Last week when we begun this musical journey we were, in all honesty, overwhelmed by the amount of quality releases on the Unity label. What was initially going to be one article quickly turned into something that needed to be broken down into two parts. The quality of the label in 1969 alone was staggering, a prolific output which most labels would be blessed to have over the entire course of the labels lifetime. Things didn’t slow down in 1970.
The first big release of the year would be Max Romeo‘s “Clap Clap”. The song brings to mind the best releases of one Toots Hibbert. Chugging beat and some instructions from Romeo will have the dance floor going mad. Derrick Morgan had the third release of the year and it’s a belter. “Return of Jack Slade” is Derrick doing his best to upstage the likes of U Roy, King Stitt and Count Machuki at their own game. He gives a pretty good efffort but was never likely to better them at their own game. That said it’s still a dance floor filler. Extra points for the mention of skinheads in the song. Derrick got it right when he said all the skinheads would be dancing to this one.
Next up the legendary John Holt made his first appearance for the label with “Sometimes”. A great vocal, believe it or not, from Holt is accompanied by solid backing from Lee’s All Stars. The flip “Lash La Rue” by Lee’s All Stars is a decent little instrumental with DJ backing. Not their best, but still better than most. Their B side to another John Holt release “War Fare” is a whole different story. One of the best skinhead reggae tunes of all time it’s been featured on a number of compilations for good reason. In case you thought they were dropping off they were back in full force on this one.
Than Ken Parker comes onto the scene and puts out the first real standout for the label in 1970. “When You Were Mine” is Parker at his best, one of the more underrated Jamaican vocalists with a sickly sweet vocal. Flip it over and The Clarendonians have an outstanding cover of doo-wop standard “The Angels”. This 45 is worth every single penny, luckily you can get it fairly cheap if you search right. The Soulmates came out with “Ten Cent” two releases down the line. It’s good and rarely heard.
After that release the label slowly started to slip away from what made it standout so greatly in 1969. Jeff Barnes kicked the label back into high gear with his “1, 000 Tons of Version”. This one is a must in every good record collection. It should probably come standard issue if we’re being honest. Flip it over and Hugh Roy joins Barnes for “Wake The Nation’. It makes this one a double sided monster.
The man, the legend, Derrick Morgan sent the label off in style. “Conquering Ruler” is yet another must have. If you haven’t heard it, you’re suspect. That’s about as straight forward as one can put it. It’s is the definition of an essential tune. Releases came after it on the Unity label, but we choose and prefer to remember the label going out in style.
So there you have it. All the Unity singles we think are worth scouring the internet, markets and record stores to get your hands on. This has been but the first in what will be a series of label guides, we hope you’ve enjoyed it. We know we did, unearthing some forgotten gems of one of the best labels for early/skinhead reggae around.