Jimmy Riley: ‘Live It To Know It’ Album Review

Pressure Sounds
Pressure Sounds

Pressure Sounds’ most recent release, a collection of little-known Jimmy Riley self-produced tracks and previously unreleased King Tubby dub plates titled Live It to Know It, is the most solid compilation album from the label since the 2007 Bim Sherman collection Tribulation Down In Jamdown and is shaping up to be one of the best roots reggae albums of 2015. The album highlights one of the greatest and most under-appreciated voices of the golden era of reggae.

Riley, father of talented contemporary reggae vocalist Tarrus Riley, is a supremely talented singer, songwriter, producer and founder of The Sensations (along with Cornell Campbell).  He was also a main player in the reformed Uniques along with Slim Smith and Lloyd Charmers. As a soloist, he had several hit songs including “Tell the Youths the Truth,” “Nyah Bingi,” and “Clean up the Streets.” After producing music for several noteworthy artists, including Delroy Wilson, he had a hit in 1982 with “Love and Devotion,” the Sly and Robbie-produced ballad that soared up the UK music charts. However, his biggest hit came one year later in 1983 with his soulful cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.”

On Live It to Know It, Pressure Sounds has compiled a fantastic set of 17 vocals and dubs recorded between 1975 and 1985. The rare dub plates alone are worth the price of admission – each one drenched to the root with seventies-era gold dust, head-knocking echo, and all the righteousness of a Sunday morning sunrise. Riley’s voice is one of the most finely tuned voices to ever emerge during the golden age of reggae – a uniquely soulful voice that carries with it the desperation of Ray Charles, the fury of Richie Havens, and the earnestness of Al Green.   

To choose several highlights from the set would do a tremendous disservice to such a fine collection. With the release of Live It to Know It, Pressure Sounds have not only turned on a whole new generation of reggae fans to one of its greatest voices, but they have also bestowed upon Jimmy Riley the recognition he so dearly deserves.