Althea and Donna - Uptown Top Ranking (Vinyl)

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Original 1978 album remastered including two bonus tracks. Theirs is a legendary story of how two teenagers enamored with Trinity's hit "Three Piece Suit" wrote a reply,"Uptown Town Ranking," cut it for Joe Gibbs, and scored a number one in both Jamaica and Britain. That feat brought Althea Forrest and Donna Reid a record contract with Front Line, which resulted in this, their sole album. Uptown Top Ranking was superbly produced by Karl Pitterson, and boasts the heavy rhythms of the Revolutionaries. The music is a wonder to behold, driven by the Riddim Twins' fat rhythms and accompanied by Scully's inspired percussion. The heavenly horn section of Tommy McCook, Vin Gordon, and Herman Marquis punctuates the tracks, while keyboardist Bernard Harvey burbles in the background and guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith riffs away. All told, the group makes Uptown top ranking indeed, fabulous roots reggae that swings from deeply moody to brightly upbeat. So, why was this album an abysmal failure? Simply put, because Althea & Donna were under the mistaken impression that they were now cultural artists instead of pop stars. And while the pair sings with heartfelt passion, their lyrics are rife with clichés and mind-numbing banalities; the immaturity of their writing is now laid bare. As is their singing. Although both girls had pretty enough voices, what they lacked was experience and training. This wasn't a problem on the single, a jubilant number whose brash lyrics laid waste to all other considerations. Across a full album, the flaws become obvious -- there's no real harmonies to speak of, and neither girl is able to come up with a suitably strong melody of their own. Compared to other albums of the era, Uptown Top Ranking was anything but top ranking. Today, however, militant themes and thoughtful lyrics are no longer required, and thus Althea & Donna may be due for a comeback. Certainly the Revolutionaries' excellent work here deserves the recognition it never received at the time.

 



'uptown top ranking' is a brilliantly iconic single, a classic, and among the best records ever to attain the no.1 position in our nation's charts! said! however, believing for whatever reason, that the album was most likely to be a 'cobbled together' vehicle for the single, i never paid it any attention, or went out of my way to listen to any of it. wrong! (again!). recently, tho', when idling around youtube, i let it run on from another clip and let it play, and soon realised that my pre-conception had been ill considered. a look at the line up would have told me this - sly, robbie, chinna, skully, tommy mccook, vin gordon - and made me feel even more foolish! so now, very sheepishly, i can safely (and now correctly) say that there's not a sniff of a filler present here, it's an excellently realised and somewhat unique album when you factor in the vocals - whilst obviously not gifted singers, althea and donna were nonetheless very effective ones, their distinct message stamped upon every song here. i can't but help equate the concept to some of the uk punk female artists/bands that were operating at the same time - the likes of the slits, raincoats, etc, and in my book, that's high praise!
the above mentioned revolutionaries are at the top of the game here, and provide 10 tracks of the finest roots/rockers rhythms, varied and vibrant, and this suits the girls' voices perfectly. again, great credit, as their voices are not the strongest (hey, they were teenagers!), but history has shown (me, for certain!) that they possessed some of the most recognisable tones in the genre. each track is as good as the last, or the next, and the album has a very 'complete' feel to it. the version of the single is much deeper and rootsier than the one that topped the charts, and maybe inclusion of the single mix as a comparative extra would have been a bonus. that said, after this album, that was about it for althea and donna, as apart from less than a handful of other single releases, this is all there is! and probably, given the quality here and the potential for progress, that's a real pity!

By: Tech XXIII


A1 No More Fighting
A2 Jah Rastafari
A3 Make A Truce
A4 Oh Dread
A5 Uptown Top Ranking
A6 It Mek (Bonus track)
B1 The West
B2 Jah Music
B3 If You Don't Love Jah
B4 Sorry
B5 They Wanna Just
B6 Going To Negril (Bonus track)



Barcode: 602448714251
Record Store Day 2023
Heavyweight Black vinyl