Sunday, June 29, 2008

Black & Dekker - Desmond Dekker's 2-Tone Era LP on Stiff Records

One of the benefits of 2-Tone was the attention it drew to the founders and originators of ska, reggae and rocksteady. Some like Rico Rodrigues and Saxa of The Beat joined and performed with the bands themselves. Others like Desmond Dekker, suddenly found they were back in fashion as the 2-Tone movement gave new energy and interest from a whole new audience. Dekker, who had electrified the music world with his iconic single "007" for Leslie Kong's Beverly label in 1966, signed a deal with the indie punk label Stiff Records.

The singer and songwriter, whose 1969 hit "Israelites" paved the way for reggae and the success of Bob Marley, had moved to Britain in the 1970s, having witnessed the violent street culture of Jamaican cities during his childhood. His experiences were reflected in his songs and he became the first Jamaican musician to have a worldwide hit single and British number one. A pioneer of rocksteady, the slow and soulful version of ska that was a precursor to reggae, Dekker's honeyed falsetto remained popular and he was performing until his death in 2006. Someone I know who saw him in his prime said seeing Dekker sing was a lot like watching Muhammad Ali fight or Pele play soccer.

His debut for Stiff Records in 1980 was the wittily titled "Black & Dekker" album, which featured re-recordings of his past hits, backed by various members of The Equators (who were signed to Stiff) Jackie and George from The Pioneers, a young Roland Gift! and Andrew Bodnar and Steve Goulding from the British rock band the The Rumour who were famous as the group behind Graham Parker. The Rumour was formed by members of melodic pub stars Brinsley Schwarz (which had lost bassist Nick Lowe to a Stiff solo career) and guitarist Martin Belmont from the more boisterous Ducks Deluxe. The band were a skilled and adaptable combo that not only backed Parker, but served as a Stiff house band and made records on its own.

The Rumour backed Dekker on the road as he toured extensively during the 2-Tone boom. Stiff Records released a series of singles, with the first, a re-recorded "Israelites," almost breaking into the Top Ten in Belgium. That was followed by "Please Don't Bend" and a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross." A fourth single, "Book of Rules," was especially strong and produced by Will Birch, best known for his work with power pop bands.

Here is a video for the hilarious Stiff Records single "Please Don't Bend"

Here is the Black & Decker album track listing and download.

Lickin' Stick
It Mek
Please don't bend
Many rivers to cross
Rude boy train
Pickney Gal
Why fight?

Desmond Dekker - Black & Dekker

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