Phil Pratt and Friends Safe Travel: The Rare Side of Rock Steady

Rock steady was born in the long hot summer of 1966, when Jamaican youth couldn’t keep up to the frenetic tempo of ska. Phil Pratt was just starting his ten-year run at the fringes of Jamaica’s music scene, and right from the start, he was putting out great music. By definition, most sides not recorded by Studio One or Treasure Isle during the rock steady years of 1966 to ’68 qualify as rare: this was the time of the fewest independent producers in the island’s prolific history. As such, the artists and musicians are a combination of the top bands and singers of this era, moonlighting from two big studios. Pratt shines as a producer of vocals, so when a heavyweight such as Ken Boothe steps up with a hoary rendition of the Muscle Shoals classic "You Left the Water Running,” the results are magic, cutting through the low fidelity with ease. All 23 cuts on this disc are of similar quality: each one soulful, rough and ready. Of special note are Tommy McCook’s heavily jazzed up "Bigger Things,” and Studio One mainstay Larry Marshall’s contributions, which edge toward the reggae sound which emerged during 1968. Pressure Sounds’ reissue mandate continues to be impressively wide, and the remastering on this disc shows off its vinyl sources with clicks and pops in the foreground, and a mellow, analogue sound that is delightful. (Pressure Sounds)