A reluctant pop star if ever there was one, Phyllis Dillon balanced a recording career in Jamaica with a job in the U.S. working in a bank. Love Is All I Had is the most comprehensive collection of her work to date, packed to the brim with a staggering 29 cuts of vintage rocksteady and early reggae, all cut with Duke Reid for his Treasure Isle imprint. The earliest songs from Love Is All I Had date from 1967 (with the exception of Dillon's 1966 self-penned debut, "Don't Stay Away"), and exude an innocence common in the best sides from the Shirelles, Lesley Gore, and exponents of the girl group sound. Dillon's cover of Bettye Swann's "Make Me Yours" is such a song, while her original "It's Rocking Time" would help to define the rocksteady era itself. Although she will always be associated with rocksteady, Dillon recorded some great reggae as well. While her take on the Grass Roots' "Midnight Confessions" and role-reversing cover of Eric Donaldson's "Cherry Oh Baby" as "Eddie Oh Baby" haven't aged too well, her pulsing cover of Marlena Shaw's "Woman of the Ghetto" remains a dancefloor classic. No matter what she's singing, though, it's hard not to fall in love with her voice, making even touristy cuts like the randy "Don't Touch Me Tomato" worth hearing.
Love Is All I Had: A Tribute to the Queen of Jamaican Soul Review
by Wade Kergan