Making Each Cymbal Crash Count

Listen carefully and you can count each of the three cymbal crashes in this unjustly obscure – and humorous – rocksteady 45 from Jamaican vocal group The Three Tops: about a “gambling lady” with a yen for the one-armed bandit:

“Slot Machine”     The Three Tops     1968

I am fascinated by this uniquely minimalist Jamaican approach with regard to the crash cymbal, thus helping to ensure that each use really counts.  Note, too, the kick drum pattern that accompanies each crash, as well as the unusually deep bottom of the mix overall — pushing the bass forward decades before the modern pop world would eventually catch on.  Produced by KarlSir JJJohnson, with what sounds to my ears like Lyn Taitt on the staccato lead guitar.

Kilowatts 45-cSays London’s venerable Dub Vendor about the 45 itself:

Two prime slices of Boss Reggae from The Kilowatts aka The Three Tops, allegedly.”

Armed with this new information, I would quickly learn – no surprise – that blank labels of “Slot Machine” [by The Kilowatts] can fetch up to $400 (though not always, fortunately).

One blank label marked “Gambling Lady” — while another is marked “Bandit”

Kilowatts 45-bKilowatts 45-a

Kingstonians’ $800 Rocksteady

Heavy 1968 rocksteady from the studio of KarlSir JJJohnson, with Lyn Taitt, possibly, on guitar.  But the real mystery lies with the vocalists themselves, The Kingstonians, specifically the basso profundo:

Q:  Are the tapes being slowed down, or does the bass vocalist really sing that deep?

“Put Down Your Fire”     The Kingstonians     1968

While I admit it is possible that the bass vocalist’s range could really be that low, I am suspicious, since none of the other Kingstonians singles from that same year feature backing vocals with anywhere close to the same bottom end.  Listen for yourself — preview audio on YouTube by using song titles from this Kingstonians singles discography.

In 2012, someone would pay $797 for an original Jamaican white label pressing (vs. UK 45 issued on Doctor Bird) of “Put Down Your Fire.”  It cannot be denied:  some people are prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on Kingstonians 45s — including over $2,000 for “Torture and Flames” by lead vocalist Jackie Bernard.

Kingstonians 45-aNote the address on the 45 above – “133 Orange Street” – which would make it next-door neighbors with Rockers International, one of the last remaining vinyl shops on Kingston’s famed record row, Orange Street, and the subject of a Guardian piece from March, 2015: “Rockers International Records on Orange St., Kingston:  Reggae Playlist.”

PRINCE BUSTER‘s former record store – Orange St. [photo courtesy Guardian UK]

Prince Buster's record shop

“I Mean It”: Eric Donaldson, That Little Sneak

Thanks to Eric Donaldson’s bio on the Trojan Records website (from the previous post)     I found cause to kick myself for not making the connection that Eric is also the distinctive lead voice behind 1968’s great rocksteady single by The West Indians, “I Mean It” — with Lyn Taitt and his fabulous Jets:

“I Mean It”     The West Indians     1968

Says Trojan:

“Eric embarked on a musical career in 1964 when he recorded acetates for Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd at Studio One and Duke Reid at Treasure Isle Studios.  Following his experience of recording exclusive dub plates for the island’s leading Sound Systems, Eric was inspired to form a vocal group, suitably named the West Indians.  He recruited Leslie Burke and Hector Brooks to provide backing harmonies that melodiously punctuated his incredible falsetto.  The group initially worked with J.J. Johnson who in 1968 produced their notable hit ‘Right On Time’, alongside ‘Falling In Love’, ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘I Mean It'”.

J.J. Johnson would also issue on his Sir J.J. label,The Ethiopians’ great rocksteady and early reggae singles recorded between the years 1968-1973: