Airto ‘Fingers’ + Airto/Deodato ‘In Concert’ SACD (Vocalion) 4/5

This pairing of mid-1970s CTI productions by Creed Taylor places the emphasis firmly on Brazilian jazz, with Moreira featured on both recordings and in his prime. In fact, by the early 1970s Airto Moreira had rapidly become one of the most in-demand session percussionists, participating on such memorable albums as Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’, the self-titled Weather Report debut, and not forgetting Chick Corea and Return to Forever, for whom both ‘La Fiesta’ and ‘Spain’ remain staples of the Latin-jazz songbook. The slightly earlier outing, ‘Fingers’ (1973), is the stronger and grittier of the two albums, with a stellar cast that included vocalist and life partner of Moreira, Flora Purim, Hugo Fattoruso on keyboards (with brother Jorge on drums and vocals) with David Amaro on guitar. Pride of place goes to the epic rendition of what would become a regular number on the Moreira live performances, ‘Tombo in 7/4’, which would later on a Warners album morph into ‘Celebration Suite’. Equally strong is the Latin jazz instrumental, ‘Romance of Death’, while the album as a whole comes across as a hybrid of the then in-vogue Santana Latin rock sound. Indeed, around the same time, both Purim and Moreira would record with Santana on the excellent ‘Borboletta’ (1974).

While Airto was progressing rapidly as a leader, fellow Brazilian keyboardist and arranger Eumir Deodato had scored a major pop hit with the adaptation of a western classical piece by Richard Strauss, ‘Also Sprach Zorathustra’ (2001). The live concert from which this album is taken was recorded partly at the Felt Forum of the Madison Square Garden, New York, and edited from a wider live tour in 1973. It is a mixed affair with symphonic lushness sometimes overriding the acoustic Brazilian folk elements. Best of all is, ‘Paraná’, which features acoustic guitar and the voice of Airto. An unlisted wordless female vocalist (almost certainly Flora Purim again) adds some subtle layered texture to proceedings. Gentle keyboard musings by the leader are in the ascendant on ‘Spirit Of Summer’, even with orchestral strings while it is the sound of the Afro-Brazilian berimbau that takes centre stage on ‘O Galho da Roseira’ (The branches of the rose tree), with wordless vocals supplied this time by Airto himself. On the more commercial side, a cover of Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’, is accompanied by an impressive big band section that includes Garnett Brown on trombone and Scot Joe Temperley on baritone saxophone. The line up differs markedly from ‘Fingers’, with John Tropea adding more contemporary electric guitar, while Rubens Bassini accompanies Airto on percussion. Well worth investigating for ‘Fingers’ alone, even long-term fans cannot fail to be warmed by the super audio CD format that Vocalion prides itself on.

Tim Stenhouse

Gary McFarland ‘The In Sound’ / ‘Soft Samba’ CD (ACE) 4/5

Composer, conductor, arranger and vibraphonist extraordinaire, Gary McFarland had a singular vision of music that was very much in tune with the major innovations in pop music in the 1960s and adapted to this to the idiom of jazz, with various other elements incorporated including Brazilian music and western classical. This well-rounded CD captures the mood of his mid-1960s Verve period and is a fine example of what he was capable of, surrounded by some of the most gifted of studio session musicians, and these include among others Kenny Burrell, Richard Davis, Willie Bobo and Candido Camero, Grady Tate and Jimmy Cleveland. Born in Los Angeles in 1933,McFarland was, by 1965, a fully matured musician who worked closely with other musicians on the Impulse and Verve labels. On the former, where he started to record, he struck up a personal friendship and collaborative partnership with guitarist Gabor Szabo, and albums such as ‘Gypsy 66’ and his own, ‘Simpatico’, brought him wider attention and a contract with Verve. This extended over six albums.

Both albums follow a similar trajectory of covers of popular songs of the day in instrumental coupled with some choice original material. The first of these, ‘The In Sound’, is, to these ears, the stronger of the two with meatier soloing and some memorable self-compositions, most notably, ‘Fried bananas’ and the evocative, ‘Hills of Verdugo’. New emerging talents including the songwriter duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and, ‘Here I Am’, is a relatively early cover of one such song. The Rolling Stones were only just beginning to make inroads into the American market, but McFarland was hip to their sound and, ‘(I can’t get no) Satisfaction’, is a lovely interpretation and ends the album on a high.

