Various ‘Gay Feet’ Expanded CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

This earlier Sonia Pottinger compilation production dates from 1965, only came out originally on limited vinyl pressings and as such rapidly became a collector’s item. It is in fact an album that truly captures the atmosphere of fun that permeated the ska era, with Jamaican political independence a then recent phenomenon, and with greater emphasis place here on the instrumental side of the genre which was always going to be its forte. The album is really a showcase for trumpeter and big band leader Baba Brooks who is at the forefront of this compilation of talented musicians and the original twelve tracks are full of classy and fun-themed instrumentals. These include the leisurely ska beat with catchy horn riffs of ‘Fabergé’, or the horse hoof sound effects that accompany ‘Mosquito Jump Up’, or even more horse galloping over a Latin piano vamp to ‘El Manicero (aka ‘The Peanut Vendor’) on the evocatively title ‘Bugle Boy’, with Brooks soloing to his heart’s content. In between, there are some lovely vocal harmonies from The Techniques on the stomping ska of ‘Heartaches’, or on the mid-temp attempt at US soul on ‘What Can Love Do’, probably influenced in large part by listening to both The Impressions and The Temptations. Roy Richards offers up a harmonica solo with Baba Brooks and the band on ‘Contact’ (a precursor possibly to Augustus Pablo and his Far East melodica sound?) over a truly rocking ska riddim beat.

As per usual with the Doctor Bird series thus far, loving attention to detail with facsimiles of front and back covers of the original album, and featuring within informative sleeve notes courtesy of Echos and Record Collector reggae aficionado, Mike Atherton. This is no less than required listening as well as reading for anyone who wishes to discover in greater depth the instrumental side of Jamaican popular music. Terrific graphical illustrations include a regal looking Brooks on a black and white photo with trumpet in hand, a classic photo of the then teenage The Techniques in a promotional picture and plenty of those original Jamaican Gay Feet and UK Doctor Bird 45 labels. This is very much an earlier accompaniment to the aforementioned Sonia Pottinger compilation.

Tim Stenhouse