As mentioned recently Pressure Drop records have recently released a couple of CD’s based on Laurel Aitkens two 60’s LP’s; Ska With Laurel and Laurel Aitken Says Fire.
The Laurel Aitken Says Fire release takes the original 1968 Doctor Bird LP as a starting point and adds a number of bonus tracks from ’68/69. In doing so Pressure Drop have created a release of two halves, the original LP with it’s Rocksteady style backings that by 1968 were somewhat dated and the later bonus tracks that for the most part carry the new reggae swing that had hit London from the Kingston studio’s with a vengeance.
To these ears the original LP is an uninspiring affair. The musicianship of the Pyramids lacks the spark that top session musicians like Lyn Taitt and Tommy McCook gave to the sound back in Jamaica, and Aitken, though a decent singer on his day, was no Slim Smith and fails to provide a spark that would have lifted any of these efforts out of the status of also rans. Fortunately the bonus tracks are alot more entertaining and turn this release from a worthy but ultimately unmemorable tribute to the late Laurel Aitken into something that is alot more interesting and worth seeking out.
The UK reggae sound as played by the Pyramids (and the Rudies?) is instantly recogniseable on these tunes and on many of them Aitken abandons singing altogether for a talk over approach, this was and is no bad thing, and when he has something worth saying and this kind of tune is easily Aitken at his best. Tracks such as Deliverance Will Come and Heile Heile (The Lion) reflect the late 60’s black liberation and Rastafarian sentiments as well as anything that came out of Kingston in this era, couple these with others such as the OTT Lockness Monster shows that Aitken was always versatile in his presentation as well as subject matter. One other stand out track is Think Me No Know originally issued on the tiny Junior label out of Birmingham, sadly this is the only track where the sound quality on the CD really is below par.
Heile Heile (The Lion)
The sleeve notes are based heavily on discussions with Doctor Birds Graeme Goodall and provide plenty of anecdotes as well as putting the tunes nicely in context, sadly the sleeve design is quite plain and not so inspiring, that said this is based on the original LP design which will please many.
Laurel Aitken Says Fire is available now on Pressure Drop a subsidiary of Cherry Red (pdropcd2).