Music mad from childhood, Herman Chin-Loy sold albums, managed record shops, and DJ'ed before opening his own Aquarius record store and label in 1969 at age 21. Although he oversaw vocal tracks, it was his fabulous instrumentals that best defined his early career, and which this compilation focuses on. Utilizing the talents of both the Hippy Boys (aka the Upsetters Mach II) and the Now Generation, Chin-Loy began unleashing a stream of steaming instrumental 45s, with the organ-led ones credited to Augustus Pablo, regardless of who was sitting at the keys. Thus when a young melodica player showed up at his door, the producer released his debut single "Iggy Iggy" under that alias as well. Horace Swaby, however, kept the name, and kept the hits coming, beginning with "East of the River Nile," which established his distinctive Far East sound.
Aquarius Rock bundles up half a dozen classic Pablo/Swaby's solo singles, a couple with the producer standing in as DJ. Some are twinned with the band instrumentals, further highlighting the groups' exceptional work, as well as Pablo's own astonishing creativity. The musicianship throughout is absolutely phenomenal, be it on the band instrumentals, the brass led solo outings, the jaunty harmonica pieces, and, of course, the fiery organ-led numbers. These instrumentals and Pablo's own solo singles make up the bulk of this set, fleshed out with a quartet of vocal cuts. A pair come from Alton Ellis, who offers up a clean and rude take on his "Alton's Official Daughter," while Dennis Brown delivers the emotive "Song My Mother Used to Sing." Archie McKay's lovelorn "Pick Up the Pieces" is no relation to the Royals' classic, while Beres Hammond offers up one of his earliest recordings, an incredibly heartfelt "No More War." Less renowned than his cousin Leslie Kong, nonetheless Chin-Loy certainly deserves attention, and this compilation is a long overdue tribute to one of reggae's most influential talents.