Tuesday, 12 August 2008

“Tighten Up (Volume 1): Deluxe Edition” by VARIOUS ARTISTS - A Review Of The Iconic 1969 Budget-Priced Reggae LP Now Reissued And Remastered Onto A 2008 Universal 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This review and hundreds more like it can also be found in my 
SOUNDS GOOD Music Book: 1960s and 1970s MUSIC Volume 2 
- Exceptional CD Remasters 
It contains over 210 in-depth reviews (a whopping 2400+ e-Pages) 
And is available to buy/download at Amazon at the following link...

"…Come On And Dance…"

By the time the iconic first "Tighten Up" LP was released in early 1969 (and only operating since July of 1968) - Trojan Records of the UK had released a staggering 108 singles and 25 albums to a voracious cosmopolitan British public. But Trojan knew that they needed a way to expand the nation's knowledge of their excellent catalogue - so they hastily put-together this 12-track ragbag of British 7" singles as a compilation. Trojan then priced it cheap (14 schillings and 6 old pence) - put a fetching cover on it of a rather lovely Caribbean lady and plopped it into the racks of every Woolworths Store the length and breath of England.

Named after the opening song on Side 1 by THJE UNTOUCHABLES - by their own admission - Trojan Records hadn't expected much of "Tighten Up". Happily for them and us they were wrong. It sold in large quantities and was hugely influential in introducing reggae music not just to the youth of Britain but to many other countries as well. It became a genuine phenomenon - spurning 7 more volumes up to Vol. 8 in 1973 where it simply ran out of steam and Volume 9 was shelved.

UK released Monday, 11 August 2008 - "Tighten Up (Volume 1): Deluxe Edition" by VARIOUS ARTISTS on Universal/Sanctuary/Trojan 1775154 (Barcode 602517751545) is a massive 2CD overhaul of that legendary 1969 LP - and what a peach it is too. The album was made up entirely of 7" singles – so I’ve provided hose catalogue numbers after each entry…

DISC 1 (66:04 minutes):
1. Tighten Up - THE UNTOUCHABLES (October 1968, Trojan TR-613, A)
2. Kansas City - JOYA LANDIS (November 1968, Trojan TR-620, A)
3. Spanish Harlem - VAL BENNETT (September 1968, Trojan TR-611, A)
4. A Place In The Sun - DAVID ISAACS (November 1968, Trojan TR-616, A)
5. Win Your Love For Me – GEORGE A. PENNY (November 1968, Trojan TR-625, A)
6. Donkey Returns - BROTHER DAN ALL STARS (July 1968, Trojan TR-601, A)
7. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da - JOYCE BOND [Side 2] (November 1968, Island WIP 6051, A)
8. Angel Of The Morning - JOYA LANDIS (November 1968, Trojan TR-622, A)
9. Fat Man - DERRICK MORGAN (November 1968, Trojan TR-626, A)
10. Soul Limbo - BYRON LEE & THE DRAGONAIRES (November 1968, Trojan TR-624, A)
11. Mix It Up - THE KINGSTONIANS (November 1968, Trojan TR-627, A)
12. Watch This Sound (For What It’s Worth) - THE UNIQUES (October 1968, Trojan TR-619, A)
Tracks 1 to 12 are the original UK LP "Tighten Up" released January 1969 on Trojan Records TTL

BONUS TRACKS – are the B-sides of the 12 UK 7” singles listed above:
13. Good Ambition - ROY SHIRLEY
14. Out The Light [Aka Mommy Out De Light) - JOYA LANDIS
15. If I Didn’t Know - ROY SHIRLEY
16. Handy Cap - THE UPSETTERS
17. It’s All In The Game - VAL BENNETT
19. Robin Hood Rides Again - AUBREY ADAMS & THE HIPPY BOYS
21. South Parkway Rock - VAL BENNETT
22. I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman (Aka The Whistling Song) - BYRON LEE & THE DRAGONAIRES
23. I’ll Be Around - THE KINGSTONIANS
24. Out Of Love - THE UNIQUES
Tracks 13 to 24 are the B-sides of Tracks 1 to 12 in exact order
(it should be noted that many of the B-sides were by different artists to those on the A, a common practice for reggae 7"s at the time)

DISC 2 (66:33 minutes):
Called "Tighten Up - The Alternatives" - Disc 2 is the A-sides of 24 UK 7" singles released between July and November of 1968. ISLAND RECORDS collectors should also note that 8 of the 24 listed below are from the coveted "WI" series (3126 to 3159) appearing here on CD for the first time anywhere to my knowledge.

