Trojan
 

Get any bunch of collectors of Jamaican music around a table. When talk turns to hall-of-fame pioneers, it's inevitable that names like Tommy McCook, Ernest Ranglin, Roland Alphonso, Derrick Morgan, Laurel Aitken, Jackie Edwards, Derrick Harriott and Theophilus Beckford will be among those first mentioned. Even though they seldom receive the same levels of acclaim, as important as any and all of these are the two men who are now the subject of the long-overdue anthology that you are (hopefully) now enjoying. The late Philip 'Boasy' James and Lloyd 'Lloydie' Campbell - collectively the Blues Busters - were Jamaica's first truly stellar vocal duo and - as the first to get a major local hit - the template on which all subsequent duos modelled themselves. The torrid harmonies of Bosy and Lloydie owed little to the soft doo-wop influenced vocal pf their peer group, though - their style was all church, and their fiery vocal blend recalled the harder singing gospel and ex-gospel acts of the 50s, rather more than it did the (still admirable) likes of Marvin and Johnny, Robert and Johnny or anyone else and Johnny for that matter. Soul music had still to evolve into what it became in the mid-1960s, but the Blues Busters can lay truthful claim to being among the first real soul singers anywhere in the world - as this collection proves over and over again during its copious running time.

That they are not continually spoken of in the same breath as their contemporaries, might largely be down to the fact that the Blues Busters had their eye on the international market from an early stage in their career and they relocated to the USA in the mid-sixties, at a time when the world beyond the Caribbean was beginning to embrace Jamaican musical trends as being something more than a novelty. Philip and Lloyd nevertheless could and should have been real contenders. Here are two dozen valid reasons why that is the case. A mere 9-month age gap separated Lloyd Osbourne Campbell and Philip James, who were both born in 1941 and who grew up together, attending the same nursery school in Jamaica's Montego Bay after Campbell's family relocated from Kingston in early 1942. Although they went on to different primary and secondary schools, they maintained an on-off contact until their adolescence afforded them the opportunity to team up professionally. As a youth, Lloydie's family had ensured that their son attended the local Baptist church, where he sang in the Junior choir, while Boasy honed his craft as an occasional partner for his entertainer father, 'Pepper'. Together, the father and son duo worked the 'Showboat Follies'. a well-regarded affair that took place on a showboat in Mo' Bay. Sadly, 'Pepper' passed away when Boasy was just 9 years old, but the youngster with the 'Showboat Follies' as a mascot-cum stooge for other entertainers whenever he was required to help out.

While working on the showboat, Boasy reunited with his old nursery school chum, who had come to prefer the roar of the crowd to the smell of the classroom as he reached his teens. Lloyd's recruitment to the 'Showboat Follies' was initially against the wishes of his mother, who wanted him to further his academic education rather than his musical one. Getting 'Caught In The Act', quite literally, at a church concert that featured the young duo was enough to make Mrs. Campbell realise that her son and his friend might well have a future in The Business We Call Show. Time would eventually prove her right, and not too much elapsed before the Blues Busters - as the boys had named themselves, possibly as a result of having seen somewhere a Jimmy McCracklin R&B 78 that credited his backing musicians, also called 'The Blues Busters' - were heard on record for the first time...

As a duo, Campbell and James cut their earliest sides in the second half of the 1950s, when they were both still in their teens. As primitive as they sound now, recordings for the Limbo label, like 'Early One Morning' and 'Little Vilma' (the latter heard here) sold well enough to put the duo on the Jamaican charts at their first attempt. Even though they have not stood the test of time in the way that later sides have, we have included a couple of examples of Boasy and Lloydie's early shuffles here, as they illustrate that, technical quality notwithstanding, the duo already had much of their future style in place at a very early stage in their career. with 'Little Vilma' blasting out of record stores the length and breadth of Orange Street, the Blues Busters must have felt like all their birthdays and Christmases had come at once. and it was only the beginning, of course... even in the Jamaican recording industry's earliest days, there was one overwhelming presence on the scene, that of the late Clement Seymour Dodd. And even before he opened his world-famous Studio One - and despite the worthy, and growing reputation of his intense rival, Duke Reid - Dodd was the man who most young artists wanted to make records for. The Blues Busters was no exception, and as the '60s dawned they found themselves ppearing on the first incarnation of Dodd's Supreme label, with a number of sides that referenced the R&B doo-wop of the 1950s, rather than the then-emergent sounds of Jamaica's soon-to-be indigenous music, Ska. Those sides were not available for inclusion here but if you can find it, you annotator recommends the BB's excellent revival of the Royal Holidays' rare doo-wop 45 '(I'm Sorry) I've Done You Wrong' - which, like most of their Dodd-helmed sides, also found UK release via the Blue Beat imprint.

