TROJAN ROCKSTEADY RARITIES BOX SET (TJETD299) - It doesn't matter if you only discovered Rocksteady through legends Alton Ellis, John Holt or Phyllis Dillon just yesterday, for the music on this three CD Rarities box set from the era is mighty fine, offering plenty for both the connoisseur and the Rocksteady neophyte to lap up.

The island of Jamaica has already throbbed to the R&B sounds of Fats Domino and Shirley and Lee, to the Calypso-flavoured Mento of Lord Messam & The Calypsonians, Lord Laro and Lord Lebby and the bouncy, vibrant dance rhythms of Ska from the likes of Prince Buster, the Skatalites and the Maytals. Come 1966, however, there was a new sound emerging; that of the slower, more soulful rhythms of Rocksteady.

Jamaica was witnessing an incredible hot summer that year so the youth weren't inclined to dance to Ska's propulsive beat. As the temperatures soared, the tempo of the island's soundtrack slowed, and by the end of the year the crossover from Ska to Rocksteady was complete.

However, it wasn't all down to the scorching heat, the pace also dropped due to the island's political situation. The rudies - basically hoodlums in smart suits, ties, shades and pork pie hats - were running riot and to defuse the tension and heat the musicians decided it was time to simmer down.

Rocksteady dominated for just two years but its effect and influence was phenomenal.  Pulsating instrumentals gave way to more soul-based tracks which gave a platform for harmony and vocal groups to flourish - the R&B inspired duos, a trademark of the Ska era, were replaced by combos like the Soul Tops, the Gladiators (who would go on to achieve greater success with roots material in the 70s), the Valentines et al who were heavily influenced by the American Soul imports that were reaching the island through the temporary migration of Jamaicans to the US seeking work. On their return home they would bring back the latest Soul tunes from Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, and the Motown, Atlantic and Stax labels. the impact was astounding both lyrically and musically.

The Moving Brothers' 1966 Duke Reid-produced take on Ben E King's 'Don't Play That Song' oozes as much soulful poignancy as the original and Aretha's cover, while the Silvertones' 'Whoo Baby' from the same year looks to Doo Wop for inspiration.

It was the Rocksteady rhythms of groups like the Silvertones that U Roy chose to toast over at the turn of the decade, helping to form the foundations of modern deejaying. Rocksteady tunes like the deliciously sumptuous 'Love Me Forever' by the Mighty Vikings from 1968  also laid the template for '70s and '80s Lovers Rock thanks to its smooth, silky vocal deliveries.

Rocksteady also opened the Reggae industry up. It was no longer purely the property of producers Duke Reid, Prince Buster and Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd who had stamped their authority during the Ska era, although there's no denying the former delivered some of the most exciting material from this time; see the Silvertones' "Don't Say No" and Clive & Doreen's "What Can I Do". However, artists were now turning to ingénues to commit their tunes to wax. Producers such as Amalgamated Records' head honcho Joe Gibbs, former Duke Reid employee Bunny Lee, Leslie Kong, plus Orange Streets' Tip Top records store owner and founder of the Gay Feet label, Sonia Pottinger, were beginning to make a name for themselves helping sculpt the Rocksteady soundscape.

It is the latter's work that provides several standouts on this selection. For Pottinger was the brainchild behind the Valentines' 1967 cut "Sock It To Me Baby". Her indelible knack of being able to coax the most delicate and intricate harmonies out of her subjects is further exemplified on The Tenors' "Gee Whiz" and Hazel and the Jolly Boys' "Deep Down", plus the Conquerors' "Wont You Come Home Now", a velvety vocal harmony masterpiece, that also showcases the sharp talents of Jo Jo Bennett's Fugitive band.

It was an exciting time for session outfits like the Fugitives for the music itself witnessed a newfound liberation. No longer tied to the rigid Ska rulebook, musicians began to experiment. Ska was often driven by what is known as a R&B bass line. In Rocksteady the bass part becomes more playful, often syncopating the beat. The horn section, a driving force of Ska music, leading the songs melody and providing a hook to hang the rest of the song on, became more subdued, taking a backseat as an accompanying instrument and sound, replaced instead by sprightly percussion. The emphasis in Rocksteady on the rhythm section of bass and drums was also important; it provided a blueprint for Dub, Dancehall, Ragga and virtually every incarnation of Reggae from the '70s onwards.

The lyrical emphasis shifted too. Rocksteady instead of being a call to dance like its Ska predecessor, concerned itself primarily with love songs and the political situations of the day.

In the UK, Desmond Dekker was one of the first to score a hit with this new style on his social commentary "007 (Shanty Town)". "I was amazed when 007 became a hit in England, because I thought people wouldn't understand the lyrics," he says today. "It was actually about the troubles that were happening in Jamaica at the time. There'd been student riots and the police and soldiers had been called in to break them up. It was like in the movies, 007 and Ocean's Eleven. But I think people in Britain liked the tune even if they didn't really understand what the song was all about."

Of course most in the UK were unaware of the difference between Ska and Rocksteady --  Prince buster's "Al Capone" and the Skatalites' "Guns Of Navarone" both Ska tunes from 1965, made the Top 40 in 1967 and "007" was included on the Island compilation 'Club Ska '67'. It seemed even the record label owners didn't know the difference.

But the Rocksteady style did not appear overnight. Instead it emerged and grew out of what esteemed Reggae writer Steve Barrow terms 'Rude Boy music', a kind of cross between Ska and Rocksteady that was primarily the domain of the rude boy, hence its title. Prime examples of the style can be found on the first half of disc 1 of this collection.

It wasn't until early 1967 when Alton Ellis coined the term 'Rocksteady' in his song of the same name that the music gained its official title. Others were quick to pick up on the name and soon Ken Boothe was dubbing himself 'Mr Rocksteady'. Hopeton Lewis whose seraphic tones deliver a stark social commentary on "Run Down", which opens this set, later sang about the new style on "Take It Easy", while his collaboration with Glen Brown on "Skinny Leg Girl" from '68 reveals his more light-hearted side.

Guitarist Lynn Tait, who provided the guitar lines on "Take It Easy" was one of the true innovators of the genre -- working with the Supersonics and the Jets, he was the first to play a line on the bass strings of his guitar concurrent with the bassist playing the same line; check out Johnny Moore and the Supersonics' "Sound And Soul" to hear some of his accompaniment.

Bobby Aitken, Laurel Aitken's sibling was another guitarist who made his presence felt during the Rocksteady era as a member of the Carib Beats and Charlie Organaire's Ewan McDermott produced 1967 track "The Good You Can", which features the combo's backing, is a wondrous Rocksteady spiritual delivered with genuine passion.

Other notable inclusions gathered here are The Gladiators' sublime "The Train Is Coming Back" and Diane Lawrence's effervescent "Hound Dog".

Fellow Supersonic, tenor saxophonist and flautist Tommy McCook, formerly of the Skatalites was also instrumental to Rocksteady's coming of age as was another Skatalite, saxophonist Roland Alphonso who supplies 1967's Leslie Kong-produced "Sock It To Me" and "Halls Of Montezuma".

by 1969 the Jamaican music climate had changed once more; Reggae was now the flavour of the day but as the music contained here demonstrates; Rocksteady's soulful rhythms are not only historically pertinent but still sound enticingly fresh and vibrant.

Lois Wilson
Thanks to Jan Harrington




Run Down
Hopeton Lewis
Whoo Baby
The Silvertones
Keep The Pressure On (Alternative Version)
Winston And George
Sound And Soul
Johnny Moore And The Supersonics
Be Good
The Rulers
With A Girl Like You
Henry III
It's Not Right
The Tartans
The Upsetters
You Won't Regret It
Lloyd Robinson And Glen Brown
Do It Right (Alternative Version)
The Three Tops
Don't Play That Song (Darling I Love You)
The Moving Brothers
Deep Down
Hazel And The Jolly Boys
The Good You Can
Charlie Organaire And The Carib-Beats
Hound Dog
Diane Lawrence
Sock It To Me
Roland Alphonso And Beverley's All Stars
Won't You Come Home Now
The Conquerors
Sock It To Me Baby
The Valentines

Baby Come Back To Me
The Black Brothers
Halls Of Montezuma
Roland Alphonso And Beverley's All Stars
The Rock Steady
Noel 'Bunny' Brown And The Wildcats
It's Alright
The Tartans With Tommy McCook's Band
The Emperor
Bobby Ellis And The Crystalites
Your Safe Keep
Primo And Hopeton
Fair Deal
The Progressions
The Way I Feel
Keith Thompson
Be Mine
The Rulers
You've Got Something
Ewan And Jerry
Fun Galore
The Kingstonians
Miss Anti-Social
Austin Faithful And Hippies
You're Treating Me Bad
George Dekker
You've Got To Cry
The Groovers
Gee Whiz
The Tennors
The Train Is Coming Back
The Gladiators

Anything You Want
Dudley Williamson
Coming On The Scene
Johnny And The Attractions
To Sir With Love
Dawn Penn
Yield Not To Temptation
Maurice Johnson
Shake It Up
The Termites
Skinny Leg Girl
Hopeton Lewis And Glen Brown
Please Stay
Paulette And The Lovers
I Fell In Love
The Conquerors
Don't Say No
The Silvertones
What Can I Do
Clive And Doreen
Rain And Thunder
The Soul Tops
So Nice Like Rice
Charlie Kelly
Lonely Heartaches
The Clarendonians
Think Twice (AKA Last Laugh)
Eric Monty Morris
On The Town
Bunny And Ruddy
Love Me Forever
The Mighty Vikings
Try A Little Merriness
Ike Bennett And The Crystalites

Time - 48:48

Time - 45:25

Time - 45:40

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