CARLTON AND THE SHOES + HEPTONES: LIVING ON RIDDIM TIME


Carlton and the Shoes: Love Me Forever
From Love Me Forever (Studio 1, 1978)

Heptones: Heptones Gonna Fight
From On Top (Studio 1, 1968). Also on 22 Golden Hits.

One of my favorite fantasies (not involving Italian actresses of the 1970s) is imagining I had infinite time to learn everything worthwhile there is to know about different kinds of music. It’s flattering that people think I’m remotely an expert in anything; I’m not. I know a little about a lot but only a lot about very little and given the ridiculous expansiveness of music, it’s hard to feel like you’re more than a babe in the woods with anything but a tiny handful of styles.

I’m always reminded of this anytime I listen to Jamaican music. There’s much of it I absolutely adore, especially the rocksteady soul tunes of Alton Ellis, but what I know about reggae, ska, dub, etc. amounts to barely anything. Yet, I wish I knew more. I wish I knew what, besides the two songs above, I absolutely should be up on because frankly, that Carlton and the Shoes’ song (which I discovered by hearing a Prince Jazzbo song over the same riddim) is killing me right now and the Heptones’ “Gonna Fight” is similarly making me wonder how I’ve gone nearly 40 years without having heard any of this earlier. (By the way, I read, perhaps erroneously, that this Heptones song is the riddim that Slick Rick flips for “Hey Young World.” I don’t know if I quite hear that but maybe someone else could shed some light.

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25 thoughts on “CARLTON AND THE SHOES + HEPTONES: LIVING ON RIDDIM TIME”

  1. Walk don’t run to hear the Heptones’ Cool Rasta album. Desert Island material. On Top’s no slouch, but a few years on, these men were MEN.

  2. I struggle with most reggae I get to hear,but this is real quality.Thanks for posting this,great to be educated

  3. I thought you were aware of pretty much everything, but ok: U-Roy, I-Roy, Gregory Isaacs, Strictly Rockers In A Dread Land, Hortense Ellis, I’ll be back if you want.

  4. Phyllis Dillon, Susan Cadogan, Melodians, Joya Landis…to name but four endurers.

  5. Suggestions for a mixtape — The Techniques – Queen Majesty, Ken Boothe – When I fall In Love, anything on the “I Need You Riddim”, Lorna Bennett, John Holt, Cornell Campbell, Slim Smith, Sanchez and Bitty Mclean

  6. oh man I could go on for days. . . That entire Carlton & The Shoes album is definetly worth getting, followed by some Errol Dunkley, Pat Kelly, Ken Boothe, Jackie Opel, early Marcia Griffiths + Bob Andy.  I’m partial to rocksteady and early reggae myself but it really just depends on what you’re preferred reggae style is.  Maybe I should just make you a mix cd?  Let me know if you’re interested.

  7. Incidentally, if you really get into reggae you’ll notice that a lot of the stuff from the 60’s and 70’s is covers of American soul songs, check out “My World Is Empty Without You” by The Heptones.

  8. “I thought you were aware of pretty much everything.” Don’t I wish. I’m just a babe in these woods. 

  9. To be honest, I was less impressed by the Trojan Motor City set than I thought I’d be. Don’t get me wrong – there’s some great stuff in that mix but overall, I found a lot of it just so-so. 

  10. Nice cuts, thanks. For some other soulful early reggae check out the Melodians, Mighty Diamonds, Ken Boothe, and any Heptones record.

  11. Ken Boothe’s “Mr Rocksteady” Lp on Studio One is killer from beginning to end, much in the vein of that Heptones LP.

  12. O-dub (and everyone else who’s enjoying these two songs)–you need to get the Trojan Rocksteady box if you don’t already have it.  Both of the tunes you posted immediately reminded me of the material on that set–in my opinion the best Trojan box I’ve heard so far.  It features many of the artists the other commenters mentioned above (Melodians, Mighty Diamonds, Ken Boothe, even some Alton Ellis) and it’s very consistently good.  To echo Lovable Lion’s post above–there are a lot of great reggae covers out there as well.  I can’t think of any great soul covers off the top of my head (besides Alton Ellis) but in so many cases (mostly pop songs I suppose) I like the reggae versions better than the originals.  Check out something like Little Roy’s cover of Bread’s “Make It With You”–far superior in my opinion!

  13. OK…after reviewing that Trojan Rocksteady set I remembered a great soul cover that deserves mentioning: Pat Kelly’s version of “Somebody’s Baby,” which was the B-side of Robert Knight’s big hit, “Everlasting Love.”  Apologies to Knight but Pat Kelly’s version blows away the original.

  14. I’m actually more familiar with some of the classic rocksteady era artists, especially Alton Ellis and Byron Lee. And I’m definitely familiar with the tradition of soul covers in reggae music. I guess what I’m more interested in here is a particular kind of *sound* rather than practice. As far as I know, neither the Carlton nor Heptones’ songs are covers but they nail the kind of sound that’s really hitting me right now. 

  15. If it is soul covers you are after try George Faith, especially “To Be A Lover” (his take on William Bell’s “I Forgot To Be Your Lover”). He does some others that are pretty good too, like “If Loving You Is Wrong” and “Turn Back The Hands Of Time”.

  16. What I was saying is that I’m NOT looking for soul covers (though I’m certainly welcoming of them) but rather, the particular sound of reggae when it was playing off of soul styles. Right now, I’m checking out Slim Smith – this is what I’m talking about!

  17. I just think nothing can beat Coxsone Dodd’s Studio 1 output (of which I believe Carlton & The Shoes was part). Lots of the beautiful rocksteady era riddims were then recycled in the reggae era, my personal fav. being Johnny Clarke’s ‘Rockers Time Now’ album. I’d also recommend a great & comprehensive (without being dull) book on reggae called ‘Bass Culture’. 

  18. So weird. After having a bunch of tracks on the backburner, I finally posted them, which narrowed itself down to my favorite Jamaican girl tracks.  I completely agree with being like “why haven’t I heard this sooner”.   

  19. The Trojan Superstars Box Set is also definitely a good one to check out too.  I got turned onto it by roommate I had back in the late 90’s when the only reggae I knew was the Wailers. It pointed me in a whole new direction. Thanks for the post OW!

  20. Alton Ellis is the King of Jamaican Soul.
    The Ruler definitely sampled Alton’s ‘Sunday Coming’ for his hit ‘Moses’

  21. When I first heard HEY YOUNG WORLD, which I will admit is just recently, I immediately thought I had heard the rhythm before– I know much more about 80’s reggae…..and it reminded of a reggae riddim….I finally found it, I think…it was Horace Andy’s “Big & Heavy”, which coincidentally is the love me forver riddim from Carlton and the shoes…..here is the link and tell me if you don’t hear more similarities..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkab0qNDT3U&playnext_from=TL&videos=6o3M_1shAXw

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