Derrick Harriott

Step Softly

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Like the majority of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae producers in Jamaica, Derrick Harriott had a thing for U.S. R&B. In the late '50s and early '60s, as a member of the singing group the Jiving Juniors, Harriott's vocals bore the stamp of soul luminaries like Sam Cooke, the Miracles, and Curtis Mayfield. Likewise, soul figures prominently in the later Harriott cuts heard on Trojan Records' Step Softly, which not only includes his cover of the Mayfield-penned Jan Bradley hit "Mama Didn't Lie," but also features his excellent Impressions-inspired, late-ska groover "The Jerk." The later hippie soul sound of the Temptations' "Psychedelic Shack" also crops up, particularly on the Chosen Few's "Psychedelic Train" (with Harriott on lead vocal) and their cover of Isaac Hayes' "Do Your Thing." Thankfully for variety's sake, there are also plenty of homegrown sounds on this collection of Harriott-produced tracks from 1965-1972; among the 16 titles are excellent rocksteady instrumentals (Bobby Ellis and the Crystalites' "Step Softly") and vocal numbers (Keith and Tex's classic "Stop That Train"), as well as fine version cuts of "Psychedelic Train" and "Do Your Thing" (including a masterful DJ reading by I-Roy). And for some real rootsy moments, there are the bongo and bass workouts "Salaam" by Bongo Herman, Les and Bunny and "Tough Version" by the Crystalites (the Crystalites were Harriott's crack studio band and included Jamaican session greats like Lynn Tait, Winston Wright, and Val Bennett). Another fine title in Trojan's Producer Series, Step Softly is a must for fans of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae.

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