7 Aug 2022

Jamaica

One of the most influential reggae albums of all time. Includes 4 tracks new to CD. The complete Treasure Isle works of a Jamaican legend.

''I loved this guys records sooo much. The first time i heard his records they were a total revolution. So sad to hear he has passed on. The greatest. U-ROY Step lightly'' -Pressure Sounds

'Although largely unreported by the mainstream popular press, 17 February 2021 witnessed the passing of a true great of popular music: Asman Euwart Beckford. Under his stage name of U Roy, Beckford revolutionised the Jamaican music industry and in so doing also heavily influenced the development of hip hop, jungle and grime.

In 1970, the immense popularity of his ground-breaking 7” singles for Treasure Isle boss, Duke Reid popularised DJ recordings, and sparked an explosion of similarly-styled discs, performed by a plethora of established and wanna-be toasters. Over the next year or two, U Roy continued to record high quality works for Reid, who gathered many of the DJ’s most popular sides on two best-selling long-players, ‘Version Galore’ and the eponymously titled ‘U Roy’, issued in 1971 and 1993, respectively.

In tribute to the man and his music, both of these seminal collections have finally been brought together, along with the remainder of his Treasure Isle singles and a number of rare alternate takes. These historic recordings, which forever changed the sound of reggae, demonstrate the inimitable style that resulted in U Roy becoming the world’s first DJ superstar.'

 U-Roy (1942–2021), Jamaican musician who pioneered toasting

"Versions galore, you can hear them by the score, I could give you some more for sure," U-Roy shouts out on the title track of Version Galore, and indeed he could and did, recording scores and scores of versions of classic Jamaican hits. This album gathers up a dozen of some of his earliest, all cut for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle studio between 1969 and 1970. Included is one of his chartbusters, a version of the Paragons' "Wear You to the Ball." Paragon vocalist John Holt was responsible for bringing the DJ to Treasure Isle, and U-Roy repaid the singer by versioning a clutch of classic Paragons' songs, five of which appear here. The DJ was obviously a fan, and chatted along to the songs as one would to an old friend, most noticeably on "The Tide Is High" (Blondie would later have a hit with a cover of the original) and "Happy Go Lucky Girl." There again, on "Flashing My Whip," a version of the group's "Only a Smile," U-Roy demands that the trio put a smile on their face, a bit difficult considering the song's intrinsic heartbreak. The DJ's ease with these golden oldies allowed him to adeptly sing along, call out for the vocalists to sing on cue, wander off in other lyrical directions, and still find the perfect spot for his catch phrases. But this talent didn't end with the Paragons and rocksteady, "True Confessions," for example, was a ska-fired, doo wop-inspired hit for the Silvertones, and U-Roy motors away on this with equal ease. Interestingly enough, though, it's evident that without the vocals as a lyrical launch pad, the DJ is rather at a loss. Thus the two instrumentals here are actually the weakest tracks. But it was early days, and U-Roy's verbal gymnastics would fill in the gaps soon enough. -Review by Jo-Ann Greene 


Reggae DJ U-Roy’s 1971 debut album, plus the rest of his work at Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle on this new 2CD collection. Included are takes of his classic singles Wake The Town, Wear You To The Ball and (This Station) Rule The Nation, plus the self-titled second album of Reid-helmed tracks, belatedly released in 1974. Ian Canty raises his glass in a toast…

'Though Asman Euwart Beckford aka U-Roy wasn’t the first person to talk over reggae records to liven up the dance, his influence went far and wide. His hollered vocals have been sampled many times and it is possible to see his influence on many other toasters that came after, as well marking the way for hip hop too. DJ/Talkover really took off after his remarkable work with Duke Reid, where previously used rocksteady rhythms were dusted off and elegantly rejigged. These underpinned U-Roy’s wordplay and magnetic energy, making them shine all the more brightly. As a youngster Euwart was dubbed U-Roy after a family member struggled to pronounce his name. U-Roy became a big fan of trailblazing DJ Count Machuki, who developed his rhymes live over US blues numbers to whip up the crowd for Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat sound system in the 1950s.

Soaking up the influence of The Count, he began his DJ career in the early part of the next decade. He bounced around a number of sounds, going from Dick Wong’s Dynamite to Sir George The Atomic and even Coxsone’s Downbeat number two set. Then he hooked up with King Tubby’s Hometown Hi Fi in a move that would change U-Roy’s life. Being with Tubby brought him into the orbit of Treasure Isle. Though it may well have been the case that Duke Reid, with his ear to the ground as always with regard to Kingston’s music, was already aware of U-Roy’s growing reputation. What is sure is when the pair teamed up, magic happened.

