This long overdue collection comprises two of Trojan Record's most popular albums from the boss reggae era, 'No More Heartaches' and 'What Am I To Do?', each of which ably showcased a dozen of the finest late sixties recordings that saw issue on Harry Johnson's esteemed Harry J Records imprint. While both LPs have long been regarded as among the finest collections from the boss reggae era of the late sixties and early seventies, neither have previously been issued in their entirety on CD. Until now.

Harry Johnson: Producer

Born in 1945, in Westmoreland, Jamaica, Harry Zephaniah Johnson, aka Harry J, started his musical career as a bass player with the Virtues before embarking on a career as a producer during the latter part of 1968. The enormous success of one of his first productions, the Beltones' hit 'No More Heartaches', not only provided the platform onto which he established his embryonic record label, it was also instrumental in popularising the developing new sound of reggae.

The majority of Johnson's early works were cut at Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's famed Studio One recording facilities, using members of the legendary Sound Dimension band, although by early '69, he was regularly utilising Byron Lee's Dynamic Sounds studio employing a variety of leading local players, including pianist Gladstone 'Gladdy' Anderson, keyboardist Winston Wright, bassist Jackie Jackson, drummer Winston Grennan and guitarist Hux Brown.

It was around this time that he hit the big time internationally with the popular instrumental, 'Liquidator', a top 5 UK hit built around a rhythm track initially created for Tony Scott's 'What Am I To Do'. Issued in Jamaica as 'The Liquidator' by the Jay Boys, the title and artist credits were revised accordingly by Trojan for the UK market, although, as was common practice throughout this time, the Jay Boys or Harry J All Stars were simply generic names bestowed by the producer upon whichever group of musicians happened to be playing on the session.

Johnson's next taste of worldwide success came in 1970 with '(To Be) Young, Gifted And Black' by the duo, Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths. Initially released in both Jamaica (on Harry J) and the UK (on Pama Records' Escort label) devoid of orchestral embellishment, the track was later remixed by Trojan, with the addition of string overdubs, courtesy of leading British arranger, Johnny Arthey.

Two years later, Johnson opened his own Harry J Studio, where many of the biggest names in reggae, pop and rock went on to record, with their number including Bob Marley & the Wailers, who created much of their best known work within its walls. The producer continued to enjoy significant success throughout the remainder of 1970s and beyond, notably with 'Breakfast In Bed', a song that provided major hits for both Lorna Bennett and Sheila Hylton - the latter also breaching the British pop charts in 1981 with a sultry cover of the Police's 'The Bed's Too Big Without You'.

Harry Johnson survived the 'digital reggae' onslaught in the mid-eighties, remaining a prominent producer in Jamaica with releases on his Harry J, Jaywax, Sunset and 10 Roosevelt Ave. labels, but around 1988, finally decided to call time on his producing days. His studio, however, continued to be utilised by Jamaica's leading talent and still remains active, although sadly, its creator died from diabetes on 3rd April 2013.

'No More Heartaches'

s was customary for Trojan compilations at the time, 'No More Heartaches', released during the latter part of 1969, was issued on Trojan's budget 'TTL' range, which offered potential customers the opportunity to obtain some of the best recordings Jamaican and UK producers had to offer for just '14/6' (72.5p in decimal money).

The dozen tracks that featured on the collection had all previously seen issue in the UK on either Trojan (albeit with a Harry J label design) or the company's Duke imprint, while several appear to have only been released in Jamaica on white label promos. Typical of West Indian music labels at the time, a number of tracks were issued with incorrect or ambiguous artist names, making it impossible to determine beyond reasonable doubt the identity of the actual performers, resulting in considerable speculation among fans over the years.

The album kicks off with the title track by the Beltones, which had been originally scheduled for release by Trojan on its Blue Cat subsidiary (BS-142), before being switched to the company's flagship label, presumably because of its popularity back in Jamaica. As for the group behind the hit, the trio was formed in the early sixties by Rudolph 'Bop' Simmonds (aka Bop) Keith Mitchell and Owen Laing who, as Bop & the Beltones, cut a number of sides for Coxsone Dodd around 1966/67. Soon after, Simmonds moved to the United States, making way for Trevor Shield, who fronted the group on 'No More Heartaches' and 'Home Without You'. The singer can also be heard performing 'Please' without his fellow Beltones, which gave a hint of what was soon to follow, as Owen and Keith both promptly relocated to Canada and the US respectively, leaving him to pursue a solo career.

The LP also includes a quartet of fine instrumentals, with 'Soul Special' and 'Soul Scorcher' (which utilises the respective rhythm tracks of 'Happy Time' and 'Cuss Cuss') respectively, showcasing the talents of ace saxophonist, Karl Bryan, whose solo recordings saw issue under a variety of aliases, primarily 'King Cannon' and 'Cannonball Bryan'.

