Toots and The Maytals
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
November 4, 2012
By Eric Sutter
The Jamaican musical group Toots and The Maytals appeared at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, on their first-ever Unplugged Acoustic Tour. As a creator of reggae music and a key figure in it’s development, Frederick “Toots” Hibbert combined ska, rock steady, and American soul in a vocal group style to help popularize the unique reggae music of Jamaica. He recently received the distinguished Order of Jamaica for his contributions. With a high-voltage vocal delivery, he began with “Reggae Got Soul” from 1976.
The group, along with vocalists Chantelle Ernandez and Elenore Walters, delivered gospel/soul ballads and exuberant reggae rhythms equally well. It was like being held in the warm tide of a lover’s arms… calmed but stimulated, the music swayed the audience to dance. “Time Tough” and “Pressure Drop” urged folks to move. The laid-back groove of 1968′s “Do The Reggae” delighted the audience. It was the first recording to coin the word “reggae” in music. He performed a 2007 love song called “Celia” from Light Your Light. “Sweet And Dandy” came from the breakthrough 1972 reggae compilation recording The Harder They Come, which brought popularity to the style in America. “True Love Is Hard To Find” featured the distinctive style of call and response interplay of lead singer Toots and the dynamic dual female backup vocals.
The magical 70′s hit “Funky Kingston” worked it’s vibe on the audience… the charismatic Toots went into the spiritual healers “Amen” and “This Little Light Of Mine” with full-force female vocal accompaniment. The audience was swept away by the mellifluous gospel-tinged ballad of determined optimism, “Dreams To Remember.” He performed his first international hit from 1970, a bluesy rendition of “Monkeyman.” Two familiar popular songs “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and “Louie, Louie” featured call and response vocals which the audience returned. The new light spark of “Love Is Not Gonna Let Me Down” engulfed with a great sweep of love upon the ocean of people below which resulted in giant waves of movement. “Hallelujah” was the call!… what a joyful noise! Toots encored with the freedom call ”54-46 (that was my number).” He segued into a soulful rendition of Ray Charles‘ “I Got A Woman,” which satisfied.
Eric Sutter is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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