Cornel Campbell is one of reggae music's most underrated singers, despite having enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums, dating back to the very start of Jamaica's music industry... whilst Delroy Wilson is accredited as the island's first child star, Cornel was only eleven when he voiced his debut 'My Treasure' for Studio One around 1956. A few years would elapse before he got to record again, by which time ska was beginning to supplant rhythm and blues in the Kingston nightspots. As Jamaica celebrated its independence, a teenage Cornel recorded songs like 'The Old Oak Tree', 'Old King Cole' and 'You Got Me Spinning for Studio One, before moving over to Leslie Kong's Beverley's label to cut 'Make Hay'. He was singing in a duo with Roy Panton by this point, and also did a little recording for sound system owner King Edwards. Two years later (and whilst still working as a printer to make ends meet) he joined the Sensations, singing alongside Jimmy Riley, Winston Riley's brother Buster and Aaron 'Dego' Davis. the group's debut was a cover of Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers' '(I'm Not A) Juvenile Delinquent', produced by Duke Reid of Treasure Isle - the music having slowed down and changed from ska to rocksteady in the meantime.

Despite their relative success, Cornel's stint in the Sensations would prove short-lived. Masquerading as 'Don Cornel' he then joined Ken Price and Errol Wisdom in the Eternals, a group they'd formed as competition to the Uniques and Techniques and who would record a handful of tracks for Harry Mudie, including 'Let's Start Again'. The Eternals' next stop was Studio One, where they recorded 'Stars', 'Just Can't Find Loving' and 'Queen Of The Minstrels', on which Cornel plays guitar. This trio of classic songs - all of them written by Campbell - were originally intended for Phil Pratt, who stalled in arranging the necessary studio time. Cornel would later record other hits for Studio One - including 'Didn't I' and 'I'm Still Waiting' - but soon left after again questioning Coxsone's accounting methods.

By 1972 his tender falsetto still reflected influences derived from his three favourite artists, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack, but also showed signs of growing maturity. Producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee saw him perform with the Eternals and invited him to join a stable already populated with other well-known former Studio One greats, including Horace Andy, John Holt and Delroy Wilson. Lee's flying cymbal and then deep roots and rub-a-dub backdrops - featuring rhythms by the Aggrovators and near symphonic dub mixes from King Tubby- would make Cornel and label mate Johnny Clarke stars of the ensuing rockers era, despite the greater mainstream success enjoyed by Marley and others. 'Natty Dread In A Greenwich Farm', recorded at Harry J's was his first hit for Lee. According to rumour, Cornel was also supposed to sing over Earl Zero's 'None Shall Escape The Judgement', but left the song to Johnny Clarke, who had a massive hit with it in 1974. Cornel did voice an alternative version called 'Gun Court Law', which Johnny Clarke then countered with 'Joshua's Word'. The competition between Bunny's two main acts was now getting fierce, and it would become even more so with the release of 'The Gorgon' in 1975 - a tune originally cut as a dub plate for the Channel One sound system, and which Cornel invests with an irresistible sense of triumph. After Clarke had responded with 'Move Out Of Babylon', Cornel replied with first 'Dance In A Greenwich Farm', and then a version of Gene Chandler's rhythm and blues hit, 'Duke Of Earl'.

His first album should have been a Studio One set by rights, but Coxsone would wait over thirty years before finally issuing some of his earliest recordings. It was the album 'Cornel Campbell', released on Trojan late in 1973 that became his actual debut. Highlights include 'My Confession', 'Didn't I' and 'Queen Of The Minstrels' - a song adapted from Curtis Mayfield's 'Minstrel And Queen', and which Cornel would voice numerous times throughout his career. love songs had proved his stock-in-trade to date except roots and culture themes were coming to prominence, and many singers (like Cornel himself) were now embracing Rastafari, growing dreadlocks and voicing cultural lyrics. Boasting a Mexican style intro from Tapper Zukie, 'The Gorgon Speaks' was Campbell's next hit. 'Conquering Gorgon', bearing a heavy gospel influence, then brought the 'Gorgon' series to an end, as well as spawning an alternative Rasta version called 'Lion Of Judah'. Circa 1975, he recorded tracks like 'Wherever I Lay My Hat', 'Keep On running' and a version of Slim Smith's 'The Beatitude' for Lee. Another series of hits paid tribute to his producer's neighbourhood - 'Natty Dread In A Greenwich Farm' having been voiced as a counteraction to Bob Marley's 'Natty Dread', whilst 'Dance In A Greenwich Farm' was first cut as a special for King Tubby's sound system, and then lent its title to an album released on Grounation. Again produced by Striker, this set included the tracks 'Natural Facts', 'Girl Of My dreams', 'Conquering Gorgon' and an alternative cut of 'Stars' called 'The Sun' that almost, but not quite, rivals the original.