U-Roy’s time under the auspices of Reid was relatively brief, but full of impact. On the back of the recordings they made together, the DJ sound started making big news in Jamaica. It was an opportune time, as this was in 1970 just after the skinhead/boss reggae boom, when a new sound was called for. U-Roy, backed by The Duke’s splendid rocksteady rhythm tracks, was in the right place at the right time for certain. But his sheer charisma and talent gave DJ recordings the big push into being a format that was the talk of the Kingston music scene.

One of the good things about this release of Version Galore was reading Tony Rounce’s sleeve note on the LP. For me it’s always great to read about a record someone truly loves and this comes through very clearly here. With regard to the music, those stately Treasure Isle grooves provide the perfect backing for U-Roy, who holds forth with real confidence and style on opening gambit Your Ace From Space. You can sense immediately how he held the crowd at the dance, riding the rhythms with aplomb and whipping up the dancers. On The Beach, originally by The Paragons, states the case even more lucidly as the record underneath stays more or less intact, with U-Roy an ever moving and cajoling focus over the top.

The tune Version Galore itself takes The Melodians’ rocksteady delight You Have Caught Me Baby and recasts it to chide the crop of lesser toasters that were snapping at U-Roy’s heals. Then True Confession uses the skanking, r&b style beat of The Silvertones to provide the landscape for U’s own free-from poetry. While it is easy to appreciate the original songs that are pretty much the cream of the rocksteady era, one can marvel at the ebullience that U-Roy manages to instil. He’s essentially talk/shout singing over records, but while to do that badly might be simple enough, completing this task in an entertaining and convincing manner takes a master.

The neat twiddly guitar work and cool thrust of The Jamaicans’ track I Can’t Lose are given their head to make their mark, before U chimes in to take it to another level. The Paragons’ archive is dominant here, with The Same Song, The Tide Is High, You Will Never Get Away, Happy Go Lucky Girl and most famously Wear You To the Ball all form the backing music to the infectious DJ patter and go to make up a brilliant, if unconventional for the time, reggae album. The pairing of Phyllis Dillon’s Don’t Stay Away with U-Roy’s crazy shrieks in response works so well and the LP ends with the irrepressible, irresistible Hot Pop, a real ace.

Apart from the excellent album itself, this first disc has nine bonuses included, all drawn from the Treasure Isle vaults. A jaunty Nehru by Winston Wright & The Supersonics gets things going with some cool Tommy McCook sax. It is one of three instrumental cuts here credited to The Supersonics, along with The Ball and final track Super Boss which is cut on The Last Rain rhythm.

Ken Parker’s groover Too True provides the perfect backdrop for more of high quality toasting. It’s one of the best selections here and a second take of Wake This Town, on Alton Ellis’ Girl I’ve Got A Date, is achieved in fine style. The Paragons’ songbook again comes in handy of Flashing My Whip, which is a talk-over on their Only A Smile and Do It Right is smartly accomplished too. Alton Ellis supplies the backing to Ain’t That Loving You, which features in its original form on the U-Roy album on disc two and The Melodians’ The Last Rain To Expo 67 is lovingly embellished with U-Roy’s own brand of vocal exuberance.

Despite being ultra-successful, the U-Roy and Duke Reid partnership didn’t last long. There doesn’t seem to be any documentation of the reason for this and one does not at this late stage wish to conjecture as to the possible cause. What is sure it that soon after Version Galore, the DJ was on his way recording for a variety of the island’s other record producers. Even so, when U-Roy’s next album finally emerged in 1974, it was overseen by Duke Reid and mostly made up of recordings dating from that earlier period. The newest item was the Honey Come Forward/Merry Go Round single that came out in the same year.

Honey Come Forward, based around an unidentified Treasure Isle rhythm for what sounds like a female vocalist in a brief snatch of intro that is audible, was the opening track of the U-Roy album and the DJ is again a confident presence throughout. It’s followed by Treasure Isle Skank, where new drums were overdubbed for a 1973 45. This was an effort to make the sound more contemporary and Words Of Wisdom also was “improved” this way. In fact the whole U-Roy album had this addition, but the original mixes were located for everything apart from that single and have been used here. Having got that out of the way, (This Station) Rule The Nation is U-Roy at his word-spinning best over a pumping rocksteady beat.

