Various ‘Hot Shots of Reggae’ CD (Doctor Bird) 4/5

An interesting various artists album that was both released in Jamaica under the Beverly’s imprint label under Leslie Kong and later in the UK on Trojan. This covers the early reggae period around 1969/1970, though still with those glorious vocal harmonies that were a hallmark of the slightly earlier rock steady era. A stellar line up of musicians, this is probably where longtime reggae fans who were teenagers in the early 1970’s first heard, ‘Monkey man’, by Toots and the Maytals, a definitive slice of that group’s history. Ken Boothe was establishing himself and, ‘Freedom street’, was the title track of an album that he cut with Kong. First coming to prominence at Studio One, the Gaylads cut a whole album for Beverely’s and are represented by two excellent songs here, ‘There’s a fire’, and, ‘This time I won’t hurt you’. A young Delroy Wilson was just starting to emerge as a major new talent and that is fully justified on, ‘Show me the way’. Another killer harmony comes from the Melodians in, ‘Sweet sensation’. Generous bonus cuts amount to a de facto second compilation for free and include the little know and hard to find side, ‘(Heavy load) Don’t get worry’ by Carl Dawkins, some scintillating group harmonies from the Clarendonians on, ‘Lick it back’, and the Kingstonians on, ‘I’ll need you tomorrow’. As ever, beautifully illustrated accompaniment, with a plethora of 45 labels from both Beverly and Trojan imprints, and with plenty of black and white photos and album covers. The story is expertly told by reggae aficionado Laurence Cane-Honeysett.

Tim Stenhouse