Wednesday, September 14, 2016

First Class Rock Steady (Box Set)

As one can discern from the nickname I chose when I started writing about music, I am a fan of the Jamaican form of music known as rocksteady.  Rocksteady was the musical bridge between the ska movement of the '50s and first half of the '60s and the classic reggae of the very late '60s and '70s.  Characterized by a slower tempo than ska (and usually dropping the horns), with a greater emphasis on backbeat and bass, and a focus on vocals.  And what vocals they were -- rivaling the best soul music being recorded in North America at the same time.  The rocksteady period was brief -- 1966-1968, but incredibly productive.  One estimate suggests that 5700 rocksteady singles were pressed in Jamaica and the UK during the period, which is over 6 singles released per day.  Moreover, many of the songs had a life beyond rocksteady, as many served as the base track for the DJ period of Jamaican music spearheaded by worthies such as U Roy, Big Youth and I Roy in the latter half of the '70s.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of rocksteady, and to celebrate VP Records and its 17 North Parade imprint for vintage releases have offered two wonderful collections.  The first was a Record Store Day special in April: A box set of of 7" vinyl singles showcasing 14 universally recognized rocksteady classics.  The second is the more recently available 2-CD Box Set and digital edition consisting of 40 rocksteady hits (including the 14 which comprised the Record Store Day release).  Carefully selected and remastered, the songs in the collection represent good taste and consummate knowledge of the classics of rocksteady.  The set also includes a well executed booklet.

I own four other rocksteady collections, as well as various rocksteady tracks on other reggae compilations and albums for individual artists or groups, but this collection still represents an essential part of my collection.  Rocksteady is beautiful and vibrant music, and this collection is a great way to own it.

VP Records page for release

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