It seems that as of late, I have been turning up a good amount of Reggae. Not just any Reggae music, but classic, timeless music from Jamaica from a foundation of musicians that make music from JA so great. This week I unturned this piece, mint and an all around great find. Here is Rolando Alphonso and “What Does It Take To Win Your Love” on Studio 1/ Coxsone Records. I paid $2 for this record, and was happy I did.
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1931, Roland (or Rolando) Alphonso relocated to Jamaica a few years later with his Jamaican mother. Originally starting off on the drums, Alphonso played the flute and saxophone as well, before settling on the alto saxophone as an instrument of choice. His early Jazz roots (mixed with Calypso and mento music) would lead him in the direction of the emerging explosion of Ska. Ska merged Rhythm and Blues and Afro-Cuban music, and Alphonso played on the first known Ska release Theophilus Beckford’s “Easy Snappin'”. This was an important record, but the introduction of the Skatalites showcsed and pushed the new genre further. With trombonist Don Drummond at the helm, the Skatalites went into the spotlight, and would eventually settle at Coxsone Dodd’s Studio 1 as the house band (minus Drummond who went a bit off the deep end and murdered his wife). The Skatalites would be the foundation for Ska music and the the evolution of Rocksteady as well. This massively important band backed everyone from Bob Marley to Lee Perry to Toots and the Maytalls and more. One would think that this band was together for a long amount of time, but in reality they just stayed together for about a year and all moved on. Alphonso was involved with the The Soul Vendors (with Jackie Mittoo) and The Alley Cats, plus a restauranty band called The Ruinaires (who played weekly gigs at The Ruins restaurant). He stayed with Coxsone at Studio 1, but also went on to work with Bunny Lee. Alphonso suffered a stroke at age 41 and recovered as well as a brain aneurysm , but after a Skatalites reunion the the brain aneurysm returned once again, and led to his eventual death in 1998.
“What Does It Take To Win Your Love” starts off with bits of U-Roy’s “Tom Drunk”, but as soon as Alphonso’s horn comes in, the song is unmistakeable. He’s taken the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” and made it his own. A spot on Rocksteady version of their hit, recently sung badly by actor Michael Cera, but done perfectly by one of the forefathers of the genre. A short little side, but well worth your time. In fact, if you can get your hands on this record, the whole thing is just fantastic through both sides. If artists made music like Rolando Alphonso these days, the world would be a better place.