Derrick Harriott & The Crystalites ‘Psychedelic Train’ Expanded CD (Doctor Bird) 5/5

With a striking orange and pink front cover, this album stands out from the rest and the music within is just as stunning. Backed by one of the tightest of Kingston’s conglomerate of musicians and with the harmonies of group The Chosen Few, this wonderful recording serves as a de facto greatest hits package and has, to boot, another thirteen choice cuts that expand the original album to almost seventy-five minutes, and there is no filler. From the original album that surfaced in 1970 on Trojan records, this music stylistically straddles the rock steady and early reggae era, with the nascent Motown sound and the creative catalogue of composers re-interpreted for a reggae audience. The psychedelic era of Norman Whitfield productions bears heavily on the songs selected here, with the classic ‘Message from a black man’, featuring Harriott’s trademark falsetto vocals, as does the unusual time signature on the intro to ‘Slave’, which is delivered at a surprisingly slow tempo. Harriott is in his absolute prime on the tragic side of romantic material such as ‘The loser’, and ‘Riding for a fall’. Instrumentals were a speciality of The Crystalites and the title track is one such example on ‘Psychedelic Train Part One’, which the extra tracks continues with ‘Psychedelic Train Chapter Three’, though no indication of what happened to chapter two. The high standard of vocals is maintained on the supplementary songs with especially fine 45s included such as ‘Do I worry’ and ‘Solomon’. Motown again was fertile terrain for Harriott to cover and his reading of Smokey Robinson’s ‘You really got a hold on me’, compares favourably with the original. As befitting the Doctor Bird series thus far, exemplary graphical illustrations with a showcasing of the Crystal 45s, Derrick Harriott’s own Jamaican label, the Trojan and Pama UK album releases, flyers of the era when Harriott and band toured, and a four pages crammed with detailed notes on the singer and a fascinating insight into how the music fitted into the UK reggae scene of the time by reggae archivist and aficionado Laurence Cane-Honeysett.

Tim Stenhouse