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Treasure Isle Presents: Original Reggae - 40 Original Tighten Up Hits

CD1
Get On The Right Track – Phyllis Dillon & Hopeton Lewis
Moonlight Lover – Joya Landis
Moonlight Groover – Winston Wright
Tonight – John Holt
Breaking Up (Is Hard To Do) – Alton Ellis
Ali Baba – John Holt
Everybody Bawling – The Melodians
Everyday Is Just A Holiday – The Sensations
Drink Milk – Justin Hinds & The Waves
Lock Jaw – Dave Barker & The Upsetters
Barbwire – Nora Dean
Stealing Stealing – John Holt
Funky Reggae – Dave Barker
I Can’t Hide – Ken Parker
Remember That Sunday – Alton Ellis
Reggae Merengue – Tommy McCook & Supersonics
Wake The Town – U-Roy & Winston Wright
What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) – Alton Ellis
Boom-Sha-Ka-Lacka – Hopeton Lewis
Rule The Nation – U-Roy
CD2
Wear You To The Ball – U-Roy & John Holt
You Made Me So Very Happy – Alton Ellis
Version Galore – U-Roy & The Melodians
One Life To Live, One Love To Give – Phyllis Dillon
Let’s Build Our Dreams – John Holt
Drive Her Home – Hopeton Lewis & U Roy
Pirate – The Ethiopians
Crying Every Night – Stranger Cole
Sister Big Stuff – John Holt
Mighty Redeemer Part 1 – Justin Hinds & The Dominoes
The Number One Station – Dennis Alcapone
Jimmy Brown – Ken Parker
My Voice Is Insured For ½ Million – Dennis Alcapone
Woman Of The Ghetto – Phyllis Dillon
The Great Wugga Wugga – Dennis Alcapone
Help Me Make It Through The Night – Ken Parker
Love Is A Treasure – Lizzy & Freddie McKay
Wake Up Jamaica – Dennis Alcapone & Joya Landis
Blackbird Singing – Rosalyn Sweat & Paragons
Treasure Isle Skank – U-Roy

Better get ready, and do the...Reggae. Just as Rock Steady had come along and supplanted Ska, so Reggae did for Rock Steady in 1968. It's hard to know why; Ska had run its course, opening its account in around 1960 and rocking a generation up to 1967. Something had to change: an entire nation (Jamaica) and its musical colonies (Britain's bigger cities, New York, Toronto) could hardly be expected to enjoy the same dance for more than seven years, especially an upbeat one that didn't leave much room for romance. So Rock Steady was necessary, with its slower, smoochier, seductive beat and an emphasis on the erotic emotions in the lyrics. It crept in in 1966, soft as the padding footprints of Clark's desert boots. By 1967 it ruled Jamaica, and few would have bet that it would be all over just a year later. But it was true, its suede footwear unceremoniously given the DM boot. Because much as Jamaican's loved to love, they were excited by excitement, and Reggae had it by the boxful. It was as if Rudie was back from jail, still grinning that same disturbing hyena smile and ready to claim back his territory, his girl, and your girl too just because he could. Reggae was more rock solid than Rock Steady, more upbeat and more roughneck. And it was robust too: it seemed like whenever the people were tiring of it, it changed: sick of singers? Here comes the DJs. Tired of trivial topics? Here's Roots. Want to hear something sensational? Here's Dub. Want to compete with Disco? Here's flying cymbals. Whatever was flung at it, Reggae adapted and changed - the very fundamentals of survival.

What was the first Reggae song? Some say Larry & Alvin's 'Nanny Goat'; some cite the Beltones' 'No More Heartaches', a true Trojan classic. Toots Hibbert gave it a name: 'Do The Reggay', although whether it really was named after a loose woman (stReggae in ghetto parlance) is unknown. Toots probably saw the new style as a dance craze, a passing phase. Clearly he didn't know he'd be singing it at least 44 years hence.

Like all bandwagons, Jamaica's producers were not slow to leap on board the Reggae donkey cart. Duke Reid caught the beat quickly and pretty soon he'd more or less given up the Rock Steady rhythm in which he had reigned supreme (see our album 'Treasure Isle Presents Rock Steady).

His Treasure isle label now became principal purveyor of Reggay, Reggea or even Reggae - no one was actually too sure how to spell it, and a lot of its fans in London, the Skinheads, who were basically second-generation Mods at this time - weren't too certain how to say it either, either sticking with the outmoded terms 'Ska', 'Blue Beat' or pronouncing it as it it was one of the Kray twins. Whatever; it didn't matter what they called it, the people loved it. And Duke Reid was happy to supply it, giving it to Trojan Records to release on the parent label or on subsidiaries named after Reid's own companies, Treasure Isle, Duke and Duke Reid. In Jamaica, Reid had several labels such as, Sure Shot, Supersonics, Barons and even... you guessed it, Trojan - the UK company had named itself after Reid's sound system, Duke Reid The Trojan (which itself was named after the truck he used to shift speaker boxes). Indeed, Trojan's first 11 releases were devoted to getting Reid's work out to the unsuspecting British public in 1967.