As so many have found before or since, working with Coxsone might do wonders for one's career, but it does not always do so much for one's bank balance. After their sojourn with Dodd combined the inevitable high-grade music with low-rate remuneration, Boasy and Lloydie hooked up again with their long-time friend and one-time singing partner in the 'Showboat Follies', Ronnie Nasralla. The latter had moved into the world of artist management in 1963, taking over a number of artists from erstwhile entrepreneur (and future Jamaican Prime Minister) Edward Seaga, who was gradually gravitating towards the political arena even then. Nasralla was more than aware of the Blues Busters' capabilities and soon added them to his talent management roster. His close links with 'uptown' Ska bandleader, Byron Lee soon found Messrs. Campbell and James recording for Lee, with the results placed on a new label called Sunshine. They hit paydirt first time out, with a classic Lloyd Campbell composition that soon became their career song, the mighty 'Behold'...

Even though it had an unashamedly pop arrangement that harked back to an era fast disappearing to make way for Ska, 'Behold' caught on like wildfire, topping the local charts and going on to become an all time genre classic. The Dragonaires' splendid horn section gave the rhythm an almost mariachi feel, and Boasy and Lloydie's beautiful harmonies imbued the performance with a level of professionalism seldom heard in a Jamaican 45 up to that point. It put the Blues Busters on the map nationally and, had the world market been ready for Jamaican music at that time, might well have done so internationally too. (One person who thought as much was Chris Blackwell, MD and founder of Island Records, who also worked with the Philips group of labels with his associates, Chris Peers and Harry Robinson. Via their independent BPR production company the trio 'borrowed' the tune for 'Behold', put new words to it and gave 'I'll Cross My fingers' to Scottish brother act, the Allisons, to continue the string of flops they had to follow their Eurovision-losing chart hit 'Are You Sure'. Not a lot of people knew that...)

In the wake of 'Behold', the duo came up with other fantastic recordings, mostly in the by then firmly established Ska mode. The revival of the traditional semi-spiritual '(If I Had The) Wings Of A Dove' was an inescapable hit all over Jamaica, as was its soulful flipside - a flipside that in many people's eyes is the Blues Busters' career record (rather than 'Behold'), even though it featured only Boasy.

Unlike many of their previous and future hits, 'Wide Awake In A Dream' was not a group original. The song had been written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio (not 'Wallace', as has been credited far too many times down the years), the masterminds behind the success of the Four Seasons, and had been recorded by New York-based soulman Jerry Jackson for Columbia Records in 1961. the song was also recorded that same year, for De Luxe Records, by future member of the James brown Revue, Vicki Anderson. Neither version made much impact, but copies of at least one version must have gotten down to Jamaica somehow.

As benefits a performance that was released on the 'Soul' label (and on grey vinyl yet!) Boasy sang the heck out of the song, and Jamaican punters soon took notice of the 'free hit' that they found on the flip of 'Wings'. In the intervening years, the song has become more associated with the Blues Busters than it is with any of the American artsists who recorded it - and since another Byron Lee alumni, Barry Biggs, did the song over spectacularly in 1978, it's become so readily thought of as a Jamaican classic that it's hard to remember that it was written by the men who wrote 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' and 'Walk Like A Man', among other pop perennials...

Working under the aegis of Ronnie Nasralla and Byron Lee offered the Blues Busters the kind of opportunities that were not available to those who worked for less scrupulous managers and promoters. Revisionists often belittle the role of Lee and his musicians in the development of Ska and - even now, 40 years on - certain people still remain grudgeful of the fact that the Dragonaires got the Governmental nod over the Skatalites as international ambassadors of their country's music. But the truth of the matter is that Byron lee led a first-rate band - you only have to listen to classics like 'Ska-Dee-Wah' and 'Frankenstein Ska' to realise how first rate! - and was (and remains) a well organised gentleman who was better placed to represent his country overseas that many of the more 'grass roots' guys would have been.

Lee's organisation put together tours that circled the Caribbean, and the Blues Busters were always a major feature thereof. Their professionalism and popularity made them a shoo-in for the short list that Lee was preparing, at his government's behest, to promote Ska in North America. As it had in the UK, Ska had begun to make tentative commercial inroads there in 1963 and 1964, and so it was that Lee and his musicians accompanied their high profile vocal contemporaries Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff, Millie Small and Eric 'Monty' Morris around the American south and up the Eastern seaboard, culminating in some epochal shows at the 1964 World's Fair, in the Flushing Meadows district of New York (ironically, not that far from NY's Jamaica district!)

While they were in New York, the Blues Busters cut several sides that would be combined with some past hits to make up their debut album 'Behold, How Sweet It Is'. The sessions were held at the studios of Atlantic Records, who had the US rights to Byron lee's productions and releases (and vice versa) for many years. And they were engineered by Atlantic's own acclaimed in-house engineer Tom dowd, whose CV had already included everything from Joe Turner's 'Shake Rattle And Roll' to the Drifters' 'Save The Last Dance For Me' and would go on to include everyone from Aretha Franklin to Rod Stewart to Dire Straits. Dowd's engineering expertise brought unbelievable presence and clarity to the sessions, and for many (this writer included) vocal Ska doesn't get any better than it does on tracks like the duo's remake of an earlier effort for Coxsone, 'Donna' and the wonderful 'Soon You'll Be Gone' - to these ears, the most soulful Ska record of all...

'Behold How Sweet It Is' is up there with the Skatalites' 'Ska-Boo-Da-Ba' and 'Ska Authentic' as a defining example of the genre, and all of it's best tracks are reproduced herein. It would be some time - until the late 1966 release of 'The Wailing Wailers', in fact - before any Jamaican vocal act came up with a set that would match it...

From the mid-60s onwards, Philip and Lloyd began to spend more and more time in the USA. The appreciation of the audiences at the New York World's Fair gigs convinced the duo that - to coin another phrase! 'if they could make it there, they'd make it anywhere'. And theoretically there was no reason why they could and should not have done so. Their excellent diction gave no hint of their Caribbean origins, and they had every right to believe that they could be the next Sam & Dave, based on their enormous vocal talent.

Unfortunately for them, at the time they chose to relocate the actual Sam & Dave were at their peak, and were already busy wiping the floor with their domestic competition. US R&B radio was far too busy playing the latest hot waxing by the real deal to worry about anything by their myriad sound-alikes, however good it might have been. The Blues Busters recorded prolifically in the USA between 1966 and 1969, and their recordings were released on big labels like Capitol, Minit and United Artists. nothing from any of their US sessions clicked with the buying public, not even the stellar excursions to Muscle Shoals that produced three of this set's absolute highlights, 'Inspired To Love You', 'I Can't Stop' and 'Don't Lose Your Good Thing'. In the same way that a multitude of excellent records by Supremes-alikes and Temptations-alikes withered on the vine of public acclaim, so too did the US recordings of Philip and Lloyd.

It was not too long after their initail relocation that the duo got the opportunity to record a second album for BMN - misleadingly titled 'The Best Of The Blues Busters' when, in fact, it contained none of their earlier successes. As had been the case with their debut set, at least some of the recordings were cut at Atlantic's New York studios and, indeed, most of its other contents were also cut in and around the Big Apple. As a whole, the album does not live up to its title. The duo's versions of Lionel Bart's James Bond movie theme - 'From Russia With Love' and the corny old Everly Brothers hit 'Let It Be Me' are fairly unremarkable, while revivals of Eugene Church's 'Pretty girls Everywhere' and the Impressions' 'Amen' also do little to further the reputations of the Blues Busters....

...However, the great tracks are really great, as you'll hear from those that we have included here. 'Can't Believe That You're Gone' offers an interesting example of what soul singers might have sounded like if they had been backed by Mersey Beat groups. 'I Won't Let You Go' is vintage Campbell-James Ska, and their treatments of the Soul Stirrers' 'That's Heaven To Me', and another Impressions gem 'I've Been Trying', are the very personification of the word 'masterful'. Although the album did not live up to the claim of its title, it was a good seller that was still in print in the 21st century. And it did give the Blues Busters the chance to play more shows in front of their home crowd, even though their minds and hearts were increasingly on making it elsewhere...

While the Blues Busters 'went a Foreign' to pursue their aims and ambitions, Rocksteady happened to Jamaica. Philip and Lloyd's virtual absence from the island during Rocksteady's golden year meant that they missed almost every opportunity they would have had to record in the exciting new style. We are fortunate that Byron Lee did get them into a studio once in that period. With accompaniment from Lynn Taitt and the Jets, they licked over their old Coxsone hit 'There's Always Sunshine' in a magnificent manner, and cut a strong version of southern soulman Tommy Tate's obscure B-side 'A Lovers Reward' for its flipside. both of which we're happy to reissue here for the first time in a long time!

Even though they were not getting hits, both Blues Busters were living permanently in the USA by the late 1960s, working regularly - as did so many expatriate Jamaicans - with a first-rate band of migrant musicians, Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers. They returned to Jamaica only occasionally -as ever - under the stewardship of Byron Lee. In 1971 they found themselves back on the Ja. charts with 'Each One Teach One', a lively message of self-betterment that seemed to fit well with the political mood of the times, even though it was not an overly political song in itself. Released on Lee's own Jaguar imprint back home (and on Trojan's all-purpose Dynamic imprint in the UK) it was coupled with one of the best tracks that the duo ever cut, the beautifully reflective ''Thinking Of You'.

