TROJAN BRITISH REGGAE BOX SET (TJETD070) - West Indian music didn't have much of a voice in the London of the early 1960's, with only a handful of independent labels releasing product that was recorded in Jamaica. The majority of sounds were being imported with a reputed 15,000 discs coming in each month, and being sold to a ready audience of immigrants eager to dance the cold winter away with a blast from back home. An even smaller number of UK labels existed that not only catered for, but also recorded locally the music the newly arrived people wanted. Labels such as Starlite, Blue Beat and Island were starting to put out a few Jamaican boogie tunes, but it was the tiny Carnival and Planetone imprints that actually took the local talent in to the studio.

Early work from both Robert 'Dandy Livingstone' Thompson and Reco Rodriguez appeared on these labels in different guises such as the ska duo Sugar (Simone) & Dandy, and R&B/shuffle outfit Reco's Combo, alongside now forgotten names like the Keynotes and Mike Elliott.

The other labels carried the odd UK recording but majored on JA product, which only increased the public awareness of the different sound originating from either side of the Atlantic, with the UK recordings picking up the stigma that they were inferior. And as the majority of the top performers were still located on the sunny side of the sea, in all probability (and with the greatest respect to the UK artists) they were a little lacking.

Reputations changed as the 1960's moved on, with the few original Jamaican musicians living and performing in London, being joined by visiting recording stars from Kingston like Prince Buster who filled dancehalls the country over with an audience of West Indian and Mod appreciators. As the numbers of West Indians swelled in to the inner cities so did the market for their music, whether it be direct from Kingston or Shepherds Bush. Plus the Mods appreciation never faltered and opened another financial avenue to be explored.

By 1969, with the reggae boom in full swing, many artists and bands had started the long haul over, headed by Desmond Dekker and the Upsetters (or a version of them), and normally backed or enhanced by UK based musicians like members of the Cimarons, the Pyramids or the Rudies. The Pioneers came over on a prolonged tour, and a little later Dave (Barker) & Ansel Collins visited riding on the 'Double Barrel' wave with Dave opting to make London his home.

The list of visiting or resident stars almost read like a who's who of top reggae artists by the autumn of 1969, with Derrick Morgan, Laurel Aitken, Owen Grey, Jimmy Cliff and Reco all more or less permanently residing in the capital, so great was the draw to London. Their input to the UK reggae scene was immense, bringing with them the latest ideas in sound and techniques from the Kingston studios, with which they were still in touch.

Most people had never seen the visiting artists in the flesh, or even a photo in many cases, so who was actually who could be a very mute point. Impostors were not unknown, particularly as a number of promoters would unscrupulously show an artist as their bill topper on the same night that he was appearing at the opposite end of the country.

Then there were also the West Indians who had relocated to London with other business enterprises in mind, such as Joe Mansano, who started a chain of record shops in the early 1960's. Mansano turned his hand to producing and recorded Reco and his trombone on 'The Bullet', which hit straight away. He obviously had the knack and Trojan Records soon enticed him to lay enough tracks for an album's worth of his crunching UK reggae. His Deejay work with Dice The Boss, and quite often Reco weaving in the background, were unsurpassed while his own name brand creations like 'Life On Reggae Planet' filled floors everywhere.

Lambert Briscoe, a London sound system operator, along with the Equal's Eddie Grant had his own label, 'Hot Rod' named after his rig, plus the pair formed the Torpedo label to handle more of their home-grown productions. Names like Larry Foster, Silkie Davis, Winston Groovy and the ubiquitous Hot Rod All Stars band, (who were normally running as the Cimarons) graced good, bad and indifferent sides on his Torpedo and Hot Rod imprints.

The common denominator to the rapid rise of visiting artists, relocating performers and local recordings wasn't based so much on the West Indian community wanting the sounds from home, but the new appreciators of the reggae rhythm, the Mods younger brothers, the Skinheads with pockets bulging, wanting reggae, reggae and more reggae.

To most skinheads it was a fashion thing as they flashed down the road in their tonic suits and Crombie overcoats, with dazzling polished ox-blood DM boots, and that same fashion dictated that they dug reggae music alongside a touch of soul. A deep appreciation, almost a near obsession with reggae would follow for many skinheads who would be lured to inner city record shops to hang out with the regulr Saturday afternoon patrons, vying with them for the last copy of a new and desirable disc.

Pama Records had switched from their original idea of releasing soul to pumping out reggae, and Trojan had consolidated its position in the nation's hearts, and charts, with plenty of hits as the 1960's closed. All founded on the new white, eager punters who would buy anything unheard, if it carried the magic names such as the Upsetters, Joe The Boss, Pat Kelly or Lloyd Charmers.

Not only were the late 1960's a golden era for Jamaican sounds in general, but it was also the last time for nearly a decade that UK productions would be taken seriously. Home-grown bands such as the Rudies and Pyramids laid down the indispensable crunching moonstomp, no doubt aided by the input of Laurel Aitken and Derrick Morgan who were acutely aware of the skinheads dancehall needs.

Cosmopolitan London weaved variety in to the reggae with the psychedelic 1960's not so far behind influencing fuzzy guitar lines, while the irresistible pull of jazz pushed masters like Reco on to solos of great intensity. That's not to forget the basic Jamaican love of a good ballad, or a weepy Jim Reeves Country classic, all of which were blended in to the UK sound.