The second album, ‘Soft samba’, which actually came out a year previous, is strongly influenced by the then hit making machine of the Lennon and McCartney songbook and that is most certainly reflected in the number of their songs reworked here. The more reflective, ‘And I Love Her’, works best and the catchy, ‘She Loves You’, is instantly recognisable. Other jazz musicians went into more depth on their covers, such as Grant Green whose, ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, is a superior version, helped in no small part by the efforts of left-field Hammond organist, Larry Young. Actually, the strongest covers lie elsewhere with, ‘From Russia With Love’, illustrating that McFarland was in tune with other composers. The only pity is that the world of cinema did not have the foresight to recognise McFarland as a gifted composer whose music was ideally transferable to the wide-screen. That recognition alone might just have prolonged the musician’s life a little longer. Gary McFarland was intuitive enough to spot a good tune ripe for reworking and in, ‘The Good Life’, he had the good fortune to identify a song that would become over time a jazz standard, with arguably the best interpretation of all coming from singer Betty Carter.

An authoritative twenty page booklet complete with facsimile front and cover sleeves and a plethora of historical background information comes courtesy of Douglas Payne who is a fountain of knowledge on the musician in that he is at once the guardian of the Gary McFarland archive (dougpayne.com) as well as a contributor to a documentary film on the musician, ‘This is Gary McFarland’. An ideal follow-up to this pairing would be the 1968 album on Verve, ‘Scorpio and other Signs’, which ended his six album tenure at the label. McFarland subsequently set up and co-founded his own record label, Skye records, along with Szabo and fellow vibraphonist, Cal Tjader, collaborating directly with the latter on, ‘Solar Heat’. Sadly, Gary McFarland was to pass away just three years later in 1971, aged just thirty-eight. The music is well worthy of a retrospective examination.

Tim Stenhouse

Various ‘Soul of Jamaica’ / ‘Here Comes the Duke’ 2CD (Doctor Bird) 5/5

As the fiftieth anniversary of Trojan reaches its zenith, and coinciding with the Notting Hill Carnival celebration, comes this wonderful double bill re-issue that groups together two Treasure Isle produced compilations that saw the light of day in the UK via Trojan, dating from 1968, and thus fifty years old this year just like Trojan records. The evocative cover of the first album is matched by the quality of the music, and hearing once again these sides, the music sounds as fresh as ever, with some of the instrumentals remarkably up-to-date for the period. Of the vocal selections, Joya Landis cut a superb 45 in ‘Angel Of The Morning’, while there is a definite storytelling side to her other contribution, ‘Out The Light’. One of Jamaica’s greatest ever male vocalists, Alton Ellis, is featured here and he recorded for both Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, and Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. Although titled as Tommy McCook and The Supersonics (the backing band), ‘Ride Mi Donkey’ does feature a lead vocalist, and is a strong contender for the most engaging vocal on the original vinyl compilation. Phyllis Dillon is deserving of her very own compilation (due out in the near future), but here contributes the terrific calypso-tinged ‘Long Time’, as well as ‘Love Letters’.

To the original twelve numbers, an additional fourteen are added on the CD, and that applies equally to the second compilation on the second CD. For the first CD, fine examples of vocal harmony groups such as ‘Travelling Man’ by The Techniques and ‘Woman Go Home’ by The Jamaicans, personify the era. This writer is especially fond of the killer instrumental groove of, ‘The World Needs Love’, by Tommy McCook & The Supersonics, and that same band cook up a storm on ‘Heatwave’.

The second album, ‘Here Comes The Duke’, repeats the formula, with one of the earliest examples of The Gladiators craftsmanship in, ‘Sweet Soul Music’, while The Techniques return for ‘I’m In The Mood For Love’. The lesser known, yet much-loved, Soul Lads, offer an immortal song in ‘I’m Yours Forever’. Of the plethora of extras, a young John Holt impresses on ‘Tonight’, while Tommy McCook and The Supersonics interpret ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’, as only they know how.

As one might expect from the continuing Doctor Bird re-issue series, the highly informative booklet features lavish imagery with original colour album covers, numerous Treasure Isle and Trojan 45s, as well as black and white photos of the musicians in their early prime. Those photos happen also to include in studio colour photo of Tommy McCook. The fearsome character of Duke Reid with pistol in its holster is a reminder that the era had its own trials and tribulations, but only a foolhardy individual would wish to lock horns with the Duke! An exemplary showcase of Jamaican popular music as it evolved.

