John Holt

His-Story

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Sweet-voiced singer/songwriter John Holt has been working professionally in the Jamaican music business since 1958, and his recorded legacy is a long one, with several peaks and valleys, but when he is on his game, and when he is working with a producer who cares about quality as well as commercial viability, he is arguably the greatest of Jamaica's balladeers. This four-disc, 100-track box set from Jet Star imprint Charm is made up of mostly Bunny Lee-produced cuts (there are occasional songs here that were produced by Duke Reid, Prince Buster, Phil Pratt, or Henry Lawes) recorded between 1969 and 1983. Holt and Lee had what might be called an intermittent partnership, but it was an artistically fulfilling one, leading to five albums and some wonderful singles starting with the 1971 cover of Shep & the Limelites' "Stick By Me," which leads off this set. "Stick By Me" may be a love song, the kind of thing Holt has always been known for, but its proto-dread rhythm suggests a more ominous undercurrent, and the tension between the song's content, Holt's sweet vocal, and the weary march of the rhythm strikes a very delicate balance. This kind of production approach was markedly different from the string-drenched MOR-ish material produced by Tony Ashfield that brought Holt his greatest international success, so casual listeners should be aware that the material on His-Story has a relatively harder edge, and as such, only tells part of the story, albeit the more interesting part. Among the highlights here are "It's a Jam in the Street," the magnificent "Police in Helicopter," the spooky and surreal "Ali Baba," and several interesting covers, including Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me" (which Holt covers as "Bring It Home to Me"), Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Time," and Dennis Brown's "Wolf and Leopard." Again, His-Story doesn't tell the whole story of Holt's half-century-long career, but it does show that the singer has more grit to offer than his smooth-as-butter public image would suggest, and while there are plenty of love songs here, there is also some edgier material, too.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:14 Spotify
2 3:10 Spotify
3 3:10 Spotify
4
2:30 Spotify
5 2:52 Spotify
6 2:39 Spotify
7
3:11 Spotify
8
3:15 Spotify
9 2:36 Spotify
10
2:46 Spotify
11 3:25 Spotify
12 2:30 Spotify
13 3:17 Spotify
14 3:23 SpotifyAmazon
15 2:37 Spotify
16
2:04 Spotify
17 1:48 Spotify
18
3:33 Spotify
19 2:36 Spotify
20 3:15 Spotify
21
3:06 Spotify
22 2:49 SpotifyAmazon
23 2:11 Spotify
24
2:38 Spotify
25 3:21 Spotify
26 2:54 Spotify
27
4:52 Spotify
blue highlight denotes track pick