Dandy, easily one of the UK's premiere producers and performers, could turn in a powerhouse skinhead dancer one minute, (the chart busting 'Reggae In Your Jeggae' being his personal best), then record a fragile reggae-ballad next such as Gene Rondo's sublime cover of 'Then You Can Tell Him Goodbye'.

The scene was buzzing, full of an exciting variety of sounds, some aimed more to the West Indian population such as the gentle 'All I Have To Do Is Dream' from Pat (Rhoden) & Denzil (Dennis), while others went for the skinhead jugular with stompers like Freddy Notes & the Rudies interpretation of 'The Guns Of Navarone'. Some groups tried recording straight soul as well, and a few reggae discs would hide sweet ballads on their flips, just as their counterparts in JA were doing. Other bands moved completely in to new territory such as Nyah Earth, who played a groove based on the sound of Cymande, the premiere afro-funk Rasta band who were to hit big time with 'The Message' a couple of years on.

The early pop reggae like Daniel In The Lion's Den's 'Dancing In The Sun' and former R&B blaster Teddy Brown's cover of 'What Greater Love' had a sweet charm to them which carried the sound across the boundaries of the dancehall in to the ears of mainstream Britain. The sound had always needed to be sweet and the idea of slapping on a string overdub soon became the norm for reggae discs aimed more at the national charts than the skinhead's loafers. The idea had been working profitably with the previously mentioned recordes and earlier tracks like 'Young, Gifted & Black', and 'Wonderful World Beautiful People' which had kicked the reggae boom off and slid straight in to the nations hearts. But by late 1972, the skinheads had faded through to suede heads, and finally decamped to glam-rock, ditched their reggae love along the way, and grabbed hold of the Metal Guru.

The doldrums hit the reggae industry and with the cash input withdrawn, reggae desperately tried to keep a toe-hold somewhere, and that somewhere needed to be the magic Top Twenty with its million pound turnover. Any tune, of any style, that was heading for the big time courtesy of Jimmy Saville and his cohorts on T.O.T.P. would be grabbed and given a reggae shakedown in some dusty studio. Strings were normally dripped on and it was launched as the next super-smash hoping to grab some fall-out from the original. Most were more like super-crash than smash, and reggae dived in to the reviewers waste bins as desperate and copyist.

Kingston had moved on to hard roots reality and heavy Deejay commentary, but London had stuck and sunk in to a whirlpool of sticky strings and cover versions, reactivating the old adage that only Kingstonians could play reggae. It took a couple of years, and the talent of groups of young musicians like the mighty Aswad, Black Slate, Reggae Regulars, and the long forgotten incisive vocalist Delroy Washington to hit-back and prove once and for all that reggae was a feeling inside, not a place outside. But then that's another story.

Michael de Koningh

This collection features recordings that were voiced, embellished or recorded in their entirety within the golden shores of Her Majesty's sceptred isle.




A Letter To Mummy And Daddy
The Duke All Stars
Yorkie Special
The Trojan All Stars
All I Have To Do Is Dream
Denzil & Pat
Rhythm In
Reco & The Rhythm Aces
Letís Go Downtown
Brother Dan All Stars
Life On Reggae Planet
Joe The Boss
There Goes My Heart
Seven Letters
Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye
Gene Rondo
I Canít Stop Loving You
Owen Gray
Bye Bye Love
The Dials
Gentle On My Mind
Pat Sandy
Tears On My Pillow
Desmond Riley
Moon Walk (Twistiní The Night Away)
Sprong & The Nyah Shuffle
Phoenix (City) Reggae
The Family Circle
Iím Gonna Give Her All The Love Iíve Got
Tony Tribe
Guns Of Navarone
Freddie Notes & The Rudies
Talking Boss
George Lee

Nyah Bingewe
Nyah Earth
Whatís Your Name
Dennis Lowe
Letís Work Together
Billy Jack
I Wish You Well
Delroy Dunkley
Too Late
Vincent McLeod
Morning Sun
Al Barry & The Cimarons
Goodnight My Love
Winston Laro
Walking Thruí Jerusalem
The Corporation
(If You Cry) True Love, True Love
Terry, Carl & Derrick
Musical Popcorn
Pama Dice
Turn Round Twice
The Message
Brixton Reggae Festival
The Setters
Bush Beat
Lloyd & The Prophets With The Cimarons
Please Donít Go
Count Suckle & The Rudies
Let Me Out
In The Summertime
The Music Doctors
Tony Bís Theme
Joeís All Stars

Rupert Cunningham
What Greater Love
Teddy Brown
Dancing In The Sun
Daniel In The Lionís Den
The Rudies
Honey Hush
A Single Girl
Silkie Davis
Baby Donít Wake Me
Del Davis
Itís Too Late (To Say Youíre Sorry)
Laurel Aitken
Down In The Boondocks
Delroy Williams
Be Loving To Me
The Tillermen
Soul For Sale
The Cimarons
Memories Of Love
The Orbitones
What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For
Suzanne Beware Of The Devil
Nicky Thomas
Working On It Night And Day
The Aces
Tchaikovskyís Piano Concerto No.1
The Neasden Connection

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Time - 45:13

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