Delroy Wilson – The Cool Operator

by May 4, 2024Artist, Reviews

Delroy Wilson_The Cool Operator

Release Info

Label
17 North Parade / Gorgon Music
Format
CD / DBL LP / DR
Street date
May 3, 2024
Contact
Website Record Label

Tracklist

1 Cool Operator
2 Better Must Come
3 I Want To Love You
4 Doing My Thing
5 Till I Die
6 Living In The Footsteps Of Another Man
7 Live And Learn
8 I’m Still Waiting
9 It’s A Shame
10 Mother Nature
11 Peace And Love
12 My Baby Is Gone
13 Drink Wine
14 Once Upon A Time
15 Dancing Mood
16 Rain From The Skies
17 Movie Star
18 Riding For A Fall
19 Try Again
20 Who Cares
21 This Old Heart Of Mine
22 Get Ready
23 Can’t Stop Me
24 Mash Up Illitracy
25 Here Come The Heartaches
26 Trying To Wreck My Life
27 Have Some Mercy
28 Never Will Conquer Me

This release should not be confused with Delroy Wilson’s Music Club compilation from 1998 with (almost) the same title. Only about six tracks of this new collection are featured on that 19-track album.

First Child Star

Delroy Wilson, the first child star in the history of Jamaican music, belongs to the group of reggae singers who achieved pop star status in Jamaica but failed to achieve international appreciation and recognition. Still in his early teens – he was only 13 years old – he started recording his first tunes for the producer Coxsone Dodd at Federal. His debut single If I Had A Beautiful Baby didn’t really hit, but its follow-up single Duke & The Sir aka Spit In The Sky (a barbed attack at then leading producer/artist Prince Buster) was a smash hit. More hits followed including tunes such as One Two Three, Lion Of Judah, I Shall Not Remove, and a duet with Slim Smith entitled Look Who Is Back Again.

Soul-Styled Crooner

Delroy Wilson’s voice broke just in time for the emergence of rocksteady in 1966, and his version of the Tams’ US soul tune Dancing Mood of that year, one of the first rocksteady records, became a monstrous hit in Jamaica, alerting local music fans to a new soul-styled crooner to match Alton Ellis or Ken Boothe. Still recording mainly for Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One, he increased his popularity with titles like Riding For A Fall“, another Tams cover, Once Upon A Time, Run Run, Won’t You Come Home, Conquer Me, True Believer, One One, I’m Not A King, Rain From The Skies and Feel Good All Over as well as a cover of the Temptations’ Get Ready. The latter was another example of Delroy Wilson specializing in covering soul hits or reggae songs that suited his style.

Bunny “Striker” Lee

Delroy Wilson left Studio One when he was 18-years-old. He and Stranger Cole then started their own W&C label on which they released a single called Once Upon A Time b/w I Want To Love You“. Together with Ken Boothe and members of The Gaylads and The Melodians, he formed a short-lived group named The Links. After they had broken up, he went to Sonia Pottinger for whom he recorded two hits, I’m The One Who Loves You and Put Yourself In My Place. The shift from rocksteady to reggae and the emergence of young producers who challenged the dominance of Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid made Delroy Wilson start working with Bunny “Striker” Lee for whom he scored a big Jamaican hit in 1971 with the anthemic “Better Must Come“, which was so popular it was adopted as a theme song by Michael Manley’s PNP to increase their vote amongst ‘sufferers’, during that year’s election campaign.

Hit Songs

His association with Bunny “Striker” Lee, one of the major producers throughout the 1970s, led to recording a vast amount of hit songs. Most of them are collected here and are certainly familiar to the Delroy Wilson fan and reggae aficionado alike as they are known from countless reissues and compilations. Besides the Bunny Lee productions, this set is expanded by a handful of notable cuts produced by Channel One and Federal Records. From beginning to end this album, which covers the rocksteady, early reggae, and reggae eras, is worthwhile hearing. Delroy Wilson’s soulful vocal delivery truly comes to full expression and, after all those years, well-known, some would even call it well-worn, classic tunes such as I’m Still Waiting, Better Must Come, Rain From The Skies, Dancing Mood, and This Old Heart of Mine to name only five, are still a delight to hear. Every album track is a superb effort and the hits are among the defining releases of reggae music’s  golden years. On the other hand, also a few lesser-known tunes such as Till I Die, Try Again, Drink Wine, Who Cares, Mash Up Illitracy, and the strong album closer Never Will Conquer Me can be listened to over and over again. Featuring the ’70s sound of Bunny Lee’s key session band The Aggrovators and mixes done at King Tubby’s, this is great stuff from one of Jamaica’s best, although outside reggae circles disgracefully underrated, singers.

Delroy Wilson died on March 6, 1995, in Jamaica at age 46 of complications from cirrhosis of the liver, leaving behind a catalog of impassioned tunes that were superbly voiced and seemingly immortal as is showcased by this valuable The Cool Operator set.

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