'Hang 'Em High' features the blistering organ playing of sometime vocalist Richard Ace \9lloyd Richards), whose musical career dates back to the late fifties when he sang alongside Boris Gardiner in the Rhythm Aces. He later became a key member of Coxsone Dodd's Sound Dimension band and enjoyed a brief spell in the international spotlight in the late 1970s, when his 'Staying Alive' and 'Substitute' became global hits.

The last of the instrumentals to feature on the LP is the Jay Boys' 'Easy Sound', a recording that is in fact no more than the backing track for the Beltones' 'I'll Follow You', which featured on the flip side of the 'No More Heartaches' 45. The recording was first issued in Jamaica as 'Smashville', with its change of title apparently the result of a mix-up by a staff member at Trojan, as the company also released (on its Duke off-shoot) the track that had been credited as 'Easy Sound' on the Jamaican Harry J label as 'Smashville'. Confused? You should be!

Back to the vocal material on the album, and another highlight is 'Lucky Boy' by the pairing of Glen Brown and Dave Barker. Glen subsequently became an extremely successful singer and producer, releasing numerous tracks on his Pantomine, Shalimar and South East Music labels. Dave, meanwhile, hit the big time as half of Dave & Ansel Collins, who enjoyed international success with 'Double Barrel' and 'Monkey Spanner' for Winston Riley. The singer-come-DJ also recorded for a variety of other producers, most notably Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and Lloyd Charmers before moving to the UK and signing with Bruce White and Tony Cousins' Creole Records. In the mid-seventies he, along with fellow Jamaicans, Bruce Ruffin and Bobby Davis, formed the short-lived vocal group, Chain Reaction, which enjoyed some success on the British soul scene, but following their break-up Dave returned to performing reggae and today remains active on the country's ska revival circuit.

There has been speculation that Glen Brown is the featured vocalist on 'Rich In love', a song that back in 1969 was issued on a 7" single by both Trojan and its main rival, Pama Records, albeit with slightly different mixes. The Pama pressing, released on the company's Escort subsidiary, correctly listed the song title, but erroneously listed the artist as Glen Amams (sic), while the Trojan single, which features additional backing vocals, credited the recording as 'La La Always Stay' by Glen & Dave. It was with these credits that it appeared on the 'No More Heartaches' collection, but given anecdotal evidence, it seems likely, if not certain, that the singer is distinguished Hippy Boys keyboard player, Glen Adams, with backing vocals provided my Messrs. Brown and Barker.

Arguably the most familiar recording on the LP is Lloyd Robinson's 'Cuss Cuss', which over the years has become a hugely sought after record, fetching significant sums on the collector's market. Surprisingly, the tune failed to find broad appeal when first released in late 1968, hence the scarcity of original copies on Trojan's Duke imprint. In fact it was not until the dancehall era of the early 1980s that interest in the track first developed, with the song and its classic 'riddim' subsequently revisited on numerous occasions. Lloyd's recording career can be traced back to the early 1960s, when he cut a number of ska sides for a number of Kingston-based producers, after which he formed half of two singing duos, Lloyd & Devon (Russell) and Lloyd & Glen (Brown), before eventually returning to solo work towards the close of the sixties.

'Happy Time' is another track that raises questions. Also released in the UK on Trojan's Duke label, the recording is widely believed to feature the vocals of Cables front-man, Kebble Drummond, rather than the accredited Herbie Carter. Clive Chin of Randy's Records, later related of the session, "Herbie Carter - he and one of the guys (from the Cables) used to be like close friends. Herbie Carter is just one of the guys who hang out at the studios, and he used to come by me and feel like singin', but he just couldn't sing. He just couldn't. He didn't have a singin' voice."

Drummond confirms this story and has stated on a number of occasions that he voiced the track due to Carter's limitations, although as he and his group, the Cables were signed to Studio One, he altered his delivery to disguise his identity.

The short-live duo of Hugh Black and George Ferris are the singers behind 'Candy Lady', another fine track from the Studio One sessions, although little is known of either; their only other known collaboration being the Coxsone Dodd-produced 'Peanut Butter', which saw issue in the UK in 1970 on Junior Lincoln's Bamboo label. Hugh appears to have only recorded one or two other tracks at Studio One before disappearing altogether from the Jamaican music scene, while George's career was almost as fleeting, with the singer's entire output consisting of a handful of recordings, cut either alone or as half of Blue & Ferris.

'What Am I To Do'

The second half of this collection comprises the 'What Am I To Do' album, issued by Trojan early in 1970, again on their budget 'TTL' range, but this time bearing a Harry J label, and costing '15/6' (77.5p) - inflation was rife even back then! As before, the LP features recordings previously issued as singles, although these had all been issued on the Escort and Camel labels, subsidiaries of Trojan's Neasden-based rivals, Pama Records.

