Leroy Smart

Impressions of Leroy Smart

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Although Leroy Smart debuted on disc in the late '60s, 1973's "Mother Liza was the first 45 to actually strike a chord in the sound systems, setting the stage for his breakout hit, "Pride and Ambition," two years later. With that, the floodgates opened, and Smart unleashed a deluge of popular singles, the bulk cut for either Bunny Lee or the Hoo Kim brothers. Smart obviously felt comfortable at the latter men's Channel One studio, for by late 1976 he was confident enough to start self-producing his own 45s. The following year he had recorded enough to compile them onto two albums -- Dread Hot in Africa and Impressions of Leroy Smart. This was only possible because right from the get-go the Burning Sounds label offered the singing producer a home for his 45s. Smart recorded "Music Is Sweet" in gratitude, a stellar tribute to the small British indie and the power of reggae itself. The label paired "Music" with "Sister Lorna," a gloriously romantic number, another of the singer's early self-productions. Impressions included a further trio of romantic gems -- "Do You Remember," "You I Can't Forget," and the demanding "Don't Let Me Down" -- with the rest of the set bundling up Smart's potent cultural numbers. A pair of them, "Back Out Weak Heart" and the impassioned "Rasta Man," versioned Yabby You riddims, and arguably bested them. Then again, with the Revolutionaries providing most of the backings, every one of these tracks sounds spectacular, from the compulsive rhythms that fuel "Gambling" and "In This Time" to the brooding atmosphere that seeps through "Jah Is My Future Guide." Smart was unstoppable during this period, leaving a flood of hits in his wake. What continues to astound, however, was that even with the huge quantity of his cuts pouring out of Channel One, the quality didn't suffer a bit. A stellar album, one of a clutch the singer released during this heady era.

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