Ace harmony group the Silvertones was originally formed as a duo by Gilmore Grant and Keith Coley, friends that came to know each other in Kingston. After singing together for a while in the mid 1960s, the duo met baritone singer Delroy Denton, who gradually became their main lead vocalist. The group’s debut recording for Duke Reid, a cover of Brook Benton’s ‘My True Confession,’ was an instant success, followed by their hit cover of Wilson Pickett’s ‘Midnight Hour.’ They continued recording for Reid in the late rock steady years, also gaining a hit for Sonia Pottinger with an original called ‘Guns Fever.’ Then, as rock steady turned to reggae, they made their first recordings with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, cover versions of Brook Benton’s ‘Kiddyo’ and ‘Endlessly.’ After going on to work with a range of other producers, they rekindled the link with Perry by hanging out at his Upsetter record shop, and began recording a number of singles for him, voicing them at King Tubby’s studio, shortly before Perry opened the Black Ark. They soon decided to cut an album together, the 1973 release Silver Bullets, which was a mix of sentimental cover tunes and vibrant original works; the most outstanding number was the devotional ‘Rejoice Jah Jah Children,’ a song written by Perry’s common-law wife, Pauline Morrison. Then, in 1977, the group re-cut the tune in a ‘rockers’ style at Channel One, which surfaced in minute quantity on the Black Eagle label, confusingly titled ‘African Dub,’ with production credited to Jerry Matthias of the Maytals; it also made its way onto a Trojan seven inch, with production credited to ‘Jerry Maytals.’ Eventually, the tune also appeared on a Summer Records 12-inch, this time titled ‘Let Us Give Praise, La La La Lu,’ with production credited to ‘Jerry and Jerry,’ that is, Jerry Matthias and Summer Records’ founder, Jerry Brown (who was perhaps responsible for the odd bit of incomprehensible vocals that were spliced between the end of the vocal and the start of the dub—a most baffling bit of sound editing). In any case, it is a stunning re-working of an all-time classic tune! The song on the other side of this disc (which was Side A on the Summer Records original) is an excellent roots offering from Studio One veteran Johnny Osbourne, who was a mainstay at Summer Records during this era. It forms a nice contrast to the Silvertones number, since it is very much in the mode of Summer Records’ Canadian creations, with Osbourne’s passionate vocals offset by the understated guitar lines, sparse keyboard chops, and a generally lo-fi production style. Crucial!
David Katz ©
LABEL: IROKO RECORDS