the 12" Discomix) was his first major breakthrough issued on his Observer label. The single sold over 30,000 copies on the island alone and was later named 'Jamaican record of the Year' for 1971. Niney's productions of that time are characterised by their sparse simplicity and heaviness, often cultural/political in sentiment, and frequently espousing Rasta themes.
While most other collections of Observer material focus on the label's more obscure releases, 'Rock On' collects the hits, many here on CD for the first time ever. Also included are extended mixes of many of the hits as well as dancehall favorites and a few previously unreleased tracks. The album opens with a killer 12" discomix by Gregory Isaacs and deejay Ranking Buckner across the 'Slavemaster' riddim, followed by Michael Rose's 12" discomix of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. As a member of Black Uhuru Michael re-recorded the song with Sly and Robbie. Ken Boothe covers the 1965 Four Tops motown classic Left With A Broken Heart, a song which was also covered by John Holt and The Paragons. Delroy Wilson comes next with a nice lovers tune called Halfway Up The Stairs inna 12" discomix style. Cornell Campbell didn't record many songs for Niney but My Heart Is Clean with its driving riddim is one of his best cultural tunes. Dillinger does a fine deejay version. Gregory's Rock On is presented here in a wicked alternate version. Christine comes next with her sultry version of the 'Rock On' riddim called Saturday Night. Leroy Smart rose to prominence in the mid seventies with a solid body of work recorded for Channel One and for producer Bunny Lee, for whom he later recut Mr. Richman. The extravagant Junior Byles offers an extended version of Weeping including I Roy's deejay version called Water Rate. Our favorite tune comes last, it's Sang Hugh's wailing song Rasta No Born Yah.
'Rock On' delivers some of Niney's most deadly goods from his Observer label.