The story of Roy Cousins and the Royals is, sadly, a fairly common one in Jamaican music. The body of work the group released between the years 1973 and 1979 rightly places them amongst the finest vocal acts of the roots era. Yet the failure of various producers and distributors to support the group, and constant changes in membership, led to their eventual obscurity outside of a relatively small group of reggae collectors. Thankfully, Pressure Sounds has sought to remedy this situation with this enhanced restoration of the group's classic 1977 debut, Pick up the Pieces. Though the Royals toured the usual Jamaican studio circuit, recording for Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, Joe Gibbs, and others, it wasn't until Cousins began funding and supervising the group's sessions that their music was given the necessary space to develop on record. What followed was a string of stunning, heartfelt releases showcasing the tight harmony singing of the shifting lineup, including "Ghetto Man," "Promised Land," "Only for a Time," and the classic title track. The U.S. soul stylings of the Drifters and the Temptations were an early influence. This explains in part why these titles are some of the most musically sublime expressions of Rastafarian faith and the hardships of ghetto living Jamaica has produced. Cousins moved to the U.K. in the late '70s and left the group shortly thereafter to focus on producing, thus ending an important chapter in the group's history. This reissue, then, is a much-needed testament to his work, made even more valuable with a host of bonus cuts appearing for the first time on CD. Another gem in the Pressure Sounds catalog.
AllMusic Review by Nathan Bush
feat: The Tempests