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Alton Ellis - Be True to Yourself: The Godfather of Lover's Rock (Anthology 1965-1973)

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Be True to Yourself: The Godfather of Lover's Rock (Anthology 1965-1973)

Alton Ellis

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Alton Ellis created a template in the 1960s that subsequent Jamaican singers like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs would follow to a T, combining soulful vocal phrasing, derived in part from American R&B, with hard island rhythms and a bent for romantic material into a surefire way to keep a presence on the charts. Although he is often celebrated for his subtle Jamaican interpretations of American pop hits (which often improved on the originals, as is the case here with Ellis' version of Chuck Jackson's "Willow Tree"), it is startling to realize how many of the best songs on this two-disc, 56-track compilation of Ellis' early years were actually written by the singer. "Dance Crasher," "Cry Tough," "The Preacher," "Black Man's World," "Harder and Harder," and "Better Get Your Heads Together" were all penned by Ellis, and his soaring tenor renders them both poignant and irresistible. It's also interesting how many of the tracks deal squarely with social issues, and while there are plenty of romantic ballads included here, Ellis clearly had a wider range of concerns than his public persona as a crooner would afford. Songs like "Cry Tough" (with its classic "how can a man be tougher than the world" interjection by Lloyd Charmers) are immortal, in part because of Ellis' emotive and nuanced vocals, but also because the writing is so smart, wise, and assured, not to mention timely and political. As an introduction to Ellis' classic early years (and in particular, his work with Treasure Isle producer Duke Reid), Be True to Yourself is hard to beat.
© Steve Leggett /TiVo

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Be True to Yourself: The Godfather of Lover's Rock (Anthology 1965-1973)

Alton Ellis

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1
Something You've Got
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:34

The Flames, Composer - Alton Ellis, Composer, Vocals - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1965 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

2
Dance Crasher
Alton Ellis
00:02:39

Alton Ellis, Vocals, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1965 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

3
Don't Trouble People
Alton Ellis
00:03:01

The Flames, MainArtist - Alton Ellis, MainArtist - The Baba Brooks Band, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1966 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

4
The Preacher
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:15

Alton Ellis, Vocals - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1966 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

5
Blessings of Love
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:26

The Flames, Performance - Alton Ellis, Performance - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1966 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

6
Shake It
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:47

Alton Ellis, Vocals - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1966 Sanctuary Record Group Ltd., a BMG Company

7
Girl I've Got a Date
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:29

The Flames, Composer - Alton Ellis, Composer - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1966 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

8
How Can I
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:55

Alton Ellis, Vocals - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

9
Cry Tough
Alton Ellis
00:02:16

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1966 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

10
Rock Steady
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:40

The Flames, Composer - Alton Ellis, Composer - Brian Atkinson, Composer - Duke Reid, Producer - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist - Alton Neamiah Ellis, Composer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1967 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

11
Duke of Earl
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:03:22

Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1967 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

12
All My Tears (Come Rolling)
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:43

Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1967 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

13
Ain't That Loving You
Alton Ellis
00:02:49

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1967 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

14
Why Birds Follow Spring (with Tommy McCook)
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:24

Tommy McCook, Vocals, FeaturedArtist - The Supersonics, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1967 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

15
If I Could Rule This World
Alton Ellis
00:02:27

Alton Ellis, Producer, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1967 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

16
Oowee Baby (Baby I Love You)
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:17

Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

17
My Willow Tree
Alton Ellis
00:02:44

Tommy McCook, Composer - Alton Ellis, Composer, MainArtist - The Supersonics, Composer - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

18
I Can't Stop Now
Alton Ellis
00:03:22

Alton Ellis, Vocals, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

19
Why Did You Leave Me to Cry
Alton Ellis
00:02:39

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist - Phyllis Dillon, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

20
I Can't Stand It
Alton Ellis
00:02:21

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist - Lloyd Williams, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

21
My Time is the Right Time
Alton Ellis
00:02:48

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

22
Bye Bye Love
Alton Ellis
00:02:09

Felice Bryant, Composer - Boudleaux Bryant, Composer - Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

