Posts Tagged ‘Rocksteady’

Dandy: Dandy Returns

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

First-ever reissue of 1968 rocksteady rarity

Many listeners are most likely to know Dandy (a.k.a.Robert Livingstone Thompson) for his songs that gained currency in the 1980s ska revival. The Specials made an icon out of “Rudy, A Message to You,” and UB40 brought “Version Girl” back to prominence. But decades earlier, the fledgling reggae giant Trojan Records issued this sophomore effort as one of the label’s very first long-players. Incredibly, the album has remained unreissued since its 1967 drop, and is offered here on a limited edition orange vinyl LP for the first time in more than 50 years. Dandy’s depiction on the album cover, stepping off a plane, was emblematic of his position as a producer for Trojan and a key link between the London-based label and its Jamaica-based music. He’d released numerous singles under his own name, as well as the nom-de-records Sugar & Dandy and the Brother Dan All-Stars, but also produced key sides that included Tony Tribe’s cover of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine,” a treatment that UB40 would also return to in the 1980s. Dandy sings in a sweet, easy-going manner that leaves the underlying rocksteady rhythm to preside. Beyond his original material he covers Chad & Jeremy’s “Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart” and the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” accompanied by organ, horns (including some fine trumpet solos), and on “Your Daddy’s Home,” a short harmonica solo. This is an unassuming, yet fetching album from Trojan’s early days, and a treat to have back in print, if only fleetingly. [©2020 Hyperbolium]

Various Artists: First Class Rock Steady

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Various_FirstClassRockSteadtyExtraordinary collection of Jamaican rocksteady 1966-68

The difference between ska, rocksteady and reggae may be lost on casual listeners, but even without an academic understanding of Jamaican music’s evolution, rocksteady’s slower tempos, heavy backbeat and harmony vocals will get listeners on their feet. In celebration of rocksteady’s fiftieth anniversary, this forty track set pulls together some of the short-lived, foundational genre’s most important tracks, including Roy Shirley’s prototype “Hold Them,” Hopeton Lewis’ genre-defining opener, “Take it Easy,” material from internationally renowned exponents Desmond Dekker and Johnny Nash, and deep, collectible tracks from Jamaica’s greatest musicians.

Rocksteady slowed the tempo and simplified the instrumentation of ska, dropping the horns in most cases, shifting emphasis to the rhythm section, leaning more heavily on the backbeat, and freeing the bass to play melody. Technology also had an impact, as the introduction of two-track recorders allowed backing tracks to be reused, as did the Melodians with “Last Train to Expo ‘67” and “Last Train to Ecstacy,” and Stranger Cole for “Seeing is Knowing” and “Darling Jeboza Macoo.” Rocksteady also freely borrowed melodies, such as Miriam Makeba’s “Pata Pata” for “Pata Pata Rocksteady” and Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” for both “The Russians Are Coming” and “The Great Musical Battle.”

Though only active from 1966-68, rocksteady produced a large number of excellent singles, and set down roots that grew as reggae took over. This set was originally issued on vinyl as a super deluxe singles box for Record Store Day, and has now been expanded and reissued in digital form for International Reggae Day. The CDs come in an artfully decorated digipak with an 18-page booklet featuring liner notes by reggae historian Harry Wise, and deftly integrated quotes from rocksteady giants Bunny “Striker” Lee, Lynn Taitt and Hopeton Lewis. All tracks are mono except “Take It Easy,” “Sounds and Pressure,” and “Hold Me Tight,” which are surprisingly good quality stereo. A great set for newbies and crate diggers alike! [©2016 Hyperbolium]