John Holt

1000 Volts of Holt

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One really doesn't know what to make of a scene whose greatest composers often had their biggest hits covering other peoples' songs. But that was the state of the reggae scene in the first half of the '70s. Island-fying pop hits has a long tradition in Jamaica, dating to the music industry's earliest days, but in the '70s Britain was, if anything, even keener than Jamaica itself on the concept. John Holt, for one, was happy to give the people what they wanted, and while his own compositions still hit, it was the covers that were the smashes. Which explains 1974's Harry Mudie produced Time Is the Master, an album dedicated entirely to covers. The set so impressed Trojan that the label immediately signed Holt and paired him with pop producer Tony Ashfield, with the resultant 1000 Volts of Holt hitting the shops before the year was out. This reissue further fluffs up the set by interspersing six bonus numbers among the original tracks, five of which are inexplicably drawn from 1000 Volts' equally popular follow-up 2000 Volts of Holt. The lavish backings for the album were all recorded at Dynamic Studio in Jamaica, the gentle reggae arrangements illuminated by elegant keyboards and exquisite guitar work, and it was in that unadulterated form that Islanders received the album. Ashfield worked his magic for British fans, lacing the numbers with lush, symphonic overdubs that add further refinement to an already sparkling set. 1000 Volts promptly spawned Holt's sole British hit, "Help Me Make It Through the Night," which soared to number six in the U.K. charts that winter. It's a strong number, but the set contained even better ones, including a magnificent take on "Mr. Bojangles," an inspired version of "I'd Love You to Want Me," a glorious "You Baby," and a superb "Too Much Love." The bonus tracks pull much of the best from 2000 Volts as well, but rather than buy this reissue, one would do better to get both complete sets. The superior offerings are the ones that twin the original U.K. and Jamaican sets, allowing listeners to experience the preferred styles from both sides of the Atlantic.

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