Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Fabulous Five covers a half-century on live CD
It is a familiar format for Fab 5 Band - a live album with Grub Cooper leading the musical charge in excellent renditions of popular songs and the crack outfit's own extensive catalogue. This time around, though, the purpose is special: a celebration of 50 years of Jamaican music. And there are facts to go behind the music, snippets of historical data written below the listing for each song.
So those who read the information on the CD's sleeve will be reminded of Jody-Ann Maxwell's Howard Scripps spelldown victory and Michael Manley's first national election victory, among other interesting tidbits of information. Since a song is played for each year, the data behind the music is naturally for the respective year.
It is a confluence of history and entertainment that the band's bass player and manager, Frankie Campbell, points out was facilitated by their own research, and especially, the vocal talent of drummer and lead vocalist, Asley 'Grub' Cooper, OD, CD. Some of the facts were simply must-haves by virtue of the magnitude of the event, while others took some research.
As the album is entitled Fab 5 and Friends Live: 1962-2012, 50 Years of Jamaican Music, Cooper warns of jumping to conclusions. "We are not necessarily saying it is the top 50 of all time, but they were very popular," he said. "We never said the best-selling 50."
The music runs from Derrick Morgan's Forward March through to Vybz Kartel's Summertime, a number of festival songs, and at least one from standout performers such as Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, and Beres Hammond are included. "We made sure all the really big people are on the album," Campbell said. "We also did songs that marked an era, that did something special."
While there was stirring debate about the songs to play, getting the length of the live recording right took some doing as the intention was not to go over one CD. Eventually, Fab 5 and Friends Live: 1962-2012, 50 Years of Jamaican Music falls under a minute short of a CD's maximum recording time. It was recorded in a specially held concert at Oakton Park in Half-Way Tree.
The response has been good and so have the returns, Campbell pointing out that about 5,000 CDs have been sold already through their distribution. One major distributor obtained 1,000 units to resell, but is not the official distributor. With a summer schedule that includes stops in New York, Houston, Orlando, and Toronto, Campbell is expecting many more CDs to be sold.
Among the friends on the set are Gem Myers and Andrew Cassanova.
The CD ends with Fab Five's own Come Home, encouraging Jamaicans living abroad to visit the land of their birth more regularly. "The song is so good, even if you are living in Jamaica you feel patriotic - all the feelings come back," Cooper said.