Archive for the Rocksteady Category

Joe Higgs – Unity Is Power (1979)

Posted in Joe Higgs, Rocksteady, Ska with tags , , on April 16, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“Deeply respected but largely unknown reggae mastermind Joe Higgs was a silent force helping to guide the shape of Jamaican music throughout some of its most fruitful periods in the ’60s and ’70s, working as a songwriter for superstar acts like Toots & the Maytals and as a vocal coach and guitar instructor for Bob Marley, and even filling in with the Wailers on their first American tour. His influential presence never equated to commercial success with his own musical career, but the efforts of said career left behind a handful of incredibly strong solo records, the second of which was 1979’s Unity Is Power. Coming from a background that saw both the roots of ska as well as the evolution of rocksteady and what became roots reggae, Higgs incorporates all the various facets of his musical personality into this remarkably colorful album, injecting his rich reggae tapestry with elements of soca, American soul, and rock & roll. The set kicks off with the jubilant ‘Devotion.’ This is a chart-topper in some alternate universe, with its joyfully melodic reggae backbone driven by skanking guitar and curiously busy boogie-woogie piano. Ska-tinged horn sections back up Higgs’ rich baritone, and the hopefully downtrodden character of the song casts Higgs as a Jamaican take on the ghetto consciousness of Curtis Mayfield. The midtempo rock & roll simmer of the title track enforces this comparison as well, with dazzling backing vocals and mournful guitar soloing adding flair to the song’s message of struggle and hope for better days. Tracks like this and ‘Love Can’t Be Wrong’ are in line with the late-’70s love affair between reggae artists and rock bands, mirroring Peter Tosh’s associations with the Rolling Stones that were happening around the same time Unity Is Power was put to tape. Standout tracks are bountiful here, with melancholy rocksteady tunes like ‘Think of the Moment’ butting up against politically empowering slow-burners like ‘Sons of Garvey.’ Higgs tutored a young Jimmy Cliff, and some of the vocal inflections and phrasing on these songs give rise to the question of who influenced whom, especially in their more emphatic moments. Stylistically varied without losing too much focus, Unity Is Power is a rich and celebratory album that showcases Higgs’ numerous talents as a songwriter, arranger, vocalist, and reggae innovator. His is a name and story known mostly by die-hard reggae heads, but albums like this are strong enough to be picked up on by even casual reggae listeners.”

YouTube: Unity is Power, Vineyard, Devotion, One Man Kutchie, Neither Gold Nor Silver, Sons Of Garvey, (Sadness Is a) Part of My Heart

Studio One: The Birthplace Of Reggae

Posted in Coxsone Dodd, Dancehall, Dub, Rocksteady, Ska, Studio One with tags , , , , on February 23, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“Studio One is one of Jamaica’s most renowned record labels and recording studios, having been described as the Motown of Jamaica. The record label was involved with most of the major music movements in Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s including ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall. Studio One was founded by Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd in 1954, and the first recordings were cut in 1963 on Brentford Road in Kingston. Amongst its earliest records were ‘Easy Snappin’ by Theophilus Beckford, backed by Clue J & His Blues Blasters, and ‘This Man is Back’ by trombonist Don Drummond. Dodd had previously issued music on a series of other labels, including World Disc, and had run Sir Coxsone the Downbeat, one of the largest and most reputable sound systems in the Kingston ghettos. The label and studio were closed when Dodd relocated to New York City in the 1980s.”

YouTube: Studio One: The Birthplace Of Reggae

Sammy Dread – Road Block (1982)

Posted in Channel One, Joseph Hoo Kim, Rocksteady, Sammy Dread with tags , , , on January 25, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“One of the first British reggae artists to embrace dancehall, Sammy Dread (born: Stewart Farquaharson) has continued to take a hard-edged, roughhouse, approach to reggae. While he scored minor solo hits with ‘Talk It Over’ and ‘Trying To Conquer Natty Dreadlocks’, and an album, Stereophonic, recorded with Philip Frazer in 1980, Dread’s best work has been produced in collaboration with such reggae artists as Sugar Minnot, Black Roots and InI Oneness.”

