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Voodoo Woman by Laurel Aitken

Voodoo Woman by Laurel Aitken

Voodoo Woman by Laurel Aitken

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The Godfather becomes the Modfather for this unusual reissue set.


The UK-based Cuban-Jamaican singer Laurel Aitken was a truly versatile vocalist. From the year 1957 to his death in 2005 he rode mento, ska, rocksteady reggae and dancehall rhythms. In his heyday he could croon pop standards by the Drifters and Elvis Presley, and chat patois about the latest gossip and sound business. He even alternated between social issues and obscene material - sometimes to the same melody (fighting for tenants' rights on Landlords and Tenants and then complaining that Pussy Price "gone up").

Laurel Aitken - Voodoo WomanNowhere is this versatility more apparent, though, than on Cherry Red subsidiary Pressure Drop's 10th reissue of his back catalogue, 'Voodoo Woman'. It's not really a reggae compilation at all, focusing on the R&B sounds that were all the rage during the “Mod” years following his arrival in the UK.

Taken from a series of mid Sixties 45 releases on the Rio, Rainbow, R&B and Dice labels these opportunistic, danceable grooves wear their influences on their sleeves. The opening title track uses the famous Bo Diddley stomp, while the near instrumental Last Night is based on The Mar-Key’s hit of the same name. But as well as secular party tunes, Laurel gets spiritual on the shimmying I Believe for a bluesy sermon that would have seemed scandalous a decade before. There are also a few pre-ska shuffle boogie cuts including You Can’t Stop Me From Loving You and Don't Play With Fire and, in the minor key Looking For My Baby, some bonafide ska should you miss the Godfather’s most celebrated side.

Record Collector scribe (and equal parts soul and reggae expert) Mike Atherton supplies some fascinating sleeve notes to this typically well-packaged release. As an introduction to Aitken's reggae work you'd be better of choosing Pressure Drop's bonus-packed Pama reissue 'The High Priest Of Reggae'. But once you have that, this curious window into the melting pot that was the sixties music scene should follow close behind.

Laurel Aitken

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