A Fool Riddim

by Jan 3, 2022

Alton Ellis - A Fool
Alton Ellis
Generally the more cuts or versions there are of a riddim means that said riddim is a popular one. Logical thought would quickly bring one to the conclusion that the smaller riddim is the less popular riddim. However this is not the case. Riddims like so many other things do not depend on size/cuts. One of the best examples of this is the A Fool riddim. Like so many other riddims its origins begin at Studio One with one of the greatest singers ever to record at the studio – Alton Ellis.

Alton, originally cut the tune – a love song – back in the late ’60s in the Reggae era, and in its construction you can hear certain similarities between it and the Real Rock riddim. Both share a stubborn bass line played at a medium to fast tempo, but perhaps more important is the way the snare drum is played – in a Rock Steady fashion, one drop style against a pure Reggae bass line. Very few riddims have this unusual combination. Rock Steady bass lines tend to be slower to fit the drum pattern, while the drumming during the Reggae era featured a lot of rim shot work to fit the faster bass lines.

Alton Ellis (Photo: Teacher)

Alton Ellis at Reggae Geel 2004 (Photo: Teacher)

For some reason though, probably best known to Mr Dodd, A Fool stayed on the shelf, limited to just one Studio One cut – Alton Ellis’s original. It would be nice to think this may be Coxsone showing respect for a very great tune, although the true reason is probably a lot more basic.

The next big cut of A Fool came some fourteen years later during the early Dancehall era. Anyone familiar with Reggae music will find that piece of information not very surprising. Yet what is surprising, then and now, is that it involved a well-liked, but seriously under-recorded artist Ernest Wilson, with a famous early ’70s studio owner/producer Herman Chin Loy. Ernest at the time was remembered for his hit at Studio One, Money Worries, and his hit for Channel One in the late ’70s, I Know Myself. Herman for his work with Augustus Pablo and for being the owner of the Aquarius studio – which no one including Herman – ever seemed to use. Truths And Rights changed that (for a time). Ernest singing a powerful reality song is in great form, and the Aquarius built riddim is just magnificent. It’s a little slower than the original, but rocks just nicely.

Just as good, and in the same style musically is the Fashion Records cut by Fenton Smith. Chris Lane and Gussie P were always able to tune into the fine details of a riddim (they are still doing it today), but this A-Class Studio recording and mix must surely rank amongst their greatest work.

(Source: Ray Hurford & Jean Scrivener’s “Rhythm Wise One & Two”)

Alton Ellis – A Fool

Ernest Wilson – Truths And Rights

Fenton Smith – Girls

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