Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Miscellaneous Boss Reggae compilations


Trojan Suedehead

  

This is one of the now increasingly defunct three CD box sets from Trojan that were around in the late nineties/early 2000s. There is some good stuff on it and the sound quality is excellent. It covers the period around 1972 when skinheads had grown their hair and become suedeheads.

Dennis Brown’s Silhouette is a mid-pace, intuitive romantic bassy skank. The Three TopsTake Time Out is a great slow stomper in praise of reggae music in the This Is Reggae Music style. It also has an excellent cover of The Drifters At The Club by Sydney Crooks. Big Youth’s Dock Of The Bay is an early example of toasting, delivered over a big, throbbing dubby bass. Glen Brown’s Boat To Progress is a deliciously rich and warm number.

No More Heartaches/What Am I To Do

  

This is a double album release of two classic Trojan compilations from the skinhead/boss reggae era.

No More Heartaches (1969)

No More Heartaches
by The Beltones is very catchy, backed by some excellent brass riffs and featuring a winning vocal. King Cannon’s Soul Special is an infectious instrumental powered by some high-pitched saxophone and that similarly shrill fairground-style organ. The Beltones’ Home Without You uses that very South African-style flute so popular with reggae artists in the sixties. King Cannon’s Soul Scorcher has some more fine saxophone on display. Lloyd Robinson’s Cuss Cuss is a well-known boss reggae cult classic, one that appears on a lot of compilations. Its vocal has a roots vibe to it. There is some nice Rasta-style percussion too.

Glen Brown’s Lucky Boy is a big bassy pounder of a song with a catchy, brassy chorus. Check out his Rich In Love (Version 2) as well on What Am I To Do. Version 1 is on this album.

Herbie Carter’s Happy Time is a pleasing, almost lovers rock type groove. The popular spaghetti western theme can be found on the theme tune instrumental Hang ‘Em High by Richard Ace. Hugh Black & George FerrisCandy Lady is a seductive, melodic skank. The Jay BoysEasy Sounds is a lively instrumental.

What Am I To Do (1970)

  

What Am I To Do
by Tony Scott uses the instrumental track to The Liquidator to great effect. It is a good song. Eric Fatter’s Since You’ve Been Gone is a catchy, brassy soulful groove of a skank that suffers a bit from hissy sound. I still like it a lot, however. Early In The Morning by The Jamaicans sounds quite dated for 1970, like something from the mid sixties. Winston HindsCool Down is another quite lovers rock-sounding number. Harry J’s All StarsWha’ppen has its roots very much in the ska era.

Kid Gungo’s Hold The Pussy is one of those saucy Max Romeo-style songs popular in the early seventies. The Tony Scott cuts Darling If You Love Me and Saturday Night also both sound a bit out of date for 1970. The WoodpeckersZumbelly doesn’t have a great sound and the tune is a bit calypso-ish. Tony Scott’s Bring Back That Smile is ok but The JamaicansMr. Lonely is another that sounds a bit behind the times.

Out of these two compilations, I prefer No More Heartaches as it it does not contain as much dated material. I feel, however, that neither of these are as good as, say, Tighten Up Volume 2, The UpsettersClint Eastwood, Return Of Django or Trojan’s Do The Reggae, Boss Reggae or Sock It To Me collections. All of these are better representations of the more raw, earthy, credible skinhead/boss reggae era.

Tighten Up Volume One

  

The original Tighten Up collection obviously has a position of cultural importance  but, for me, it has always suffered from poor sound, something that has now been comparatively rectified on Volume Two. Highlights are Derrick Morgan’s Fat Man, Byron Lee & The DragonairesSoul Limbo and Joya Landis’s sonically ropey but appealing Kansas City. Some of the material on here is very much of the sixties, such as Val Bennett’s Spanish Harlem. The true skinhead/boss sound has yet to truly kick in. It still has an early days appeal though. This was an album of foundations. For many, it was the first reggae album they ever owned.

Tighten Up Volume Two

  

This is a hugely expanded version of Volume Two of the iconic early seventies compilation series, increasing from the original twelve to a massive forty-eight tracks. The emphasis is once again on skinhead/boss reggae from the early seventies. The more commercial string-enhanced chart hits of the period are absent, it is boss reggae stomping all the way. I remember this album always suffering from pretty ropey sound on some of the tracks but this deluxe edition is the best remastering of the tracks that I have heard. Obviously, original sound limitations are still there but there is a nice warm bass sound and a general cleaning up of the sound, as far as possible anyway. The cuts are in mono, as they always were, but it is a powerful, warm mono.

Although it was the afore-mentioned chart hits that really saw the public catch on to reggae at the time, including my thirteen year-old self, in many ways this is the authentic sound of early seventies reggae. This was the stuff the real aficionados were listening to - Don Letts, Keith Richards, Mick Jones, the Campbell brothers, The Specials, Madness and many more.

This extended release is just a pure joy from beginning to end. As well as the boss cuts there is an early example of lovers rock in Joya Landis’s Moonlight Lover and some saucy slackness in The Soul SistersWreck A Buddy and The VersatilesPush It In. There is some contemporary ska from Rico & The RudiesJumping The Gun. Rico Rodriguez would, of course, go on to join The Specials and the song here features his classic trombone sound. There is also Delroy Wilson’s fine cover of the Motown number Put Yourself In My Place. If you don’t want to listen to all the tracks, just try the first twelve, the original album that found its way into so many collections back in the early seventies. Oh and I forgot to mention the cover...