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Best Of Ken Boothe

Ken Boothe

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Album Review

As half of the popular duo Stranger & Ken in the early '60s, Ken Boothe was one of the defining voices of the ska era. As the decade progressed and ska slowed down and thickened into rocksteady (which would itself eventually congeal into reggae), he changed with it, and became one of Jamaica's most popular solo artists. Boothe's vocal style, like those of many of his contemporaries, owed a significant debt to American soul singers, in particular Wilson Pickett and Bill Withers (whose "Ain't No Sunshine" was a major Jamaican hit in Boothe's version). Also like many of his contemporaries, Boothe drew heavily on American soul hits for his own repertoire; thus, this 25-track best-of includes rocksteady arrangements of such Motown classics as Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," the Four Tops' "(That's the Way) Nature Planned It," and "Speak Softly Love" (otherwise known as "Theme from 'The Godfather'"). The album's most idiosyncratically charming song is a sweetly un-ironic rendition of the kitsch classic "Lady With the Starlight," but other highlights include the agonized "Why Baby Why" and a fine remake of the ska-era classic "Artibella." This is an excellent overview of one of reggae history's most enduring and influential artists.


Born: 22 March 1948 in Denham Town, Kingston, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

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

Ken Boothe was one of the most popular and soulful singers of the rocksteady era, arguably second only to Alton Ellis. Where Ellis was silky smooth, Boothe's vocals were deeper and grittier, earning him a reputation as Jamaica's answer to Wilson Pickett. First rising to popularity as part of a ska duo with Stranger Cole, Boothe forged a solo career on Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One label during rocksteady's prime, building a generous part of his repertoire on American soul covers....
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