Then we have two Hopeton Lewis tracks Drive Her Home and Tom Drunk and where the effect that is achieved is that Lewis’ soulful vocal and U-Roy exaltations fit naturally with each other. Words Of Wisdom, which comes next is hampered a little by the conspicuous extra percussion, but fortunately Tommy McCook & The Supersonics’ talents can still picked out under these unnecessary additions and the toast. Merry Go Round, cut over Errol Dunkley’s version of Where I Must Go, works pretty well and Wake The Town, U-Roy’s first single with Reid, impresses from the echoed introduction onwards.

The comic tone and lazy lope of What Is Catty is a lot of fun and The Melodians’ classic Everybody Bawling is succinctly repositioned for a new era. The final two offerings on the LP are a cool take of Alton Ellis’ Ain’t That Loving You and Behold, based around another groovy Supersonics instrumental. U-Roy the album was never going to have the same impact as Version Galore. So many things had changed in Jamaican music during the three year gap between the two records, but it is a more than decent collection which shows U-Roy’s strengths as a toaster and those indestructible Treasure Isle rhythms in full flight.

To round off this set, we have another nine bonus contributions. Way Back Home is like the second part of Behold from the LP, as it is cut on the same rhythm. Then we get two takes based around The Techniques’ rocksteady charmer My Girl, with the second being a vocal version with no U-Roy. Another double, this time of Peace And Love by The Jamaicans with the DJ version followed by a band take, comes next and is followed by Love I Tender, which is kept entertaining through a manic talk-over performance. Part two of Way Back Home is purely instrumental by Tommy McCook & The Supersonics and the jumping Take 5 of You Will Never Get Away from Version Galore crops up. Finally and mainly for atmosphere, we get some studio chatter from those involved. A small add-on, but even just a minute or so in the company of Treasure Isle is an experience worth having.

U-Roy stature as the DJ that took toasting to another level and influenced countless others is not in doubt. It is fair to say that his reputation mainly rests on that short, but wildly creative time at Treasure Isle. Version Galore still sounds as fresh as the day it was set down on tape. Everything clicks, with U-Roy without equal on the mike and the Duke’s peerless back catalogue utilised in just the right way. The self-titled 1974 album yields enough gems itself and among the bonus are some great cuts too. With the music being truly excellent, those heartfelt sleeve notes push this Version Galore 2CD over the top into “must have” territory. A fine collection that any fan of reggae DJ cuts must hear.' -All words by Ian Canty


U Roy – Version Galore (2CD Edition)
by Eric Denham  |  https://www.reggae-vibes.com/

This 2 CD collection features two original albums by U Roy real name Ewart Beckford from 1971, both released on the Trojan label in the UK. These were both recorded at the legendary Treasure Isle Studio for Duke Reid.

DISC ONE: VERSION GALORE
This includes 12 talk-over’s from the original album followed by 9 bonus tracks of which we take a look at a selection. Track 1: YOUR ACE FROM SPACE. This may well be known by staunch Jamaican music fans and is a fast-moving number on which U Roy is at his best. Track 2: ON THE BEACH. This talk-over has the original rhythm track recorded by The Paragons. It again is a fast-moving sound and the song lends itself well to this style. Track 3: VERSION GALORE. Giving its title to the original album, it may be another track that is familiar to the listener as it is a talk-over of The Melodians You Have Caught Me. U Roy is in fine voice on the vocal and it makes for an all-round pleasing version. Track 4: TRUE CONFESSION. On this, U Roy is joined by The Silvertones and together they come up with a first-class Ska sound. It is a catchy sound that is hard not to dance along to. Track 5: TIDE IS HIGH. Again we have another sound originally released by The Paragons that will be familiar to most listeners. U Roy does his talk-over to great effect and we end up with another first-class recording, Track 6: THINGS YOU LOVE. On this, we hear U Roy along with The Jamaicans. This is mid-tempo and lends itself well to the talk-over making it one of the best original album tracks. Track 7: THE SAME SONG. Another mid-tempo sound on a well-loved original recording by The Paragons. U Roy once again adds a well-balanced talk-over, adding nicely to the overall make-up. Track 8: HAPPY GO LUCKY GIRL. The Paragons recorded the original and U Roy comes along with a talk-over that really contributes to this faster sound. Track 9: YOU WILL NEVER GO AWAY aka ROCK AWAY. If you know the original Reggae recording by The Melodians you may find this a surprise choice for a talk-over but it works well. Track 10: WEAR YOU TO THE BALL. So many of The Paragons recordings lend themselves to the talk-over genre and this is no exception. A faster track and top-notch. Track 11: DON’T STAY AWAY. Here we have the great Phyllis Dillon on the original sound with U Roy adding a polished talk-over. It takes nothing away from the original. Track 12: HOT POP. Supplying the rhythm track on this we have Tommy McCook & The Supersonics. U Roy gives another fine talk-over and it’s the final track from the original vinyl album.

