May 4, 2009, at 7:53 am

Listening to Laurel

Laurel Aitken Says FireAs 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.

Laurel Aitken Says FireThe 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).

9 comments to Listening to Laurel

  • Prince Horror

    So it says that Laurel was infact King Horror after all?

  • Joe

    On a concert a couple of years ago Laurel said that he wasn’t King Horror. If I recall correct he said that Mighty Growler ( was King Horror.

  • Tim P

    Thanks for the feedback. I’ve got to admit I kind of accepted it was Laurel on the basis that it’s on the CD. I’ll ask the compiler to comment and will report back.

  • Prince Horror

    Joe: Yeah, I’ve also heard that King Horror was more than one person..

    Tim: I would be very interesting to hear what the sources are.. Just because it’s in print doesn’t make it true! ;D

  • Tim P

    I asked Laurence who was involved in this release and this is what he said…

    “In regard the inclusion of ‘Loch Ness Monster’ on ‘Fire’, Laurel himself
    claimed he was the artist on this and a number of other self-productions
    that accredited King Horror, even though the name was also used by Lord
    Davey at the time. But regardless of whether it was Aitken or Davey, we felt
    it’s inclusion was warranted by Laurel’s involvement as the record’s

  • Prince Horror

    So some people claim Laurel said he was King Horror, while other say he denied it.. Another reggae-mystery?

  • Joe

    So it seems probabel that King Horror was a alias for more than one artist (and that Laurel at least was involved in the production). I have even heard people claiming that Lord Tanamo(!) was responsible for Loch Ness Monster…

    Does any one know if Mighty Growler/Young Growler was a alias for Lord Davey?

  • Prince Horror

    No, Mighty Growler and Young Growler wasn’t the same person. Mighty Growlers real name was Errol Duke and was a trinidadian active under the 30s and 40s and presumably died in the 50s. Young Growler was his son, who recorded calypsos during the 60s notably on the Jump Up label.

  • Prince Horror

    Ok, got some new info on Young Growler. Apperently he was not Errol Dukes son, but instead he was a chap by the name of Evril Davey who recorded some calypsos in 60s Young Growler.

    Just noticed this, RKR credits ALL King Horror tunes to Young Growler:

    Compare the Young Growler tune called “The Sausage” with the first King Horror tune “Cutting Blade”.. I’ll buy that.

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