For all his considerable talents in the art of record production, Clancy Collins is a name sadly only known to the serious reggae collector. It’s certainly not down to a lack of quality sides attributable to the man, but rather a lack of a strong period of hits to have really brought his name to the forefront.
While the seventeen releases on the Collins Down Beat showcase some of the finest rocksteady sides produced on either side of the Atlantic, they were followed up by a period of relative dormancy.
Collins did have sides pop up on different Trojan subsidies, mainly the Duke label, you may have heard of “Black Panther”, but the skinhead reggae was one in which his name appeared on not nearly as many discs as we’d have liked.
With all that being said, we return to a point we made earlier: the Collins Down Beat label was responsible for some of the finest rocksteady ever to be recorded. The fact that much of it is now rare as hens teeth, and there seems to be a few titles missing in generally encyclopedic reggae discographies, makes it all the better for collectors.
We’re going to endeavour to bring to light some of the absolute must haves on the label.
Let’s start with the very first release “Sir Collins Special” by the legendary Lester Sterling. A founding member of The Skatalites and educated at the legendary Alpha Boys School, Sterling lays down a killer bit of alto sax on this one. Clancy Collins makes an appearance with a bit of a talk over on this one. Essential start to the label.
The Uniques are up next on the label, and it’s The Uniques. You know it’s essential. Although their greatest work certainly came from working with Bunny Lee, the trio regardless of lineup was chock full of talent throughout. Both sides of this one are worth the price of admission.
Following in behind this one is Owen Gray and Collins on the middling “Collins Greetings”. While the A side isn’t the greatest, you want this one for the B side. Owen Gray gives it a bit of a talk over while Lester Sterling does his thing. Midway through Grey breaks into a vocal and it takes the track to the next level.
Moving on, you can give the next single released a miss and move onto “I’m So Lonely” by Owen Gray and Sir Collins. An absolutely lovely cut of rocksteady with a rhythm you’ll recognize. Sterling stands out on this one once again. Flip it over and we have another Skatalites alumni, Rico Rodriguez, making his debut on the label with the storming “Shock Steady”. Maybe one of the best on the label. Collins is on top of the track doing a bit of deejaying.
Next up a rhythm you’ll have just gotten familiar with makes it return on the incredible “Sock It Softly”. Sir Collins is on the track throughout, as good as ever, but the standout here is Bob Stackie on the hammond. To steal an oft used phrase, he mashes the place up. Get it. The flip ain’t so bad either.
Our next recommendation is a bit of an anomaly. On it we have Glen Adams credited with “Cool Cool Rock Steady”. It’s actually Bunny Lee’s cousin, Don Tony Lee, and Bobby Aitken on this one. Also, while credited to Collins it’s a Bunny production. Nonetheless it’s fantastic and can’t be recommended highly enough.
You can skip the next three and save all your cash for the final splash on the label. Owen Grey does a great vocal on “I’m Going To Take You Back”, but the standout is the flip of this one with Glen Adams, properly credited this time, giving it his all in a rocksteady standout “King Sized”. Incredible.
The label petered out after this, certainly not ending on a strong note. Collins production career also petered out around the time, taking intermittent breaks throughout the next couple of years as we’ve mentioned earlier.
But the man put out some absolute gold, and its oft said the UK produced reggae doesn’t stand up to its Jamaican counterparts. Collins proved that producers based in England could do the job just as well, and it some cases even better, than the hardest hitters across the sea.