BONUS TRACKS
There are 9 bonus tracks on this disc, we take a look at a selection of these. Track 13: NEHRU – Winston Wright with Tommy McCook & The Supersonics. This is an instrumental version of The Melodians’ You Have Caught Me with the usual tenor sax playing from Mr McCook and Winston on organ as one would expect. Original UK release Duke Reid. Track 15: WAKE THE TOWN – U Roy & The Paragons. This is a fast talk-over of The Paragons’ Girl I’ve Got A Date rhythm track, another classic talk-over. Not originally released in UK. Track 18: DO IT RIGHT – U Roy & The Three Tops. The original is given the talk-over treatment with a fast-moving rhythm track. Original UK release Duke Reid. Track 21: SUPER BOSS – The Tommy McCook All Stars. This is an instrumental on which we hear the organ, maybe it is Winston Wright. If you know the original by The Melodians then this will come as a good sound. This finishes off the tracks on disc 1. Not originally released in UK.

DISC TWO: U ROY
‘U ROY’ is the second original album on this collection and was released in 1971 on Trojan Records, Attack label, and again in 1993. These recordings change the sound of Reggae and made U Roy the world’s first DJ superstar.

Track 1. HONEY COME FORWARD aka HONEY COME BACK. This is a track that has a Dub rhythm track. It has nothing to do with the Bobby Goldsboro song. U Roy gives a full-on talk-over and it moves along swiftly. Original UK release Harry J. Track 2: TREASURE ISLE SKANK. Another of the self-penned numbers, this one may be known to the listener. This has a very sparse rhythm track and is slower than most tracks. Original UK release Harry J. Track 3: (THIS STATION) RULE THE NATION. On this we have performing the rhythm track by the Tommy McCook Quintet and again may be familiar to the listener. It is a catchy sound with another full-on talk-over. Original UK release Duke Reid. Track 4: DRIVE HER HOME. Along with U Roy we also have Hopeton Lewis who was a star Jamaican artist in his own right. Hopeton and U Roy sing along together if you can except talk-over as singing, it is a mid-tempo sound and the Hopeton original will be familiar to fans of his music. Original UK release Treasure Isle. Track 5: TOM DRUNK. Again we have a double-act, so to speak with Hopeton Lewis on the original rhythm track. Slow start to this before it moves into a mid-tempo catchy slice of talk-over, the rhythm track will be familiar to most listeners. Original UK release Duke Reid. Track 6: WORDS OF WISDOM. Tommy McCook & The Supersonics supply the backing on another mid-tempo number. U Roy is at his best on this which sounds like a talk-over of Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour. Original UK release Harry J. Track 7: THE MERRY GO ROUND. This time around we have U Roy doing his thing over an original Errol Dunkley recording. The rhythm is mid-tempo and the writing credits go to Beckford (U Roy) and Errol Dunkley. Original UK release Attack. Track 8: WAKE THE TOWN. This time the writing credits go to Beckford and Reid, Duke Reid that is. The original rhythm track comes from The Paragons’ Girl I’ve Got A Date. Original UK release Duke Reid. Track 9: WHAT IS CATTY? aka BIG BOY AND TEACHER. On this catchy sound the backing track comes from the Tommy McCook Quintet. Behind U Roy’s talk-over we have what sounds like a female chorus. Original UK release Duke Reid. Track 10: EVERYBODY BAWLING. Most listeners will remember the original by The Paragons without the talk- over. This takes nothing away from the original by The Melodians and U Roy actually gives this another polished talk-over. Original UK release Treasure Isle. Track 11: AIN’T THAT LOVING YOU. Alton Ellis is credited as being on this and can be heard giving his usual smooth vocal behind the talk-over. The sound is mid-tempo and again the original lends itself well to the talk-over. Original UK release Treasure Isle. Track 12: BEHOLD. This is the final track from the original vinyl album and has the rhythm track from Way Back Home that was recorded by Byron Lee & The Dragonaires way back. Lending itself to the talk-over it is a fast-moving number. Original UK release Treasure Isle.

