by: Junior Byles

Junior Byles' friends and musical companions were increasingly worried by the star's behavior as 1975 dawned, his moodiness was sliding into bouts of depression, and his erratic behavior was alienating musicians and producers alike. Their concerns were well founded, because before the year was out Byles suffered a breakdown and was institutionalized. Amazingly though, not a hint of this emotional turmoil can be heard on the joyous Jordan, Byles' second album, released in 1976, but recorded earlier the previous year. On the vivacious "Lorna Banana" he laughs like a man without a care in the world, cheerily lifting the spirits of a heartbroken friend. With Jah and Selassie still by his side, Byles easily tosses off life's heavy load on the upbeat "Mystic Revelation" and the envy of the grudging on the title track, while even the sufferer's song "I Ain't Got It" is filled with hope for the future. On a medley of two recuts of his earlier hits, Byles takes absolute delight in whipping the wicked ("Beat Down Babylon"), and replaces the wistfulness of "Curly Locks," with the conviction that his girl chose correctly. Producer Pete Weston should have quit while ahead though, for Byles' enthusiastic mood just doesn't suit "A Place Called Africa." A smarter move was asking the singer to record a couple of covers, with his swaggering take on the Folkes Brothers "Oh Carolina" resulting in a major Jamaican hit. Byles version of the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," on which the singer doesn't so much beg as boast, proved equally popular. And making it a hat trick of hits is "Burrie Boy" (aka "Bury-O-Boy"), produced by Lloyd Campbell, and an emotive plea to end the island's violence. The fabulous backings were provided by rhythm team Carlton "Santa" Davis and George "Fully" Fullwood, guitarists Hux Brown and Tony Chin, and pianist Theophilus Beckford, who lay down insistent reggae riddims, weaving in bright and breezy atmospheres that perfectly dovetail Byles' own. It's far removed from the singer's debut Lee Perry produced set, showcasing a happy artist at a time when the world was his oyster. Tragically the bivalve was about to snap shut. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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