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Toots Hibbert: his 10 most essential recordings | The music



Sweet and Dandy (1972)

Toots and the Maytals: Sweet and Dandy (from The Harder They Come) video

The only place to start with Toots and the Maytals is Sweet and Dandy, ideally the clip for the trio set in the Leslie Kongs recording studio in a scene from The Harder They Come. It tells you most of what you need to know about the band. On the surface, it’s as loud and casual as you might ask for an early reggae example, but it shows the fine detail of the gospel-derived soul singer-type harmonies that work as one track (Hibbert) and two backings. singers, rather than the usual Jamaican style of three interchangeable tracks. Most significant, however, is their obvious enjoyment in their own performance and it’s more of a performance than a recording session, which is the infectious spirit of fun and positivity that the singer rarely missed. The enthusiastic expression on the faces of the Jimmy Cliffs characters as he looks through the glass is quite understandable.

You never change (1965)

Toots and the Maytals: Never You Change video

Hibbert was a country boy who came to the Jamaican capital when the music was all about Kingston sound systems and contemporary urban cool skas, but he was such a powerful singer and character that he was unlike to nothing other than the product of its rural environment. culture. This slightly rustic ska doesn’t quite have straw in its hair, but it’s refreshing compared to so much fast-paced music of the time.

Bam Bam (1966)

Toots and the Maytals: Bam Bam video

Arriving at the moment when the ska osmosis in the more tempered beats of stable rock and reggae, Bam Bam shows how much the group benefited from the cooler tempo: the subtleties of their vocals shone through, while their intensity seemed greater on a more sparse background. What makes this song so remarkable is that this thinly veiled review and warning to the government won the Maytals the very first Jamaican Independence Folk Song Contest: I Want You To Know That I Am The Man. / Who will fight for good and not for evil. The group recorded a live version 10 years later which fully demonstrates its potential roots.

Do the Reggay (1968)

Toots and the Maytals: Make the Reggay Video

The reputation of the Reggays as the first song to use the word reggae in the title overshadows the fact that it is a fantastic showcase for the style, making excellent use of the spaces in and around strong beats to show off a musical profession and the delicacy of arrangement that underpinned so much reggae before the more refined way of doing things took over. It provides the perfect setting for the trio.

54-46 (that’s my number) (1969)

Toots and the Maytals: video 54-46 (Thats My Number)

Very covered, very sampled and very complimentary, it was one of the first major international hits in Jamaican music: the title referred to the Hibberts ID number when he was serving a prison sentence; the song tells the story of his incarceration. This is about Hibbert as a storyteller at his best, an aspect that represented a large part of his skills as a songwriter and the bands that followed wide appeal rather than repeating catchphrases or doing putting forward abstract ideas, he has rooted so many of his songs in life experiences.

Pressure Drop (1970)

Toots and the Maytals: Pressure Drop Video

Another gem of The Harder They Come (it’s not hard to see why this movie still regularly appears in the best soundtrack lists of all time) and possibly the best early example of Hibberts Wilson Pickett’s soul style. Here, he warns evildoers and exploiters that one day the oppressed will rise up, a recurring theme in Jamaican music, and the unadorned quality of the singing leaves no doubt that it will. One of Jamaica’s greatest rebel songs.

Pomp and Pride (1972)

Toots and the Maytals: Pomp & Pride video

One thing that made the Maytals so special was their ability to absorb outside influences such as soul, rock, or country without compromising any of their Jamaican identity: they put those influences to work in songs rather than them. sprinkle at the end, as is much more the case in Jamaican music. The Maytals approach has played a big part in their international appeal: the R&B heart of Pomp & Pride is perfect for the Hibberts singing style.

(Take Me Home) Country Roads (1972)

Toots and the Maytals: video (Take Me Home) Country Roads

In the days before reggae, country and western were Jamaica’s most popular music, Jim Reeves and Brook Benton were huge stars, so it was only natural that elders like Toots and the Maytals cover this classic from John Denver. Once they’ve replaced western Jamaica with West Virginia, it’s a rustic, natural melody under a bouncy reggae beat.

True Love is Hard to Find (2004)

Toots and the Maytals: true love is hard to find video

Hibbert sings the blues in a reggae style, naturally with special guest Bonnie Raitt, their engaging fight making their genre mix completely natural. It is the title track of an album on which Hibbert sang Maytals classics with luminaries of the rock world like Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Bootsy Collins, Keith Richards, No Doubt and Jeff Beck, while Gentleman, Bunny Wailer, Marcia Griffiths and Shaggy enter the world of reggae. Because musical openness is a hallmark of Hibbert, nothing seems out of place and it is a mark of his reputation that such a star-studded cast has signed up.

Funky Kingston Acoustic (2012)

Unplugged sets suited Hibbert so well: even with virtually nowhere to hide in this case, among guitar and congas, his voice is more than loud enough to carry a song. This Maytals classic showcases the righteous howls of the country church that were at the root of everything the band did. The album, Unplugged on Strawberry Hill, is a dazzling journey through the rear catalog of groups reorganized and interpreted acoustically.

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