A: Jullian / Unforgettables - The Gardener
B: 3rd & 4th Generation - Version
The link between the Memphis based Stax label and the Kingston studio's has always been tight. Inhouse band Booker T and the MG's and the label's fine catalogue of southern soul singers were very influential on the reggae scene and, if you dig deep enough, you can find a large share of Stax' output in a Jamaican version. The love was mutual, apparently, as Stax headhoncho Al Bell visited the island quite often to vacation and visit the studios. It's without doubt that these visits must have made an impact on the boss, but whether or not he stole, lent or borrowed the bassline of the Harry J Allstars' 'Liquidator' for his Staple Singers' "I'll take you there" shall forever be open to debate. The court ruled 'no', Al Bell played the "coincidence" card, Harry J stated that mr. Bell personally took several copies off of him and this fine article on Stax even claims divine intervention. Bickering aside, though, it seems accurate to state that both scenes mutually benefitted and influenced each other.
Copyright infringement and reggae unfortunately go together like chicken and rice. You don't have to be a serious collector to encounter a label that reads 'adopted', when the song is clearly a cover, or, even worse, producers themselves claiming the control. Joe Gibbs was no exception, but on this release he plays fair game. Copyright-wise that is, because the singer is hiding behind pseudonyms for legal reasons. The Gardener is both credited to Jullian and The Unforgettables.
Scoring hits with "Silent river runs deep" and "Son of a preacher man with the girl fronted rocksteady/early-reggae outfit The Gaylettes, Judy Mowatt was asked to leave the group because she was pregnant. Singing and pregnancy didn't combine, they believed at the time, so she embarked on a solo career. She linked up with Bunny Wailer for whom she wrote several songs, including 'Reincarnated soul' (b-side to 'Concrete Jungle') which is credited to her alias Jean Watt, and she recorded under the Julie Anne / Julian / Jullian monniker for Sonia Pottinger, Byron Lee, Joe Gibbs and Duke Reid (for the latter she sung a version of 'Woman of the ghetto', which was credited to Phyllis Dillon in the UK.) Although a great songsmith in her own right, Judy regularly visits other artist's songs on her records and the Gardener is one of them.
Judy Mowatt would join Bob Marley's I Three's shortly after this song was recorded, but, no, the "We Three" credit on the label is not a prophecy. The Gardener was originally recorded by the Staple Singers and featured on their "We'll get over" album, which, incidentally, was released by Stax in 1969. The song was penned by Homer Banks, Bettye Crutcher and Raymond Jackson. Homer teamed up with his fellow writers after his career with the Soul Consolidators failed to take off. Although he'd written successful songs for others before, it was the threesome that would write the biggest hits. Sure shot knock-outs such as Johnny Taylor's "Who's making love" and Isaacs Hayes' "If loving you is wrong" would eventually earn them the epithet 'We Three'. With a production team that strong, it makes sense for Jullian to stick to their style sheet closely. Which is exactly what she did and to great effect. The Gardener is a perfect example of Memphis meeting Kingston, of southern flavor meeting yard vibes and of reciprocal inspiration. The results, on both sides, are golden.
Label: Jogib (Ja)
Release date: 1973
Matrix: DYNA JG 3480 / DYNA JG 3481