We all know of the great Reggae movies: Rockers, The Harder They Come, and Country Boy, as well as their respective soundtracks, which are equally impressive. I have yet to check out and see if a vinyl copy of the Dancehall Queen OST was ever released, but I’m pretty sure that would be decent too. What we have here today is another Reggae movie. It was pretty unknown to me, but I did some digging (no pun intended) and here’s what I came up with.
Billed as a sort of sequel to The Harder They Come, the movie follows the antics of the movie’s star, Ringo, as he and his co-workers in the tourism trade in Jamaica poke fun and cause general mayhem at a beach hotel. Even though it looks at Jamaica’s social class struggles and every day life, it seems to be a far cry from the issues and struggles you see in the aforementioned movies. More like a light hearted comedy, there is a flicker of hope for Smile Orange: the soundtrack.
Smile Orange is peppered with some decent instrumental Reggae, as well as Calypso, and Jazz. Having been to Jamaica, I can only feel like this is the kind of stuff pumping from the speakers all through the resorts in the mid 70’s. The soundtrack was written and composed by American bandleader/ trombonist Melba Liston and recorded at Ken Khouri’s Federal Records in Jamaica. The mixture of different genres on the label definitely go along with Federal’s output of music. The put out Reggae and Calypso during their time, and Khouri eventually sold the recording studio before he emigrated to the US to Bob Marley. The studio then became the massive Tuff Gong. Now here is the question: What back up musicians played behind Liston? Was it Federal’s house band (which it could very well have been as this record was from 1976, the same year Khouri left for the US), or the new Tuff Gong house band? At some point in the early 70’s guitarist Ernest Ranglin would become musical director at Federal, but I can’t confirm whether or not he had a hand in this OST. Liston and these mystery musicians have done an otherwise great job of injecting some musical life into this lukewarm film. However, as late as 2010, this film was named to be one of the best Jamaican films of all time, reaching number 3. It’s look at class, color, and everyday Jamaica has been praised in modern times. I never would have imagined that, but good on Smile Orange.
The tune “Smile Orange” is one of the standout Reggae tracks on this record. Although it brings up visions of old couples dancing close, I really like the horn work from Liston and company on this side. It’s a little more upbeat, so get out of your seat and move your feet. You done yet? Get back to your seats, your curried conch fritters are getting cold. Like I said earlier, not the best Reggae OST, but there are some stand out sides from this obscure Jamaican movie. If anyone else has some info about the players on this record, please feel free to message me.
A clip from Smile Orange