John Holt

The Tide Is High: Anthology 1962-1979

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Sweet-voiced singer/songwriter John Holt has been working professionally in the Jamaican music business since 1958, and his recorded legacy is a long one, with several peaks and valleys, but when he is on his game, and when he is working with a producer who cares about quality as well as commercial viability, he is arguably the greatest of Jamaica's balladeers. This two-disc, 50-track set from Trojan tells at least part of that story, beginning with Holt's wonderful work with the Paragons in the 1960s and continuing on through his subsequent solo career, which found Holt ranging from roots rock to string-drenched MOR fare and then transitioning effortlessly into the dancehall era. Although far from perfect, this interesting set does a wonderful job at profiling Holt's prolific output, managing to hit significantly more peaks than valleys along the way. Among the gems here are the early Paragons' hits "On the Beach" and "The Tide Is High" along with several solo sides where Holt is at his best, including "Never Hurt My Baby," "Have Sympathy," the truly eerie "Strange Things," an amazing Jamaican version of "Stagger Lee," and Holt's own "Up Park Camp," a brilliantly re-imagined and personal version of the Heptones' "Get in the Groove." Again, this collection doesn't tell the whole story of Holt's half-century long career (it covers the years 1962 to 1979), but it does show that the singer has more grit to offer than his smooth public image would suggest, and while there are plenty of love songs here, there is also some edgier material, too.

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