« It is a fine record » by Blues & Rhythm

"Just like busses… For many years Jamaican r&b languished largely forgotten, an occasional article or radio show being it in terms of exposure (Hi Tony Rounce, last time I heard ‘Kissin Gal’, included here, you were spinning it on Stuart Colman’s radio show – thirty years ago, was it ?). Now with the public domain time-span having elapsed, it is nearly as difficult to keep up with what is coming out, as it is to sort out the intricacies of the Jamaican record companies that originally issued this material. This double set contains 44 titles and unlike say, the BlueBeat series reviewed in B&R 268 which contains plenty of doo-woop and ballad styled material, the focus here is almost excusively on up-tempo rocking items – or at least mid-tempo shuffles, and with walking basses a plenty. Some of these titles are at risk of becoming over familiar – Laurel Aitken’s ‘Boogie Rock’ makes a great opener, it is a fine record, but the rapidly developing problem is that everyone includes it. Less well-known – to me at any rate – is Dezing Laing’s ‘Bloodshot Eyes’, which could come from either Wynonie Harris or Hank Penny, though my money is still on the former, and The Jiving Juniors’ ‘Hip Rub’, with influences from The Coesters and early 60s New Orleans r&b. Nice to hear Duke Reid’s All Stars’ ‘Pink Lane Shuffle’ and The Blues Blasters’ ‘Down Beat Special’ too, both with a sound that hards back to the early 1950s, and a young Owen Gray (he’s still active) referencing Rosco Gordon and Big Joe Turner on ‘Running Around’. A couple of choices do not really fit the remit – Laurel Aitken’s ‘Baba Kill Me Goat’ certainly is not r&b (though I do like the way that Laurel’s piano break approximates the banjo in mento), and The Folkes Brothers’ well-known ‘Oh Carolina’ is more important for its neo-African drumming than the r&b connection ; ditto ‘The Mellow Cats’, ’Another Moses’. There’s no real problem with the rest ; despite my description earlier it really is quite a variety of sounds. Check your shelves and see how much of this material you already have. There is no denying that this all excellent music, and if you have previously enjoved Jamaican r&b, you’ll certainly thrill to this set."