This originally ran in Reggae Report in 1997.
There are not many CDs which truly deserve a classic rating, but this is one that
definitely belongs in that hard-to-reach category.
“Curly Locks,” subtitled “best of Junior Byles and the Upsetters 1970-1976,”
showcases one hour and ten minutes of crucial Roots sounds from one of Jamaica’s
Opening with the 1-2 punch of “Da Da” (with background vocals by the
Jamaicans) and “Come Da Da” (an incredible extended mix of the same track), these two
songs are probably worth the price of the disc alone. But, thankfully, there are 20 other
killers, including many obscure and rare singles, which makes “Curly Locks” a must have,
even for the most ardent collector.
All songs are produced by the one and only Lee Perry, and the musicianship of the
Upsetters is second to none. There’s nowhere near enough space here to stress the
excellence of each song, but believe me, this is some of the hardest - and most
uncompromising - Roots Reggae you’ll ever hear.
You’ll find three different versions of the title track, with “Curly Locks #2,” as the
liner notes state, “the kind of track collectors dream about.” “When Will Better Come” is
in response (on the same rhythm) to Delroy Wilson’s classic, “Better Must Come.”
There’s the ninth version of “Beat Down Babylon,” this time titled “Informer Man.” The
old standard, “Fever” - with its false start - is crucial, and even though “Long Way” is
taken from a 45 (not all tracks are from the master tapes) it still sounds incredible and
remains one of the wickedest songs ever.
Junior Byles still records occasional singles, yet it’s his collaboration with Lee
Perry (and the Upsetters), chronicalled here on “Curly Locks,” that will solidify his
position as one of Reggae’s all-time greats.
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