Monday, January 02, 2006
Put It On - It's Rocksteady!
No one would be able to exactly pinpoint when Jamaican music took a turn from the sometimes-frantic high tempo ska sound that had heralded in Jamaica’s independence in 1963. But sometime in 1966 the island’s popular music took a drastic turn… rocksteady had a more relaxed tempo, the bass became more prevalent and the use of horns was minimized.
There are many theories on why rocksteady even came into being and combined they make complete sense… one theory says that the Rude Boys wouldn’t dance to ska because the quick-paced music required too much movement. It’s hard to come off looking cool when your feet are moving frantically and to accommodate their desires ska records would be played at half speed to slow the pace. Another theory says that the summer of 1966 was particularly hot and dancers needed to slow the pace to avoid collapsing from heat strokes. Yet a third theory claims that ska musicians had grown weary of the arrangements and rhythms that had remained constant since ska’s inception; they wanted to play in a different style. Finally, as is often the case in gray areas of Jamaican music, some singers from the era have proclaimed that they single-handedly invented this new sound. Whatever theory or combination there of you wish to subscribe to, you’ve got to admit this brief off-shoot of Jamaican popular music was some of the most influential and ear-pleasing ever.
As is the case with ska, I only own a couple rocksteady singles and they’re so battered they’re almost unbearable so I’m going to pull a couple tracks from some great rocksteady CDs to whet your appetites for more. If you’re a reggae fan and haven’t checked out rocksteady you’re missing out on some cool stuff. Give these a listen and I defy you to keep your feet from moving along!
Included in this zip are the following…
1. Derrick Harriott – The Loser (1967) - taken from 2004’s excellent Trojan Records boxset “This is Reggae Music”
2. Duke Reid Group – Soul Style (circa 1966) - from Heartbeat’s 1992 double CD set “Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest.” Essential listening – I highly recommend buying this set!
3. Lee “King” Perry – I Am the Upsetter (1967) - from Heartbeat’s “Explosive Rock Steady From Joe Gibbs’ Amalgamated Label 1967-1973”
4. The Melodians – You Don’t Need Me (circa 1966) - also from “Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest”
5. The Sensations – Everyday is a Holiday (circa 1967) - again from “Duke Reid’s Treasure Chest”