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Version Galore

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Album Review

"Versions galore, you can hear them by the score, I could give you some more for sure," U-Roy shouts out on the title track of Version Galore, and indeed he could and did, recording scores and scores of versions of classic Jamaican hits. This album gathers up a dozen of some of his earliest, all cut for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle studio between 1969 and 1970. Included is one of his chartbusters, a version of the Paragons' "Wear You to the Ball." Paragon vocalist John Holt was responsible for bringing the DJ to Treasure Isle, and U-Roy repaid the singer by versioning a clutch of classic Paragons' songs, five of which appear here. The DJ was obviously a fan, and chatted along to the songs as one would to an old friend, most noticeably on "The Tide Is High" (Blondie would later have a hit with a cover of the original) and "Happy Go Lucky Girl." There again, on "Flashing My Whip," a version of the group's "Only a Smile," U-Roy demands that the trio put a smile on their face, a bit difficult considering the song's intrinsic heartbreak. The DJ's ease with these golden oldies allowed him to adeptly sing along, call out for the vocalists to sing on cue, wander off in other lyrical directions, and still find the perfect spot for his catch phrases. But this talent didn't end with the Paragons and rocksteady, "True Confessions," for example, was a ska-fired, doo wop-inspired hit for the Silvertones, and U-Roy motors away on this with equal ease. Interestingly enough, though, it's evident that without the vocals as a lyrical launch pad, the DJ is rather at a loss. Thus the two instrumentals here are actually the weakest tracks. But it was early days, and U-Roy's verbal gymnastics would fill in the gaps soon enough. [The 2003 reissue of Version Galore is a double disc. On the first disc is the original record plus 17 bonus tracks. The second disc contains 29 Duke Reid productions that U-Roy would later toast over. Classic tracks like "The Tide is High" by the Paragons and "Last Train to Ecstasy" by the Melodians make this disc a solid capsule of late-60's rock steady sounds.]


Born: 21 September 1942 in Jones Town, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Known as the Originator, U-Roy wasn't the first DJ, nor even the first to cut a record, but he was the first to shake the nation and he originated a style so distinctly unique that he single-handedly changed his homeland's music scene forever. Born Ewart Beckford in Jones Town, Jamaica, in 1942, he received his...
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Version Galore, U-Roy
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