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Paragons sleevenotes

Posted by The man 
The man
Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 04:28PM
Paragons sleevenotes

If the rock steady era produced some of the most beautiful music ever recorded in Jamaica, then the Paragons were certainly the most tuneful and harmonious group of them all. Memorable melodies like ‘Happy Go Lucky Girl’, ‘On The Beach’, ‘The Tide Is High’, ‘Quiet Place’, ‘Wear You To The Ball’, ‘My Best Girl’, ‘So Much Pain’, The Same Song’ and ‘Silver Bird’ among many are some of the most exhilarating and most finely sung songs in the vast catalogue of Jamaican music and lead vocalist John Holt is undoubtedly the style’s sweetest ever singerl.

As it happens, Holt wasn’t even a member of the original group. Formed in Kingston in the early 1960s, the original Paragons comprised Garth “Tyrone” Evans, Bob Andy, Junior Menz and Leroy Stamp. Apparently, at this time it was Bob Andy who was the crucial member of the group, and it was he who would choose the songs they sang and played the piano for all four when rehearsing, as well as working out their harmonies and making sure that the group stayed together.

In 1964, Leroy Stamp left and the group decided they needed a good lead vocalist. “Tyrone more than anyone else reckoned that if the group had a strong lead singer, the group would be a force to be reckoned with,” says Bob Andy. “So we brought John Holt in, who had a name already! He had won various talent contests. Then he came in; he was a very strong singer. The two other guys adored him, mostly Tyrone. Tyrone just fell sucker to the way John sings.”

Greenwich Farm born John Holt had also already recorded. In 1962, the singer had made his studio debut when backed by the Vagabonds group he’d cut ‘I Cried All My Tears’ for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label. He was to lead the Paragons on the group’s own first forays into the studio too, where at Studio One in 1965 and 1966 they cut half a dozen or so soulful tracks, of which ‘Good Luck And Goodbye’, ‘Play Girl’ and ‘Love At Last’ are probably the best known.

By this time, Junior Menz had also left to join the Techniques and he was replaced by Kingston College student Howard Barrett. Meanwhile, Bob Andy was growing increasingly tired of the whole set up. “John Holt was a bit arrogant,” Andy now says. “We all got a bit fed up with John, his arrogance and his attitude, in that he’d think well, he didn't need much rehearsal. I said I want to leave the group and they said no, we will get a new lead singer. So we called Vic Taylor. So anyway, Vic Taylor came into the group for about three months. And the other two members decided, ‘We really do prefer John's style as the lead singer’ I said, ‘OK. You’re free to have John back in the group, but I’m going to go’.”

It was with John Holt firmly entrenched as not only the lead singer but as composer and arranger as well that the group were to have their biggest successes. Recording in the new rock steady style, the Paragons had a big hit with ‘Talking Love’ for Merritone and then a strong follow up for the same label with ‘We Were Meant To Be’ before joining up with Treasure Isle Studio and alongside Tommy McCook’s crack Supersonics group for the recording of ‘On The Beach’. Working with Duke Reid right up to the end of the 1960s, the Paragons scored a dozen hits and some of the best known songs of the whole era, while also producing themselves on titles such as, ‘Left With A Broken Heart’, ‘Got To Get Away’ aka ‘Quiet Place’, ‘Memories By The Score’ and ‘My Number One ‘, as well as also recording for Lloyd Daley and Coxsone Dodd. By the end of the decade, they were probably the most popular vocal outfit on the Caribbean island.

Towards the end of 1968, John Holt recorded several solo sides for Duke Reid and within a few months had embarked on a solo career featuring as such on works for producers like Bunny Lee and Coxsone Dodd in the early stages of what was to become a long and profitable move. Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett both went to live in the States in 1970, where Evans recorded intermittently for the New York producer Brad Osbourne, and during 1973 Evans and Barrett came together once again with female singer Rosalyn Sweat to record and release the ‘Paragons With Rosalyn Sweat’ album for Treasure Isle. During the mid 1970s, Tyrone recorded ‘Danger In Your Eyes’ as by Don Evans And The Paragons for Studio One. In the early 1980s, the Paragons saw that the time was ripe for the group to make a comeback and they cut two albums for Bunny Lee, ‘Return’ and ‘Now’, as well as a set for Sly & Robbie called ‘Riding High’ after one of their biggest ever Treasure Isle songs ‘Riding On A Windy Day’. Meanwhile, also in the early 1980s, Tyrone recorded a classic solo set entitled ‘Sings Bullwackie Style’. In 1983, he returned to Jamaica and formed an allegiance with Techniques producer Winston Riley, who recorded and released the album ‘Don Evans’ and several singles like ‘Drifting Away’ and ‘Kiss And Run’. A series of releases maintained his profile, including ‘The Dynamic Duo’ with Audrey Hall and ‘Satisfaction’, as well as the notable singles, ‘Lonesome Lad’ and the dancehall hit alongside DJ John Wayne, ‘War International’. Born in Jamaica in 1944, he died in New York, USA on October 19, 2000.

