Great Expectation - The Jolly Boys
There’s gold in them thar golden agers! Who would have thought that we’d be looking to our geriatrics for pop promise? But, global music always has had an archeological element to it that connects the music’s roots to exotic, bygone times. The Buena Vista Social Club is the quintessential example most often referenced but there have been many such efforts to dig up virtuoso A or vocalist B, forgotten by a generation only to be rediscovered and packaged for 21st century appreciation and edification. Cynicism aside, The Jolly Boys are an engaging rediscovery that put on no airs of cultural relevance or importance. They came from the Jamaica’s golden age of Mento, a precursor to Reggae, Calypso and the whole island shooting match of music. If you’ve ever been there, you’ve undoubtedly been greeted at the airport or in the lobby of your hotel by colorfully-attired older gentlemen playing guitar, banjo and something called a ‘Rumba Box’ which is like a huge bass mbira you sit on. These are tools of the Mento musician’s trade and The Jolly Boys were among the best in the 50’s, even entertaining Jamaica’s chapter of the Rat Pack which included swashbuckling star Errol Flynn. After a twenty year absence from the studio, Gee Street Records founder Jon Baker and buddy Mark Jones from Wall Of Sound hit upon the Jolly Boys and an idea to give Mento a modern make-over. The new record is called Great Expectation oddly, because I don’t think anyone in their wildest dreams was expecting this. The Jolly Boys are fronted by Albert Minott, a singer who used to work hand stands and fire-eating into his act, which may have something to do with his otherworldly delivery which sounds a little like Jar Jar Binks’ fearless Gungan leader. Minott leads the Boys (with creative direction by Baker and Jones) through a collection of punk, rock and new wave flotsam and jetsam which sound quite remarkable in this arrangement. Listeners are treated to everything from Ring of Fire and I Fought The Law to the autobiographical Rehab by Amy Winehouse and my personal fave, Blondie’s Hanging On The Telephone! I’m sure Messrs. Baker and Jones had the original artists on speed-dial to clear copyrite hurdles, and the sparse production must have made recording a tropical breeze. The Jolly Boys, like The Buena Vista Social Club before them enjoy some much deserved exposure in their golden years and while the disc may not turn the global music world on its ear the way Ry Cooder’s phenom did, it’s mighty decent to trot out the old boys once and a while to show us how it might have been done in a simpler time.