Kingstonians ‘Sufferer’ [Expanded Edition] (Doctor Bird/Cherry Red) 5/5

‘Boss’ reggae does not come in more concentrated or purer form than this and it is one of the finest ever examples of early reggae, and a definitive slice of Jamaican harmony music, post-rock steady. Interestingly the original trio had various attempts at establishing themselves and all failed miserably, including with Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and with Sonia Pottinger, a timely reminder to young aspiring musicians. However, the fortunes of the band were utterly transformed when they rebranded themselves the Kingstonians, and this is where the musical story on this CD begins. Sadly, their first national hit on the Jay label, ‘Winey Winey’, is not included here, but thankfully the seminal ‘Sufferer’ is and it virtually serves as a social chronicle of the downtrodden in Kingston’s ghettos. The rest is almost as strong and includes the wonderful ‘Singer man’, ‘Winey, Winey (reggae)’ and the instrumental Crystalites number ‘Easy Ride’. Where this new re-issue becomes essential is with the generous helping of bonus numbers, and this amounts to an extra album of the dynamite Crystalites rhythm section as well as the extremely rare Kingstonians’ ‘Right From Wrong’, that was not originally released in any format in the UK until now, or the album only ‘Kiss a Little Finger’.

Lead singer, Jackie Bernard, would go on to record in his own right. Possibly, the Kingstonians were too associated with a specific era and ultimately this counted against them post-1971 when times were a changing in the world of reggae and the roots era seemingly left them behind. It is a pity that no up and coming roots producer acknowledged their talent and gave them a gentle update, as was the case for example with the Heptones, or the Gladiators who are primarily associated with the roots era. As it is, this superb CD offers a stunning overview of the group at their peak, and even seasoned listeners will want to pick up all the extras which are hard to find in their original Jamaican 45s.

Tim Stenhouse