11 January 2015

The Pacesetters - Cool Coffee/ The Israelites

Label: Saga Big Chief
Year of Release: 1970

Saga was one of the earliest budget record labels to be launched in the UK, beginning in the late fifties as an outlet for cut-price classical music albums. The success of that venture caused Saga to dip its toes into other waters, sometimes with results that caused them to scurry back to the shore in a gibbering panic (the relative failure of Joe Meek's Triumph label, a subsidiary of Saga, is the stuff of collector's legends) and on other occasions with modest success. Perhaps the label's management also took their cues from Meek when they began shoving promising young bands in the unlikely environment of a North London infant school hall at night to cheaply record the results as rush-released bargain basement LPs. Do check out The Magic Mixture's "This Is The Magic Mixture" if you get the chance - despite the lo fidelity nature of the work, it contains some fine work, not least the haunting, empty school assembly hall echo of "Moonbeams".

The "Big Chief" offshoot appears to have been the label's experimental foray into the territory of reggae, and lasted for a handful of releases before disappearing. The instrumental "Cool Coffee" is sharp enough that it's still talked about fondly by collectors and DJs now - it's roughly recorded and sounds a couple of years older than its release date, but contains an insistent, nagging keyboard line and throbbing bassline.

The B-side is a quickie cover of "The Israelites" featuring Al Barnett on lead vocals. This copy is horribly scuffed and scratched, I'm sorry to say, but I doubt that anyone will think it's an essential addition to their mp3 folder.

As for Saga's excursions into reggae, they continued again in 1975 when they successfully took over the Trojan group of labels, getting seriously involved in the business of marketing the genre as opposed to attempting low-budget cash-ins.

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