Monday, September 9, 2013


If you listen to early rock steady recordings by the Paragons and didn't know anything about them, you might not think they were anything remarkable. The more you listen to reggae though, particularly early reggae and rock steady, the less you notice the production quality, which is not as crisp as you may be used to. Whether it was the production or the pressings, most early Jamaican vinyl is a little muddy. But if you dig that sort of music and listen to it enough, you just sort of tune it out until eventually your imagining it in the era it was released. At that point, the muddiness almost seems to enhance the listening experience. That's when you can truly hear the greatness of the Paragons (or Alton Ellis, or early Toots, or early U Roy, or...). And the Paragons were great, particularly when a young John Holt joined in 1964. Before he went on to a lengthy solo career, Holt wrote "The Tide Is High", the one song of theirs you've probably heard. Their On The Beach LP is a bit like the first Velvet Undergound LP, not in sound, but in that time has proven it a classic, a moment in time where everything came together. Fidelity be damned.

Duke Reid put it out, as well as early sides by U Roy. U Roy would tap into the Paragons' catalog for stuff to toast over, two on his early LP Version Galore, and a few years later another, a riddim rerecorded by the Skin Flesh and Bones band, on the 1975 LP Dread In A Babylon. The fidelity on that one ain't so damned.

The Paragons - Wear You To The Ball mp3 at Kazoo Wailers
U Roy - Wear You To The Ball mp3 at Grounds For Appeal
The Paragons - Tide Is High mp3 at Boogie Woogie Flu
U Roy - Tide Is High mp3 at A.Tumblr (?)
The Paragons - Silver Bird mp3 (via DivShare*) mp3 at Dave's Juke Box
U Roy - Silver Bird mp3 at Xiami
The Paragons - My Best Girl mp3 (via DivShare*) mp3 at Dave's Juke Box
The Paragons - Happy Go Lucky Girl mp3 at Reggae Top Site
*NOTE: Once you get to DivShare, click on the green "Download" button, and scratch your head for fifteen seconds. When the button reappears, you're good to go. Give it a second or two.

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