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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

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The Heptones
Sweet Talking
Heartbeat

By Jeff Tamarkin

Published January 14, 2008

Vocal trios were ubiquitous in Jamaica at the dawn of the reggae era, but few were as electable as the Heptones. Original frontman Leroy Sibbles’ voice resided in easy-on-the-ears Smokey Robinson/Al Green territory, and the tight-woven harmonies in which he engaged with Barry Llewellyn and Earl Morgan were silky-smooth, emitting a Temptations/Impressions vibe. Sweet Talking concentrates not on hits but on the trio’s early sides for Studio One, aiming squarely at the predisposed fan and collector. Several tracks make their first CD appearance, among them 1970’s “Let’s Try,” which exhorts the youth to forego criminal activity and “find a way to help ourselves today.” Rare stereo mixes are also prevalent, none as inspirational as the traditional gospel “Glory Land.” Cruddy production mars some of the earlier tunes, and a number of Sibbles’ love lyrics are sophomoric, but Sweet Talking, while not essential Heptones, is a worthy addendum to their discography.

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