REGGAE BOYS – DOLLY HOUSE ON FIRE / REGGAE TRAIN

 

A: Reggae Boys – Dolly House on fire

B: Reggae Boys – Reggae Train

 

The Reggae Boys must be the most overlooked band in the history of early reggae. 99 out of a 100 times they are simply credited as ‘a.k.a. the Pioneers’ but most of the time this is not the case. Because The Reggae Boys were an actual group of singers and they scored actual hits. Comprised of Alva Lewis, Glen Adams and George Dekkker the group recorded smoking hot reggae scorchers like the superb doublesider featured here and magnificent stompers such as  ‘Mama look deh’ and ‘Me no born ya.’ Both Alva and Glen had already recorded their fair share of lead vocal tunes in the rocksteady era – I think I may have mentioned Alva’s ‘Suicide‘  as a firm Pressure Beat favorite before and there’s also nowt wrong with Glen Adams’ “Hold down miss winey‘ – but George Dekker was new on the scene and it was the Reggae Boys that gave him a leap forward. As the group’s lead singer and with an obvious talent to write hit tunes, such as aforementioned ‘Mama look deh’, Dekker would soon make it to the big league when he joined the Pioneers, whith whom he would enjoy tremendous success.

Before that time, though, Dekker was both in the Reggae Boys, as well as recording material for Derrick Morgan’s Hop label. Perhaps Dekker’s involvement in the Reggae Boys is enough to grant the Reggae Boys as ‘a.k.a Pioneers’  but since he joined them after the recording of this Reggae Boys hit material, I think that’s stretching it. Perhaps the intertwining of the Hippy Boys and the involvement – in different roles – of its members on the reggae scene is what makes it all rather diffuse. Of course The Hippy Boys had Alva Lewis and Glen Adams on board as members – on rhythm guitar and organ respectively. With Family Man on bass and Carly on drums, this outfit would soon be known as the Upsetters and later on as The Wailers. In their early days they had Max Romeo on lead vocals, who in turn added backing vocals to some Reggae Boys tunes. As the Hippy Boys, Alva and Glen backed many great singers of the era, including The Pioneers. As a result, the Hippy Boys were everwhere all the time: they sung as the The Reggae Boys, recorded solo tunes and took part in recordings not always crediting them, such as The Soulmates, which was a group that could feature anybody really. The Pioneers took part, as did Jackie Brown, as did George Dekker. With a recording schedule that heavy and with the links between recording artists that tight, it could very well be that some songs by The Reggae Boys did sometimes feature members of the Pioneers. Or any other group, really. So, to be sure Dolly House and Reggae Train was not a Pioneers recording, but a true Reggae Boys classic in its own right, I asked Jackie Robinson if they were involved. I got an answer straight away: no, Jackie was not involved. But, his wife added, the baritone voice on Dolly House does sound a lot like Sidney Crooks…

Reggae Boys - Reggae trainFor Reggae Train The Hippy Boys lay down a superb and superheavy backingtrack that perfectly transpires the mood of the Impression’s original cut – Reggae Train is loosely based on People get ready – into a reggae mould. In a time when reggae was mostly a fast paced, uptempo business this tune comes as a delight. ‘Dolly House on fire’ rides the same riddim as The Soulmates ‘Dem a laugh an-a-ki-ki‘ but to these ears they are different recordings. Credited to the Blenders on Dem a Laugh, it’s Alva Lewis who gets a credit on Dolly House. Play both tracks back to back and you’ll notice that ‘Dem a laugh’ sounds more clear and omits both the percussion and the drum rolls that are featured on Dolly House. The matrix number suggests Dolly was recorded later, perhaps at Federal, while ‘Dem a laugh’ was recorded at Randy’s.  Lyricswise, ‘Dollyhouse on fire’ deals with exposing secrets, such as an illicit affair, and ending whatever good times were had through bad behaviour. The dolly house – a picture (too) perfect – falls apart when the days of ‘see an’ blind’ end and we see weh we waan see. Might be a good theme for the upcoming US elections..

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Label: Amalgamated (JA) / Amalgamated (UK)
Release date: 1968
Riddim: Soulmates – Dem a laugh an-a-ki-ki / Impressions – People get ready
Matrix: FJG 7815 / Dyna JG 005
Posted: 7-11-2016

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