Album Review: Patrice - Rocksteady Christmas
by Gardy Stein
Are you in a Christmas mood as yet? Probably not, as the last weekend before the holidays is among the busiest of the year: decorating the house, wrapping up the last presents, baking cookies, writing to the relatives... the list is long. What better time, then, to release a festive, relaxing, utterly gratifying album?
That's what German singer Patrice probably thought when he, in a spontaneous effort, gathered "(...) some of the great Rocksteady legends for a recording that feels a lot like time travel to my favorite era. The Jamaica of the late 60s and early 70s. Recorded like back in the days, musicians gathered in a room around an RCA ribbon microphone like a campfire." (Patrice Bart-Williams, press release). He was able to do that because he has taken base in Jamaica last year, building a studio, teaming up with Clive Hunt, who acts as executive producer, and, most importantly, living in close proximity to all the great voices and musicians on the island. The result of the studio-sessions is now released as Rocksteady Christmas, a beautiful album including eight cover versions of our all-time Christmas favourites in unique instrumental gowns.
The tailors of these are living legends all. On drums, we hear Desi Jones. Not only is he a genius when it comes to playing, he also wrote a book called The Art of Reggae Drumming (published in 1983), sharing his skills with the world. Instrumental for the sound of the Rocksteady era, keyboardist Robbie Lyn has played with or for virtually every big Reggae artist, including Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, Beres Hammond and Peter Tosh. The guitar on the album lies in the capable hands of Dwight Pinkney, who received the well-deserved Order of Distinction in 2014. Lloyd Parks, founder of the We The People Band and studio musician for the likes of CoxsoneDodd's Studio One, is the bassist of the release. He even grabs the mic in Winter Wonderland, proving that he is a fantastic vocalist as well!
The other singers represented on the album hold a perfect balance between accomplished Rocksteady veterans and young talents, some of them as yet unknown in a Reggae-context. Ala.ni, for instance, a London-based singer, contributes a damn sexy version of Santa Baby that not only opens the album but was also the first single to be released on the beginning of the advent season. Or Tedros Teclebrhan aka Teddy, a German comedian known for his hilarious alter egos Percy, Carlos, Ernst Riedler or Antoine. As the latter, he has released some mock rap tracks like Deutschland Isch Stabil or Mona Lisa, but here, he shines with an incredible vocal performance which makes Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas my personal favourite.
The Tamlins, a Jamaican vocal group formed in the late 60s, take us on a trip to the Christmas Island and spread some Caribbean vibes, rolling waves, Hawaiian guitar, congas and all. A more traditional approach to the season is taken by Half Pint, who sings a dub-infused Drummer Boy. Chapeau to background singer Sherieta Lewis!
Royalty comes in with Judy Mowatt, who interpretes Come All Ye Faithful with all the vocal power she commands, and Nadine Sutherland. The Action-star adds Silent Night, THE Christmas carol per se, and makes it a special experience with her high-pitched vibrato.
Patrice himself chose to sing Last Christmas, and the funny thing is that it doesn't feel that different from the original. Actually, Rocksteady seems a perfect fit for festive tunes, and Rocksteady Christmas is a perfect fit for the coming week. We promise, this album will get you in the mood!
Patrice presents Rocksteady Christmas
DIGITAL RELEASE [Supow Music]
Release date: 12/17/2021
1. ALA.NI - Santa Baby
2. Lloyd Parks - Winter Wonderland
3. Patrice - Last Christmas
4. Half Pint - Drummer Boy
5. Nadine Sutherland - Silent Night
6. The Tamlins - Christmas Island
7. Judy Mowatt - Come All Ye Faithful
8. Teddy Teclebrhan - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas