Been Rockin’ Steady these past few weeks with the sweet sounds of Jamaica as the, (primary), soundtrack and the writings of one of my most cherished and respected guides and companions on the journey; Jean Baudrillardwhose insights I featured a selection of last year, (Fragments), on themusicologist.
Inspiration is the key for themusicologist to rise up to throw down and often the seed is sown by music and literature and this theme is no exception..
The quotes in this series, (beginning today), belong to Baudrillard…highlited from a collection of his speeches and essays entitled‘The Agony Of Power’
The musical wisdom is courtesy of Hemsley Morris, (Vocals), a collection of the cream of Jamaica’s instrumentalists from a pool of Cats such as Lynn Taitt, Tommy Mc Cook, Winston Wright, Gladdy Anderson, Vincent Gordon, Johnny Moore, Hugh Malcolm, ‘Easy Snappin’, Clifton ‘Jackie Jackson’, Drumbago, Herman Marquis…and the producer, (none other than one of the great Jamaican musicologists), George ‘Phil Pratt’ Phillips who is also harmonising on this wicked cut.
So without further delay hold this quote and listen tune…
“In order to grasp how globalization and global antagonism works, we should distinguish carefully between domination and hegemony. Domination is characterised by the master/slave relation, which is still a dual relation with potential alienation, a relationship of force and conflicts. It has a violent history of oppression and liberation. There are the dominators and the dominated-it remains a symbolic relationship. Everything changes with the emancipation of the slave and the internalisation of the master by the emancipated slave”
Slipping and sliding into an appropriate slice of Jamaican musicology from Trumpet maestro and Band leader Oswald ‘Baba’ Brooks featuring vocalist Count Alert as well as the majestic Lynn Tait plucking strings.
on the previous cut I mentioned one of Jamaican musicology’s prime movers and shakers Edward ‘Bunny’ Lee, (aka Striker/Sir One Strike), and his skills as a record plugger, (originally for Duke Reid). Today though it’s the man himself’s turn to deliver but this time as producer…So many top ranking slices of the Rocksteady and later the Reggae have the Striker stamp that they could easily fill a theme on themusicologist and maybe one day they will but right now It has to be just the one from that long list.
But before throwing down I would just like to add that MANY of the great Jamaican artists have yet to be featured on the theme but what can a man do? I’m sure that over the years they will all be HEAVILY represented, (as some already have), all I can say is that, (at least in my book), every cut laid down on here is a gem so that will have to do.
So who’s up? has to be this one from the Uniques with a personal favourite that I first heard way back in the mid 80’s and has been etched into my consciousness ever since. Featuring the Sublime vocals of first Jimmy Riley then Slim Smith and finally Lloyd Charmers..each blessed with a voice that could ‘charm the monkeys from out of the trees’ On rhythm duty are Cats we are already more than familiar with (Lynn Taitt, Winston Grennan, Gladstone Anderson, Bobby Aitken, Val Bennett, Lester Sterling, Vin Gordon, Johnny Moore)…..MAJESTIC
Moving out of the Derrick Harriott and into yet another fine piece but this time it’s courtesy of producer George Phillips better known as Phil Pratt..a name bestowed on him by Caltone founder Blondel Keith Calneck, (Ken Lack).
You may have noticed that one of the things about Jamaican music is the significance of the producer in musical proceedings and Phil Pratt is certainly one of them. Horace ‘Andy’ Hinds, (cousin of Justin), The Heptones and Bunny Lee all begun their journey beside the Cat at Caltone so its, (and his), importance in the development of Reggae deserves wider recognition.
The cut today is courtesy of singer Larry Marshall, (who would go on to find a place at Coxsone’s Studio 1), and features the talents of Rocksteady’s core protagonists that include Lynn Taitt, Gladstone Anderson, Winston Wright, Clifton Jackson, and one from Winston Grennan, Hugh Malcolm or Arkland Parks. From the sounds of it I would hazard a guess that it’s a 1967 recording but I could easily be mistaken and if so it would be early 1968. Whatever the year it was arranged by a name we have become familiar with over this week…Lynn Taitt.
Finally just like to praise the label Pressure Sounds for releasing the CD, (Safe Travel), from which today’s cut emerged. ESSENTIAL purchase…FULL of TOP Ranking Rocksteady that were you to try and buy the 45’s featured would cost you a small fortune, (if you were lucky enough to find them)
So what is it about Rocksteady that is different? Musically Rocksteady is built on the ‘One Drop’, (3rd Beat), whereas Ska was built around the ‘after beat’. That and the pronounced Bass evident on the Rocksteady combined to deliver a rhythm that the dancers could sway and ‘Rock Steady’ to while holding up a beer, maybe a spliff and even a girl. While Rocking Steady a man could look nonchalant and slick whereas the ‘Ska’ was all about the wild swinging of arms…not slick and certainly no chance of winding, grinding, smoking and drinking.
In fact to make it clear..Hold this quote from the drummer who many credit with originating the ‘one drop’, Winston Grennan
‘I give a hard blow on the third..that would be a hard one drop and it would cut the beat in half”
Of course there were other key players involved such as the afore mentioned Lynn Taitt, Hugh Malcolm, Bobby Aitken, Gladstone Anderson as well as legends such as Jackie Mittoo, Roland Alphonso and the Soul Brothers and of course Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. Apologies If I have missed some…hopefullly some of you musicologists out there can ‘pipe up’ and let us know?
Right enough of the words and on with the music. I was going to drop cuts chronologically but on reflection I’ll just do my best to throw down cuts that for me define the genres. If I had planned it differently I would probably thrown down a week of Rude Boy cuts that were so prevalent in 1966 but I didn’t so I’ll just continue !!
Today’s piece is from one of Jamaica’s greatest talents the pioneering vanguard Derrick ‘One Stop’ Harriott, a Cat who was there at the birth of the Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae delivering sublime musicology. Have to say that this is one of my all time faves.
Finally…Just like to add that I continually get lost for hours, days and weeks in what I consider to be one of the most original, informative and all round TOP RANKING sites out there
So what could have happened in 1966 to change the beat from the frenetic Ska to the laid back sound of the Rocksteady? Rumour and word has it that it was a combination of things that conspired..First of all popular information/knowledge has it that a heatwave swept the island forcing the dancers and musicians to slow the tempo..secondly as is often, (if not always), the case the time had come for the islands musicologists to evolve and in my experience slow follows quick. Thirdly, (and I’m guessing here), the Ganja may have influenced proceedings…
By 1966 many of the protaganists of the Ska were ‘Beardmen’ and were likely to have been ‘licking chalice’ Up Warika Hills with the legendary Count Ossie. I’m not suggesting that the Ganja was the chief reason for the shift..only one of many.
As for outside influences we only have to consider how Soul and the Vocal Group sound became dominant in America around this time and how much influence the likes of the Impressions subsequently had in Jamaica.
Finally and perhaps of most significance was the Skatalites splitting into two groups after the incarceration of Don Drummond in 1965…The Soul Brothers led by Roland Alphonso, (at Studio 1), and the Supersonics led by Tommy McCook, (resident at Treasure Isle). Notably Lynn Taitt is widely recognised as ‘Inventing’ the Rocksteady with the Hopeton Lewis cut ‘Take It Easy’ but other early pieces included Alton Ellis’s ‘Girl I’ve Got A Date’ and Derrick Morgan’s ‘Rougher Than Rough’, (all of which featured Lynn Taitt’s guitar). Whatever the reasons for the emergence of Rocksteady it was at this junction that ‘Reggae’ began to take shape with the Bass rising to prominence and it must be said, (at least from my perspective), that Duke Reid wore the Rocksteady Crown.
So with that in mind the first cut has to go to the Duke and the Majestic Vocal Group known as the Techniques whose fluctuating line up included some of the great Jamaican vocalists; Slim Smith, Pat Kelly and Winston Riley as well as Junior Menz and original members Frederick Waite and Franklyn White. Clearly influenced by The Impressions this one epitomises Jamaican Vocal Group Harmony. 1967? recording on the Treasure Isle label.