When I first heard that Pressure Sounds were putting out a compilation of material from the Uniques I was a little dubious as they had already released a CD of the group around a dozen years ago called Watch This Sound. As I noted when first mentioning this release there was little to worry about as the compilation trod very different ground to the previous release.
Let’s get the pedantry over at the beginning, not every track on this compilation is by the Uniques and not all are rocksteady, there are several songs with Slim Smith as a solo artist and at least four are reggae and not rocksteady; This Feeling from the late 60’s and Blinded By Love, Where Do I Turn and Have Pity On Me from the early 70’s. There is also a Dawn Penn tune here but as that’s credited and a version excursion it’s hardly something to complain about.
Blinded By Love
The Uniques stand head and shoulders over most vocal groups from the rocksteady era, not only did they produce a considerable body of work but it was consistently good. There are no dodgy harmonies or forced falsetto’s with the Uniqies, it’s all top quality and with Slim Smith taking the lead you’d never expect anything less. This compilation is based on their recordings for producer Bunny Lee, well over half their catalogue was recorded for Bunny including many of their biggest hits.
The folk at Pressure Sounds must have had a dilema when putting this release together, do you go for the biggest tracks and risk more duplication with previous releases? Afterall it wasn’t just the Watch This Sound compilation, alongside Pressure Sounds, Trojan have used the Uniques back catalogue extensively in the past. Or do you dig deep and risk a compilation that stands out more for what is missing? Luckily they have managed a compliation that avoids both pitfals and instead showcases a body of work that whilst it’s missing the likes of My Conversation and Watch This Sound, drops plenty of classics such as Beatitiude and Let Me Go Girl alongside a few, like I’m Lost and You Lied To Me (a solo Slim Smith song) that deserve to be heard alot more.
This isn’t (and never set out to be) a definitive collection of works by the Uniques. But as a compilation that takes a slightly less orthadox look at their career and that of the mighty Slim Smith it is a fine achievement.
I should point out that Pressure Sounds are currently sponsoring an event the Tighten Up Crew are promoting with Carl Meeks, and this particular release is featured on the flyer. I hope this review is seen as it is intended, unbiassed and not directly influenced by that sponsorship arrangement.