Ken Boothe

Mr. Rock Steady

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Boothe was about 20 years old when this, his full-length debut, was recorded. Listeners familiar with other Coxsone Dodd rocksteady productions should know what to expect here: muddy production, poorly pressed vinyl, and incredibly soulful music. Boothe is often called the Jamaican Wilson Pickett, and while much of that influence is in evidence here, his delivery still sounds too bright-eyed and vulnerable to really get at the core of the Memphis soul sound. It would be a couple of years before he would develop the gravelly voice and confident swagger by which most people recognize him. For whatever reason, this coincided with the end of his association with Dodd and the Studio One label. Still, any way you look at it, Mr. Rock Steady is a great set of early reggae. It holds an important place -- along with some of the best work by Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, or Slim Smith -- as a classic example of the American soul influence on Jamaican vocalists.

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