Various Artists

Rock Steady Beat

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AllMusic Review by

"This new rhythm and dance form originating in Kingston has now swept the tourist and resort areas of Jamaica's Gold Coast and it is due to the loud demand that we proudly present this first long-playing album of Rock Steady Beat rhythms." So the sleeve notes explain on this most infuriating of compilations. Contrary to all Jamaican precedent, Rock Steady Beat proudly notes the songs' composers (as compared to the normal practice of crediting the producer), probably the only island release to do so, but although the backing band, the Wirl Recording Orchestra, gets their due, the singers are totally ignored. All of the songs included are classics, from "007" to "Girl I've Got a Date," and all, bar the calypso "Obeah Wedding" (itself a smash for Mighty Sparrow), are arranged in pure rocksteady style, but these are not the original versions. However, this is no K-Tel compilation, and although the vocalists remain a mystery, their talent and delivery is top-notch. Thus, you don't get Ken Boothe singing "The Train Is Coming," but what sounds suspiciously like the Techniques. And is that Lloyd & Glen belting out a soulful cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Keep on Pushing"? Several of the songs obviously feature the same vocalists, perhaps the Wirl studio's excellent house backing singers. It's all an enigma. The arrangements have been softened somewhat for the tourist crowd, giving the songs just a slightly generic sound, but the beat is slow and simmering, the melodies exquisite, and the vocals -- whomever they're by -- are all passionately delivered. Indeed this is the perfect rocksteady party record. Now, if we only knew who to thank.