Okay, now that we’re done taking a little trip away from Jamaica we’re back to the island for music that we all can consider “Distinctly Jamaican.” I was giving the Heptones a listen this weekend and surprised myself when I realized that I have yet to give them some praise or exposure here. I love these guys! They’re the kind of group that never fail to raise your mood. Great lyrics, smooth harmonies, just some of the best music you can wrap your ears around – regardless of genre and era!
The vocal trio know as the Heptones comprised of Leroy Sibbles, Barry Llewellyn and Earl Morgan, were beyond a doubt one of the best rocksteady and reggae harmony groups that Jamaica ever produced. After a brief stint with Ken Lack’s Caltone label, they started recording a string of hits when they went to work for Coxsone at Studio One in 1966 right at dawn of the rocksteady era. They left Studio One in 1971 and went on to record for Joe Gibbs, Harry J, Augustus Pablo, Harry Mudie, Geoffrey Chung, Phill Pratt, Rupie Edwards and last but not least Lee “Scratch” Perry. Eventually Sibbles left the group for a solo career and the Heptones regrouped adding Naggo Morris as his replacement with minor success.
I present, for your listening pleasure, a mix of Heptones tracks from various eras and producers, in no particular order. Hopefully you’ll hear some tunes you know and if you’re unfamiliar with this talented group perhaps this mix will inspire you to discover more. Give ‘em a listen!
Here is what you're gonna hear...
The first track is called "Ting A Ling" and comes from the album of the same name produced by Coxsone Dodd and of course released on the Studio One label in 1970. Next we have the song "Road Of Life" produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry and taken from the 1977 album called Party Time on the Island Records label. Third, we've got "Fatty Fatty" from the Dodd produced various artists album called Natural Reggae released on Studio One in 1969. "Sufferer's Time" also from Party Time is next in the mix. The Augustus Pablo produced track called "Love Won't Come Easy" taken from the 1979 Greensleeves 12" is next followed by a nice melodica tinged dub called "Rockers Dub" courtesy of the man Mr. Pablo - a nice heavy Rockers tune! Back to Coxsone again with the song "Haven't You Any Fight Left," swiped from the Ting A Ling LP. "Make Up Your Mind" is the eighth track inside the mix borrowed from the excellent but nowhere near complete Lee Perry box set Arkology. Sticking with another Perry production is the tune "Warden" from the fantastic CD called Unreleased Night Food And Rare Black Ark Sessions originally recorded circa 1976-1977 and finally released on the Auralux label in 2005. "Warden Dub" immediately follows this track. One of the best known Heptones tracks is next, a little tune called "Country Boy" from the Harry J produced LP called Cool Rasta released on Trojan Records in 1976. This version of the song is different than the Island Night Food release... it doesn't have the bluesy guitar soloing at the top but it's relatively the same. "Good Life" off another Greensleeves 12", also from 1979 but this time produced by Joseph "Hoo" Kim - another nice song but I'm kinda biased. I've always admired and respected the quality music Greensleeves made available on 12" single from the late 70's all the way through the "rub-a-dub" of the early 80's, but I digress. From the Heartbeat release called Sea Of Love is another Coxsone classic called "Be A Man." Another Coxsone tune called "Nine Pound" comes at you next from the aforementioned Ting A Ling. Back to the Black Ark for "Crying Over You" from the Pressure Sounds various artists CD called Produced And Directed By The Upsetter. Jumping right back to Studio One we've got "I Shall Be Released" from Sea Of Love - an absolute classic tune! A real uplifting tune called "Sweet Talkin'" lifted from the album Night Food is rounding out near the bottom of the playlist. "Give Me The Right" from the 1982 self produced Heptones LP called On The Run is the eighteenth track in the mix. We follow that one up with another tune from the same LP called "Work And No Pay." Finally the last track presented for your listening pleasure is called "Choice Of Colours" heisted from the Studio One various artists release from 1971 called Reggaematic Sounds. Enjoy!