Reid already had a head start on his rivals when it came to getting the best artists to make Reggae for him: He had worked with them in the Ska and Rock Steady eras. While he wasn't making anyone wealthy - apart from himself, presumably - artists kept coming back to Reid not only because he was a strong and persuasive character, but because they knew that they'd do their best work with him. Reid's band, the Supersonics, were the best musician's in Jamaica. Led by Tommy McCook, who wrote most of the arrangements and was de facto producer on many of the sessions, the Supersonics were musical dynamite and their shifting yet reliably consistent-sounding personnel was a who's who of Jamaican music: Winston Wright on the organ, Lyn Taitt, Hux Brown and Ernie Ranglin on guitar,; McCook, Bobby Ellis, Karl Bryan, Lester Sterling in the horn section... Anyone good could get a gig, but woe betide anyone who didn't cut the musical mustard. Reid was a patient man when it came to producing perfection, but impatient when his time and money was wasted. That's why he hired Byron Smith as mixing engineer: he got the job done with no fuss and did it right.

It was all about economy, and those applied equally to the records. There's not a note wasted in a classic Duke Reid production. Each melody, each bassline, each beat, each hornline, each harmony, is placed to have maximum effect on the music as a whole. This was why Reid was so successful: everything was planned to perfection and created by craftsmen (and women - Reid was unusual among Jamaica's producers in that he was happy to put the female voice on record regularly and scored hits with them). Later on, in the 70s, when the music became more focused on sound effects and what Reid doubtless regarded as gimmickry , his career faltered. A Duke Reid record was no happy accident, no fluke. It was the result of everyone knowing what they needed to do and being capable of doing it.

if that sounds dull, the music suggests otherwise. Here is talent on top of its game. Many artists never repeated the success they achieved under Mr Reid's supervision. Joya Landis was one; her 'Moonlight lover' was a huge Reggae smash in 1968; she also scored with 'Kansas City', 'Angel Of The Morning', and 'Out The Light', all for the Duke; beyond that, not a sniff of a hit. Phyllis Dillon's career lasted longer but her peak was at Treasure Isle, cutting a series of beautiful 45s and a superb album there. U-Roy is considered the daddy of all Jamaican deejays and by extension, the Godfather of Rap, but it was only at Treasure Isle that he found a way to get his undoubted skills across on record. It is arguable that even some of Jamaica's best-loved voices, who would have been heard had Reid chosen to remain a policeman rather than adding record producer to his portfolio, would have had a far less illustrious career without his arresting intervention. Alton Ellis and John Holt number among them; Ellis cut several of his songs at both Treasure Isle and its strong rival Studio 1; 'Breaking Up' is clearly better at Treasure Isle and the same applies to 'You Made Me So Very Happy'. John Holt did much the same. Both enjoyed hit after hit for decades in reggae - and in the case of John Holt, beyond. But neither would have exerted such leverage had they not worked with Duke Reid.

Reid has a reputation as a musical conservative, and didn't allow Rasta lyrics to be sung in his studio, believing, as many in Jamaica did, Rastafarians to be troublemakers and idlers. However, at his prime he really was at the cutting edge. His hitmaking run with U-Roy whom he turned from a popular deejay on a single sound system, King Tubby's, to an international phenomenon, was the result of his ability to recognise the potential of a new sound. Reid signed U-Roy when he went to Tubby's workshop to get some dub plates (exclusive one-off records) cut, and suggested that he could translate the deejay's live presence onto record, a feat that Bunny Lee, Keith Hudson and Lee Perry had failed to achieve. Reid was right, and during one crazy period, his U-Roy records claimed five out of the top six places on Jamaica's singles chart. Reid was happy to record other talking talents, such as Dave Barker, Lizzy and Dennis Alcapone, and hired Lee Perry's band, the Upsetters for the groundbreakingly funky and stripped-down single 'Lock-Jaw'. These are not retro moves, but the signs of a musical mind as sharp as the creases in a pair of Sta-Prest.

While Reid drew hit after hit from the likes of the Paragons, the Melodians, the Sensations and his array of thrushes and chatters, he did start to lose touch with the music's cutting edge in the early '70s, although a sound that many considered over-sentimental, such as his work with Ken Parker in 1972 and 1973, sold like half-price fried chicken, and nobody could dispute the class of Rosalyn Sweat & The Paragons' version of the Beatles' 'Blackbird Singing', a massive record wherever Reggae was played in 1973. By this time, Duke Reid was 58, a ripe age for a record producer in a business full of cut-throat kids and hungry upstarts. While he kept producing records up to his death in 1975, Reid never quite recaptured his top spot. However, the ongoing popularity of his music bears testimony to his brilliance. Whenever Treasure Isle Presented Reggae, it was practically perfect.

Ian McCann - Ian McCann is the editor of Record Collector magazine
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