Desmond Dekker

Black and Dekker

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In 1967, Desmond Dekker broke into the British market with his Top 20 rocksteady smash "007 (Shanty Town)"; two years later "The Israelites" made him an international star, as the single stormed to number one in the U.K. and became the first pure Jamaican song to set foot in the American Top Ten. But in 1971 tragedy struck with the death of Dekker's longtime producer, Leslie Kong. Like Jimmy Cliff, another Kong protégé, it would take a few years before Dekker managed to regain his footing, eventually returning to the U.K. chart in 1975 with the Top 20 hit "Sing a Little Song." After that, the singer began slipping off the radar, until 2 Tone swept in a new wave of fans in the late '70s. Quick off the mark was Stiff Records, who signed Dekker before the decade was out and recorded him with help from Graham Parker's backing band, the Rumour, as well as the Akrylykz (featuring a young Roland Gift) and the Equators. Unfortunately, with Dekker, the bands fizzled, and across a dozen tracks (including all of Dekker's biggest hits), even the singer can't salvage anything from this disaster, no matter how hard he tries. That was the view at the time, but hindsight softens the blows somewhat. The musicians are incredibly tight here, with the sizzling sax solos giving the proceedings a blast of Stax that shakes up the pubby flavor of the arrangements. Compared to Dekker's sugary 1975 set, The Israelites, and the nadir of new releases still to come, Black and Dekker stands tall. Nowhere near as bad as memories suggest, but one expected better nevertheless.

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