Randy’s 50th Anniversary

from Riffin.com

randysFor fans of Reggae, Ska, Dance Hall, and Dub, there’s no better way to trace the lineage of your favorite tunes then with the recently released Randy’s 50th Anniversary from VP Records. The album mines the best recordings to come out of Vincent “Randy” Chin’s iconic Kingston record shop in the 1960’s and 70’s. The fifty tracks paint a clear portrait of the process by which Jamaican artists melded American pop music with Caribbean rhythmic sensibilities to create genres all their own that have continue to flower into new manifestations to this day.

The influence of U.S. pop recordings is clear in early tracks like Alton and Eddie’s “Let Me Dream,” a fairly straightforward doo-wop, covers like Bob Marley’s laid-back, matured (and overall better) version of the Archies’ bubble gum hit “Sugar Sugar,” and later Alton Ellis’s bright, syncopated cover of “Too Late to Turn Back Now,” originally by the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose.

But a clear Caribbean vibe is also present from the start. The appropriate opening track, “Independent Jamaica” glides atop Caribbean percussion. A heavy Ska backbeat propels Rico Rodriguez’s “Rico Special.” By the end of the first disc, the social critiques of Peter Tosh and romantic plaints of The Gaylads are set to a rhythm like nothing to come from the U.S.

If there’s a weak element of the collection, it’s the disconnect between the two discs. When you pop in disc 2, it feels as though you’ve skipped a few years stylistically. The album booklet explains that during the late 1960’s, the “rock steady” period, Randy was focused on building a studio above the shop at the expense of putting out current recordings. When the second disc picks up the story, the songs move at a slower pace, and feature more studio production and effects. But the later tracks still equal their predecessors in romance and good humor, particularly in the closing track, Carl Malcolm’s “Fattie Bum Bum.”

Take a couple hours to relax and soak up this album, not just to learn about the evolution of a genre, but to be transported to a different age and a warmer place.

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