My Number One – The Paragons (Paragons Production)
Back at number 48 in the list was Memories By The Score by the Paragons. My Number One was on the flip side of this on it’s original release on Supertone, and on the Island. UK issue. For my money it’s an even better tune, how can two tunes back to back be so great? There was only one other issue on Supertone, this was another stunning double sider; Man Next Door/Left With A Broken Heart.
My Number One is on the Westside CD; John Holt – Memories By The Score.
Chatty Chatty AKA Glendevon Special – Junior Soul (Derrick Harriott Production)
A second side from Junior Soul AKA Junior Murvin, real name Junior Murvin Smith, in the top 100 (see also Miss Cushie at number 78). Murvin cut something less than a dozen sides in the latter part of the 60’s, these recordings were made for two producers, Sonia Pottinger, and Derrick Harriot who was responsible for this tune. It was issued on a blank label pre-release only in Jamaica and on one of the earliest releases on the Big Shot label in the UK.
Glendevon is an area of Montego Bay but it’s nowhere near the old railway line so the “special” reference probably relates to another form of transport?
Glendevon Special is available on the Jamaican Gold CD – From Chariot’s Vault: 16 Rock Steady Hits, Vol. 1. This CD is deleted but should still be available from some sellers.
Alfred Hitchcock – Bobby Ellis And The Crystalites (Derrick Harriott Production)
Yet more from Derrick Harriott, this time an instrumental. It’s hard to top a rocksteady instrumental with Derrick Harriott in the producers chair, and with Bobby Ellis at the fore with a wonderfully mournful horns lead you really can’t go wrong…this is sublime stuff.
Bobby Ellis, a product of the Alpha Boys School, played with the Mighty Vikings in the early 60’s. This connection with Derrick Harriott (the groups singer) and the band’s leader Desmond Miles means he must have been an obvious choice when Harriott was looking for session players for the Desmond Miles Seven and/or The Crystalites in the rocksteady era.
Alfred Hitchcock was re-released on the Heartbeat CD Riding the Derrick Harriott – Musical Chariot (which was subsequently re-issued as Reggae’s Greatest Hits Volume 5).
Cantelope Rock – Jo Jo Bennett And The Fugitives (Jo Jo Bennett Production)
There is something about Cantelope Rock that gets right under your skin; even people who don’t know or like Jamaican music will tap their feet to this.
Cantelope Rock is a version of Herbie Hancock’s jazz classic Canteloupe Island written in 1964, though the original Jamaican label gives the writers credit to Hugh Masekela who also recorded the tune in the mid 60’s. Obviously Jo Jo Bennett’s masterful horns lead is the main event here but there is also a great piano line running through this, the occasional vocal call dropped in to the mix also helps build to the crescendo without ever being over done.
Cantelope Rock was originally issued on the Fugitive label in Jamaica and on Doctor Bird in the UK. It is currently available on seven inch vinyl on the Moodisc label (with an added intro).
Message Of Old – Joe Higgs & Ken Boothe (Studio One Production)
Ken Boothe is a giant of Jamaican music and one of it’s greatest ever voices, though on this tune it’s hard not to think that it’s Joe Higgs who carries it. Higgs has a pedigree in the Jamaican music industry that is almost second to none, alongside Roy Wilson in the duo Higgs And Wilson he was one of the first hit makers on the island and famously went on to tutor Bob Marley as well as having significant success in the 70’s as a solo artist.
Message Of Old has something of a late ska sound due to the horns on the off beat but it has a subtlety and sophistication that is pure rocksteady. Another Studio One masterpiece. It was incorrectly credited to Dudley Sibley on the original UK issue on Coxsone. The original Jamacian issue came on a blank though there may have been a labelled issue on Coxsone as well(?). It is currently available of Soul Jazz’s Studio One Roots Volume 2.
Sounds And Pressure – Hopeton Lewis (Sam Mitchell and Keith Scott production)
Perhaps the biggest Merritone rocksteady tune of them all and certainly one of Hopeton Lewis’s greatest records. This was recorded in 1966 at Federal studio’s in a session financed by the Khouri brothers (who owned the studio) but run by Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell. Scott explained the circumstances of the session where this was recorded in an interview published in the Beat magazine in 1997. He and Sam Mitchell met Hopeton at a youth club they ran in Vineyard Town, Kingston. They recorded around six Hopeton tunes at the session alongside tracks by the Ethiopians and the Renegades. There are two piano’s on the recording, Leslie Butler playing lead and Gladstone Anderson.
Sounds And Pressure was originally issued on the Merritone label in Jamaica and on Blue Beat in the UK (the Blue Beat issue incorrectly credited Prince Buster as the artist and producer), it is currently available on the Trojan CD Sounds & Pressure: Mod Reggae.
It’s Hard To Confess – The Gaylads (Sonia Pottinger Production)
A real anthem here from the Gaylads. In their long and successful career the trio only cut a handful of sides for Sonia Pottinger, this one was the best.
Vocal harmonies are a constant factor in some of the greatest rocksteady tunes (and therefore a regular theme in this top 100) but it would be impossible to talk about this tune without mentioning them once again. At this stage of the game it would be a dangerous thing to say it doesn’t get better than this, but seriously, how can it?
It’s Hard To Confess was released on the Rainbow label in Jamaica (the only issue on the label?) and on Doctor Bird in the UK. It is currently available on the Trojan Various Artists CD, Let’s Do Rocksteady: The Story Of Rocksteady 1966-68.
Do I Worry – Derrick Harriott (Derrick Harriott Production)
Derrick Harriott proves once again that he was a fine singer as well as a top notch producer. Do I Worry was originally by the Ink Spots, their version (released in 1940) was fine but Derrick’s is masterful and proves once again that a cover version can often be better than the original.
Harriott had been singing and producing since the start of the 60’s but it was in the rocksteady era that he really came into his own both behind the producers desk and when holding the mic.
Do I Worry was issued on Crystal in Jamaica and on Island in the UK. It is available on the Trojan Rocksteady Box Set.
Big Mistake – The Basses (Coxsone Dodd Production)
A minor key masterpiece from Brentford Road. The jury is out on if this ever came out on a seven inch, most say not but it’s pretty much impossible to be certain. It did however appear on the Coxsone LP Get Ready Rocksteady and made a great album even better. The Basses AKA The Bassies were Clifford Morrison, George Blake and Richard Smith, this wasn’t their biggest tune but it’s a classic nonetheless.
Sir Harry took the rhythm for his deejay outing Music School which came out on a pre release only, his deejaying doesn’t do much for the tune but at least it’s on a seven inch! Get Ready Rocksteady has been reissued on both vinyl and CD by Studio One in the not too distant past and should still be available.
Little Things – Hemsley Morris (Phil Pratt Production)
A delicate haunting vocal that seems absolutely perfect for the rhythm. Apparently Phil Pratt is providing the harmonies on this but it’s definitely the Hemsley Morris show. The lyrics are based on Kitty Kallen’s 1954 pop hit Little Things Mean A Lot though they are far from identical and this is a lot more than a simple cover version.
Producer Phil Pratt had a link with Ken Lack of Caltone fame back in the Rocksteady era and the pair both used the Jontom label for releases (named after Johnny Moore and Tommy McCook) but in Jamaica Little Things only saw release on a blank, the UK issue, as shown, came on Jolly.
Little Things is available on a seven inch issued by Phil Pratt on his Sunshot label and on the Pressure Sounds compilation Safe Travel: The Rare Side Of Rocksteady.