Sun shines on the rocksteady party

Sun shines on the rocksteady party

It takes a true master of reggae to make an audience feel as if they’re at a party on a Caribbean beach when in fact they’re in a chilly London venue still bedecked with plastic Christmas holly. But such is the great Alton Ellis.

Ellis first came to prominence via ska, the frantic, jazz-based music that soundtracked Jamaica’s independence in 1961. His golden period began five years later, just as the island’s boisterous sense of liberation was wearing off, and its music slowed down, striking a more soulful mood. The sound was called “rocksteady”, and Ellis cut many of the idiom’s most sublime singles.

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