1. Eastern Organ – BROTHER DAN ALL STARS (July 1968, Trojan TR-602, A)
2. Jackpot – THE PIONEERS (August 1968, Amalgamated AMG-821, A)
3. Penny For Your Song – THE FEDERALS (July 1968, Island WI-3126, A)
4. Memories By The Score – THE PARAGONS (August 1968, Island WI-3138, A)
5. Teardrops Falling – THE VERSATILES (August 1968, Island WI-3142, A)
6. Combination – KEELING BECKFORD (August 1968, Island WI-3144, A)
7. The Fiddler – NEHEMIAH REID (August 1968, Blue Cat BS 125, A)
8. Take Five [Aka "The Russians Are Coming"] – VAL BENNETT (August 1968, Island WI-3146, A)
9. Born To Love You – DERRICK MORGAN (August 1968, Island WI-3147, A)
10. Way Of Life – GLEN BROWN, JOE WHITE & TREVOR SHIELD (September 1968, Blue Cat BS 131, A)
11. Train To Soulsville – COOL STICKY (September 1968, Amalgamated AMG-825, A)
12. Intensified Girls – ANDERSON’S ALL STARS (September 1968, Blue Cat BS 132, A)
13. Bookie Man – THE RACE FANS (October 1968, Trojan TR-610, A)
14. Uncle Charlie – THE MELLOTONES (October 1968, Trojan TR-612, A)
15. Na Na – GEORGE AGARD [as JOHNNY MELODY & THE SLICKERS] (October 1968, Blue Cat BS 134, A)
16. Good Time Rock – HUGH MALCOLM (October 1968, Amalgamated AMG-827, A)
17. Rent Too High – RANNY WILLIAMS & GEORGE REGENT (October 1968, Trojan TR-621, A)
18. My Argument – LLOYD & JOHNNY [Lloyd Terrell and George Dekker] (October 1968, Island WI-3158, A)
19. A.B.C. Rock Steady – THE GAYLADS (November 1968, High Note HS-001, A)
20. In Like Flint – BYRON LEE & THE DRAGONAIRES (November 1968, Trojan TR-623. A - Instrumental)
21. Lady With The Starlight – KEN BOOTHE (November 1968, High Note HS-003)
22. Catch The Beat – THE PIONEERS (November 1968, Amalgamated AMG-828, A)
23. Dance With Me – DELANO STEWART (November 1968, High Note HS-004, A)
24. Hold Your Jack – DERRICK MORGAN (November 1968, Island WI-3159, A)

Each of the two foldout flaps has colour adverts on both sides - they’re very cool and fantastically evocative of the period while the 20-page fact-filled booklet is penned by LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT. Both he and MICHAEL de KONINGH co-authored the fabulous book "Young, Gifted And Black - The Story Of Trojan Records" (see my review). They did extraordinary work on the Trojan label's full discography - most of it published in the public domain for the first time anywhere. So this knowledge of both the album and the record label means the booklet’s liner notes are properly in-depth  - filled with pictures of tasty 7" singles, promo-photos of the artists, discussions of each song, producers of the tracks, catalogue numbers, release dates... really great stuff.

Mastered by NICK WATSON at Fluid Mastering, the liner notes don't mention what tapes (if any) the songs were mastered from. This is not surprising. Reggae music was invariably recorded on a shoestring budget - and that's what you get here - extreme lo-fi - most of the tracks sound like they were recorded in a bucket with someone holding a microphone over it! But that is of course what makes them so magical and charming. There is no pretension to audiophile here. This is party music - it's meant to be blasted out over a dancehall stack - pumped out of your stereo with a beer in your hand and your friends out back dancing in the sunshine! It's not all bad - it isn't - it's just that the sound does vary wildly, great one second, muddy and crackly the next. But I'm not sure that fidelity matters with this lovely album or indeed reggae music in general, because I'm sitting here grooving to "Soul Limbo" by BYRON LEE and THE DRAGONAIRES and it's hard to believe that any human being could resist this brilliantly joyful calypso/reggae groove - no matter what the sound quality is! Disc 2, as I said, is better sounding than Disc 1, but it's all about `feel' and once you accept that, there's so much goodness on offer here...

The album is heavy on cover versions - The Beatles, Ben E. King, Wilbert Harrison, PP Arnold and ""Watch This Song"" which is Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" under another name. "I'll Be Around" by The Kingstonians is a slow and fabulous song - one I suspect soul lovers will want to investigate. Island collectors should also note that tracks 7 and 19 on Disc 1 are the A & B of Island WIP 6051 and to my knowledge make their CD debut here. Disc 2 simply offers up more of the same - discovery after discovery...and for those who already own the excellent 2002 Sanctuary version with 25 tracks, thankfully there's little duplication on either disc.

To sum up, I've loved hearing this album again and its cleverly chosen additions. "Tighten Up DELUXE EDITION" is fun, evocative and a warm reminder of days when music seemed new and life changing. It transported me back to a time when I played sampler albums like this to death - when my sister and me bopped around the Dansette in the front room of our home and just couldn't get enough - going back to flip it over to Side One again once we'd finished! This is a great re-issue and about time that reggae music in general got the DELUXE EDITION treatment from a major label that it deserves. Mash it up indeed...

PS: To those at Universal - it would be nice to see "Club Ska '67" on Island given the same deluxe treatment as this - and what about "You Can All Join In", "Bumpers", "El Pea", "Nice Enough To Eat" and....

PPS: Along with "Strangers Almanac" by WHISKEYTOWN and the two ELTON JOHN sets "Elton John" and "Tumbleweed Connection" (see separate reviews), this is without doubt the best issue in the DELUXE EDITION series so far in 2008 – in my opinion this a REISSUE OF THE YEAR.

PPPS: see also a separate review for "Skinhead Moonstomp" by SYMARIP on 2CD DELUXE EDITION in Sept 2008

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