Various – Merritone Rock Steady 2 ~ This Music Got Soul 1966-1967

by Oct 28, 2016Reviews, Various

Various - Merritone Rocksteady 2
Winston "Merritone" Blake

Release Info

Title: Various – Merritone Rock Steady 2 ~ This Music Got Soul 1966-1967

Label: Dub Store Records | Format: CD-LP-DR | Street date: October 28, 2016 | Website: Dub Store Records


  1. Hopeton Lewis – This Music Got Soul
  2. Hopeton Lewis – Let Me Come On Home
  3. Zodiacs – Walk On By
  4. Termites – We Gonna Make It
  5. Dynamites – Fountain Bliss
  6. Hopeton Lewis – Rock A Shacka
  7. Hopeton Lewis – Don’t Cry
  8. Merritone Singers – House Upon The Hill
  9. Tartans – Real Gone Sweet
  10. Tartans – Rolling Rolling
  11. Hopeton Lewis – I Don’t Want Trouble
  12. Lester Sterling – Lester Sterling Special
  13. Dynamites – If You Did Love Me [Take 1]
  14. Tartans – Don’t Take That Train
  15. Lynn Taitt & The Jets -Batman [Early Take]
  16. Hopeton Lewis – Oh Tell Me Darling [Take 1]
  17. Tartans – I’m Ready
  18. Henry Buckley – Take Me Back
  19. Roland Alphonso – Sounds Of Silence
  20. Lynn Taitt & The Jets – Batman [Early Take] Rehearsal
  21. Federal All Stars – Merritone False Starts 2

“It was Ken Khouri’s Federal Recording Studio, the womb that gave birth to the talented writers, artists and musicians that gave Jamaica its musical identity.” Prince Buster.

Ken Khouri was born in the parish of St. Mary in 1917. His mother was Jamaican-born to Cuban parents, and his father was Lebanese. In 1949 he bought a disc-cutting machine, while visiting Miami. Soon he started recording mento artists, Lord Flea’s “Naughty Little Flea” being the first tune that became an overnight success. He was successful in producing mento records with local musicians which led to opening Jamaica’s first record manufacturing plant called Records Ltd. His productions included reggae music, but also folklore music as well as pop and jazz instrumental albums. In addition they also targeted the mass tourist market with albums of calypso and similar folk-based material, aimed at the many visitors to Jamaica’s North Coast hotels. Three years later he moved his operation to Foreshore Road (later renamed Marcus Garvey Drive) where, with the assistance of the inestimable Graeme Goodall, he updated and upgraded his recording studio and it became Federal Record Manufacturing. It was not only the place for the sound system men to record their music but it was also where they had their records manufactured and, consequently, the company enjoyed a near total monopoly on recording and record pressing in Kingston.

In 1963 Ken Khouri sold his one track board to Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, who established Studio One, and Ken imported the first stereo equipment to Jamaica and Federal began making stereo records. The following year WIRL (West Indies Records Limited) opened but the competition served to drive the company on to higher heights. Ken Khouri continued to work on his own productions and, in 1966, the seven inch release of Hopeton Lewis’ ‘Take It Easy’, recorded under the guidance of Trinidadian guitarist Lynn Taitt, ushered in the rock steady era. In 1966, Merritone label was founded as a subsidiary of Federal Records. Many songs were recorded under Merritone label. However, those only appeared on vinyl records in limited quantities in Jamaica and a small bunch of titles were released on Island label in UK. The label name is originated from Winston Blake’s sound system, Merritone. Trinidadian guitarist Lynn Taitt and the Jets were in charge of the Merritone recordings. The sound is often described as unique, elegant, sophisticated and authentic like no other. In the early 1980s he decided to sell the studio and pressing plant to Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Company. In September 2003 Ken Khouri passed away.

Dub Store Records out of Japan is the major Japanese ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall reissue label run by the eponymous Tokyo based record store. The label aims at accurately covering the 50-plus years of Jamaican music. Recent vinyl & cd releases from the likes of Bunny Wailer, Derrick Harriot and many more are proof of their high quality standards and love of Jamaican music.

Recently we reviewed the Dub Store Records album “Merritone Rock Steady 1 ~ Shanty Town Curfew 1966-1967”, a flawless selection of well known hits, and not so well known rarities put to cd with a remarkable sound quality! The follow up set “Merritone Rock Steady 2 ~ This Music Got Soul 1966-1967” hit the streets at the end of October and delivers another awesome selection of vintage rocksteady & reggae tunes out of the Merritone camp. No less than six slices from Hopeton Lewis! He sang in church from an early age and started performing as a youth, forming a singing group called the Regals. By the mid-1960s, he began recording and had one of the earliest rocksteady hits with “Take It Easy” in late 1966. He had several more Jamaican hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including the first ‘herb’ song ever recorded in Jamaica, “Cool Collie”. He worked for Duke Reid as an arranger and backing vocalist, and won the Festival Song Contest in 1970 with “Boom Shaka Lacka”. After some fine hits his success was limited. He turned to gospel music and died in 2014 in Brooklyn. The set opens with the 1966 tune (his debut song?) “This Music Got Soul”, a rhythmic piano driven song, followed by “Let Me Come Home”, a rocksteady riddim with a jazzy intro by Leslie Butler, nice one! More rocksteady niceness with “Rock A Shacka”, a genuine rocksteady classic. On the soul tune “Don’t Cry” his voice interacts really cool with the jazzy alto sax. “I Don’t Want No Trouble” is a true scorcher as he sings over a relaxed riddim about getting together without trouble. Finally he does a lovers tune called “Oh Tell Me Darling (Take 1)”.

The Zodiacs were Claude Sang Jr., Eugene Dwyer, Kingsley Ainsley, George “Robbie” Robinson and Winston John Service. “Walk On By” was a ska tune they cut for Duke Reid. Here they turn it into a classic rocksteady song! Lloyd Parks and Wentworth Vernal aka The Termites recorded most of their work for Studio One. “We Gonna Make It” is the tune they did for the Merritone label. The Tartans members were the late Devon Russell, Lindberg Lewis, the late Lincoln Thompson and Cedric Myton. “Dance All Night” was their best selling record and later on the separate members went to pursue their successful solo careers. Four of their tunes are include here. “Real Gone Sweet” and “Rolling Rolling” sees them in fine rocksteady style. “Don’t Take That Train” is an unreleased song from The Tartans. “I’m Ready” is a beautiful slowed down ska tune with fine harmonies. Lester Sterling’s tune “Lester Sterling Special” is a great instrumental with Lester pushing the riddim to higher heights! Lynn Taitt & The Jets remake the Batman movie theme in their unique style. A rehearsal take is included as well! Roland Alphonso does a remake in fine style of “Sounds Of Silence” from Simon & Garfunkel.

The release also comes with extensive liner notes featuring extracts from extensive interviews with Paul Khouri.

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