Print this Page

World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

THE BUNNY LEE ROCKSTEADY YEARS

By Eric Seyfarth
Published September 8, 2005

Moll-Selekta

Bunny Lee is one of a small, but prolific group of late ’60s Jamaican producers who recognized a brilliant shift in the local sound and capitalized with nearly round-the-clock recording sessions. Following the rise of ska in the early 1960s—with its hard-driving, mostly instrumental songs, heavily based on R&B and the domain of Caribbean jazz musicians—these sessions captured the emergence of rock steady, a slow-tempo reaction to American soul coming from the Supremes and Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. When Alton Ellis recorded “Get Ready To Rock Steady” the highly danceable form had come of age. This collection covers a remarkably brief period (between 1967 and 1968), when Lee produced hit after hit from his studio. The heavy bass lines and off-beat rhythm guitars from this period sound like roots reggae in hindsight, but at the time this was pure creative exploration. But the roots of reggae are unmistakable here, and these love songs with their tender lyrics and hopeful messages soon gave way to the introverted, politically charged urban woe of the Rastafarian reggae of the 1970s and beyond. There’s some great and hugely-influential music here: including the seminal Alton Ellis (“Loving Mood”), Ken Parker (“Somebody To Love”), Glen Adams (“Hold Down Miss Winey”), and Dawn Penn (“Long Day Short Night.”).