The Heptones – Back On Top / In A Dancehall Style

by Oct 30, 2020Artist, Reviews

The Heptones - Back On Top / In A Dancehall Style
The Heptones

Release Info

The Heptones – Back On Top / In A Dancehall Style

Label: Burning Sounds | Format: CD | Street date: October 30, 2020 | Website label

  • The Heptones – Back On Top
  1. Place Called Love
  2. Suddenly
  3. Only Sixteen
  4. Pretty Little Cottage
  5. Yesterday
  6. Sea Of Love
  7. Love Won’t Come Easy
  8. Take Me Darling
  9. Love Story
  10. I Got The Handle
  • The Heptones – In A Dancehall Style
  1. Music Vibes
  2. My Home Town
  3. Island Woman
  4. Peace & Love
  5. Botheration
  6. Feeling Busted
  7. Teardrops
  8. Secret Love Affairs
  9. Girl, You Are On My Mind
  10. Distant Land
The Heptones

Barry Llewellyn and Earl Morgan formed The Heptones in 1965. The group’s lineup went through several changes before Leroy Sibbles joined them. With Leroy Sibbles as lead singer, legendary Studio One producer Coxsone Dodd showed an interest in the trio, and they enjoyed instant success with Fatty Fatty. During the rocksteady era at studio One they scored a string of hits with songs like I Hold The Handle, I’ve Got A Feeling, Why Must I, and Baby. They more or less became an integral part of Coxsone’s Studio One set up. On the group’s debut album Fattie Fattie, both Barry Llewellyn and Earl Morgan also came up with the occasional song and lead vocal.

Exit Studio One

After their stay at Studio One, they moved to producer Joe Gibbs and scored with a remake of their Studio One track Hypocrite. Joe Gibbs released two Heptones & Friends albums, which became bestsellers on the island. After that, they worked with almost every Kingston-based producer of note such as Gussie Clarke, Winston Blake and Alvin Ranglin. With Harry J they did a lot of recordings and in 1973 the album Book Of Rules, at that time only released in Jamaica on JayWax, Harry J’s label. The album, with the splendid song Cool Rasta added, was released by Trojan in the UK as Cool Rasta. After a two year stay in Canada, Leroy Sibbles returned to Jamaica in 1975. Signing up with Island Records they did two albums, the Danny Holloway produced Night Food and Party Time for excentric producer Lee Perry.

Leroy Sibbles Solo

Leroy Sibbles left the group in 1978 to start a successful solo career. The remaining Heptones replaced him with Dolphin ‘Naggo’ Morris and released the Better Days album in 1978. A year later Greensleeves released the well received Good Life album. They went on recording and touring, and the 1980s saw the release of several albums, some sets being on par with their earlier recordings, while other albums failed to make a decent impression. In the 90s The Heptones reunited and cut the album Pressure! for Tappa Zukie. In recent times, The Heptones’ Barry Llewellyn and Leroy Sibbles regularly performed in Europe, In 2011, Barry suddenly passed away at Kingston Public Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica.

Back On Top

The early 1980s saw the release of some fine sets, first the 1982 On The Run lp, a year later followed by Back On Top, released by Vista Sounds in the UK. The set was produced by The Heptones and recorded at several studios, with the help of some of Jamaica’s finest musicians such as Robbie Shakespeare, Flabba Holt, Bingy Bunny, Winston Wright and Style Scott. Recording was also done in New York by Lloyd ‘Bullwackie’ Barnes. Recently there was a LP-only reissue on 180 gram red vinyl and comprehensive sleeve notes on the inner bag.

Updated Feel

Thematically the album deals with affairs of the heart, as with so many albums from the trio. It’s obvious that we are being treated to nuff covers from earlier albums. From their time at Studio One, we’ll find the Sam Cooke cover Only Sixteen. Another pop cover from their heydays is Sea Of Love, a popular tune from their extensive repertoire. There’s the lesser-known Take Me Darling and two solid recuts of Heptones’ classics: I’ve Got the Handle and Love Won’t Come Easy. Both classics have been given an updated feel and are two of the highlights of the album. The opening track Place Called Love is a catchy skanker. With a backing provided by a bunch of seasoned musicians each song has its merit, even the Beatles’ cover Yesterday, usually not our cup of tea!

In A Dancehall Style

Vista Sounds released this album the same year in the UK. In contrast to Back On Top, this album is partly an English affair. The tracks were recorded in London’s Black Star Studio. Count John was responsible for the production, who recruited several renowned UK musicians to provide the backing for this album, like Hughie Izachaar on bass, Jah Bunny as drummie and Tony Asher among others.
They did not go back to their old hits for this album, but wrote ten original songs, most of them written in conjunction with engineer John Lynch. Not all songs are highlights, but overall the album is certainly not bad. Not only do they touch on themes from the heart, but several tunes testify to their social commitment. Peace & Love is very appealing, a catchy melody and conscious lyrics make this track a winner. We also experience the same feeling with the closing song Distant Land. Supported by a penetrating Nyabinghi backdrop, the Heptones show that they stand their ground in terms of roots and culture. Don’t forget to listen to Botheration, another tune that sticks immediately. As we are used to from The Heptones, this album contains various lovers tunes, of which Girl, You Are On My Mind, could appeal to us.

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