The Pioneers - Give & Take

Like many Reggae groups, The Pioneers went through several line-up changes which makes Spinal Tap look tame in comparison. But the one thing we can be sure of is that despite the fact that song writing partnership of Crooks and Agard provided some classic songs, the highlights of "Give & Take - The Best of The Pioneers" are their unique interpretations of the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Sam & Dave and The Temptations. It was clear that their influences lied as much with soul music as with reggae and this ultimately led to criticism from the black music cognoscenti. While some of the criticism levelled at the band was perhaps justified due to the fact that the bands later shift to a more commercial, it's worth noting that certain moves like this take reggae to a completely new audience. And for proof of this you only have to look at the number of people who would have got into reggae through Blondie's cover of "The Tide Is High" or the Clash's reggae influence.

It's these commercial moments such as the cover of the Jimmy Cliff penned "Let Your Yeah Be Your Yeah" and "Give And Take" which are the albums standout tracks. Just listening to the intro of the latter with it's first line literally ripping the words out through broken glass as he sings "Yes I know. I know that your love has gone and you feel that you can't carry on" is a reposte to anyone who things these are just cheap cover versions. Likewise with "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" the reggae adds a new element to the song which hasn't been heard before and handclaps simply add the icing on a very sweet and moreish cake. Of the Pioneers Crooks / Agard penned songs, "Starvation" is one of those classic social commentary songs which tellingly Jackie Robinson said "it's a sad reflection of the times we live in" when it was re-recorded in 1985 for a charity single. On a song like "Time Hard" the production just seems so crystal clear and perfect that you can imagine a production team such as the Neptunes listening to this and weeping.

As we speak the Pioneers are touring the country playing to devoted audiences who wish to live the days of the Reggae Fever. It's testament to the fact they were a reggae band who new both the power of the commercial crossover hit, while at the same time staying true to themselves. With songs like these, The Pioneers will live on forever in our hearts.

Alex McCann

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