BONUS TRACKS
There are 9 of these on this disc and not all of them are talk-over’s. We now take a look at a selection of these. Track 13: WAY BACK HOME – U Roy & Tommy McCook. This is a version of the last track from the original album and nothing else. Original UK release Treasure Isle. Track 15: MY GIRL (Version) – The Techniques. This is nothing more than a version of the original Jamaican hit. This is a toe-tapping sound and the writing credits go to group member Winston Riley. No original UK release. Track 18: LOVE I TENDER – U Roy & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics. This fast-moving number shows off the talk-over genre at its best with U Roy flat-out. The rhythm track is repetitive but it is a good track. Original UK release Duke. Track 20: YOU WILL NEVER GET AWAY – U Roy & The Melodians. The listener may or may not know the original by The Melodians but either way, it lends itself well to being put with a talk-over. This is fast-moving and stylish and one of the best tracks overall. Not originally released. Track 21: STUDIO CHATTER – U Roy & Byron Smith. The writing credits on this go to both vocalists and here we have a combined spoken number. On this, we hear a very short extract from the previous track. This is a short track lasting only 1min 19 sec’s and as the title is very apt for the content, this concludes disc 2. Not originally released.

Coming out of Cherry Red Records we would expect a fine 2 CD collection and this is what the listener gets. It will not be every Jamaican music fan’s favourite genre but one has to say that overall it is worthy of inclusion into a Jamaican music collection. At £11 99p it is very good value and comes with the usual informative booklet.

See also
U Roy – DJ Originator (1942-2021)


U Roy – Version Galore (Expanded Edition)

Label: Doctor Bird – DBCDD093
Format: 2 x CD, Compilation
Country: UK
Released: 2022
Genre: Reggae
Style: Reggae, Rocksteady

Version Galore
1-1 U Roy & The Supersonics - Your Ace From Space AKA Your Ace From Outer Space 2:53
1-2 U Roy & The Paragons - On The Beach 2:40
1-3 U Roy & The Melodians - Version Galore 2:58
1-4 U Roy & The Silvertones - True Confession 2:39
1-5 U Roy & The Paragons - Tide Is High 2:43
1-6 U Roy & The Jamaicans - Things You Love AKA I Can't Lose 2:53
1-7 U Roy & The Paragons - The Same Song 2:58
1-8 U Roy & The Paragons - Happy Go Lucky Girl 3:10
1-9 U Roy & The Melodians - You Will Never Get Away AKA Rock Away 3:04
1-10 U Roy & The Paragons - Wear You To The Ball 2:32
1-11 U Roy & Phyllis Dillon - Don't Stay Away 2:35
1-12 U Roy & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - Hot Pop 2:44
Bonus Tracks
1-13 Winston Wright With Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - Nehru 2:51
1-14 U Roy & Ken Parker - True, True 2:10
1-15 U Roy & The Paragons - Wake The Town (Take 2) 2:49
1-16 U Roy & The Paragons - Flashing My Whip 2:53
1-17 Earl "Wire" Lindo With Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - The Ball 2:32
1-18 U Roy & The Three Tops - Do It Right 2:16
1-19 U Roy & Alton Ellis - Ain’t That Loving You (Alternate Version) 2:39
1-20 U Roy & The Melodians - Do Re Mi AKA The Last Train 2:39
1-21 The Tommy McCook All Stars - Super Boss 2:45

U Roy
2-1 U Roy - Honey Come Forward AKA Honey Come Back 2:58
2-2 U Roy - Treasure Isle Skank 2:42
2-3 U Roy & The Tommy McCook Quintet - (This Station) Rule The Nation 2:37
2-4 U Roy & Hopeton Lewis - Drive Her Home 1:58
2-5 U Roy & Hopeton Lewis - Tom Drunk 2:33
2-6 U Roy & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - Words Of Wisdom 2:38
2-7 U Roy & Errol Dunkley - The Merry Go Round 2:52
2-8 U Roy & The Paragons - Wake The Town 2:43
2-9 U Roy & The Tommy McCook Quintet - What Is Catty? AKA Big Boy And Teacher 2:48
2-10 U Roy & The Melodians - Everybody Bawling 2:23
2-11 U Roy & Alton Ellis - Ain’t That Loving You 2:38
2-12 U Roy & Tommy McCook - Behold 2:54
Bonus Tracks
2-13 U Roy & Tommy McCook - Way Back Home 2:53
2-14 U Roy & The Techniques - My Girl 2:43
2-15 The Techniques - My Girl (Version) 2:38
2-16 U Roy & The Jamaicans - Peace And Love 2:38
2-17 The Jamaicans - Peace And Love (Version) 2:37
2-18 U Roy & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - Love I Tender 2:29
2-19 Tommy McCook & The Supersonics - Drive Her Home (Part Two) 1:52
2-20 U Roy & The Melodians - You Will Never Get Away AKA Rock Away (Take 5) 3:03
2-21 U Roy & Byron Smith - Studio Chatter 1:19