Sunday, August 07, 2016

Day 281 of 365 Day Jamaican Music Challenge - Duke Harris - Jamaica Way

Jamaica Duke, Duke And His Jamaican Five and Duke Harris are all one in the same.  And as the excellent website Mento Music notes, many a rocksteady fan may have picked up copies of his records over the years by incorrectly assuming that these were early recordings by producer Duke Reid but unfortunately for them they found that they were not the same person.  Regardless, Duke Harris and his band recorded a few albums during what is considered mento's middle period and like the majority of mento releases from the 1960s they were strongly catered toward the tourist market.  Often times on the albums the music took a backseat to showcasing and hyping-up the hotel or resort where the artists performed poolside for the sunburned, rum imbibing, trying to do the limbo with a bad back, black socks and sandals crowd assembled there.  And like Michael Garnice notes on Mento Music, "judging by the large number of surviving autographed LPs from the decade, the LP was sold at the hotel as well.  The tradition continues, as today's mento bands performing at hotels typically have a CDR for sale."   

Now some of you may be asking yourself, why is Distinctly Jamaican Sounds featuring music that is basically recorded for white, middle-class, mid-westerners escaping the winter doldrums in Minneapolis and who impulsively reach into their wallets to buy an album only after downing 4-5 Planter's Punches?  The answer is simple, it, like any other Jamaican music, sounds good to my ears.  Sure we're not talking about escaping from Babylon or fighting against oppression or poverty but this is all about reaching back to the roots of Jamaican popular music and giving them the exposure and respect they are due.  Today's tune "Jamaica Way," originally from an album called Jump And Sway Jamaica Way on the Kalypso label and made available on Trojan's 2004 CD compilation Trojan Jamaica Box Set, is as tourist-centric as a Jamaica poster hanging in a travel agents office wall on ice encrusted Grand Avenue in St. Paul circa 1965, but it sounds good to me!  I can hear me now, "Yes Mr. Travel Agent, I just heard "Jamaica Way" by Duke Harris and I would definitely be interested in spending eight days and seven nights at the Tower Isle Resort in Jamaica this February... where do I sign?"  Effective advertising that even Don Draper wouldn't comprehend. 

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