The next release from veteran reggae label Pressure Sounds is their first album of 2015. In this next exploration we get an insight into the productions of Jimmy Riley from the period 1975-1985. A man who was born and raised in the ghettos of Kingston’s notorious Waterhouse district, Riley knew better than most about poverty and hardship (as can be heard in the first track - Gunman of JA). This did not stop him, however, from having a highly successful career as a recording artist and becoming a household name amongst reggae fans. He started his first group The Techniques whilst still at school in 1962, which over it’s time had members that included Slim Smith, Pat Kelly, Lloyd Parks and Dave Barker, amongst others. Riley then went on to form his own prestigious record label named after the band, producing high-ranking acts such as Alton Ellis, Johnny Osbourne as well as himself. Most notably he produced the track Double Barrel by Dave & Ansel Collins (which reached #1 in the UK and Holland singles charts!) as well as the most sampled reggae riddim of all time entitled Stalag 17.
The tracks on this compilation were recorded at various studios including top Kingston spots such as Channel One, Harry J’s, and King Tubby’s. This combined with the cream of the crop of Kingston’s session players lends to some seriously tuff riddims recorded and played to impeccable standards. Dub versions come courtesy of lesser-known dub engineers such as Crucial Bunny, Maxie, and Soldgie (no King Tubby or Scientist mixes here!) –generally slightly less defined mixes, but nonetheless they would still kill it on a sound system!
Riley’s vocal is sweet-tinged with a rugged depth that defines his voice as distinctly Jamaican, often solidified by the subtle slapback vocal effect heard on many of the tracks! Vocal cuts range from the soulful and righteous Feeling Is Believing and Tell The Youths The Truth, to the dark and heavy tracks such as Majority Rule and Give Thanks and Praise; all laced with an underlying current of anti-establishmentarianism, offset by sweet melodies and gentle harmonies.
The inclusion of a healthy sprinkling of extended mixes (mostly dubbed at Tubby’s studio) and the occasional unreleased dubplate mix lends to a well-presented and thought out compilation that defines the sonic and lyrical message of roots music and what it’s meant to be.
At about £10 for a 2xLP vinyl edition you can’t go wrong!