Cornel was now entering the most prolific chapter of his career. He and Bunny's next album was 'Gorgon', released in the UK on Angen/Klik in 1976. Standouts include the title track and 'I Shall Not Remove' (borrowing the melody of 'I shall Not Be Moved'), in addition to the Rasta hymns 'Press Along Natty Dread', 'Give Me Strength Oh Jah' and 'Poor Jah Jah Man'. ablaze with excellent love and reality songs, it's among his best-ever albums. The singles 'I Will Never Change' (aka 'Undying Love'), 'Jah Jah A Go Beat Them' and 'Stalowatt' also date from circa 1976, together with 'Reggae Train' 'Jah Jah Me No Born Yah', 'Why Birds Follow spring' and two songs recorded for Joe Gibbs, 'No Man's Land' and 'Hypocrite'. (NB: The version of 'No Man's Land' included on this album is a Bunny Lee production, and voiced on a different rhythm to Joe Gibbs' cut). 'The Investigator', heralding a return to superlative lovers rock, dates from 1977 and was again produced by Striker, who issued an album with Cornel called 'Turn Back The Hands Of Time' that same year. The wily producer would soon license two Johnny Clarke albums to Virgin's Frontline label - alas, Cornel wasn't so lucky and more widespread recognition has eluded him because of this. His next two albums, 'Stalowatt' and 'Sweet Baby', appeared in 1978 on the Third World and Burning Sounds labels respectively. 'Sweet Baby' is a Linval Thompson production recorded at the outset of the dancehall era, whereas 'Stalowatt' was again produced by Lee, who also issued an album called 'Yes I Will kill' (aka 'No Man's Land') on Micron the following year, containing covers of Heptones and Sam Cooke songs, plus tracks like the militant 'Stay Down Babylon' and 'Wolf In Sheep's Clothing'.

Cornel's next big hit was 'Boxing', which producer Joe Gibbs released in 1979 to instant acclaim from dancehall fans. True to form, Cornel also recorded 'Boxing' for Bunny Lee, who in 1982 issued an album of that name, featuring covers of Bob Marley's 'Natty Dread' and the Wailers' 'Rudie Gone A Jail (Rasta Come From Jail)', as well as a recut of 'Queen Of The Minstrel' - Coxsone having released remixed cuts of this track and 'My Conversation' on 12" the previous year.

Bunny released two further Cornel Campbell albums in 1983, both of them cut in a dancehall style and featuring the kind of slow, heavy rhythms favoured by Sly & Robbie at the time. 'Johnnie Clarke Meets Cornel Campbell (Recorded New Stylee). boasted recuts of 'Investigator', 'Stars' and 'Duke Of Earl', whilst 'Fight Against Corruption' is arguably the last of Bunny Lee's top-flight albums with him, and contains hits like 'Trick In The Book', 'Everybody Want Promotion' and 'Got To Tell The People'.

Bunny's over-reliance on old rhythms was becoming all too apparent by this stage. searching for fresh inspiration, Cornel recorded songs for Delroy Wright of Live And Learn (who produced the 'Money' album) and also Tappa Zukie, who renamed his 'Follow Instruction' set 'Press Along Natty' when reissuing it a decade later. Tracks from this album like, 'World Of Tribulation' and 'Hard Headed Israelite', together with material voiced for Wackies in New York, were among the last of his recordings prior to the influx of computerised rhythms during the mid-eighties. Returning to Waterhouse in 1986, he sang over digital rhythms for both King Tubby and Prince Jammy before briefly reuniting with Bunny Lee for 'Mr. Cop', voiced over a cut of Gregory Isaacs' 'Rumours'.

Bobby Digital, Uncle T arrows, Jah Life, Stone Love and Black Scorpio all recorded him as another new decade dawned. Recuts of old hits would keep his name alive thereafter, although in 1996 he toured Japan to great reviews, and two years later joined a reformed Uniques (co-starring Jimmy Riley and Al Campbell) for an album produced y Niney The Observer. It was the last fresh material we were to hear from him in a while, until two songs for Roots Foundation heralded a brief comeback in 2001.


Girl Of My Dreams
The Gorgon
Dance In A Greenwich Farm
The Conquering Gorgon
Gun Court Law
Hey Can't Get Me Out
Natty Dread In A Greenwich Farm
Press Along Natty Dread
Give Me Strength Oh Jah
The Gorgon Is The Ruler
Stay Down Babylon
Jah Jah A Go Beat Them
I'll Mash You Down
Please Be True
Wherever I Lay My Hat
I've Got To Keep On Running
Duke Of Earl
The Sun
Whenever You Need Me
Heading For The Mountain
Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
Rasta Come From Jail
Natty Dread
My Sweet Baby
Got To Tell It To The People
Malicious World
I'll Never Let Go
Press Along Natty
Fight Against Corruption
Trick In The Book
Rope In
Chatty Chatty Too Much
My Love For You
Everybody Want Promotion
No Man's Land
Jah Jah Me No Born Yah
The Gorgon Is Back
Confusion On The Land
My Guiding Star
The Drifter
Queen Of The Minstrel
Be True To Me
Hard Headed Israelites (aka Follow Instructions)

All material © Trojan Records