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Looking Back - The Jamaican Chart Hits of 1958 and 1959

Looking Back - The Jamaican Chart Hits of 1958 and 1959

Looking Back - The Jamaican Chart Hits of 1958 and 1959

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An essential purchase for all musical historians.


True heads know that one cannot understand reggae music by listening to reggae alone. How can the classic rhythm Rockfort Rock be appreciated without knowing it was inspired by the Latin standard El Cumbanchero? Or Satta Amassagana without hearing its origins on Neil Hefti's score for Batman? Looking Back - The Jamaican Charts Hits of 1958 and 1959Hence the importance of this two part series, overseen by Record Collector scribe and Trojan reissue supervisor Laurence Cane Honeysett (with assistance from record seller Phil Etgart) which looks at the seismic shifts in Jamaican music tastes in the late 50s and early 60s commencing with the pre ska charts of '58 and '59. For while received wisdom might paint this period as a pre-enlightened time it is every bit as important as the acknowledged ska-rocksteady-reggae-dancehall progression that followed.

Randy's producer Clive Chin recalls how his 50s childhood was soundtracked by the radio playing mainly American music, but that local rhythms were also starting to be recorded and pressed onto disc. Thus, the tracks here are a mixture of mento, doo wop, Latin and R&B sides - many of which will sound familiar to reggae collectors with keen ears.

There's Philadelphian pianist Bill Doggett's instrumental Honky Tonk part 1 credited by the great Studio 1 keysman Richard Ace as inspiring the early "shuffle ska". The Trinidadian-led Cyril X Diaz Orchestra's cover of the Cuban rarity Tabu, would be absorbed into the melody of the Gaylads' 1967 Studio 1 side Africa We Want To Go. The "Whap Whap" refrain from Lee Andrews and the Hearts' It's Me would end up in Burning Spear's 1975 roots chant Travelling. Then there's the Rays' Silhouettes, a beautifully harmonized tale of mistaken identity and misplaced jealousy sung by Dennis Brown in 1972 for Derrick Harriott. Meanwhile, Little Willie John's original cut of Fever would be recut by Horace Andy and Junior Byles, whereas You Send Me was the first secular hit by Sam Cooke, who inspired singers from Slim Smith in the 60s to Lloyd Brown today.

Marriage appears to have been a popular lyrical theme as evidenced by Lord Tanamo's US-styled Sweet Dreaming, Gene and Eunice's The Vow, Milson Luce's Don't Break Your Promise, and Mighty Sparrow's long-suffering calypso Dear Sparrow. And there are two versions of the much covered ode Island In The Sun, one by the US singer and activist Harry Belafonte and a more Jamaican-flavoured take by Count Owen.

Number crunchers may be miffed at the lack of any actual chart positions in the otherwise highly informative sleevenotes. But that aside, this is an essential purchase for all musical historians - as is the followup 'Easy Snapping', which collects the hits of 1960 when local artists began to dominate the airwaves and the dances began to change...

Looking Back - The Jamaican Charts Hits of 1958 and 1959

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Read comments (1)

Posted by Ricky Grant on 05.06.2011
Beloved your summaries and writings really shows a lot of accuracy. You are making accuracy counts.. I can verify a lot that you have written about.. Stay blessed Angus and crew. Ricky Grant.

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