Reggae Anthology: The Sweet Sound of Cocoa Tea
During the '80s, the skeletal rhythms of rub-a-dub gave way to the even more minimal digital soundscapes of producers like Gussie Clarke and Bobby Digital. In this increasingly deejay-led scene, the success of singers like Junior Reid, Johnny Osbourne, and Cocoa Tea served as a reminder of the soaring vocal performances of the roots and rocksteady eras. When Cocoa Tea first appeared in the early ‘80s with a series of brilliant singles for Henry “Junjo” Lawes’ Volcano label, his delicate but exquisitely controlled delivery immediately brought to mind the similarly crystalline voices of roots-era stars like Cornell Campbell and Slim Smith. These early singles—“Rocking Dolly," “Informer," and “Lost My Sonia"—established the basics of Tea’s style, juxtaposing his intensely melodic vocals against punishingly minimal dancehall instrumentals. Tea would continue to refine this formula in the decades to come, recording with producers like King Jammy, Mr. Doo, Gussie Clarke, and others. The Sweet Sound of Cocoa Tea compiles 36 tracks from all stages of Tea’s career, from his earliest singles to selections from 2006’s Save Us Oh Jah.