Justin Hinds & The Dominoes – From Jamaica With Reggae – Album Review
Justin Hinds & The Dominoes – From Jamaica With Reggae
Released 9th February 2018
First time reissue on CD for the Reggae trio’s 1976 debut album, featuring some of Justin Hinds And The Dominoes’ biggest Jamaican hits and 14 bonus tracks……Ian Canty relates the odd story of a highly successful singing outfit who had to wait over ten years before they were permitted to release a long playing record…..
It is a puzzler how Justin Hinds and the Dominoes had to wait until 1976 to release their debut album. The band had been around one form or another since the early 60s and had a lot of success in Jamaica through the years, Carry Go Bring Come being their big Ska era smash. The Dominoes had a close relationship with Duke Reid, the record baron that was at the top of the pile all through Rocksteady, but by the 70s the Duke was ailing. Sonia Pottinger took over the production side of the group as well as Reid’s Treasure Island label and her intervention is probably what gave the Dominoes a shot at a LP. But on finally getting an album release, From Jamaica With Reggae was still an enigma. It was a hotchpotch mix of differing styles, due to it being an amalgam of their hits through the years plus some new recordings.
Justin Hinds (Horace Andy’s cousin) was another young out-of-town music fan who sought fame on the Kingston music scene, but his heart was always in the countryside where he came from. This showed in his 1971 song Botheration, in which he clearly elucidates the frustrations of city life from his viewpoint as a grounded countryman. He was a deeply spiritual person who would later convert to Rastafarianism and his work was marked by references to proverbs and fables, hoping to pass on the lessons he had learned in his life through his songs.
He was blessed with an appealing voice too and started a singing group with his school friends Dennis Sinclair and Junior Dixon in Steer Town. In 1963 Hinds and the Dominoes (the name coming from their mutual admiration for US R&B star Fats Domino) set off to find their fortune in the big city. Hinds’ talents in song-writing would prove invaluable to the band in their adventures in Kingston. There were many vocal trios trying for fame in the world of Ska, but not many with a built-in hit writing machine.
After an initial knockback from Coxsone Dodd, a friend with connections got them an audition with Dodd’s rival Duke Reid. The three impressed the Duke and with their first recording for his Treasure Isle label they made the Ska classic Carry Go Bring Home. This set the trio on a path of success, but as the Jamaica record business was far more geared towards 45s at this time, they never got to cut a long playing record on Duke’s watch. The run of hits that continued through the changes from Rocksteady, to original Reggae right through to Roots in the mid-70s, did not make any difference.
As the 70s wore on, the music scene was changing though and there was a demand for a Justin Hinds And The Dominoes LP. Weakened by ill health, Reid sold his music business over to Sonia Pottinger. She oversaw some new sessions and these, jammed together with some of Hinds and the Dominoes biggest hits, meant enough material was available to bundled together for an LP.
Unsurprisingly the album itself is, it has to be said, a bit strange. Even the title is a little rum, you would think from that it was made for the foreign market, but was only released in Jamaica. As a listening experience, From Jamaica With Reggae a little odd too as its running order places songs side by side that were as much as twelve years apart in vintage. You could have something from the early Ska era like Carry Go Bring Home followed by a new recording with a “Modern” Reggae sound like Whatever You Need, then back to the Rocksteady sound of Here I Stand and that’s just the first three tracks! They are all quality recordings, but it is a little disconcerting, all the leaps backwards and forwards through time.
On the positive side, the newer material showed that Hinds was still a match for most, with the sunny, lazy sound of mid-70s JA perfectly evoked on You Don’t Know and Sinners (Where You Gonna Hide). Despite the feel-good sound Justin always had a message, a stern one for the forces of oppression on the former. In contrast, Drink Milk is a direct hit from the Reggae of 1969, a call to action by any other name and a sparky and exciting song. The Little You Have is touching and soulful and Hey Mama (AKA Cock Mouth Kill Cock – nothing dirty about this one, being basically “watch what you say”) a fine cut from 71. Though the album naturally lacks cohesion, it contains a lot to love, as do the 14 bonus tracks.
Those extras presented here mean finally From Jamaica With Reggae becomes the Greatest Hits of Justin Hinds and the Dominoes it was perhaps meant to be. Rub Up Push Up again is not quite the saucy number I originally took it for, being really just the song of a lover wronged. It is a brilliant piece of original Ska with the Jazz influence in the horn section and a strong rhythm. The Dominoes score again on that count with Mother Banner and Peace And Love, which has a noise on it that sounds like someone playing the spoons! I know it isn’t, but whatever it is, it really works.
Sufferation 1969 and the aforementioned Botheration show how easily Hinds and the Dominoes changed over from Rocksteady to Reggae and how convincing they were when they did. Though the tunes were great the words were always worth hearing too. Hinds shows how he kept evolving with two late 70s tracks backed by the crack Channel One outfit the Revolutionaries, Rig-Ma-Roe Game and Wipe Your Weeping Eyes. A couple of excellent pieces of Reggae for the time that could compare with Lee Perry-produced cuts of roundabout the same era for atmosphere, musicianship and vocal skill. It’s great listening and still would pack the dancefloors at a Reggae Revival show. Altogether this adds up to sonic history of the evolution of Reggae from 1964 to 1978 in miniature, one band, form.
Hinds carried on working after this album was released and recorded widely until the mid-80s. He slowed down from then on, still setting down tracks in the studio more occasionally (once with Keith Richards producing) and playing live. Sadly he passed away in 2005 at the age of 62 having made a big mark on Reggae music in Jamaican almost since its inception.
Though the original album will always be a strange one, the music contained on it and the bonus tracks included here are mostly very good indeed. Justin Hinds and the Dominoes managed to safely negotiate all of the fads that the Kingston music scene could throw at them and came up trumps with some cracking sounds with thought-provoking lyrics. At their best, they measured up well to most anyone who ever showed up at Duke Reid’s door and that’s taking in a lot of talent. Another ace whipped from the sleeve of Doctor Bird, listen to this collection, its good for your soul.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here