“69 tracks that influenced Jamaican music and fed it into ska” by Blues & Rhythm

Divided into three CDs respectively subtitled ‘USA 1942-1950’, ‘USA & Jamaica 1950-1962’ and ‘Jamaica 1956-1962’, this set has 69 tracks, all of them with the characteristic shuffle that influenced Jamaican music and fed into ska. The collection opens with four titles by Louis Jordan before moving on to the likes of Gene Philips, T-Bone Walker, Archibald, The Robins, Floyd Dixon and of course Rosco Gordon. Some of these American titles also have the title they were given by Jamaican sound system operators in parentheses too – for example, Gene Coy’s ‘Killer Diller’ was known as ‘Milk Lane Hop’ and most famously, Willis ‘Gator’ Jackson’s ‘Later For The Gator’ was called ‘Coxsone Hop’, with Jamaican record man (and soundman Coxsone Dodd’s biggest rival) Duke Reid taking years to track down the original record due to the subterfuge. Professor Longhair’s primitive sounding ‘Willie Mae’ reminds me strongly of footage I saw of Jamaican pianist Theophilus ‘Easy Snappin’ Beckford a decade or so ago. The second CD contains mostly American material, including three tracks by Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson and Barbie Gaye’s original of ‘My Boy Lollipop’, Louis Prima and Frankie Ford. The last few numbers shift to Jamaican material from Owen Gray. The Duke Reid Group, and this disc closes with Bob Marley’s first recording, which might just be there for commercial considerations as it does not really fit the theme – however, it does certainly not interrupt the flow, so perhaps I am being a little harsh on this ska item. American jazz saxophonist Jackie McLean’s 1959 Blue Note recording of ‘Greasy’ also seemed out of place, on looking at the track-listing anyway, though it fits snugly once heard. It also had me racking my brain trying to remember who once told me that Jamaicans in early 60s London used to dance to Blue Note material – I still can’t recall for sure but I think it was Gary Crosby, acclaimed U.K.bassist, leader of the big band Jazz Jamaica and a nephew of top Jamaican guitarist, Ernest Ranglin. The final disc consists entirely of Jamaican material, and although a few of the titles are familiar from reissues, the majority are not. Most still fit relatively easy into the ‘r&b’ definition but the march towards ska is audible, though there are still plenty of items harking back to ’50s styles. Back in the early ‘80s it was quite easy to pick up new Jamaican pressed 45s of many of  the American titles includes here at Camden Market in north London. Whilst there is an increasing amount of Jamaican r&b becoming available, this is still well worth considering due to the strength of the first rate selection.