Pressure Sounds | Savage Jaw

Delroy Wilson - Dub Plate Style

A Bright And Sunny Day
You Have To Get A Beating
I’m Still Waiting
Can I Change My Mind
Find Yourself Another Girl
Ms. Grace
Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man
Better Must Come
Rain From The Skies
Joe Liges
I Am Doing My Thing
She Is Just A Play Girl
Love Uprising
Here Comes The Heartaches
Who Cares
Mash It Up
Stick By Me
You Are Mine
Conquer Me
Do Good (Everyone Will Be Judged)

"Here in this first volume of his golden hits Delroy Wilson's fans throughout the world can once again hear the songs that they helped to make chart toppers. Young fans who have suddenly discovered the musical world will find this package an introduction to Delroy's singing magic and will understand why their older sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers have made the Delroy Wilson name a familiar household word in every home in the nation." John St. Lewis

Delroy Wilson belonged to the generation of performers that included Bob Andy, Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and John Holt. All were great singers and all as much influenced by rhythm & blues and pop music as they were by their fellow Jamaican artists. Each one had his own distinctive identifiable sound and style. Each had his own unique voice.

Perhaps Delroy Wilson's most obvious influence was American rhythm & blues. He covered many soul songs, always sounding authentically soulful, as if he could have been equally as at home in Willie Mitchell's Hi Studio in Memphis as he was in Studio One or recording for Bunny 'Striker' Lee at Dynamics and Randy's in Kingston. Bunny Lee thought Delroy's phrasing and timing was fantastic although he was prone to "straying off key from time to time". Like most quality artists he had clear diction and great projection. Given the right song and rhythm he was up there with the best singers that Jamaica has ever produced. Early on there was a period when he was hugely popular in Jamaica. It's probably fair to say that Delroy's highest point came as a local artist in Jamaica in the mid to late sixties although his career peaked again in the seventies when he recorded some of his best known, and best loved, material.

I once saw Delroy Wilson at a club in London where he had come to hear his friend Alton Ellis. I was fascinated by how engrossed Delroy was with Alton's singing. Although he must have seen Alton perform many times over the years. He stood observing, all on his own, totally transfixed as Alton went through his set. Good friends and occasional rivals Delroy was a child star and established performer by the time Alton really got into his stride. There was undoubtedly a great empathy between these two giants of Jamaican music. Delroy never really came to terms with why he was not more successful. Junior Delgado once told me that, like Freddie McKay, Delroy "drank to excess and died of a broken heart". Delroy felt many artists that were not his equal had reached far more critical acclaim and greater financial rewards than he had ever achieved. He was not the first artist to find solace in the bottle as he failed to come to terms with his lack of success and, by the time of his death in 1995, he was semi-retired and not performing or singing in public on a regular basis. A sad, sad thing for such a truly great artist.

At first glance the material on this album might appear unremarkable. You will have seen many of the tracks on singles or on other albums and, in most cases, heard the majority of these songs elsewhere. But what you will not have heard is these particular songs mixed by Prince Jammy. At the time Jammy was working extensively with the producer of this set, Bunny 'Striker' Lee, and was at the beginning of his own production career. Totally in tune with what was currently being played on Kingston's sound systems. These mixes were clearly aimed at a sound system audience. Consequently they are mixed quite differently from other versions of the same songs. A little rawer. A little sparser. Much deeper.

There was a brief period, around late 1977. when it looked as if the type of sound system mixes that had always been popular with operators and selectors might actually become part of the reggae mainstream. With his finely tuned antennae Striker picked up on this potential new market and gave these recordings to Count Shelly to release. The album, 'Twenty Golden Hits', came out in early 1978 with no real indication of what might be in the grooves. It appeared on Shelly's London based Third World label and, to the best of my knowledge, it was never pressed in Jamaica.

It was a fairly anonymous type of release and consequently 'Twenty Golden Hits' came and went without most people ever really noticing what an unusual album it was. The record sold in very small numbers and then disappeared. It has since become a collector's item. When I asked Striker for the masters I was genuinely surprised when he was able to find the tape and send the mixes to me. I have played it constantly ever since.

The album was mixed at King Tubby's studio by Prince Jammy who approached the mixing of these tracks with a great deal of care and sensitivity towards the original production. But he has also managed to inject that 'vibe' that makes you want to hear them cranked up as loud as possible, they would sound perfect in a dance. He is clearly comfortable with Delroy's style and he really sounds as if he is enjoying it... almost as if he was mixing for himself as much as for anyone else. His affinity with Delroy's voice is clear. Jammy once told me that he liked to work with "good singers" and then quickly corrected himself to say that he "liked deejays too". There is little gimmickry involved. Remaining respectful to the original songs he has managed to deliver a different 'take' on what's already there by reducing the material down to its essential elements. The vocals are mostly quite dry. It's a clean, quality production that he has gone after and he has achieved it magnificently. Clever and subtle. Authentic and soulful. It's a mature piece of music.

Bunny Lee obviously knew what was needed and what was possible with Jammy's mixing ability. It's a good idea well executed. I suppose in modern musical parlance Bunny Lee would have been termed the 'executive producer' which is a role that suits him perfectly. Having worked in all areas of the business he had a handle not only on a project's commercial possibilities but also how to keep things 'authentic'. It was a formidable trio of talent: Striker Lee, Prince Jammy and Delroy Wilson.

"By now the leading producer in Jamaica Mr. Bunny 'Striker' Lee was prepared to produce Delroy's music... This album in its own right is not only a unique achievement of a people and their music but it is a memorial in recognition for one of the most talented artists to have been born in Jamaica. For music lovers this album is a must!!!" Sir Dees

The musicians must also be given great credit for their work here. Their tight rhythms and tidy unfussy playing make a perfect resting place for Delroy's voice to sit on. Check out 'Can I Change My Mind' for a perfect example of this... the subtle keyboard injections midway through the song are perfect. They are then dropped out in order to re-introduce the focus of the rhythm back to the bass and drums. Subtle nuances that make for an understated album. If I had to pick out one song on the album as my favourite? Then it would have to be 'A Bright And Sunny Day'. It's a beautiful piece of music and when the lead guitar weaves in it makes the song hypnotic. Maybe not the best ever vocal performance from Delroy but deeply soulful. A tale of lost love but, in keeping with his personality, Delroy does not sound jealous at his loss. There's more a sense of introspection and wonder as to why the girl would leave him.

Delroy Wilson is an artist that could, and should, have worked in other genres of music. Clearly he was someone who had a great love of soul and rhythm & blues but he could have made a great country & western record... something similar to Ray Charles' 'Modern sounds In Country And Western'. That would have been a treat to hear. It's a great shame that so many superb Jamaican vocalists never got to stretch their careers a little longer and a little further by branching out into other areas of their art. But at a time when Delroy should have been in the autumn of his career he was gone. Born in 1948 in Trench Town, Kingston he died in Kingston's UWI Hospital of complications from cirrhosis of the liver in 1995. It's unbelievable to think that Delroy Wilson was only forty seven when he passed away. His was a special talent and his career had stretched over nearly four decades of reggae music... an achievement in itself.

This album may not be everyone's favourite Delroy Wilson album. That is understandable given the amount af material he recorded. But I would say that this is an album for connoisseurs and I hope it will also make you listen to some of Delroy's records again. If that proves to be true then I feel this release will have been a success.

Pete Holdsworth - May 2009

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