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Carroll Thompson covers for Phyllis

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, November 07, 2018


AS a child in England during the mid-1960s, Carroll Thompson recalls her older relatives listening to the music of Phyllis Dillon, but it was not until adulthood that she became acquainted with the trailblazing singer's work.

Thompson, one of the pioneers of British lovers rock, has recorded a tribute album to Dillon who died in 2004 at age 59. It is scheduled for release next year.

She spoke to the Jamaica Observer recently about the project.

“About two years ago, I found myself adding one or two rocksteady songs to my set then released they were always Phyllis songs. So I did some research and discovered she was a prolific artiste recording on the (producer) Duke Reid label with a catalogue of great songs. She was in my opinion the queen of rocksteady,” said Thompson.

The Hertfordshire-born Thompson, whose parents are Jamaican, co-produced the set with Colin McLeish. It contains her take on One Life to Live, Perfidia, Don't Stay Away and Midnight Confessions, songs Dillon made popular and which Thompson saw her mother, aunts and uncles dancing to 50 years ago.

Though she wanted to stamp her seal on the album, Thompson and McLeish agreed that it was important to maintain the timeless sound of the Supersonics, house band at Reid's Treasure Isle studio.

“At first I was going to do interpretations but then I decided to keep it as close to the originals as possible. The original arrangements are good, especially the bass lines. Just pure magic!” she exclaimed.

Phyllis Dillon had given up music for a nine-to-five job in New York when Carroll Thompson first hit the British reggae charts in 1981 with I'm So Sorry, which remains one of the biggest lovers rock songs in the United Kingdom.

Simply in Love and Hopelessly in Love were also big sellers for her, and earned Thompson regular collaborations and session work with artistes such as Sugar Minott, Maxi Priest, Aswad, Boy George and Billy Ocean.

Dillon was from Linstead, St Catherine. Along with Hortense Ellis and Marcia Griffiths, she made a mark in the rocksteady era from 1965-68, a time when female artistes were marginalised by music producers and some of their male counterparts.

She migrated to the United States in the early 1970s and worked in banking, but made a comeback to the Jamaican music scene during the 1990s on shows like Heineken Startime.