Rocksteady Got Soul.

Label: Soul Jazz Records.

Format: CD.

When Soul Jazz Records was founded by Stuart Baker in London, in 1993, the nascent label began to draw “cross cultural connections between various music genres.” This included Brazilian, dub, jazz, Latin, soul and reggae which is one of the genres the label has specialised in since then.

Three decades later, and the label has established a reputation for consistently releasing quality reggae compilations. This includes those in the Soul Jazz Studio One Series. The most recent instalment in this long-running and successful series is Rocksteady Got Soul. It features eighteen uplifting and soulful reggae tracks which were released between the late-sixties and early seventies. There’s a contributions from the great and good of reggae on Rocksteady Got Soul.

The compilation opens with It’s True which was written and recorded by Alton Ellis’ for his 1970 album Sunday Coming. It was released on the Coxsone label in Jamaica and by Bamboo in the UK. One of the highlights of the album was It’s True with its hurt-filled and soul-baring vocal as harmonies seemingly sympathise at Alton Ellis’ plight.

It was 1970 when British reggae fans first heard The Heptones’ You Turned Away. It featured on the B-Side of their single Message From A Black Man which was released on the Bamboo label. Later that year the song featured on their Black Is Black album. It’s another song about betrayal with a vocal full of hurt and heartbreak.

Lee Perry moved to Kingston, Jamaica, in 1961 and his first job in the music industry was as a record seller for Coxsone Dodd. In 1963 he began working with Jackie Mittoo. Initially, he played  percussion on recordings and later, helped with arrangements. By 1966 he had started recording vocal sides and was billed as King Perry and The Gaylads when Run Rudie Run was recorded. This hidden gem which features the rhythm to Hugh Gidfrey’s You’re My Baby was relegated to the B-Side of Roy Richard and Jackie Mittoo’s Half and Half when it was released in 1966. It’s a welcome addition to Rocksteady Got Soul and is a reminder of the early work of maverick producer Lee Scratch Perry.

Jackie Mitoo was just twenty-two when he released his Macka Fat album in 1970. One of the highlights was Good Feeling which borrows the rhythm from The Heptones’ I Hold The Handle. Despite that, it’s an uplifting slice of soulful reggae with a sunshine sound.

Very little is known about Calvin Marshall who released  I Need Your Loving as a single on Studio One in 1969. It’s one of just two songs he wrote and recorded for the label. Here, he delivers a needy, hopeful vocal but one that’s deeply soulful on what’s a beautiful hidden gem.

I’ll Be Waiting is the second contribution from Alton Ellis. He wrote this beautiful ballad for a friend, and it was originally released by the Techniques label in 1970. Two years later the Studio One version featured on the Jamaica All Stars Vol. 1 compilation. This is another welcome addition and one of the highlights of Rocksteady Got Soul.

Sound Dimension became the Studio One house band in 1968, and two years later in 1970 Travelling Home featured on the B-Side of The Freedom Singers’ cover of Give Peace A Chance. This is an oft-overlooked and timeless instrumental that showcases the band who played such a big part in the sound and success of Studio One.

In 1967, Ken Boothe became the first person to record My Heart Is Gone. Three years later, in 1970, John Holt released a cover on Studio One. Later that year, this impassioned and soulful cover featured on his album A Love I Can Feel. It was one of the highlights of an album from one of the giants of reggae.  

The Ethiopians were formed in 1965 and in 1966 an early version of the group released Let The Light Shine as a single. It features an emotive vocal from Leonard Dillon which is delivered against The Soul Brothers’ Hot and Cold rhythm. This was the start of a long career for one of reggae’s most important and influential groups.

Closing Rocksteady Got Soul is Loose and Gain which was released as a single by The Viceroys on Studio One in 1967. It’s one of the most soulful songs on the compilation. Compiler Stuart Baker has kept one of the best until last.

For anyone with even a passing interest in reggae and especially rocksteady, then Rocksteady Got Soul is an album that they should add to their collection. Many of the tracks are uplifting and soulful. Others feature heartfelt, impassioned and soul-baring vocals where the vocalist lives the lyrics and brings them to life. It’s as if they lived, experienced and survived what they’re singing about. 

That’s no surprise as Rocksteady Got Soul features contributions some of reggae. They contribute singles, B-Sides, album cuts and hidden gems to Rocksteady Got Soul which is another lovingly compiled reggae compilation from Soul Jazz Records.

Rocksteady Got Soul.

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