Unlike the Paragons’ much anthologised catalogue for Treasure Isle, much of the music on this 50 track double compact disc is unreleased in any form up to now. Tyrone Evans features as lead vocalist on three quarters of the titles included here and John Holt performs lead on the remaining quarter. Throughout the set, Tyrone Evans proves himself a very good and consistent singer, tackling famous rhythms such as ‘Shank I Sheck’ on ‘For You Girl’ and ‘Never Let Go’ for ‘Got To Have Your Love’. Some of the tracks, like ‘Heaven And Earth’, ‘Maddening Crowd’ and ‘That’s All I Want’ come from the album entitled ‘Now’, produced by Bunny Lee and mixed by Prince Jammy and Prince Phillip and released on the Starlight label in 1982, while ‘With You Girl’, ‘Heaven And Earth’ and ‘Just A Waste Of Time’ were released on discomix in the early 1980s.

The tracks led by John Holt mostly date from the early 1970s and include ‘Judgement Days’ originally released under the title ‘Do The Best Thing’ in 1976, though the earliest titles here include ‘My Number One’ and ‘Memories By The Score’ originally issued back to back in 1968 and ‘Left With A Broken Heart’ from the same year.. Other Holt led outings include his version of Solomon Burke’s countrified classic ‘Just Out Of Reach’ from 1970, ‘Don’t You Ever Give Up’, originally released as ‘Don’t Give Up The Fight’ in 1973, and also from the same year ‘I’ve Been Admiring You’, Holt’s take on the Slim Smith And The Uniques’ ‘The Beatitude’ rhythm. Also included is the stirring ‘Quiet Place’, a song beloved of the punks courtesy of Doctor Alimantado’s famous ‘Poison Flour’ cut. Most of these titles were actually credited to John Holt as soloist on their original release but they are all clearly vocal group efforts.

Around half of the titles here are previously unknown to me at all, which suggests that Striker Lee has dug deeply into his vaults to compile this two compact disc package. What he has realised is a fascinating volume featuring some of the lesser known sides recorded by one of the greatest Jamaican harmony groups of them all.

Penny Reel – December 2005
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 04:51PM

thanks.. great notes and great news.. love Paragons from all eras. will buy this one hands down

> ‘Maddening Crowd’

isn't this "Modelling Crowd"?

anyway, i love that album..

Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 07:18PM
in my experience unreleased tracks are kept deep in the vaults for very good reason - they are not worthy of release. scraping the bottom of the barrel.

peter, penny, observer, the man or whatever your name is today - go get a job writing sleevenotes for Trojan, they are good at the recycling lark. or wouldnt they have you?
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 07:57PM
and i would venture a guess that "peter, penny,observer,the man or whatever your name is today" would be able to get a job like that. unlike you who appear to only have some kind of vendetta to belittle his posts.
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 08:03PM
And it's always the same guy: (---.range86-139.btcentralplus.com)

Great sleevenotes Penny - looks like a very interesting album!
Fred Lion
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 08:47PM
Me too - I think he's a wastrel as well

Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 08:52PM
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 09:49PM
sycophants - bah!

talk about the blind leading the blind!!
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 09:50PM
ps dirtweed

it is my understanding that mr schizophrenia CANNOT get jobs with Trojan etc because they know him too well
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 19, 2005 11:51PM
Please kelt do your dirty laundry somewhere else!!!
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
December 20, 2005 03:29AM
Yeah there's always some clown trying to hijack a thread for some little personal reason.

But back to the topic - an excellent overview of the Paragons there Mr. Reel.

I didn't realize that Junior Menz was in the group. He's gotta be one of the most under-rated and obscure artists ever. For those of you who don't recognize the name - he's the lead singer on great Treasure Isle tunes like Queen Majesty, and My Girl.
Re: Paragons sleevenotes
May 29, 2006 02:47PM
It's only silly Ryan, don't fret.

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