Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1093

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Greatest Jamaican Beat : Rock Steady Baba-Boom Time




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UK release date 30.03.2019

It's probably safe to say that Tommy McCook (featured heavily here)
started Rocksteady (a successor of Ska and a forerunner to Reggae).This enterprisingJamaican tenor saxophone player influenced heavily by Coltrane,Bird & Miles, was also one of the founder members of the Skatalites. With Laurel Aitken, Prince Buster and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, the band created a style that has influenced generations of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic.and though short lived was the dominant style of music in Jamaica for nearly two years.

The actual term rocksteady comes from a popular (slower) dance style mentioned in the Alton Ellis song 'Rocksteady' that matched the new sound. Some rocksteady songs became hits outside Jamaica, as with ska, helping to secure the international base reggae music has today.Tommy and his band The Supersonics were the driving force in this wonderfully lilting genre born out of the ashes of The Skatalites Tommy and his band reigned supreme and it's easy to see why with such glorious cuts on this compelling compilation.Sit back and relax or dance round your living room to the jazzy 'TOMMY’S ROCK STEADY','HOT ROCK',SOUL SERENADE'and 'DOWN ON BOND STREET' to mention just a few.These are imperious cuts from a jazz schooled horn section and a first class rhythm section of drummer Paul Douglas and bassist Jackie Jackson who incidentally, went on to join Toots & The Maytals when reggae kicked off.

It's interesting to note groups recorded lesser instrumentals and this platter reflects that (with only two cuts) 'SPANISH EYES' & 'the imperious 'JAM SESSION' Most recordings were made by vocal groups. Especially trios featuring a lead and two harmony singers.The Jamacians were one such outfit and their stellar and extremely catchy 'BABA BOOM' kicks of cd1 with startling effect.Check out also the sultry sounds of 'QUEEN MAJESTY' by The Techniques,try desisting nodding your head to 'LIE LOW' by The Gladiators - you won't.I could go on but suffice to say this is jam packed with Rocksteady riddim blessedness that has wonderful doowop 50's feel about it.I'ts hard to resist and it's good to see miss Rocksteady herself,Phyllis Dillon represented here too.Dillon was discovered by guitarist, Lynn Taitt (another legend) while she was singing in the St. Catherine based Vulcans Band. Taitt introduced her to Duke Reid and arranged and played on all her recordings.Take a listen to 'RELEASE ME ' or the hilariously suggestive 'DON’T TOUCH ME TOMATO'.These songs are riveting.

Disc 2, meanwhile, showcases the previously unreleased LP, “Soul Rock-Steady”, featuring Treasure Isle’s in- house band, the Supersonics, who were; Lloyd Knibb, Hugh Malcolm, Paul Douglas on drums, Clifton “Jackie” Jackson on bass, Lloyd Delpratt, Winston Wright on organ, George “Cowboy” Tucker and then Lorraine “Ronnie Bop” Williams on guitar, Lester Williams, Johnny Moore and Winston Graham on trumpets, Herman Marquis on alto and baritone saxophones, and Danny Simpson on trombone. Guitarists Lyn Taitt or Ernest Ranglin often joined the group for recording sessions too.This highlights their musical prowess,suffice to say just ask any Jamaican musician and they'll tell you the rocksteady days were the best days of Jamacian music, all now handily available on this comprehensive compilation.
Words Emrys Baird

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