Thursday, June 02, 2005

The greatest vocal group you've never heard of

Imagine if a quartet of angels descended from heaven, visited Jamaica and recorded a handful of classic singles in the mid-1960s.
That's how I began a recent Amazon review of my latest CD I acquired: "Run Come Celebrate," a compilation of the greatest hits of the Techniques.
The Techniques were among Jamaica's greatest vocal groups in the pre-Bob Marley golden age of the island's popular music. There are a few of us reggaeologists (Yes! It really is a word!) who believe the Techniques were the finest of all Jamaica's vocal groups. I received their CD from Amazon in the mail last night. I can't quit listening to it!
Songs such as "Love is Not a Gamble," "Queen Majesty" and "Little Did You Know" stand up against anything recorded by the Platters or the Impressions or Smokey Robinson and the Miracles or any of the American vocal groups of the era.
At two points in their career, the Techniques were led by two of the finest, sweetest falsetto male vocalists from Jamaica -- Keith "Slim" Smith and Pat Kelly. Both went on to solo success after their tenures with the Techniques. (More on Slim Smith's tragic demise in a later post on Route1.) That's not too surprising. Here is the surprising thing: Three backup singers in the band ALSO went on to enjoy massive solo success after singing with the Techniques -- Bruce Ruffin, Jackie Parris and Lloyd Parks.
The group's founder, Winston Riley, named his successful record label after the Techniques and later became a hitmaking producer (Tenor Saw's "Ring the Alarm" might be his crowning glory in the recording studio).
Here's a bit of reggae trivia to close this post: Another founding member of the Techniques, Frederick Waite, emigrated to England. Eventually, he managed and produced a group begun by a pair of his sons -- Musical Youth (of "Pass the Dutchie" fame).
Posted by Hello


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