Flo & Eddie

Rock Steady with Flo & Eddie

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An album much in need of an explanation, Prince Flo & Jah Edward I began life as a reggae-lite concept, inspired by the duo's discovery of reggae via the rise of Bob Marley. Like many Americans of the day, the pair was pretty clueless, but unlike most, they had connections. Thus, a record deal was inked with a small Florida independent, and arrangements were made for the two to record at Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston under the aegis of co-producer Errol Brown. Flo & Eddie duly turned up at the studio with a list of Jamaican songs and their own numbers ripe for reggae-fying. Brown tossed it in the trash, and gave the pair a crash course in "real" Jamaican music. At the time, the producer was busy trawling through his late uncle Duke Reid's archives, resurrecting Treasure Isle classics and remixing them into new dub masterpieces. It's no wonder that his vision for this record was far removed from Flo & Eddie's own. But the pair were game, and the more of the island's old masterpieces he played them, the more they fell under their thrall, until the three put together a track listing that could double as a Jamaica's greatest-hits album. The Melodians' "Swing & Dine"; Ken Boothe's "Moving Away"; Delroy Wilson's "Dancing Mood"; the Heptones' "Party Time"; the Gaylads' "Rock With Me Baby" (magnificently covered in the '70s by Johnny Clarke); Delano Stewart's "Sitting in the Park," as performed by Alton and Hortense Ellis; Stranger and Gladdy's "Just Like a River," with a few of the pair's own songs thrown in for good measure; and a cover of the Ink Spots' golden oldie "Prisoner of Love" to kick the set off, this was the ultimate collection of rocksteady hits. And so the album was duly released in 1981 under the title Rock Steady, and promptly sank like a stone. A few years later, Rhino picked up the album and reissued it under the witty title Prince Flo & Jah Edward I. But the dread-heavy title tied extra weight to the set, and the album sank a second time. A pity really, as the duo's own fans lost a great opportunity to experience the hippie heroes in a new environment, but more importantly, reggae aficionados missed out on a superb album. Brown rounded up some of the island's top talent to back the pair -- with the phenomenal rhythms laid down by drummer Carlton "Santa" Davis, bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett, and percussionist Uziah "Sticky" Thompson, Earl "Chinna" Smith adding his always fabulous guitar licks and flourishes, and the inimitable Augustus Pablo contributing his own signature piano and organ. In a number of cases, the old rhythms are versioned, while elsewhere the new ones remain surprisingly true to the originals, albeit with a contemporary rootsy gloss. Flo & Eddie proved to be attentive pupils, and take their cues from the old singles, and accents aside, they endearingly capture the mood and inflections of the Jamaican singers, even down to occasionally attempting to re-create the original harmonies. And if that wasn't worth the price of admission, the version of "Happy Together" certainly was, the perfect blend of American pop and Jamaican roots reggae. A stunning album sadly lost to the sands of time.

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