Originally released in 1966, 'Cool Collie' is sometimes considered as one of the first Rocksteady recordings. With hard hitting performance by the back band, Hopetone Lewis sings to free Ganja which is the one of the essential elements of Jamaican music tradition. B-side, Mr. Rocksteady performs a bitter love song in a minor key.
In 1966, Merritone label was founded as a subsidiary of Federal Records when Ska beat was slowing down its tempo to take a next musical form called Rocksteady.
From sons of Ken Khouri, Paul and Richard, engineers at the Federal Records to even employees at their pressing plant - all whom involved at the label forwarded Merritone productions in a body.
They recorded many songs under Merritone label. However, those only appeared on vinyl records in limited quantities in Jamaica and a small bunch of titles were released on Island label in UK. Some of the recordings never saw the light, some became hardly known and many of them now considered being ultra rare records. Thus the label became a mysterious Rocksteady production in the Jamaican musicology.
The label name is originated from Winston Blake's sound system, Merritone. Federal Records, which was the largest record company of the time in Jamaica, often used young talented people like Winston, who knew much about trends of the fraternity for promoting their new materials. Interestingly, Federal Records used even the sound system name in this case.
Although Federal Records is known for compositions arranged by Ernest Ranglin, Trinidadian guitarist Lynn Taitt and the Jets were in charge of the Merritone recordings. Lynn Taitt took a prominent role as a forerunner of brand new Rocksteady sounds as he produced like Hopeton Lewis's 'This Music Got Soul.'
Merritone recordings were undoubtedly collectives of veteran musicians at Federal Records, high-technology recording facilities, traditions and proud of the record company. Many would still describe the sound so unique, elegant, sophisticated and authentic like no other.
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