This is a massive set of 26 tracks by one of the most commercially successful harmony groups of the late 60's. This set is pretty near definative as far as the Pioneers go. A few of their better tunes for Joe Gibbs are left off, but its still a very comprehensive set, featuring some of the best work made by the Pioneers for Joe Gibbs and Leslie Kong.
The album starts with their first few rocksteady hits they made for Joe Gibbs including "Shake It Up" and "Gimmie Little Lovin". The songs are your standard rocksteady harmony songs are are pretty good, but it was a little later that they would begin to shine.
"Jackpot" begins the famous racehorse series of records made by the Pioneers. This is made with a faster rhythm than the first songs on the album, though its not quite reggae yet. "Pan Ya Machete" is one of the songs Gibbs had the Pioneers record aimed at the head of Lee Perry (who scored a hit aimed at Joe Gibbs called "People Funny Boy"). The song is done in almost the same style as "People Funny Boy, even employing the sound of a dog barking, rather than a baby crying like in Perry's tune. The first song by the Pioneers aimed at Perry was "People Grudgeful" though it is not on this collection unfortunantly.
Other great Gibbs recordings on this album are "No Dope Me Pony" and "Things Got To Change". "This Got To Change" is notable for its excellent soulful harmonies and the really tight reggae rhythm held by the organ. These songs all eventually made it on to the grouos debut LP "Greetings from the Pioneers." Unfortunantly the groups best hits for Joe Gibbs aren't on this collection like "People Grudgeful", "Mama Look Deh", "Dem A Laugh and KiKi" and "Sweet Dreams". (a few of those were actually credited to the Slickers or the Reggae Boys, though they are in fact the Pioneers).
In 1968, The Pioneers decided to move on to Leslie Kong who was having hits in the UK for singers like Desmond Dekker and many others. "Easy Come Easy Go" was one of the first songs from Leslie Kong. This is a song written about Joe Gibbs after he had the Royals record a song about the Pioneers for leaving Gibb's stable of artists. This is an excellent song though the best was yet to come.
In 1969 the group recorded "Long Shot Kick De Bucket" which was the long awaited sequel to their "Long Shot" record. This song went on to score massively in the UK as well as Jamaica. This prompted the group to visit the UK for a tour of clubs with Lee Perrys Upsetters band. Another big hit of this time period is "Black Bud" which is a pretty commercial sounding reggae sound with honking trombones in the background of the song. The song is alright in my opinion, but the people liked it back then.
In my opinion, the best stuff on this album is found later on down the line. Starting in 1970 with the songs "(I Need Your) Sweet Inspiration" and moving on down to songs like "Cherri Cherri", "Twice Around the Daffodils", "Starvation", "Story Book Children" and so on. These songs show off just how soulful reggae could be in the later 60's - early 70's. Everything is included from funky bass lines and powerful blistering organ and horns to the heartfelt harmonies by the Pioneers themselves. In my opinion, some of these songs could have given the best from the top soul labels at the time a run for their money.
Unfortunatly, towards the mid-70's, the Pioneers brand of reggae had become old fashioned as more concious, roots and dread style reggae acts began to emerge. The Pioneers found it difficult to adjust and so called it a day.
So all in all, if early, skinhead reggae is what youre into, or even if youre into soul music and not so much reggae, i would definitly recommend this album.
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