23
Tonight aka "Feeling Inside"
Alton Ellis
00:03:11

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

24
Give Me Your Love
Alton Ellis
00:01:53

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

25
Keep On Yearning
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:02:02

The Flames, Performance - Alton Ellis, Performance - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

26
La La (Means I Love You)
Alton Ellis
00:03:05

Alton Ellis, Vocals, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

27
If I Had the Right
Alton Ellis & The Flames
00:03:04

The Flames, Performance - Alton Ellis, Performance - Alton Ellis & The Flames, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

28
Breaking Up
Alton Ellis
00:02:59

Tommy McCook, Saxophone, MainArtist - Alton Ellis, MainArtist - The Supersonics, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1968 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

29
Diana
Alton Ellis
00:02:08

Paul Anka, Composer - Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1969 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

30
Remember That Sunday
Alton Ellis
00:02:34

Alton Ellis, Vocals, MainArtist - Phyllis Dillon, Vocals, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

DISC 2

1
What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
Alton Ellis
00:03:19

Vernon Bullock, Composer - Johnny Bristol, Composer - Alton Ellis, MainArtist - HARVEY FUQUA, Composer - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

2
You Made Me So Very Happy
Alton Ellis
00:02:53

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist - Arthur "Duke" Reid, Producer

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company 1970 ℗ Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

3
Black Man's World aka "Black Man, White Man"
Alton Ellis
00:02:51

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

4
I'll Be Waiting
Alton Ellis
00:03:19

Winston Riley, Producer - Alton Ellis, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

5
It's Your Thing
Alton Ellis
00:02:57

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company

6
(Lord) Deliver Us
Alton Ellis
00:03:04

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

7
Back to Africa
Alton Ellis
00:02:25

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1970 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

8
Wide World
Alton Ellis
00:03:56

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

9
You Said It Again aka "I'll Make It Up To You"
Alton Ellis
00:03:31

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

10
Working On a Groovy Thing
Alton Ellis
00:04:12

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

11
Hey World
Alton Ellis
00:02:24

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

12
True Born African
Alton Ellis
00:03:09

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

13
(If I) Don't Care
Alton Ellis
00:03:05

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

14
Harder and Harder
Alton Ellis
00:02:47

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

15
Play It Cool aka "Rock On Time"
Alton Ellis
00:02:35

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

16
Be True (To Yourself)
Alton Ellis
00:02:39

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1971 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

17
(Baby) I'm Trying
Alton Ellis
00:02:44

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1972 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

18
Wonderful World
Alton Ellis
00:03:09

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1972 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

19
Big Bad Boy
Alton Ellis
00:02:22

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1972 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

20
You Are Mine
Alton Ellis
00:03:38

Alton Ellis, Performance, MainArtist

© 2004 Trojan Recordings Ltd., a BMG Company ℗ 1972 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company

Album Description

Alton Ellis created a template in the 1960s that subsequent Jamaican singers like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs would follow to a T, combining soulful vocal phrasing, derived in part from American R&B, with hard island rhythms and a bent for romantic material into a surefire way to keep a presence on the charts. Although he is often celebrated for his subtle Jamaican interpretations of American pop hits (which often improved on the originals, as is the case here with Ellis' version of Chuck Jackson's "Willow Tree"), it is startling to realize how many of the best songs on this two-disc, 56-track compilation of Ellis' early years were actually written by the singer. "Dance Crasher," "Cry Tough," "The Preacher," "Black Man's World," "Harder and Harder," and "Better Get Your Heads Together" were all penned by Ellis, and his soaring tenor renders them both poignant and irresistible. It's also interesting how many of the tracks deal squarely with social issues, and while there are plenty of romantic ballads included here, Ellis clearly had a wider range of concerns than his public persona as a crooner would afford. Songs like "Cry Tough" (with its classic "how can a man be tougher than the world" interjection by Lloyd Charmers) are immortal, in part because of Ellis' emotive and nuanced vocals, but also because the writing is so smart, wise, and assured, not to mention timely and political. As an introduction to Ellis' classic early years (and in particular, his work with Treasure Isle producer Duke Reid), Be True to Yourself is hard to beat.
© Steve Leggett /TiVo

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