To celebrate Sam Cooke’s birthday on Jan 22nd, the street performing act I’m a part of (Mr. E & MLE), played a little set outside where The Harlem Square Club stood in Overtown. Now you already know about that infamous Cooke gig and album, One Night Stand, since you follow this blog and read that post a few weeks ago, so here’s an anecdote from our gig that ties into today’s featured release. While we were setting up to play, a man stopped to ask what we were doing. Mr. E told him we were gonna pay homage to Sam Cooke and sing some soul music. The man replied “I only want to hear reggae.” “Well,” Mr. E replied, “a lot of reggae is heavily influenced by American soul music.” The man was intrigued as Mr. E rattled off names of reggae artists like the musical dictionary he is. And it’s true – reggae and soul are inextricably tied, both stylistically, and both as sociopolitical commentary on the times and places they originated in. Today, Soul Jazz Records’ second volume of influential Rocksteady tunes drops, and much like the American soul music of the 60’s, the songs’ messages are relevant now more than ever. -MLE
Various – Studio One Rocksteady Vol. 2 2LP
Listen: Various clips
“Soul Jazz Records’ new journey into the mighty vaults of Clement Dodd’s Studio One steps once more into the fertile musical environment of Jamaican music in the late 1960s and early 1970s, from the sweet harmony vocals of seminal 1960s Rocksteady right up to the nascent birth of Reggae and Roots music at the start of the 1970s.
Sleevenotes to this album are by Steve Barrow, author of ‘Rough Guide to Reggae’ as well as Soul Jazz Records’ own ‘Reggae Soundsystem Cover Art’ books.
While Ska at the start of the 1960s had taken American rhythm and blues as its main influence, Rocksteady focused on the emergence of American Soul music – with Jamaican vocal harmony groups such as The Gaylads, John Holt & The Paragons, Carlton & The Shoes showing a particular fascination with the close harmonies of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions and other US soul acts. Here The Heptones even feature with a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released’.
The influence of Soul music on Jamaican rock steady and reggae is almost palpable, so much so that one wonders how much more successful singers like Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Slim Smith and John Holt would have been had they been born in Chicago, Detroit or Memphis
Artists such as Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson and Owen Gray defined the era – a slowed down beat as Jamaican political and social heat slowly increased as the 1960s progressed into the start of the 1970s – and the music evolved further from rock steady into roots reggae.
Wicked tunes!” -Soul Jazz
Body and soul – new releases, reissues & restocks…