Various – The Observer Roots Albums Collection

by May 17, 2024Reviews, Various

Various - The Observer Roots Albums Collection

Release Info

Doctor Bird/Cherry Red Records
Street date
May 17, 2024
Website Record Label




1. Ethiopian National Anthem
2. Slave Call
3. Guilty Conscience
4. Hurry On
5. Nuh Follow Babylon
6. Train To Skaville
7. Culture
8. Obeah Book
9. Let It Be Me
10. I Love Jah


11. Black Is The Highest Culture – The Jewels
12. Through The Fire I Come – The Heptones
13. Cry Cry – Junior Delgado
14. Rocking Chair – Delroy Wilson
15. Move On – The Heptones
16. Blood And Fire (1978 version) – Niney
17. Jah Jah Higher Than High – The Rockstones
18. Well Hot – Mighty Diamonds & The Heptones
19. Warrior – Horace Andy
20. Mr Know It All – Gregory Isaacs
21. Book Of Rules – The Heptones
22. Left With A Broken Heart – Ken Boothe
23. Mix Up – Niney & The Morwells



1. We Got Love
2. Walls Of Jericho
3. Jah Can Count On I
4. Oh No Not My Baby
5. Why Did You Do It
6. Zion Chant
7. Rastaman Camp
8. Do Good
9. Brandy
10. Rasta Have Faith


11. Lovers Rock JA. Style / Lovers Version
12. The Overseer / Observer Version
13. Love One Another
14. Jah Will Bless You
15. Chant It Down / Chant It Version
16. Sitting In The Park / In The Park Version
17. Follow This Ya Sound
18. Roman Soldiers Of Babylon

Winston ‘Niney’ Holness was thought of as being one of Jamaica’s most celebrated record producers. As a pioneer of the Roots sound, he had produced a large number of best-selling 7″ singles. They were recorded by some of Jamaica’s finest performers such as Leonard Dillon and Freddie McGregor. Both artists started recording back in the ’60s, Leonard Dillon with the legendary Ethiopians, and they hit the UK charts with ‘Train To Skaville’. This collection comprises of the best Roots from The Ethiopians and Freddie McGregor, and to complete the collection there are a couple of bonus tracks.


1. ETIOPIAN NATIONAL ANTHEM. This is the national anthem of Ethiopia as the title suggests and therefore is not a Roots Reggae number but a drum orientated sound on which all group members are present on the vocal as a chorus. Pleasing way to start the original album tracks. 2. SLAVE CALL. Giving its tile to the original album this is a very laid-back Roots number and the rhythm track is slow. As with the previous track it comes with group vocals and is Roots Reggae at its best. 3. GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Another laid-back track at a slower pace and with the same group vocals. Nothing exceptional about this, just another fine Roots Reggae recording. 4. HURRY ON. The rhythm track on this mid-tempo number comes more prominent than on the previous tracks. The combined vocal is easy on the ear and overall this is a catchy recording. 5. NUH FOLLOW BABYLON. This is another non-Roots number with a laid-back rhythm track on which the drumming sound is prominent. The vocal is performed by all group members and is pleasant enough. 6. TRAIN TO SKAVILLE. Everyone who has been a fan of Jamaican music will no doubt have come across this track before on numerous albums/CDs and it was written by Dillon/Taylor, two of the group members. It comes with a full-on rhythm track that is punchy with some great bass lines. The vocals are infectious and the overall sound gets the feet tapping and takes one back to their youth, many moons ago. As mentioned above it was a sizeable UK nationwide hit back in 1967. Released in the UK on the Rio label in 1967. 7. CULTURE. Another non-Roots number on which the vocal tells about living in the ghetto. As on a number of previous tracks the drumming is a prominent part of the rhythm track that comes at a slow pace. One was not motivated by this, not to say that the listener would not be. 8. OBEAH BOOK. Written by Leonard Dillon this has a mid-tempo rhythm track on which the vocals are shared with the other group members. The Roots sound is again infectious and shows off the production work to the full. For the record, turn over the 7″ single to find a track called ‘Back Weh’ that is a version of the other side. Released in Jamaica on the Observer label in 1977. 9. LET IT BE ME. This is mid-tempo Roots Reggae and is a version of a great song, one of the pop versions being by The Everley Brothers, some pop songs etc do not lend themselves to this genre but this really does. The vocals are predominantly combined and along with a punchy rhythm track it is a classic sound with some fine percussion work. 10. I LOVE JAH. This again is a mid-tempo number on which the vocalist sings the praises of Jah. The percussion work is infectious and along with a punchy rhythm track we hear one of the top original album tracks. This track can be found on many collections, one being ‘Stand And Give Praise Roots Reggae’ box set originally released via Trojan Records.


11. BLACK IS THE HIGHEST CULTURE – The Jewels. A slow slice of cool Reggae from an outfit one may not have come across before. The make-up of the rhythm track is classic with drums being prominent along with some fine organ work. Towards the end it moves into a Dub sound and is good in its own way. 14. ROCKING CHAIR – Delroy Wilson. This comes mid-tempo and has a punchy rhythm track, over which Delroy performs in his usual impeccable way. This was produced and arranged by the legendary Bunny Lee and came on 7″ with ‘Rockers’ by Dillinger on the B-side and has the same rhythm track with a spoken vocal. Released in UK on the Third World label in 1977. 16. BLOOD AND FIRE (1978 version) – Niney. 22. LEFT WITH A BROKEN HEART – Ken Boothe. On this we have the legendary Ken Boothe on a mid-tempo number that has been covered by various artists, in a pop vein by The Four Tops back in 1964 as an album track and in a Reggae vein by The Paragons, to name but two. Ken is at his best on the vocal and it becomes infectious with a laid-back rhythm track. On the original Jamaican 7″ the song is credited to John Holt but this is not correct. Released in Jamaica on the Moses label in 1978. 23. MIX UP – Niney & The Morwells. A catchy number with Niney being joined by The Morwells on vocal at various times. The rhythm track is again laid-back and Niney does a fine job on the main vocal. The recording comes together as a catchy sound, on the Jamaican 7″ single was a version titled ‘Morwells Unlemeted ‘as the B-side. Released in Jamaica on the Mosses label in 1978.


1. WE GOT LOVE. This is a slow number on which Mr McGregor performs a classy vocal and is joined by backing vocalists at various times. Drums play a prominent part in the rhythm which may well come from The Soul Syndicate. The song was co-written by Winston Holness and Freddie McGregor. Released in Jamaica on the Observer label in 1979. 2. WALLS OF JERICHO. Slow version of a much-recorded song that may be familiar to music lovers. The rhythm track has an early Dub feel and the Roots horns are tight and infectious. The original song words are changed and Freddie does justice to the song. 3. JAH CAN COUNT ON I. Written by Little Roy and Niney this comes mid-tempo and has Freddie joined by backing vocalists. He is in a soulful mood on this and fronts a laid-back rhythm track. Roots Reggae is good when it comes as good as this. Released in UK on Observer label 2011. 4. OH NO NOT MY BABY. The song has been covered by numerous artists over the years in a pop vein. On this Freddie gives his all and is joined again by backing singers. Some tight horn work and a faster rhythm track that fully compliments the vocal. One loves the song and this version and is equal to any of them. Released in UK (12″) on Observer label 1977.
5. WHY DID YOU DO IT. This is catchy from start to finish and finds Freddie in good voice and joined once again by backing vocalists. The rhythm track comes faster than on previous tracks and again we hear the infectious horns. A top track from the original album. Released in UK on Grape label (Trojan Records) 1973. 6. ZION CHANT. This mid-tempo number comes with a soulful vocal from Freddie who is helped-out by a female chorus from time-to-time. The backing is punchy without any percussion work. This track was recorded at Channel One Studio. 9. BRANDY. Once again a mid-tempo number on which Freddie sings in a soulful mood and the lyrics are certainly worth a listen. The rhythm track comes straight and is punchy. 10. RASTA HAVE FAITH. Starting with a spoken intro and is a slower sound. There is some fine organ work on a backing track that dose not have a pronounced Reggae rhythm. This track becomes infectious and will have the listener wanting to hear it again, as I did. This may be familiar to many Jamaican music fans as it is a remake of ‘Santa Massa Gana’ by The Abyssinians Released in Jamaica on the Observer label in 1979.


11. LOVERS ROCK JA/LOVERS VERSION. This is a cool recording of a Lovers Rock sound, as one would expect from the title. The vocal is spot-on and Freddie is joined by backing singers at various times. Released (album) on the Observer label in 1981. 13. LOVE ONE ANOTHER. This could be classed as another Lovers Rock recording and is a faster sound than most of the previous tracks. The vocal has Freddie at his best and is infectious, he is joined once again by backing singers. Another recording out of the Channel One set-up in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. 16. SITTING IN THE PARK/IN THE PARK VERSION. Longish intro before Freddie comes in with a cool vocal on a song written by R&B singer Billy Stewart and recorded by Georgie Fame amongst other artists. More of the same on the backing track with a chorus at various times. The backing is without percussion and we end up with a top Roots Reggae sound that was recorded at the Harry J studio in Kingston, Jamaica. Released in Jamaica (12″ single) on the Observer label in 1981. 18. ROMAN SOLDIERS OF BABYLON. This is Roots Reggae at its best and comes as a mid-tempo sound. The vocalising is Freddie’s alone and the rhythm track is straight. This track can also be found on the Trojan CD collection ‘Stand And Give Praise : Roots Reggae’ released in 2010 amongst other albums/singles.

Summing up this collection which contains four albums shows that Niney’s undisputed production skills were the tops on the Jamaican music scene. With the release of the album ‘Showcase’ (issued in UK as ‘Lover’s Rock Jamaican Style’) LP it helped to cement Freddie McGregor’s standing on the Reggae scene. The collection features a host of Reggae superstars and numerous Roots recordings that became classics. It is collections like this that keeps Jamaican music in the public eye and once again a classic collection has been put together by the team at Cherry Red Records and we should thank them for this. This is not just for Roots fans but Jamaican music fans in general. At £14.99p this has to be a good addition to any Jamaican music collection.

Read more about:

The Ethiopians – Slave Call

Gregory isaacs – Mr. Know It All

Freddie McGregor – jah Can Count On I


Where to get it


More Doctor Bird/Cherry Red Music