Although they both recorded several excellent solo sides, Queen Patsy (Millicent Todd) and Stranger Cole were at their absolute best when they sang duets with each other, emerging as Jamaica’s ska version of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in the mid-'60s with island gems like “Tonight” and the wonderful “Down the Train Line.” Both of these were produced by Sonia Pottinger, a groundbreaking woman who turned out quality hits in Jamaica’s cut-throat and notoriously male-dominated music business from 1965 into the mid-'80s. This set collects the above songs and several other Todd/Cole duets, along with several Todd solo sides, all of which were shaped, arranged, and put together by Pottinger. Technically it’s ska, with a little slowed-down rocksteady tossed in, but what it really wants to be is American R&B, and these cuts crackle with a passionate and gospel-styled passion. Highlights include the lovely “Tonight,” the perfectly realized “Down the Train Line,” the bouncy island shuffle “Fire in the Wire,” and Todd’s delightful turn at Buddy Mize’s “Hangin’ On.” Pottinger wasn’t flashy as a producer, but she knew what she was after, and the best of her productions -- most of which were done live -- sound like a gospel church service with a horn section gone secular and south into Saturday night dancehall territory -- where hearts are broken, shattered, and redeemed in the name of love. Sounds like soul, doesn’t it?
Fabulous Songs of Miss Sonia Pottinger, Vol. 1 Review
by Steve Leggett