'Thinking's own contribution to the sales and popularity of this 45 can never be underestimated. Back in 1971, your annotator was working at Balham's famous (and now sadly relocated) 'Record Corner' store. Back then RC sold almost as much Reggae as it did Soul, and 'thinking Of You' was one of those records that just sold and sold and sold, long after its 'A' side had dropped out of the Trojan Top 50 chart. Reggae fans who were buying it were obviously turning others on to it at parties or at home, and those discerning Soul fans who also bought a bit of soulful Reggae were also catching on to its excellence. A highlight of the Blues Busters' '70s sessions and also of this CD, the song was revived in 1974 and given a Miami funk lilt by former Studio 1 DJ-turned-singer (and husband of Betty Wright), Noel 'King Sporty' Williams, on his own Konduko label. Sporty's version featured backing vocals from his future wife, her sister Jeanette and another Miami star-to-be, Gwen McCrae. It was as excellent as the BB's version in its own way, and it remains a popular collectable on the 'Modern Soul' circuit. And it led to a third album for Lee Enterprises - or Dynamic Sounds, as the company had been known for some years, named after 'Each One Teach One' which featured on its front cover, Boasy and Lloydie splendidly attired in gowns and mortar boards.

As the '70s progressed, the Blues Busters recorded only sporadically, but stayed within the Dynamic Sounds stable of artists. In 1973 they came back strong with a killer cut to JP Robinson's 1970 classic deep soul tale of infidelity. 'What Can I Tell Her'. Doubtless inspired by Robinson's fellow Miamian Timmy Thomas' own contemporary revival of the song, it's a wonderful performance on which to end our definitive overview of Boasy and Lloydie's first 15 years of recording.

However, the Blues Busters story does not end in 1973. There were still many more years of soulful duetting to come for Messrs. James and Campbell. Sessions in 1974 and 1975 yielded enough material to make up the 'Philip And Lloyd' album, their last for Dynamic. A strong mix of Campbell-James originals and covers of then recent Pop and R&B hits, the album was also released in the USA on Scepter where it received a US slanted remix by pioneering disco man Tom Moulton. Scepter also released several singles from 'Philip And Lloyd', including the remake of the Wailers' 'I Shot The Sheriff' and the duo's own 'Baby I'm Sorry'. For a while, it looked as though Boasy and Lloydie were going to finally have the American R&B chart hit they had craved for so long, but just as progress was being made, Scepter went bankrupt and that was that.

From then on, the trips to the recording studio became fewer, and increasingly spaced out. Still relatively young men, Boasy and Philip were paying the price of being 'recording veterans' and were being edged out of the picture by a crop of younger acts like Sugar Minott, Linval Thompson, Dennis Brown and - then at his absolute peak - Johnny Clarke. They were also losing out in their native Jamaican market by being domiciled in the USA, away from the action and therefore somewhat distanced from day to day trends back a yard. In the early 1980s, the few recordings they made - most notably, an excellent set of recordings for fellow veteran, Lloyd Charmers - were aimed at, and were well received by, the 'big people' market that still warmly embraced the idol of Jamaica's nascent recording industry. By the close of the decade, the Blues Busters were out of the game - forever, unfortunately, as James passed away in 1989, to be followed by his old singing partner Campbell just a couple of years later, in December 1991...

The Blues Busters were and always will be one of the most soulful singing duos of all time. Had they been born and raised in the American South, there is no doubt in your annotator's mind that they would have been continually spoken of in Soul circles in the same breath as San and Dave, Eddie and Ernie, James and Bobby Purify, or any other universally admired male duo of the '60s. Fortunately  - if belatedly - their stock has been rising in recent years, as several of their US recorded sides have hit the mark with deep and northern soul audiences and now command impressive prices on original 7" 45s. We have included as many of those here as possible and hope that Boasy and Lloydie's many Ska fans will enjoy them, as much as we hope that those who currently only know the Soul sides will now enjoy their own introduction to the Ska and R&B recordings that forged the reputations of these two great singers in the first place...

Please enjoy the great Lloyd Campbell and Philip James, forever and for always the Blues Busters. Behold, how sweet they are...

TONY ROUNCE

How Sweet It Is
Little Vilma
Lost My Baby
Wings Of A Dove
Warning You
Wide Awake In A Dream
Behold
I Won't Let You Go
I Had A Dream
Donna
Soon You'll Be Gone
I've Been Trying
That's Heaven To Me
I Don't Know
Can't Believe That You're Gone
Love Me Forever
I've Gotta Get There
Irreplaceable You
Inspired To Love You
Don't Lose Your Good Thing
I Can't Stop
There's Always Sunshine
Lover's Reward
Thinking Of You
Each One Teach One
What Can I Tell Her

Trojan
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