Tim Stenhouse

David Ferris Septet plus Maria Väli ‘Alphabets’ CD (Private Press) 4/5

Alphabets is an intriguing album. It’s the debut release from Birmingham based pianist and composer David Ferris. Featuring some of the most exciting young musicians in the Midlands, Ferris has used poetry, sung by Estonian vocalist Maria Väli, to accompany his compositions. Whether the music was inspired by the poetry, or added as part of the writing I’m not sure, but in general it works very well indeed.

Pianist Ferris is joined on this recording by Hugh Pascall on trumpet, Richard Foote on trombone, Chris Young on alto and soprano saxophones, Vittorio Mura on tenor and baritone, Nick Jurd on bass and Euan Palmer on drums.

This is a septet with a big sound. The arrangements are bold and strong, with a thick, deep brass sound coursing its way through most of the tunes. The four-horn frontline sparkles with the composer’s pulsating arrangements, with a freshness that heralds a serious composer-in-the-making.

Originally formed in 2016, the band’s initial influences ranged from Fred Hersch to John Scofield to Wayne Shorter. However, with the addition of vocals and lyrics, this album also draws on songwriters ranging from Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen, to Paul Simon and Donald Fagen.

The lyrics used to accompany Ferris’ music are based largely on the work of British poets Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, WB Yeats and WH Auden. Whilst the music sits well with the lyrics, there are times where I felt a different voice could have been used more effectively to sing some of the lyrics. Maria Väli’s crystalline voice is in some ways the perfect foil for the powerful brass lines and rich melodies, but a deeper, more resonant voice might have worked better on some of the pieces.

Ferris manages to combine orchestrated drama with expressive improvisation on a grand scale. There are some simply fabulous group moments along with some exemplary soloing. His arrangements are top-drawer, with a seemingly effortless knack of surprising the listener with music that delivers excitement and satisfaction throughout the entire recording, making for a very impressive debut.

Physical CD only for this release through his website here.

Mike Gates

Omer Avital ‘Qantar’ CD/DIG (Zamzama) 4/5

Israeli-born bass genius, Omer Avital, is back with an astounding new release, Qantar, which is bursting with vibrant energy.
The album is a collection of nine tracks, all penned by Avital himself. The quintet is a real powerhouse composed of young Israeli jazz musicians who have already earned their recognition on the international jazz scene. Their youthful spark and hankering for exploration is a perfect match to Avital’s vitality.

The album is filled to the brim with feet-tapping, supercharged action. It engages the listeners as it keeps pushing and probing, offering different types of grooves that are creative and colourful. This is definitely a tight-knit quintet where Omer Avital acts as a bedrock upon which the musicians can weave in and out of the melodies, taking them further and merging into a soaring and audacious manner.
Each of the band members offers the listeners snapshots of their musical personality and instrumental skills. Whether it is Asaf Yuria’s meteoric playing, Ofri Nehemya’s fiery chops, Eden Ladin’s sustained gracefulness or Avital’s expressive bass, they all effortlessly gel together to enliven the album with a playful sense of rhythm.

The album kicks in with ‘One Man’s Light is Another Man’s Night’, which gives the listeners a good indication of what’s to be expected on the album and its general vibe. The listeners right away know this is, once again, not going to be an ordinary album — but then, it never is with Omer Avital. Abound in creativity and the musicians’ interjections take the energy to another level.

The album is full of interesting moments — ‘Hamina’ with its Eastern undertone, the spunky, Head-bopping ‘Bambolero’, the more laid-back ‘Turkish Coffee Blue’ or ‘Cool Song’, a nicely layered piece and one of my favourite tracks on the album, because of the bass solo which cajoles the piano into playing before the whole piece is invigorated by the sax.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ is an elegant tune. I feel it is much more controlled than any of the other tracks, as if the emotions could burst at any moment, but where the band chooses to keep it almost soothing, giving the piece depth and tension.
Ladin’s introduction on ‘Immigration’ is touchingly pure. I like how it picks up and morphs into a pulsing, boldly smart piece, backed up by the sax’s rant. This, to me, is real jazz quality.
Equally beautiful is ‘Daber Elay Africa’. The piano and sax’s short consecutive solos add texture and substance to the repetitive theme.
Avital takes us on a final frenzied ride on the closing track, ‘Know What I Mean?!’. This is an uptempo romp, in which each short solo is a delight and keeps the momentum going till the last note, leaving the listeners wanting for more.

