Monday, August 10, 2009

Jamaican stars pay homage to rocksteady era [+ Sly Stone]

Jamaican stars pay homage to rocksteady era

John Goodman, North Shore News
July 24, 2009

Rating: 8 (out of 10)

Marvelous new recordings of rocksteady classics featuring many of the
artists who put the genre on the map in the first place. Singers such
as Ken Boothe, Stranger Cole, Dawn Penn and Leroy Sibbles perform
with an all-star group of veteran musicians led by guitarist Ernest Ranglin.

The golden age of rocksteady is generally associated with the years
1966 through 1968 when it replaced ska and paved the way for reggae
to take over the pop music world in a big way. Rocksteady peaked at a
very specific time -- in the liner notes reggae expert Chuck Foster
notes that the summer of 1966 was a hot one in Jamaica and
rocksteady's groove usurped ska because nobody could keep up the pace
in the dance halls.

Foster, who hosts Reggae Central on KPFK in L.A., provides
fascinating historical commentary on each of the 15 tracks included
on the disc. Hopeton Lewis' "Take It Easy" is thought to have been
one of the first rocksteady hits and the singer reprises the classic
here. Other well-known tunes such as "The Tide is High" (made even
more famous by Blondie), "Rivers of Babylon" and "Stop That Train"
also made the final cut.

The Moll-Selekta sessions were recorded at Kingston, Jamaica's Tuff
Gong Studios in April, 2008 with filmmaker Stascha Bader documenting
the musical reunion for a new film with the same name. The
documentary opens at Granville 7 Cinemas today.

-- John Goodman


The Woodstock Experience (Sony Legacy 2-CD set)

Rating: 10 (out of 10)

In the late '60s a couple of bands (Led Zeppelin in the U.K. as well
as Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead in San Francisco) changed
the way pop music was performed in live contexts. Up until then most
musicians were presented in multiple-act revues with limited time on
stage. Thirty minutes was an eternity.

When the Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place in August, 1969 the
paradigm shift in live performance was still being worked out. Bands
were playing longer but that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Some
didn't have a lot of material to perform while others had trouble
maintaining a dynamic live show over a significant stretch of time.

Woodstock, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, scheduled most
of the folk performers for the first day of the festival, Friday,
Aug. 15 (such as Richie Havens, Ravi Shankar and Arlo Guthrie) and
kept the two following days for mainly rock acts.

Set lists varied considerably with most performers remaining on stage
for 40 or 50 minutes. A pregnant Joan Baez who went last on the
Friday night bill played for 50 minutes, Jefferson Airplane closed
out a long day of psychedelic mayhem on Saturday with a 100-minute
set at 5 a.m. Sunday morning and Jimi Hendrix's festival finale
lasted 130 minutes beginning at 9 a.m. on the Monday morning.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary Sony Legacy is releasing five
complete sets from the 1969 festival accompanied by five classic
albums from the artists involved. Most of the acts included (Janis
Joplin, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone and Jefferson Airplane)
played late on the Saturday night/Sunday morning bill while Johnny
Winter appeared on the final day.

Everybody was eager to see what Sly Stone's band would do on stage
that Sunday morning and despite going on at 3:30 a.m. they didn't
disappoint. More than most Sly had built his band to perform live and
the Woodstock recording shows them at the peak of their powers. They
invent funk as they go bringing African and jazz and blues influences
into play in new ways. The set list focused mainly on songs from
their then-current album Stand which is included as a second disc in
the Sony Legacy package.

The Family Stone were an anomaly in many ways -- a racially-mixed R&B
band from hippie-central San Francisco -- and their uniqueness even
stood out among all the freaks at Woodstock. There was no one quite
like them. Even though their short pop singles regularly made it to
the top of the charts their extended party jams defined the band.
There are no slow songs here -- it is just one long brilliant sonic
flash. Essential, timeless music.

-- John Goodman


No comments: