Alton Ellis – 1979 – Love To Share
Review by Fat City Vinyl & Music Blog
Blessed with one of the most expressive and recognizable voices in Jamaican music, Alton Ellis (1938-2008) is one of the legends of reggae though in fact his career began at the very dawn of the Jamaican recording industry and progressed through all the stages that followed. Originally setting out to be a professional dancer (competing on the famed Vere Johns Opportunity Hour talent show) he soon switched to singing, forming a duet called Alton & Eddy with another young singer, Eddy Parkins, in the late 1950’s. In 1960 they scored a hit with a song Ellis wrote called “Muriel”, in the U.S. r&b influenced style then popular in Jamaica. The song was produced by C.S. Dodd who would soon found what would become known as Studio One, the Jamaican Motown which proved to be the launching point for countless artists.
A1 Give Me Your Love 3:03
A2 Pain In My Heart 4:11
A3 Never Before 4:02
A4 I Love You True 5:07
A5 Goodnight Sweetheart 3:16
B1 You, I Adore 4:27
B2 Love To Share 3:32
B3 Let Him Try 4:18
B4 If You Love Me Still 4:10
B5 Moments Of Sadness 4:06
Ellis was no exception, continuing to record for Studio One and other labels either as a solo artist (Eddy Parkins having relocated to America), as part of a group (Alton & the Flames), or as a duo with his sister, Hortense. As the Jamaican r&b style gave way to the birth of ska, Ellis’ career kicked into high gear, even providing the next phase – rocksteady – with an anthem with his song of the same name in 1967. As the notorious rude boy subculture began to be celebrated in records of the time (with the outlaw rude boys alternately being condemned – or more commonly, praised – in song for their rebellious and lawless image), Ellis took a strict law and order position on the subject, issuing a series of singles like Cry Tough, The Preacher, Dance Crasher, and Don’t Trouble People admonishing the rude boys and warning of the consequences of their behaviour. By this time Ellis was cutting records both for Studio One, its chief rival Treasure Isle, as well as other labels, eventually focusing on more romantically themed lyrics though the anti rude boy theme would resurface in the mocking Big Bad Boy for producer Keith Hudson and a black consciousness motif would appear in songs like Back To Africa (both early 70’s). Several of his songs would become enduring favourites to be “versioned” over and over again, with Ellis’ I’m Still In Love With You inspiring numerous covers as well as the rhythm track providing Althea and Donna with their smash hit Uptown Top Ranking; his I’m Just A Guy similarly inspired numerous responses using the same musical backing track. Ellis also proved to be a masterful interpreter of songs originally done by other artists, his unique style a near perfect match for covering American soul hits and his versions of the Delfonics’ La La Means I Love You and the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose’s Too Late To Turn Back Now becoming major hits and enduring Jamaican classics in their own right.
By the mid 1970’s more or less permanently settled in the U.K. – home to a burgeoning population of first and second generation Jamaican and West Indian expatriates and thus a busy and lucrative center of reggae music – it is this soul drenched side of Alton Ellis that is featured on his 1979 album Love To Share. Originally appearing on the London based Third World label, this set is produced by Ellis’ fellow Studio One alumnus, the legendary keyboard maestro Jackie Mittoo (who also arranges all the material) with Junior Lincoln.
A late night, end-of-the-evening slow dancing mood prevails throughout with Ellis’ voice alternately crooning and yearning with romantic longing. As well as the reggae element there is a strong accent on r&b and even doo wop – particularly on a cover of the 1950’s classic Goodnight Sweetheart which is updated with a British lovers rock feeling. The sole overtly Jamaican track is a remake of Ellis’ own Let Him Try, originally recorded for Studio One in the late 60’s in a rocksteady style which here appears in a quite different arrangement with some echoing female backing vocals that recall Alton’s duets with sister Hortense. You, I Adore revels in a 70’s soul setting with an evocative piano intro perfectly accentuating Ellis’ voice while Alton wrings all the feeling he can muster out of If You Love Me Still, which thematically closes out the session with a fireworks burst of emotion surely even the hardest heart could not resist.
Love To Share breaks from the romantic mood to offer a broader view of love in a social context: “this love and this generation/one love, one inspiration/we must find”. A supremely romantic and relaxed session by one of the greats of Jamaican music, this is music to close out a night of unwinding after a long week at work, with your best girl by your side and the music just right.
Now this sensation is a romantic sensation baby, goodnight sweetheart, it’s time to go..