Harry J All-StarsView in iTunes
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The band behind "Liquidator" and a slew of other skanking instrumentals, whose music was crucial in popularizing early reggae worldwide, the Harry J All-Stars were not a singular entity, but the moniker bestowed on all the bands and session men employed by producer Harry "J" Johnson over the years. At the dawn of the reggae era, when Johnson's instrumental 45s first began appearing, the All-Stars were drawn primarily from Gladdy's All-Stars, a group led by pianist Gladstone "Gladdy" Anderson and featuring bassist Jackie Jackson, drummer Winston Grennan, guitarist Hux Brown, and keyboardist Winston Wright. Their sound was built around prominent sparkling piano, understated organ, distinctive basslines, and Western-flavored picked guitar. The first All-Stars single to arrive was 1968's "Smashville," with a flood following in 1969. "Liquidator," released by Trojan in the U.K., stormed into the Top Ten that fall, and back into the chart in 1980 when it was reissued in the wake of the 2 Tone boom. Its success prompted Trojan to hand Johnson his own imprint, Harry J, in 1970, a home for both his vocal productions and the plethora of instrumentals that had already flooded Jamaica's sound systems and shops. "Big Three," "The Dog," "Jack the Ripper," "Reach for the Sky," "Jay Moon Walk," "Je T'Aime," and "Del Gado" all landed on the British shelves, but not the charts, which remained unmoved by these perky reggae pieces. All were excellent versions of vocal cuts, either Jamaican originals or pop covers, with the bulk included on the All-Stars' 1969 Liquidator album. In the new decade, Johnson began employing the up-and-coming Now Generation band, whose potent rhythms and flashy rock guitar, courtesy of Mikey Chung, gave the All-Stars a decidedly new sound. The Soul Syndicate and members of the Hippy Boys also found their way into the All-Stars. Although Johnson was to have more hits, the All-Stars were not, with their final instrumental appearing in the U.K. in 1973. By then, the producer had opened his own studio (reaped from the royalties from "Liquidator"), and with the market shifting, focused heavily on albums. And thus, the All-Stars were no more, but for five years they helped define reggae for generations to come. ~ Jo-Ann Greene