Jamaica to Toronto
For Light In The Attic and project coordinator Sipreano, the Jamaica-Toronto series kicked off with the crucial re-release of Wayne McGhie & The Sounds Of Joy (1970), a pioneering slice of Canadian-recorded island soul from Montego Bay-born guitarist and singer Wayne McGhie. With his track “Dirty Funk” already a monster rarity and certified break-beat classic (thanks to NYC rap’s finest producers – Pete Rock and Gary G Whiz to name but two) we had to dig even deeper. By the late 1960s, Canada’s largest city was musically booming as West Indian immigrants made Toronto their new home.
The compilation Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974 rounds up the finest forgotten 45s and engaging LP tracks from this underappreciated era. Eddie Spencer, The Hitch-Hikers (featuring The Mighty Pope), Lloyd Delpratt, and The Cougars are just a handful of the many artists who broke down racial and cultural barriers, the seeds of which eventually blossomed into a unique Canadian reggae community.
In the early 1970s, Studio One keyboard maestro Jackie Mittoo led the charge, spreading the island beat. His Wishbone album was originally released in 1971 and cooks from end-to-end with a groovy rocksteady pulse. Thanks to this hard work, there was soon a younger generation on the move.
Son of Jamaican music great and one-time Toronto resident Alton Ellis, Noel Ellis was next in line for the throne. Assisted by Mittoo and Clash favorite Willi Williams, Noel’s self-titled debut recorded in 1979 showcases a serious display of roots and reality. Originally released on Jerry Brown’s Summer Records imprint, Ellis was just one of many reggae artists who ventured to Malton, Ontario, to record (along with Half Moon’s Oswald Creary and King [then Prince] Jammy).
The Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988 captures a killer cross-section of the producer/label owner Brown’s massive talent pool. Johnny Osbourne, Earth Roots & Water, and Adrian “Homer” Miller are all represented in the expansive package, which also includes a 25-minute documentary containing never-before-seen period footage of the Canadian reggae scene.
With Earth, Roots & Water’s 1977 dub masterpiece, Innocent Youths on deck for an early 2008 release, Jamaica-Toronto’s story is far from being told. From Yard to Yonge, New York, London, Paris, and all the way over to Tokyo, we are proud to present these now global sounds to music lovers everywhere.
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