Jamaica to Toronto: Soul Funk and Reggae 1967-1974
Canada had a sizable resettled West Indian population by the 1960s, particularly in the Toronto area, making it a destination stop for touring Jamaican musicians, many of whom decided to relocate there, and a vibrant scene that mixed Jamaican rhythms with Northern R&B, soul and funk grew up around them, a scene that was essentially hidden from the rest of the world. This wonderful sampler of rare period singles from assorted Canadian labels lifts the veil on all of that to reveal music with an uncommon energy and vitality, and the real wonder here is that these tracks weren't massive international hits. Side after side bristles with a funky brilliance, beginning with Jo-Jo and the Fugitives' rough and ragged "Fugitive Song," originally released in 1968 on Cobra Records, followed immediately by Eddie Spencer's impressive "If This Is Love (I'd Rather Be Lonely)," which sounds like a great and long lost Motown single. The Cougars' stark nyahbinghi take on the Temptations' "I Wish It Would Rain" is a stunning reconstruction of the song, and it is amazing to learn that this version was never even been released. Once heard, the Cougars' version makes the Temptations original -- great as it is -- sound oddly uninspired. It is important to note here that most of these tracks aren't necessarily reggae, falling more to the hard soul side of the spectrum, and the best of them are delightfully energetic hybrids which, like the Cougars' "I Wish It Would Rain," work both sides of the fence in an impressive synthesis, Count Ossie meets Motown if you will. Great stuff.