YouTube: Road Block, Jah Guide, So Long, Today, M 16, Jenny, Bad Company

YouTube: Captain’s Artist Mix – Sammy Dread – 7 & 12 Inch
– Sally – Trinity (Sonic Sounds 7 inch SS25 DSR0809), Africa – B. Alexander (Love Lite 12 inch), Come A Long Way – B. Phillips & C. Jarrett (Bebo 12 inch 90AA), What’s Going On – Sugar Minott (Youth Promotion 1981 7 inch YP006 DSR5605), Wages Of Sin (Dubplate Pre-release 10 inch), My Princess – Joe Gibbs & Errol Thompson (Errol T Records 1981 7 inch JGM4092A), Road Block (Hitbound 1982 7 inch JJ010A), Wrap Up A Draw – Sipho & Sammy Dread (Seven Leaves Records 12 inch SLD003AA)

Prince Buster And The All Stars ‎– Ten Commandments / Pharaoh House Crash (1969)

Posted in Prince Buster, Rocksteady, Ska with tags , , on January 19, 2014 by 1960s: Days of Rage

YouTube: Pharaoh House Crash, Ten Commandments

Tamlins – I’ve Got A Feeling (1978)

Posted in Rocksteady with tags on December 6, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

YouTube: I’ve Got A Feeling

Joe Gibbs – Love of the Common People: Anthology, 1967-1979

Posted in Joe Gibbs, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Rocksteady, Ska with tags , on November 8, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

Joe Gibbs Anthology_ Love of the Common People, 1967-1979 [Disc 2]
“This two-disc set goes a long way toward validating the career of Joe Gibbs, one of Jamaica’s legendary producers. Known as much for his strongarm tactics as his abilities as a musical svengali, Gibbs and his studio were vital to the transition of Jamaican music from the freneticism of ska to the more languid, spacious beat of rocksteady. Along with Lee Perry, Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, and others, Gibbs moved Jamaican music from the gentle tones of mento and calypso toward the harder edge of American R&B and soul. Lyrical content changed too, reflecting the internal turmoil of a former colony groping toward independence. Most of the hits are here, delivered by some of the music’s greatest stars, including Dennis Brown, Peter Tosh, Big Youth, Delroy Wilson, and a host of others. Gibb’s relationship with Lee Perry was crucial to Perry’s development. With Gibb, Perry learned his eye for talent and found an outlet for his ideas and songs. The first disc reflects this. Later, Erroll Thompson and Niney the Observer filled the chair that Perry abandoned, and the hits kept coming. This two-disc portrait isn’t exhaustive; reducing his output to this format is analogous to trimming Motown’s output to a double disc, an almost impossible task in the face of a mountain of music. Still, this set is probably the best overview listeners are likely to get and an essential addition to the library of anyone in search of the roots and future of Jamaican music.”

YouTube: Lee Perry – I am the Upsetter, Them Have to Get A Beating- Peter Tosh, Stranger Cole & Gladdy – Seeing Is Knowing / Caly Gibbs – Seeing is Believing, Sylford Walker – Burn Babylon, Hold Them – Roy Shirley, The Soulmates – Them a Laugh and a Kik, Heptones – Hypocrite

Willie Williams – Messenger Man (2005)

Posted in Coxsone Dodd, Dub, Rocksteady, Studio One, Willie Williams with tags , , , , on July 26, 2013 by 1960s: Days of Rage

“As far back as the rocksteady age, Willie Williams had attempted to deliver songs with a message, but it was only in the roots era that he finally succeeded. Returning to Jamaica after several years in Canada, the singer, with his session band in tow, entered the Channel One studio and laid down this fabulous riddim adapted from the Bee Gees’ chart-topper ‘I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You.’ Driven by Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis and Lloyd Parks’ roots rockers rhythm, the backing beautifully blends a militant aura with a funk-tinged, bluesy atmosphere that’s shredded by organist Bobby Kalphat’s extraordinary solos, which imitate searing rock guitar leads to perfection. Williams took the finished riddim down to King Tubby’s studio for mixing, where he also recorded his vocals. The singer retained the lyrics from the Bee Gees’ original chorus, but put them in a cultural context with powerful new religiously themed verses. Although the self-produced ‘Messenger Man’ was released only in Canada, it received considerable play in the States as well, which is where Coxsone Dodd heard it. So impressed was the Studio One head that he invited Williams to record an album for his label, eventually resulting in the Armagideon Time set. In the interim, the singer continued recording independently, and ‘Messenger’ would entitle his own self-produced 1980 album.”

“… The problem with a lot of current European and JA based reggae in 2005 is that much of it is so very derivative and unoriginal — The once unique and innovative rhythm concepts of ‘one drop’ and ‘steppers’ have been turned into dull, heavy handed clichés. So in contrast then — with this subtle Willie Williams album, it is a pleasure to hear reggae music from a time when it was still a deeply inspired and startlingly original form. Blood and Fire have released an insightful work here, with beautiful song structures. The drum and bass lines are hard — but without that intrusive, banal digital computer created hammering that characterises a lot of current reggae — the lyrics are personal and insightful too, penned long before the themes had become ubiquitous and token stereotypes. Willie Williams confirms (regarding lyrical composition) to Carter Van Pelt ‘most of these tracks, I had personal experience with.'”
Reggae Vibes

YouTube: Messenger Man (Live), Messenger Man, Dungeon / Version, No Hiding Place, Give Jah Praise