Stranger Cole & Gladdy - Just like a river

A: Stranger Cole & Gladdy – Just like a river

Pioneers – Dem a laugh


Treasure Isle’s hitmaker Stranger Cole was one the first artists to record for the newly emerged producer called Joe Gibbs back in 1968. I reckon hauling in the prolific singer was quite a big and important add to the recording roster and it didn’t fail to deliver either, because ‘Just like a river’ is nothing short of a reggae evergreen.

Instrumental in bringing in the pair of Stranger Cole and Gladstone Anderson was Lee Perry. Kicked out of a job at the Wirl studios, he started working as a producer for Joe Gibbs for about a year, after which he set up his own imprints. Known to be both very talented as well as a troublemaker who can hold a grudge for a long time, it is quite funny Lee Perry chose to help out Stranger Cole. After all, the two of them had quite a beef in earlier days: according to Perry, Stranger recorded a song called Rough & Tough at Federal for Treasure Isle which he claims was written by him. Treasure Isle boss Duke Reid declined to record it with Perry and gave the song to Stranger. In the meantime, Cole claims he wrote the song himself after having some problems on the love front.

Gladstone Anderson, Lee Perry and Stranger knew each other well from the Treasure Isle days. Gladdy was a singer but worked as the pianist for the studio. He was also responsible for taking auditions, which he took alongside Stranger Cole’s brother Cuttings. Stranger Cole was, as aforementioned, a hitmaker and Lee Perry used to hang around at the studio trying to catch a break before landing a job at Studio One. Come 1968 the sound of rocksteady was changing into reggae and Stanger and Gladdy decided to form a singing duo. The pair started to shop around with their newly written tunes and ended up with their old Treasure Isle associate Lee Perry, who took them to Joe Gibbs for an audition. ‘Just Like a river’ and ‘Seeing is knowing’ came out soon after. Both tracks hit big, but it was ‘Just like’ that became a longlasting riddim. Although based on a track by the Tennors called I’ve got to get you of my mind, it was the vocal melodies of ‘Just like a river’ that proved to be immortal. Today there are countless versions available, from different producers and different eras.

Closer to home, the pre-release only dj version of Andy Capp from 1969 is well worth checking out, as is the superb “El Casino Royale” version by Lynn Taitt & the Jets. The Mighty Diamonds & Ranking Joe rockers styled version from 1978 for Joe Gibbs also managed to hit the charts.  Ever since, the riddim has been popping up every 5 years or so. Like I said, an evergreen. You can’t beat the original, though, for this is as fine a tune as they will ever come…


Label: Amalgamated (Ja & Uk) / Jogibs (Ja)
Release date: 1968
Matrix: FJG – 7806 A
Riddim: Tennors – I’ve got to get you of my mind

(originally posted on 03-12-11)


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