First Cut: Caltone

We all now know Ken Lack’s Caltone label as one that is responsible for numerous rocksteady classics. It wasn’t always so, as those who’ve been collecting for any number of years can attest.

Thankfully for all of us the good folks at Pressure Sounds have seemingly made it their mission to expose all the gems which have laid hidden so long. For a long time “Dreader Than Dread” by Honeyboy Martin, an all time standout in all regards, was the labels claim to fame. Digging deeper has led to more discoveries.

These include a number of top drawer instrumentals by the evergreen Tommy McCook, the first ever Bunny Lee production and some of the Heptones finest and most underplayed work.

But all that is a story for another day. What we’re dealing with here is the first cut on the label: “A Rainbow” by The Emotions. The trio consisted of Kenneth Knight, Lloyd Shakespeare and most famously Max Romeo. It was with Caltone and Ken Lack that the group began recording in 1965 but it wasn’t until 1966 that they had their first ever hit. It was the song we’re featuring today.

Although the tune didn’t, officially, hit English shores until 1967 it was already a hit in Jamaica. Not hard to see why, all three vocalists were tremendously talented and you have Tommy McCook and the Supersonics providing the instrumental. A recipe for success if we’ve ever heard one.

It’s also a bit of an anomaly as the tune is far more a ska beat than one of the rocksteady genre, providing an upbeat and jumpy rhythm that immediately makes you want to move. While things had moved onto rocksteady in 1967, this tune was coming out just at the tail end of ska. It’s further evidenced by the Skatalites being credited on the flip.

So there we have it, another Caltone treasure. Keep your eyes open to a label guide we’ve been working on so you don’t miss all the juicy bits and unearthed treasures on this astounding label.


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