“She Was A Rough Rider” by Prince Buster - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1968Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s

TJR says

“Rock Steady Reggea” proclaims the album’s cover excitedly, promising cutting edge action within. The back sleeve further lures the potential purchaser: “This Album contains the show that rocked Nassau and Freeport – The Prince at Work: Compiled by Public Demand (1968)” Indeed we do have two generations of Jamaica’s musical development – the son of Ska (Rocksteady) and the newly born son of Rocksteady (Reggae). Ignoring the ever-bold writing credits claimed, this album is split between six originals and six covers, as far as I can tell. Best of the Buster originals is “Scorcher”, fully exploring the new reggae phenomenon with a wonderfully complex rhythm structure with mega-tough basslines, sweet horns, and Buster’s craziness – it’s deadly stuff! “Reggae child“ exclaims the Prince, seemingly fully aware of the historical significance. “Don’t watch that, watch this. It’s a SCORCHER!” The rest of Side 1 plays out with the new sound of the year, with “Hypocrites” and “Taxation” being cut from the same cloth; both are completely fantastic, the latter bemoaning progressive governmental policies which are crippling the Kingston working class. Wasn’t just the UK then, huh?

There’s another major original Buster classic on side 2, with “Wine Or Grind”, which is simply a good-time rocksteady romp for the dancehall. As he has done all throughout his career, Buster looks to Black America for inspiration with versions of “Bye Bye Baby” (Chuck Willis, 1953), “Closer Together” (The Impressions, 1962) and “Going To The River” (Fats Domino, 1953). The Chuck Willis cover, which opens up side 2, is particularly excellent, featuring a heavy manners bassline with a neat line of wailing wailers on the harmonies. Elsewhere, the Prince takes the opportunity to pay tribute to the recently deceased Otis Redding, delving into the soul stars’ catalogue for a sublime reading of “Dreams To Remember” and a good rendition of “Tenderness”, featuring a most unusual acrobatic vocal from our man. Best of the covers is the title-track itself, which was co-written by the teenage Eddy Grant for The Pyramids, who were Buster’s tour band for gigs in the UK. For some reason or other (possibly a pressing plant mix-up) they had released it under the name of The Four Gees in ’67. It’s fair to say that Buster’s All Stars took ownership, but respect is due to the UK contingent for a top tune.

“Rough Rider”, the album, emerges as the roughest, toughest and smartest in Prince Buster’s catalogue – and that’s no mean feat. For whatever reason, the reggae world proved to be too much of a jungle for the Prince in the years which followed, but here at the birth he produced an album which stands as a sparkling pinnacle, in a career which played a major role in shaping the sounds of Jamaican in the decades to come.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:12] 9.8.png Prince Buster - Rough Rider (Eddy Grant, Dervan Gordon, Lincoln Gordon, Patrick Gordon) Ska / Rocksteady
A2 [02:22] 9.4.png Prince Buster - Dreams To Remember (Zelma Redding, Joe Rock, Otis Redding) Reggae
A3 [02:45] 9.6.png Prince Buster - Scorcher (Cecil Campbell) Reggae
A4 [02:41] 8.5.png Prince Buster - Hypocrites (Cecil Campbell) Reggae
A5 [02:18] 6.7.png Prince Buster - Walk With Love (Cecil Campbell) Reggae
A6 [02:39] 8.0.png Prince Buster - Taxation (Cecil Campbell) Reggae
B1 [03:34] 8.8.png Prince Buster - Bye Bye Baby (Chuck Willis) Ska / Rocksteady
B2 [03:24] 7.0.png Prince Buster - Tenderness (Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly, Harry Woods) Ska / Rocksteady
B3 [02:30] 9.2.png Prince Buster - Wine Or Grind (Cecil Campbell) Ska / Rocksteady
B4 [02:44] 8.3.png Prince Buster - Can’t Keep On Running (Cecil Campbell) Ska / Rocksteady
B5 [03:19] 6.2.png Prince Buster - Closer Together (Curtis Mayfield) Reggae
B6 [02:47] 7.2.png Prince Buster and The All Stars - Going To The River (Antoine Domino, Dave Bartholomew) Ska / Rocksteady

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