More You Becomes You

Possessed of the voice of an angel and a studio maestro's sureness of touch, Harriott is one of the unsung heroes of Jamaica's rhythm revolution ...

POSSESSED OF THE VOICE OF AN ANGEL AND a studio maestro’s sureness of touch, Harriott is one of the unsung heroes of Jamaica’s rhythm revolution. A student of American soul and R&B, in the ’60s he found local fame as a singing sensation. But by the time he came to record these ’70s sides at King Tubby’s studio, he had amassed knowledge and confidence in abundance. It was a confidence that allowed artists as diverse as Dennis Brown and Big Youth, I Roy and Augustus Pablo to weave their various brands of magic.

A new alchemy was taking place in JA music: surprises and eccentricities bubbling to the surface, natural weirdness guiding the way. Like Lee Perry, Harriott was right on top of it. Though a ‘less is more’ ethic underpins Harriott’s work, instrumentals by Pablo, Youth And The Crystalites and Bongo Herman remain as strange and singular as anything you’re ever likely to hear.

But Harriott’s scope is amazingly wide, you can sense a love for the infinite variety of JA creativity; be it the sanguine harmonies of The Ethiopians or the newly sprung wonder of a young Dennis Brown, whose vocal excellence is matched by Harriott himself on ‘Slave’ – a gossamer [I]cri de coeur [/I]aligned to a social consciousness that would do an obvious mentor like Curtis Mayfield proud.

The first collection of Harriott’s ‘roots’ material, ‘Riding The Roots Chariot’ is an exhaustible embarrassment of riches that has the listener slavering for more. Bring it on.