Great Hall, Cardiff University Students’ Union
Fri 12 Feb
words: WILL STEEN
Reggae gets a bad rap, you know. If all you’ve been exposed to is some crusty white loser busking one of Bob Marley’s duller songs then, okay yeah, maybe you are justified in a little genre hatred. But that’s to ignore the massive wealth of diverse music that Jamaica’s been responsible for, from calypso, mento and ska, through to roots, dancehall and beyond.
John Holt usually gets put into the category marked ‘lovers rock’, the 1970s movement that caught fire in the UK through adding a soulful touch to romantic balladry, but in truth he’s proved an adaptable entertainer, navigating changing musical styles with skill and variable commercial and artistic success as a performer and songwriter since the 60s. Holt’s first band was the Paragons, whom he joined just as ska was melting into the slower, harmony-heavy rocksteady, and whose catalogue forms a great archive of Holt’s melodic nous. You may have heard The Tide Is High, the song made internationally famous by Atomic Kitten (alright, and Blondie), but listen to Memories By The Score, Wear You To The Ball or On The Beach – blessed out killer pop all.
During this time he also started releasing as a solo artist, and the string-drenched covers on the Time Is The Master LP pointed Holt towards his biggest success: the 1000 Volts Of Holt album launched two sequels and a fairly sizable hit in the great, classy, slightly cheesy version of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through The Night.
After a few years in Britain spent surfing this popularity wave, Holt returned to Jamaica, and a steady output over the next few decades, the suave tones floating over everything from R&B, disco, dancehall and, since his conversion to Rastafarianism in 1983, conscious roots music, best typified by that year’s Police In Helicopter album. His unfailing love for the cover version also resulted in a seeming attempt to reggae up every Christmas song released, from John Lennon to Wham!, again with variable results. For a Cardiff date two days short of Valentine’s Day, expect to be charmed and fully smoothed out by this enduring stalwart of gentlemanly good times.
Tickets: £28. Info: 029 2078 1400