The title track by Tony Scott has already been briefly mention, nut it should be noted that this and its B-side, 'Bring Back That Smile' (aka 'You've Still Got That Smile') were actually produced and financed by the singer himself and first released on the Estick label in Jamaica. As was often the case with independently produced singles, its failure was due in no small part to poor distribution, which prompted its subsequent sale to Harry Johnson, who swiftly made good use of the recording and, more significantly, its backing track. As had been well documented over the years, Johnson had Winston Wright overdub an organ part, creating one of the most popular reggae instrumentals of all time: 'Liquidator'. In 1972, the memorable opening bars of the track were picked up by US gospel group, the Staples Singers for their R&B classic, 'I'll Take You There', while its rhythm has since been versioned numerous times, with Nora Dean's 'Mama', Ansel Collins' 'Revolutionaries Meet The Aggrovators' and Vincent Gordon and the Corner Shots' 'Liquid Horns' just three such examples.

Tony Scott's follow-up single coupled 'Darling If You Love Me' and 'Saturday Night', both of which feature on the album and were possibly cut at the session that spawned 'What Am I To Do', although unfortunately neither side managed to elicit any significant interest from the record buying public, while their respective rhythm tracks were deemed unworthy of reworking as instrumentals! The singer, who later resided in the UK, did however experience a degree of success with his 1976 cover of 'The Angels Listened In' for London-based producer Clement Bushay, but in recent years little has been heard of him, other than ongoing rumours that he is working on new material.

Eric Frater, who has long since been accredited as the singer on 'Since You've Been Gone', is best known as one of Jamaica's leading guitarists, who as a member of Coxsone Dodd's Sound Dimension house band played on numerous Studio One classics, such as 'Real rock'. Despite the esteemed musician's apparent acknowledgement on both the 45 and 'What Am I To Do' LP, the vocal was once again provide incognito by Kebble Drummond of the Cables.

For its UK release on Pama's Camel label, the recording was coupled on 'Cool Down', a song performed by little known singer Winston McAlpine (who assumed the more credible surname of Hines for his infrequent studio work), backed by label-mates the Beltones, who finally received due credit for their contribution to the recording in the mid-eighties when the track was reissued, crediting George & the Beltones.

By way of contrast, the Jamaicans were one of the island's leading acts who rose to prominence in 1967 following their triumph in the Jamaican Song Festival with 'Baba Boom'. Musically active from around 1965 to 1975, their peak was between the late sixties and early seventies, after which their leader, Tommy Cowan, became increasingly involved in music production. Meanwhile, the group's other key members, Norris Weir, enjoyed a brief period of success as a solo performer before being ordained as a minister. The group's two contributions to the Trojan album, 'Early In The Morning' and 'Mr. lonely' had previously been issued together on the Escort label in the UK and on the Soul imprint in Jamaica, with both recordings produced by Cowan before being purchased by Harry Johnson.

Saxophonist Karl 'Cannonball' Bryan returns with the only instrumental track from the 'What Am I To Do' LP, namely 'Wha Pen', which rides the rhythm track of 'Shine Eye Girl' by the Jays or Vincent Foster, depending on which credits can be believed. For some reason, now lost in the mists of time, a different version of the track, entitles 'Wha Pen Man', featuring vocal interjections from veteran DJ Lord Comic was issued by the producer in Jamaica, but failed to secure a UK release.

No early reggae compilation would be complete without at least one risqué track and in this case it's a revival of Lord Blakie's calypso favourite, 'Hold The Pussy', performed by a certain Kid Gungo, of whom, unfortunately, nothing is widely known. The same is true of the Woodpeckers, who cut 'Zumbelly', although the group is believed by some to actually be the Conquerors (or a variation thereof), a vocal trio that enjoyed some success, primarily with producer Sonia Pottinger, in the mid-to-late 1960s. Pending further evidence, however, this, like many other similar mysteries scattered throughout Jamaican music history, can only remain speculation.

So there you have it - 24 slices of the finest 'boss reggae' ever recorded, courtesy of Harry Johnson and friends, whose number include some of Jamaica's most accomplished singers and players. Given the vibrancy of the music featured on this essential set, it really is hard to believe that these tracks were all recorded nearly half a century ago.

Andy Lambourn (aka Charlie Chalk)
Marc Griffiths (Bosssounds)

SOUL SPECIAL – King Cannon
LUCKY BOY – Glen & Dave
CUSS CUSS – Lloyd Robinson
HAPPY TIME – Keble Drummond
RICH IN LOVE (Version 1) – Glen Adams
PLEASE – Trevor Shield
HANG ‘EM HIGH – Richard Ace
CANDY LADY – Black & George
EASY SOUND – The Jay Boys

WHAT AM I TO DO – Tony Scott
RICH IN LOVE (Version 2) – Glen Adams
COOL DOWN – Winston Hines
WHA PEN – King Cannon
ZUMBELLY – The Woodpeckers
MR LONELY - The Jamaicans

© Doctor Bird Records