Various Artists

Doo Wop Jamaican Style

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It's no secret that the rise of reggae in Jamaica had at its roots a love of American R&B, and American vocal groups in particular, and while island harmony outfits like the Wailers, the Heptones, the Ethiopians, the Uniques, the Techniques, the Meditations, and the Mighty Diamonds went on to forge their own little genre of one-drop vocal excellence, any of them would freely acknowledge the importance of U.S. groups like the Drifters, the Impressions, and the Temptations to their vocal sound. All of this is apparent on this intriguing compilation from Castle Pulse Records. It isn't exactly textbook doo wop, mind you, but the harmony group explosion in Jamaica, particularly in the rocksteady era, is essentially the island version of it, although definitions don't always matter, particularly on such great tracks as Ken Parker and Dorothy Russell's beautiful duet take on "Sincerely" or the Uniques' gorgeous version of "The Girl in My Dreams." The reggae rhythm flattens out the Four Seasons' "Sherry" here in the version by Ken Boothe & the Messengers, and the song no longer soars but bubbles and percolates instead, essentially making it a whole different song in tone and feel, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In "What'cha Gonna Do" by the Techniques, the influence isn't so much R&B and doo wop as it is straight gospel, and its churchy, stop-and-start ska rhythm makes it a standout track here. It's also odd, at first, to hear Bunny Wailer's "Dreamland" (here called "My Dream") in this context, but the song shows its obvious street-corner vocal roots when listened to in this light, and the song actually seems to gain in wisdom and strength from the association. Again, this isn't really a doo wop set, Jamaican or otherwise, but it's so much fun it hardly matters.

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