Dave Barker

Monkey Spanner

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Although Dave Barker is best remembered for his DJ interjections and pronouncements on 1971's "Double Barrel" single, a classic bit of gritty rocksteady weirdness, and its follow-up, "Monkey Spanner," both of which were big hits in the U.K. for Barker and his partner, organist Ansel Collins, he was also a fine and soulful singer, and his smooth, high tenor even landed him the lead singer spot for a time in a later incarnation of the Techniques, one of Jamaica's most respected vocal trios. This dual career as both a singer and DJ has led perhaps to Barker being a bit overlooked in both categories, a situation this 26-track selection of his late-'60s and early-'70s work attempts to address. Opening with Barker's first recording, a duet with Glen Brown on "Lucky Boy," done for producer Harry J, Monkey Spanner also includes a handful of cuts Barker made with Lee "Scratch" Perry in 1969 (including "Lock Jaw" and "What a Confusion") and the two big singles from the Ansel Collins era, "Double Barrel" and "Monkey Spanner," both of which were produced by former Techniques member Winston Riley. Just how great a singer Barker was is showcased on "Sweeter She Is," "Just My Imagination" (a version of the Temptations' hit), "It's Summer," and "Don't Turn Your Back On Me," all of which are vintage songs done in a breezy rocksteady style that begs comparison to fellow ex-Techniques lead singers Slim Smith and Pat Kelly. Barker's trademark DJ style, which he patterned after the sound of American soul disc jockeys he had heard on the radio (he did it so well that many in Jamaica assumed he was American), is also well represented here, making Monkey Spanner a much needed and balanced portrait of this woefully unsung performer.

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