Avital is truly a passionate artist. His compositions are catchy and intense with an undeniable spirit of joy and adventure. This is an explosive album, in the positive sense, and a highly enjoyable one.

Nathalie Freson

Tony Kofi and The Organisation ‘Point Blank’ CD (The Last Music Company) 4/5

The origins of The Organisation go back over a decade now, growing initially from guitarist Simon Fernsby’s memorable Manhattan Project sessions, which were a staple of jazz in South London throughout the 2000’s. Drummer Pete Cater was an early recruit and the band went through several incarnations, finally coming into its own with the addition of organist Pete Whittaker as they went on to hone a no-nonsense, hard-hitting style as a house rhythm section for multiple venues and festivals.

Recorded in 2017 by Paul Riley, the retro sound of Point Blank harks back to the sound and feel of the 70’s. “I don’t think I set out to create a retro concept” says saxophonist Kofi, “But it’s mostly what I hear in my head and also because I grew up in the 1970’s, the music of that era which I love is deeply rooted within my musical ear.”

The quartet on this recording; Tony Kofi on baritone sax, Pete Whittaker on organ, Pete Cater on drums and Simon Fernsby on guitar, combine the bluesy-soul-jazz side of the Hammond cannon, with their knowledge of the more modern post-bop side of the repertoire, all of which works very well with Kofi’s intuitive baritone sax playing.

The album’s title “Point Blank” was inspired by John Boorman’s classic 1967 movie of the same name, which starred Lee Marvin in one of his most memorable screen roles. And if the movie ever gets remade, Point Blank the album would make an apt soundtrack.

This ten track album features tunes by McCoy Tyner, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Pat Martino, Wes Montgomery, Woody Shaw, Horace Silver, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Gentry, Henry Mancini, Pepper Adams and Duke Pearson. The deep grooves from Whittaker’s thick, bluesy keys are offset in style by Kofi’s growling, sparkling baritone playing. Fernsby’s guitar playing is skilful and supportive, whilst Cater’s drumming prowess keeps the whole thing ticking over very nicely indeed. It’s fun, it’s funky and it’s full of flavour. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but a mighty fine musical romp nonetheless.

It’s easy to hear why this band sound great in a live setting, and there’s plenty of UK dates coming up do so. Go see them soon while you have the chance:

01.09.2018 Wall2Wall Jazz Festival, Abergavenny
07.09.2018 Vortex Jazz Club, London
14.09.2018 The Bear Club, Luton
06.10.2018 Toulouse Lautrec, London
20.10.2018 Jazzlive @ the Crypt, London
21.10.2018 The Oval Tavern, Croydon
03.11.2018 Cafè Posk, London
09.11.2018 Sheffield Jazz
15.11.2018 Cambridge Jazz Club

Mike Gates

Women in Jazz

Barbican Music Library in central London will host an exhibition celebrating ‘Women in Jazz’ from 16 October to 31 December 2018, drawing on the rich resources of the National Jazz Archive and celebrating the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Archive.
This free exhibition will present a musical and social survey of the rich contribution women have made to jazz over the last 100 years and of the talented upcoming generation who herald an exciting new era. It will focus on women instrumentalists, and feature photos, posters, journals, video and memorabilia from the Archive.
National Jazz Archive chair Paul Kaufman said: “Singers such as Ella, Billie, Nina and Cleo are household names, but many star women players and pioneers have been sadly neglected and deserve to be rediscovered. So the exhibition will pay particular attention to instrumentalists, such as Valaida Snow, Marian McPartland, Kathy Stobart and Deirdre Cartwright. The Archive is as much about the future as it is about the past, so it is important to us that the current crop of trail-blazing female artists is also featured.”
Richard Jones (Music Librarian, Barbican Music Library) said: “I’m delighted to welcome the National Jazz Archive to the Barbican again – this exhibition will be the third that the Archive has presented here. I’m sure it will be of great interest, not only to jazz enthusiasts, but also to people interested in exploring the changing role of women in the arts.”

‘Women in Jazz’ responds to the Barbican’s 2018 cross-arts season The Art of Change, which explores how artists respond to, reflect and potentially effect change in the social and political landscape, with the exhibition celebrating the impact women have had on the genre’s musical development and social influence.

Barbican Music Library is on Level 2, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS. It is within walking distance of a number of London Underground stations, the closest being Barbican, St Paul’s and Moorgate. The nearest train stations are Liverpool Street and Farringdon. Bus route 153 runs directly past the Barbican. Free bicycle spaces and paid car parking spaces are available.

