GREETINGS FROM THE PIONEERS The Pioneers (2CD Expanded Edition)
This new 2CD set released by Doctor Bird Records is an important and long awaited one. I was anxious to include it in my reviews as i know there are many lifelong ska/reggae/bluebeat fans out there that absolutely love the music and are very knowledgeable about the whole Jamaican scene. Whilst after 50 odd years in the business i am comfortable in reviewing most music genres there are 2 i am not. Jazz & Reggae. If i’m reading a review of, say a rock band i know well, and the reviewer clearly has no real knowledge of the band or music he’s writing about and is just ‘blagging it’ i will spot it straightaway and most likely be at best a trifle annoyed. So today i am not going to attempt a ‘review’ of a section of music i have no real background in or knowledge of, lets call this piece an alert for the fans & lovers of this musical genre. In the late 60’s early 70’s i was fortunate to work with some of the stars of the day like Dandy Livingstone, Nicky Thomas & Desmond Dekker and i enjoyed their acts, however i now understand they were delivering a more sanitised ‘poppier’ version of real ska/bluebeat/reggae aimed at European audiences. A track that had its roots in Jamaica and was real ‘roots’ ska/reggae/bluebeat would be taken by record companies in the UK & have (usually) strings added and be arranged by somebody like Johnny Arthey into a ‘pop reggae’ format aimed at a wider audience. Think ‘Young Gifted & Black’ or ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ etc, nothing wrong with them but they were far removed from the music on this compilation. So here are the main points about this release. The set comprises 2 cd’s. CD1 has 26 tracks. The first 12 tracks are the original (in order) recordings from when the ‘Greetings’ album was initially released in 1968. These 12 tracks are then followed by 13 bonus tracks from The Pioneers which were recorded for the Amalgamated and Blue Cat labels in the same 1967-68 period. The final track on CD1 comes from Ansell Collins. The link between CD1 and CD2 is the producer of the material Joe Gibbs. CD2 contains 28 tracks, some new to cd and a lot of obscure and rare cuts. Some of the artists featured include Errol Dunkley, The Mellotones, Jackie Robinson, The Royals & The Cannon Ball Trio. So in total across the 2 cd’s there is a total of 54 tracks. The often complex story of The Pioneers and indeed the Jamaican music industry is covered in the excellent essay that accompanies the compilation in the glossy booklet written by Tony Rounce, a man who clearly knows his stuff. So those are the facts and for more information you can visit the link given at the end of this piece. As i said i feel i would be doing a disservice to attempt to critique the work on display here from my meagre scraps of knowledge, or indeed lack of it. I didn’t know for example that The Pioneers had a hit (in Jamaica) with ‘Long Shot’ in 1967. I was familiar with the sequel ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ issued by the UK’s Trojan Records which just demonstrates how little i really know about the genre overall. So i trust you will accept that on this occasion i have communicated the details of what i think is an important release to the many loyal and longstanding fans of The Pioneers & the other artists involved. But i will not attempt to ‘blag’ my way through a review of the music. The quality of the recordings is very good overall given the age, I’m not sure how much re-mastering may have gone on, again afficionados will know straightaway on listening. I am sure of one thing, for fans of the genre & The Pioneers this release is going to be very welcome indeed. Enjoy.
Mick O’Dowd… Thanks for an honest post Colin. I get annoyed when people, or DJ’s/Presenters rant on about something they clearly don’t know anything about. This looks very interesting. Thanks for posting