Various Artists
Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967 - 1974

Various Artists
Summer Records Anthology: 1974 - 1988

Jackie Mittoo

Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy
Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy

[Light in the Attic,]

Back in the day, Toronto was a crucial meeting point for all sorts of Jamaican musicians. Though the flight may have been 8 hours back in the 60's, while today the distance between Toronto and Kingston has narrowed down to 3 1/2 hours, Toronto has forever had a close affinity with Jamaica. When a large number of West Indian population made the flight to Toronto during the 60's, the music community came alive with a buzz. Yes, there was music other than the boring pop melodies people were used to hearing on their transistor radios. Caribana parade had its start in Toronto in 1967 and just prior to this, soulful music decided to pop its head out of the corners of the city. A few years back Light in the Attic imprint conducted a massive archeological search, which resulted in the Jamaica to Toronto series. Very rich in content and style, below are some results of its first findings.  "Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967 - 1974" concentrates on initial stages of the Caribbean music scene in our town. There was Jackie Mittoo and his 1971 funk-soul anthem "Grand Funk". We had Jo-Jo and the Fugitives and their 1968 sad reggae melodies of "Fugitive Song". Then, we got Lloyd Delpratt [who still performs to this day in Toronto] and his soul-filled instrumental rendition "Together". We also have the solid vibrations of The Cougars and their "Right On" single from 1970. To close the proceedings off, Wayne McGhie treats us to a solid funk-disco rendition of "Here We Go Again". Man, did this guy have a sweet set of vocals! In between, we're also offered a rare appearance by Ram, Bob and Wisdom, Cougars and Eddie Spencer amongst others. Some of you may be lucky enough and still have the original 45s collecting dust in your basement. It's all so sweet. It's all so good. Most importantly, the soul and heart of this music stood the test of time. I say amen to the people who dug up these rare gems and brought us the real deal!

"Summer Records Anthology: 1974 - 1988" leaves off where the previous record left off. Most of these cuts are heavier in rhyme, reason and purpose. This was the first anthology on Jerry Brown's Summer Records label, which some have called Canada's answer to Lee Scratch Perry's Black Ark imprint. Having said that, obviously dub is more prevalent as the selection of artists tends to lean in that direction.  Through the years, cream of the crop of reggae artists passed through Summer Records basement studios - Noel Ellis, Johnnie Osbourne, Leroy Sibbles, Carl Dawkins, Prince Jammy. Any wonder then that this music is much more groove oriented, that the beats are key in making the deliciousness of the sounds come through?  From Johnny Osbourne and Earth, Roots & Water dire-sounding dub of "Right, Right Time", through to Noel Ellis' slow-cooking jam on "Reach My Destiny", all the way to Jerry Brown's reverb-heavy "Dreadlock Lady", the rhythms are solid, while the vibe is deep. Even the latter entries in the catalogue - jungle-nodding Unique Madoo (Ska Doo) and Willi Williams with his lighter fare on "Run Them a Run" - are solid contenders in this collection. If anything, we can look at this mish-mash of artists and see the record for what it is - a tribute to a studio that is no longer and artists that are only now getting some of the attention they should've been getting at the get-go. An added bonus to the dual-layer disc is the 20 minute DVD that showcases a few of the artists in action during the late 70's/early 80's timeframe. Truly priceless release, which any serious reggae/dub lover should embrace. After a stint with the world-famous Skatalites, Jackie Mittoo went to England to join Soul Vendors. Then sometime in the late 60's, he came to Toronto to try his luck as a solo artist. It is with extreme glee that he seems to have recorded and released "Wishbone" in 1971. In employing his heavy organ groove and some over-dubbed piano, Mittoo's mix of reggae and ska is so natural. The vibes on the record are joyous and the music will surely bring a bit, fat smile on any serious music lover's face. Mittoo was once asked to explain reggae, "It's like sunshine from the islands?a kind of exciting, mixed rhythm that makes you want to keep time by nodding your head instead of tapping your feet. Actually, reggae is a cross between calypso and jazz." True words spoken by an expert in the field. Though the vocal numbers - like the ecstatic "Soul Bird" or the reflective "Love of Life" - are excellent in revealing Mittoo's gift in the vocal department, it's the instrumentals that hit the hardest. The title track for instance features a fat slab of organ revelation that makes you shout "hallelujah" to the congregation, while "Mother Funk" as the title suggests gives a nod to the funkalicious sounds of James Brown, while allowing for a melodic, swinging groove to co-exist. One can't believe that Mittoo was in his 20s when making this music. Not overtly polished, with a deep, pulsating groove running through and through, "Wishbone" makes for mature music from an individual whose music begs to be explored in greater detail.  The new-found fame of "Wayne McGhie & the Sounds of Joy" began in 1995 when a record dealer from NYC who had the original vinyl introduced it to the hip-hop community. At one point, the record was fetching up to $600 from collectors. This was based on the fine beats that McGhie and his band were able to come up with. When the record was created in the winter of 1969 in Toronto studio, McGhie was merely 23 years old. Most of his band were members of Jamaican community, which was ideal for the sounds he wanted to encapsulate on the record. So, just why is this record so precious? Is it McGhie's gloriously underplayed version of "Going in Circles"? Is it the fine horn section he assembled for the record that blow a ton of sweetly loving melodies and give the record a solidly, positive vibe? Is it his tender vocal prowess that he's not shy to use whenever the chance arises? The answer lies somewhere in the middle. There is such power in the haunting beauty of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" [version that should've dragged on for another 30 minutes, as was the case with Isaac Hayes version], but there's also so much joy on the vibe-heavy "Dirty Funk" and the standard sing-along "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye". McGhie's guitar wallop is scattered in sections, as he plays lead to accentuate Ike Bennett's fat organ sound.  The more one listens to this record, the more one wants summer and everything that it has in store to be here already. "Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy" makes one wonder how many imitators have made their career off the beats on this record? With more titles planned in this series shortly, the listeners are in for a long run on these musical treasures for years to come.

- Tom Sekowski

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>> Various Artists - Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk & Reggae 1967 - 1974 / Various Artists - Summer Records Anthology: 1974 - 1988 / Jackie Mittoo - Wishbone / Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy - Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy
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