Various Artists

Keep the Pressure Down

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Jamaica has long gone its own way, forging its own musical path. Uniquely, the island's best producers are treated to the kind of acclaim other nations reserve for their superstars, an adulation that brought international fame to many. Jimmy Radway, while intensely admired at home, never received global acknowledgment, perhaps because -- unlike his competitors -- he was far less prolific. Eschewing quantity for quality, Radway released the highest-caliber singles, along the way bringing younger artists to stardom and veterans to new peaks. Keep the Pressure Down is dedicated exclusively to his productions, featuring vocal numbers, instrumentals, and DJ versions, a dozen crucial cuts in all. A trio of the tracks come courtesy of Leroy Smart, with the swinging "Mother Liza" kicking off the set. Recorded in 1972 but not released until the following year, it was the singer's first hit, with the equally popular "Mirror Mirror" following hot on its heels, and "Happiness Is My Desire" (aka "Mr. Smart") providing the singer with his signature song. Incidentally, Errol Dunkley was initially slated to sing "Liza," as well as "Hell and Sorrow," losing the latter to Hortense Ellis, whose phenomenal performance suggests Radway made the right choice. Instead, in 1972 the producer had Dunkley cut the stunning "Black Cinderella," one of the singer's all-time best, with the powerful title track appearing the next year. The set's final vocal track, "Warning," was recorded by the up-and-coming Desmond Young, with his strong performance setting the stage for his better-known work early in the next decade. In an era of still bright and brash reggae riddims, Radway's productions all sport surprisingly moody atmospheres, foreshadowing the rise of roots. Equally notable was his fabulous use of brass, instruments other producers were then using mainly as accents. In contrast, Radway had them carry the melody, adding a density and richness to his sound that others could only envy. Both trumpeter Bobby Ellis and trombonist Vin Gordon shine on a pair of magnificent instrumentals, as does Augustus Pablo on a Far Eastern version of "Cinderella." The latter was one of Radway's most popular riddims, and Big Youth swaggers across it for the aptly titled "The Best Big Youth," while also offering a potent toast on "Tribulation," a version of "Hell." The only complaint one could possibly have is the album is far too short, something that the CD reissue didn't remedy with a paltry two bonus tracks.

blue highlight denotes track pick