I Am Sorry – The Clarendonians (Caltone production)
Ernest Wilson and Peter Austin formed the Clarendonians in 1965. They recorded extensively for Coxsone Dodd before leaving his stable in 1967 and going first to Caltone, where I Am Sorry was recorded. After this they recorded sides for Lesley Kong, Prince Buster and JJ Johnson.
The departure from Studio One was somewhat acrimonious as was demonstrated in one of their first tunes for Blondel Calnek at Caltone, Bye Bye Bye. However this release, issued on the UK Bullet label in 1969, a good year or so after it was first recorded, is not nearly as contentious. I Am Sorry tells a familiar tale of heartbreak and regret and is as heartfelt as only the very best Rocksteady can be.
Originally issued in Jamaica on a blank label and then on UK Bullet, I Am Sorry has not been reissued at the time of writing.
I Was Born A Loser – The Sensations (Bunny Lee production)
Though credited to Bobby Lee as well as the Sensations this is most probably a writing credit as I Was Born A Loser was originally a soul ballad by the American singer Bobby Lee.
Despite it’s American origins I Was Born A Loser is classic Rocksteady fair with it’s mournful tale of bad luck. That said, the lyrics “walking underneath the ladder, that’s my destiny” are a bit rich by any standards.
Originally issued in Jamaica on the WIRL label the UK issue on Doctor Bird was on the B side of A Thing Called Soul, also by the Sensations. This track has not been re-released at the time of writing.
It’s Raining – The Three Tops (Duke Reid production)
Arthur “Duke” Reid’s Treasure Isle operation produced more than it’s fair share of hits during the Rocksteady period. The Treasure Island sound tended to me more polished than that achieved by most other producers including Reid’s biggest rival, Coxsone Dodd, and as such was perfectly suited to the soulful vocal styles adopted by vocal groups such as the Techniques, The Paragons and The Three Tops.
It’s Raining was released in 1967 on the Jamaican Treasure Isle label and in the UK as one of the very first releases on Trojan label (label) when it was still associated with Island Records. The Trojan issue erroneously credited the tune to The Tree Tops.
It’s Raining is currently available on the Treasure Isle Showtime release on Heartbeat records CDHBEA126/LPHBEA126
Patsy – Love Is Divine (Sonia Pottinger production)
Patsy’s vocals can be a little harsh at times but on this tune they work just right . She started her recording career in the early 60’s duetting with either Derrick Morgan or Stranger Cole on numerous tunes for Duke Reid, Lesley Kong and Prince Buster. By 1966 she was mainly recording for the Pottingers with Stranger Cole and an increasing number of solo sides. By the end of the decade she seems to have pretty much retired from the business.
This came out on a Jamaican Gayfeet press originally, in 1970 it was issued on a High Note 7″ in the UK titled Find Someone. It is currently available on a CD by the Japanese label Rock A Shacka – Vol.15 Queen Patsy & Stranger Cole.
I’ve Got A Date – Alton Ellis And The Flames (Duke Reid production)
The Treasure Isle studio and singer Alton Ellis were an electrifying combination in the Rocksteady years. Hit after hit emerged on Duke Reid’s Dutchess and Treasure Isle labels,(Girl) I’ve Got A Date was one of the biggest.
This was recorded in 1966 and still retains an uptempo almost Ska feel though the bass line is unmistakeably Rocksteady. Indeed it’s such a strong bass line that it’s surprising the rhythm hasn’t been used more since it was first conceived. The most notable of a small handful of versions of the rhythm was U Roy’s Wake The Town, the foundation DJ’s major breakthrough hit from 1970.
I’ve Got A Date is currently available on the Treasure Isle Showtime release on Heartbeat records CDHBEA126/LPHBEA126
I Spy – Lyn Taitt And The Jets (Joe Gibbs production)
Lee Perry was the man behind the producers desk with Joe Gibbs just financing the sessions at the time that I Spy was recorded. Of all the tracks that he worked on for Gibbs the instrumental I Spy is amongst the most recognisable as Perry’s work. Though underpinned by the bass this track is driven by the horns and percussion. The seemingly nonsensical vocal interjections that drop in and out of the mix add to the almost haunting atmosphere of the tune.
There may be a vocal on this rhythm as a faint vocal track can be heard at times but this is unconfirmed at the time of writing.
I Spy was re-released on CD by Trojan Records in 1998, Get On Up!-Joe Gibbs Rocksteady 1967-1968 CDTRL 390. This may now be deleted.
I Mean It – West Indians (Carl “JJ” Johnson production)
Carl Johnson was one of the small time producers who came to the fore as Rocksteady took over from the more uptempo Ska sound in 1966. He produced hit records with The Ethiopians, The Kingstonians, Carl Dawkins and The Rulers amongst others before leaving the business as quickly as he’d arrived in 1972.
The West Indians were Eric Donaldson, Hector Brooks and Leslie Burke. I Mean It was one of four sides they recorded for Carl Johnson, all were released on Doctor Bird Records in the UK. Whilst not putting down the other singers it’s Eric Donaldson’s beautiful lead that makes this song something special and it’s no surprise that he went on to achieve great success as a solo singer including winning the Jamaican Song Contest on five separate occasions.
I Mean It has not been re-issued at the time of writing.
Baby I’ve Got News – Soul Tops (Prince Buster production)
Prince Buster wants too much money to licence his back catalogue, either that or the relevant labels are not prepared to offer a decent price for it. Whatever spin you put on it the ongoing absence of a major re-issue programme for Busters Ska and Rocksteady productions is a crying shame. The only exception is the handful of CD’s and 7″ reissues put out by the Japanese Rock A Shacka label.
Little is known about the Soul Tops and unfortunately Baby I’ve Got News (AKA Cry No More) is not currently available, it’s obscurity does not however detract from what is a beautiful piece of Rocksteady.
Girls Like Dirt – Uniques (Bunny Lee production)
The Uniques were perhaps the greatest of all vocal groups in the Rocksteady period, when you consider they have to be compared with the likes of the Sensations, the Heptones and the Techniques this is praise indeed.
Bringing together the vocal skills of Slim Smith, Jimmy Reilly and Lloyd Charmers they recorded mainly for Bunny Lee from 1967 onwards. Slim Smith left the group in 1968 but not before they had recorded a string of unforgettable sides, on Girls Like Dirt his unmistakable vocals elevate an also ran in to a sublime and soulful classic.
Girls Like Dirt is available on The Best Of The Uniques 1967-1968 CDTRL340 and The Mod Reggae Box Set TJETD 020 both on Trojan Records.
What Can I Do – Tartans (Keith Scott And Sam Mitchell production)
The Tartans were Cedric Myton (later of the Congos), Devon Russell, Lindburgh Lewis and Lincoln Thompson (later of the Royal Rasses). They recorded primarily for Blondel Kalneck at Caltone and Keith Scott with Sam Mitchell at Merritone.
What Can I Do is a rude boy song, one of the major preoccupations of Rocksteady singers after the staples of love and romance. A cautionary tale warning of the consequences of a life of crime this was actually the flip side of their big hit, Dance All Night.
What Can I Do is available on the Rude Boy Box Set TJETD055 issued by Trojan Records.