Numbers 40-31

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.

19 comments to Numbers 40-31

  • This has been long awaited. As always a great post, Tim!

  • AnorakTrev

    As kalcidis says ” long awaited ” . Another great crop of tunes here , Tim . Spoil us and release the whole caboodle on a multi-CD compilation ? …. we can but wish . Thanks for your hard work and eclectic taste .

  • Great posting — a terrific balance between your deep knowledge of the tunes as a collector/scholar and your outright enthusiasm for the music. Also, it is refreshing to see a list like this that balances the obscure rarities with more well known masterpieces.

  • andy hynd

    another great selection, many of my faves in this posting-quality 2nd to none!

  • Donald Gregory

    I had no idea ‘Foo Manchu’ was British! You are right about British rock steady. I propose a debate on great British rock steady. ‘Foo Manchu’ is already taken so I suggest ‘Rudy’s Dead’ by Little Grants & Eddie on Pyramid and ‘Invaders At The Carnival’ by the Invaders on Columbia Blue Beat.

    Donald Gregory

  • Marni

    Yes, I thought you’d buried the project by now. Man I’ve waited long for this installment. “Travelling man”, yes indeed, though I’d definately put the instrumental, “Moon Shot” on my top ten of rocksteady instrumentals. Also good to see the Wail’nSoul’m starting to pop up, couldn’t be the last…Thanks!

  • Donald Gregory

    Sorry! ‘Rudy’s Dead’ is on President.


  • Tim P

    Thanks everyone for the comments.
    Trev – there is no chance of a compilation as I don’t have the rights to these tunes. I did think about a mix tape/podcast type thing though, I may get round to it one day!
    Donald – other good UK rocksteady? Hmmmm that would be hard, there are some half decent tunes for sure but nothing else comes close IMO…
    Martin – Trust me this won’t be buried but it still may take along time to complete! I don’t know Moon Shot I don’t think. Your comment about Wail’nSoul’m may well be accurate – wait and see 😉

  • Moon Shot is on the b-side of phyllis dillon & hopeton lewis”Right Track'(on the uk release). re-issued by Trojan about 5 years ago. and yes: a great Supersonics chune

  • Prince Horror

    Waited a long time for this, but as always it was worth it. I wonder what the top 10 tracks will be..

  • Tim,
    what a top ranking selection..
    Ken Parker’s version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Change’ still kills me every time, (and has done since first hearing in the early 80’s)

    respect to you


  • The Jamaican title of ‘Moon shot’ from above is ‘Travelling on Bond Street’. On the JA Treasure Isle copy it is also the flip of ‘Get on the right track’ (credited to Phyllis Dillon only though).

  • Scorcher Tomas

    Good working!

  • Top Bore

    The lead vocal on Travelling Man is actually by Johnny Johnson of the Techniques and not Pat Kelly. Watch the Rock Steady Reunion video and you’ll see him sing it. Johnny dropped out of the business although he is rumoured to be the voice behind Johnny and the Attractions. May well be true?

  • Tim P

    Many thanks for the correction Top Bore – I’ve changed the credit.

  • chuck e.

    Great music from my youth days. I sense a lot of Lynn Taitt guitar riddims in these tunes. He recently passed (January 2110) with very little comment, a true pioneer of the genre.

  • Andre Col.

    I like to think that the piano line missed notes in The Uniques My conversation are intended to be this way, IMHO of course! Great site!

  • Fu Manchu was also issued on a UK compilation called Star Explosion on Ember SE-8000 in 1970. This turns up a lot at carboot sales, charity shops etc. Lovely thick UK vinyl!


  • Johan Lindgren

    Keith & Tex is re-released on Trojan Presents Rock Steady 40 Ground Breaking Hits (2011).

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