Stop That Train – Keith And Tex (Derrick Harriot Production)
When he wasn’t singing hit songs himself Derrick Harriott enjoyed even more success as a producer. The likes of Noel “Bunny” Brown and hornsman Bobby Ellis contributed to this success but the real hit makers were the singing duo of Keith Rowe and Texas Dixon, better known as Keith And Tex.
Stop That Train, a massive hit for the duo, was first recorded in the ska era by the Spanishtonians. The ska version is number one in the obscurity stakes but the rocksteady re-make oozes quality and is easily the best cut.
Stop That Train is on the Crystal LP of the same name.
It Comes And Goes – The Melodians (Links Production)
Another release on the small Links label. The Melodians started recording at the dawn of the rocksteady period and carried on with great success right into the mid 70’s. There was a second release of It Comes And Goes, this time with a with a false start released in 1972 titled Royal Cord. This was the same Melodians cut though it is often credited to the Gaylads, presumably due to B.B. Seatons involvement in the Links label.
It Comes and Goes is available on the Trojan Jamaican Hits box set (TRBCD 017)
A Change Is Gonna Come – Ken Parker (Bunny Lee Production)
The problem with great singers in the rocksteady era is that there were too many of them! Alton Ellis, Slim Smith, Pat Kelly move aside, here comes Ken Parker!
This may well be true of half the tunes on this list but on another day A Change.. could easily have been in the top ten, the Sam Cooke original is without doubt a classic but Ken Parker’s falsetto is a joy to hear. After a brief stint in the vocal trio the Blues Blenders, Parker started his solo career voicing gospel tunes for Coxsone Dodd, 40 years down the road he’s now based in Florida and is back singing gospel.
A Change Is Gonna Come is available on the Trojan CD Ken Parker – Groovin’ In Style.
My Conversation – The Uniques (Bunny Lee Production)
One of the best know tunes from the Uniques and certainly the one with the most versioned rhythm (this was the basis for the first ever one rhythm album, Yamaha Skank put out by Rupie Edwards in 1974). The distinctive piano line played by Winston Grennan is a real clincher though if you listen carefully you’ll hear him miss his notes more than once.
Slim Smith is at the top of his game once again, it was hit after hit for the Uniques in 1967.
My Conversation is available on the CD/LP The Uniques – Watch This Sound on Pressure Sounds.
Do It Sweet – Ethiopians (Sonia Pottinger Production)
Though Sonia Pottinger’s rocksteady productions are not usually considered to be up there with the likes of Treasure Isle, any thoughts of relegating them from the premier league of the music would be a serious mistake.
Do It Sweet is one of those recordings where the rhythm and the vocal are an absolute perfect fit, the synergy of the two makes for something quite special. And don’t forget those horns..!
Do It Sweet came out on Gay Feet in Jamaica and on Doctor Bird in the UK. It was re-issued by Trojan on the CD/LP, The Ethiopians – The World Goes Ska.
Travelling Man – The Techniques (Duke Reid Production)
Travelling Man is harsher sounding than the average rocksteady tune out of Treasure Isle, it has a little less of the sophistication and finesse that made the studio such a powerhouse in the period. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a spectacular recording, either that or it’s just the great Johnny Johnson lead vocal and yet more killer horns.
Travelling Man was originally issued on Treasure Isle in Jamaica and on its namesake label in the UK. It is available on the Heartbeat compilation Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest (CDHB 95).
Over And Over Again – Stranger And Gladdy (Stranger Cole Production
Stranger Cole had enjoyed great success as both a solo artist and when duet-ting with the likes of Ken Booth and Patsy Cole in the early to mid 60’s. By the rocksteady era he was beginning to branch out on his own and started producing as well as singing. Over Again is one of his own self productions where he was joined by Gladdy (Gladstone Anderson). As Stranger And Gladdy the hits continued, most notably Just Like A River and Seeing Is Knowing for Joel Gibbs.
Over And Over Again originally came out on the W&C label in Jamaica and on Island in the UK, it is currently available on Bangarang – The Best Of Stranger Cole on Trojan (TJDDD 116).
Foo Manchu – Desmond Dekker (Rudies Production?)
The only non Jamaican tune that will feature on this list. Desmond Dekker recorded Foo Manchu with the Rudies in the UK in 1968, taking inspiration no doubt from the rash of Fu Manchu films in that period (The Face Of Fu Manchu, The Brides Of Fu Manchu, The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu…the list goes on and on).
Decent UK recorded rocksteady is something of a rarity so this tune is a real bonus. The first issue must have been the Pyramid one though this was also released in Jamaica on a blank by Lesley Kong. There is a credit to Kong on the UK issue, maybe he was involved in writing the tune or (more likely?) he got a credit if Dekker was under contract to him at the time?
Trojan reissued this alongside three other Dekker tunes on a 10″ single in 2003 and on the compilation CD Rebel Music volume 2.
Funeral – Bob Marley & The Wailing Wailers (Wailers Production)
Forget their ground breaking sides with Lee Perry, or those platinum selling Island LP’s, the Wailers best ever tunes were issued in the late 60’s on their own Wail’N Soul’M label.
Funeral was released in 1968 and like much of the Wailers output from this period shows what real vocal harmonies are all about. Peter Tosh, who sings the lead, went on to make the tune his own when he re-done it in the mid 70’s as Burial.
Funeral is available on the Universal CD, Wail’n Soul’m Singles Selecta.
Rock Steady – Alton Ellis (Duke Reid production)
More Alton Ellis and more Treasure Isle, and why not? This is a fitting tribute to the dance that was the Rock Steady, it would have been easy to feature 10 or even 20 Alton Ellis sides in this top 100, this tune goes out to all the others that didn’t quite make it.
Originally issued in Jamaica on the Trojan label, unlike the UK Trojan label Duke Reid’s Jamaican original was somewhat short lived with only one 78rpm appearing in the late 50’s and maybe a dozen 45’s circa 1967. The first UK issue was on Treasure Isle.
Rock Steady is available on the Trojan CD, Duke Reid Rock’s Steady.
Credits: Thanks to Thore for the W&C label scan.