1969, Music

This is Desmond Dekkar (1969) by Desmond Dekker and the Aces

So, the story goes that “007” was not only Dekker’s first international hit but also the first UK Top 20 hit to be recorded in Jamaica, thereby demonstrating the viability of Jamaican music in England. Other details about this album are harder to figure out. It appears to be Dekker’s international debut as there might be an earlier Jamaica-only album with a similar (but not identical) track listing. (Also, I’m listening to the expanded edition on a streaming service, so um, the track listing is kind of fucked.)

There is the additional question of whether this is rocksteady, as RYM has it, or whether it’s first wave ska, as Wikipedia has it. I personally don’t know the difference, though I’m inclined to give it to RYM. (Also, Wikipedia lists “007” as a rocksteady track even though they claim the album is ska.) All I know is the music sounds more primitive than reggae – maybe not more “primitive” but less refined, closer to the sound of “oldies”. Much like there is a clear divide between British Invasion pop rock and American pop and rock and roll before the British Invasion, there is a clear sound difference, to my ears between this (whether it’s rocksteady or ska) and the reggae of The Wailers or whom ever. The gap sounds generational, even though it isn’t.

It’s hard to evaluate Dekker’s songs given that this is probably the earliest record by a Jamaican performer that I’ve ever heard. I know ska existed in the 1950s, so Dekker is building on a long tradition here. But everything I’ve read suggests that he brought new sophistication to rocksteady/ska lyrics, and that his earlier songs apparently were just lectures about morality (or something). (I have no idea how long his career had been before this.)

The sound is not great and it’s very clear that the recording technology in Jamaica at the time was not up to par with Europe or the US (which makes a lot of sense).

So it’s hard to know what to do with this: it feels like it is probably a major landmark in the popularization of Jamaican music internationally but it’s also very hard to know if it’s actually a good rocksteady album compared to the other stuff at the time. I have no idea.

8/10

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