Opening times are: Monday and Wednesday 9.30am–5.30pm, Tuesday and Thursday 9.30am–7.30pm, Friday 9.30am–2pm, and Saturday 9.30am–4pm.

For more details, visit www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/barbicanlibrary, email barbicanmusic@cityoflondon.gov.uk, phone 02076380672, Facebook http://on.fb.me/barblib, or Twitter @BarbicanMusic

Samuel Martinelli ‘Crossing Paths’ CD (Private Press) 5/5

Martinelli’s debut recording with the leader at the drums, Marcus McLaurine on bass, Tomoko Ohno on piano and the only name that I recognise here, Claudio Roditi on trumpet and flugelhorn. The repertoire consists of eight pieces, six of which are composed by Martinelli. The remaining pieces will be very familiar to seasoned jazz listeners, Sonny Rollins’ ‘St Thomas’ and Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Birks’ Works’. Martinelli is from Brazil but now lives in New York and has been generating a lot on interest in both the jazz and Brazilian worlds. Whilst his accompanists (other than Roditi) may be lesser known names, they all have impressive jazz pedigree, between them having worked with a veritable who’s who of the jazz world. Each of these musicians are equally adept at performing jazz and Brazilian music. ‘Crossing Paths’ is, however, contemporary straight-ahead jazz.

Ever since the evening of November 21st 1962 when Antônio Carlos Jobim, Sérgio Mendez, Oscar Castro-Neves and others introduced bossa nova to America at the landmark Carnegie Hall concert, Brazilian music has become a part of American music, working its way into the fabric of jazz. This album continues that tradition showcasing the relationship between these two enduring musical genres.

The album opens with ‘Samba Echoes’, ushered in by the leader’s delicate percussion work. When the trumpet enters, one is immediately reminded of the more exotic work of Dizzy Gillespie. As the piece progresses the trumpeter emphatically makes his own mark on the music. This is exciting music, full of interest. ‘Talking about Spring’ is an up-beat medium swing tune and very easy on the ears.
The trumpeter introduces ‘Bob’s Blues’ and his muted trumpet work here again recalls the spirit of Gillespie. As the piece progresses, I’m reminded of another fine trumpeter, Miles Davis. Am I alone in thinking that the tune has more than a passing affinity with Davis’s ‘All Blues’? There’s a fine bass feature and the leader’s subtle brush work is a joy to behold. The pianist displays a humorous musicality in her solo feature to round out a fine performance.
‘St Thomas’ gets an unfamiliar treatment with the theme statement emerging played on arco bass. Minus its original calypso rhythm, it becomes a meditation on the island which shares its name. The pianist shines on this piece.
‘A Gift for You’ brings the shadow of Miles Davis to the fore again and Roditi acquits himself in fine style, as does the pianist once again.
I’ve already alluded to the Gillespie influence and this is unavoidable on ‘Birk’s Works’. Here we have another feature for the bassist in addition to Roditi.
‘Whispering Loud’ is a bebop inspired performance and everyone is once more playing at the peak of their powers.
The set ends as it began with the drummer ushering in ‘Song for Carina’, setting up a tango tempo. Oddly, I’m reminded of yet another late trumpet master here. It seems to me that the ghost of Kenny Wheeler is not far away.

This is a very auspicious debut recording and I’m left wondering what Martinelli’s next move will be.

Alan Musson

Antonio Adolfo ‘Encontros – Orquestra Atlantica’ CD (AAM Music) 4/5

Antonio Adolfo is a new name to me, although my colleagues here at UK Vibe have reviewed several of his albums in these columns over the past few years, so clearly not a new name on the jazz scene. Throughout a 40 year career, he has been busy as a pianist, composer and arranger. His home is in Rio de Janeiro and one of his better-known teachers was none other than Eumir Deodato. During his career to date, Adolfo has worked with such major artists as Flora Purim, Elis Regina and Milton Nascimento. He has more than 25 albums to his credit as leader, artfully combining the best of the Brazilian rhythmic style with a jazz sensibility. Until now, small groups have been Adolfo’s preferred method of working which showcase his music and his solo abilities. However, he has long-held a dream to record an album with a larger ensemble. This album is the realization of that dream.

The result is a new partnership with Orquestra Atlantica, a Brazilian jazz orchestra founded in 2012. Together they perform nine of Adolfo’s compositions plus the Miles Davis classic, ‘Milestones’. The result is an exciting mixture of big band sounds and Samba, Bossa Nova, Baião, Frevo, and the Afoxê to create memorable and infectious music.

The album opens in explosive fashion with ‘Partido Samba-Funk’ – a heady mix of Samba and Brazilian funk. Colourful percussion and powerful horn riffs just add to the excitement of the piece. This is followed with the strong forward motion of the melodic, ‘Pentatonica’, which also features some fine vocal work.
‘Atlantica’ was especially written for this band and is a warm medium-tempo ballad. The concise bass, flute and piano solos are the icing on this musical delicacy. We are on familiar territory with ‘Milestones’ where bebop meets frevo in an exhilarating exchange. The ensemble work by the horns is a highlight of the piece as is the accordion solo. ‘Saudade’ alternates between joyousness and melancholia with flugelhorn featured, seeming highly appropriate. The gentle form of ‘Delicada Jazz Waltz’ follows and as the title suggests, is a delicate melody featuring Adolpho and more from the accordion.

The album concludes with what is apparently Adolpho’s most popular tune, ‘Sa Marina’. This song dates back to 1967 and was released internationally as ‘Pretty World’ with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and has been recorded by more than 200 artists. This is a fine way in which to conclude an album. If you like the music of the big bands, Brazilian music or jazz you are sure to find something to interest you here. This is truly a life-affirming album and would make ideal listening on those long winter evenings to come.

Alan Musson

Desmond Dekker and the Aces ‘Action!’ / ‘Intensified’ Expanded 2CD (Doctor Bird) 5/5

Singer Desmond Dekker occupies a special place in the heart of UK reggae cognoscenti, largely due to his chart success in the late 1960s and early-mid 1970s. However, that early period in his career when Jamaican popular music morphed into rock steady and then early reggae had hitherto been hard to find, certainly in original vinyl format, and this re-issue brings together some of the classic early period material, supplemented by a plethora of 45s and alternative takes, which simply put makes this an essential purchase. The complete album of ‘Action!’ from 1966 captures Dekker in fine form from the outset, with the gentle paced, ‘Don’t Believe Me’, a stunning example of the rock steady genre with tight vocal harmonies and that Beverly’s rhythm section composed of Kingston’s finest session musicians, arranged by Leslie Kong. The guitar motif on ‘Unity’ leads into an anthemic number, and historically important in its message of calling upon unity in the post-independence era of Jamaica as a fully fledged nation now politically separate from the United Kingdom. Naturally, the compelling ‘007’ has over the decades acquired legendary status as the hit single off the album, and its hook has not diminished in force. Often it is the seeming simplicity of the lyrics that comes across, but there is a real skill in condensing a message down to its bare essence as illustrated on ‘It Pays’, with beautifully executed harmonies. That optimistic tone that is omnipresent on the album is demonstrated further by the uplifting, ‘Young Generation’, while humour is not far from the surface on, ‘Mother Long Tongue’. That album contains yet another killer riff on, ‘Sabotage’, which is the writer’s favourite number.

By the release of the second album, ‘Intensified’, Jamaican music was evolving and one hears a more pronounced tempo on the early reggae of, ‘Ah It Mek’, or on the uptempo beat of ‘Too Much Too Soon’. While entirely different from the later Two-Tone song, one wonders whether The Specials might have been inspired to write a similar sounding title. Back in a rock steady vein, ‘Sweet Music’, is a celebration of those knock out vocal harmonies, with Dekker at his peak. However, the influence of US soul on Jamaican singers should never be underestimated and there is a clear nod to what was happening Stateside on ‘My Lonely World (to sir with love)’. The concept of the ‘rude boy’ in the toughest areas of Kingston became a phenomenon ripe for song and Dekker was not behind with times in penning ‘Rude Boy Train’. Both CDs contain thirteen extra tracks that boost the listening enjoyment immeasurably, and serve as a de facto ‘Best of’ from the period between 1966 and 1968. Authoritative sleeve notes come courtesy of Laurence Cane-Honeysett who has been an unwavering supporter of reggae throughout the years. Graphical illustrations are sumptuous from the outer original album sleeves to the UK flyers and with black and white photos of Dekker and the band in live performance, plus the usual excellence in 45 label covers that adds just the right touch of authenticity. A fine re-issue that fills in a vital part of the Desmond Dekker musical jigsaw.

Tim Stenhouse