LABEL: Beverley's/Trojan | GENRE: Rocksteady/Reggae | NEXT RELEASE: Soul Rebel
The Best of Wailers was a landmark album in reggae history for quite a few reasons. Despite being labeled "A Best of" it was not a compilation album, but a culmination of work produced by Leslie Kong for his Beverley's Record imprint in 1970,
With Coxsone Dodd's reputation weaning, Kong's Beverley's imprint was the next best bet for acts looking to break into the lucrative UK market. His relationship with Chris Blackwells' Trojan label, had established the international careers of artists such as Desmond Dekker, The Maytals and later on Jimmy Cliff.
After limited success as independent producers, the group decided to approach the Kong to record a full length album. Recorded at Dynamic Sounds Studio in Kingston, the ten track set was backed by Kong's in house band, The Beverley AllStars. Of the originally released ten tracks Rita wrote six of the tracks including the hits "Soul Shake Down", "Cheer Up", "Backout", "Soul Captive", "Do It Twice", and "Caution". The only track written by Bob Marley was "Soon Come", which was also arranged by Rita Marley.
At the end of the recording session in late 1970, Kong was so impressed with the end product that he decided to name the album "The Best Of". The Wailers however, especially Bunny Wailer, was perturbed by the decision and after a brief verbal altercation with Kong, The Wailers began recording with Lee "Scratch" Perry while quickly distancing themselves from Kong who was still persistent to release the album under the title "The Best Of The Wailers". After a brief stint in 1971 with Johnny Nash, The Wailers returned to Jamaica and began recording "Soul Rebel" in August 1971 with Lee Perry.
Warrick Lyn a co-producer of the project convinced Leslie Kong to release the album which had been halted after the first altercation with Bunny Wailer in 1970.
Kong decided to release the album in July 1971 and commissioned MacMillian Advertising to do the cover. When word of this reached The Wailers. Bunny Wailer returned to warn Kong not to anticipate the groups career by releasing the record with the term, "Best Of", for they still had much better material left to record. It seemed his reasoning fell on deaf ears, and on leaving, Bunny warned Kong that if he released the album as is, he would not live to see the true "best of the wailers".
One week after the release of the album in mid August 1971 Leslie Kong died of a heart attack. His death shook the industry tremendously, and for the remainder of 1971 the fallout left the industry at a very low point. Desmond Dekker and the Aces split and the Maytals became Toots and the Maytals, among other dissolutions.
Despite the tragedy. Trojan Records upheld the licensing agreement with Kong and released the album in the UK in 1971. Since then the album has been re-issued four times starting with a French release by Disques Esperance in 1980 and the last being JAD Records in 2004.
The Wailers released three more album before they split permanently in 1974 and from this division would come seven talented acts that would themselves become powerhouses of Reggae music :- Bob Marley & The Wailers, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Rita Marley, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt and after Marley's death in 1981, The Wailers Band.
1 Soul Shakedown
2 Stop the Train
4 Soul Captive
5 Go Tell It on the Mountain
6 Can't You See
7 Soon Come
8 Cheer Up
9 Back Out
10 Do It Twice
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