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The Itals

Since the mid-'70s, the Itals have been dedicated to keeping roots-reggae alive. They are a harmony trio noted for their strong voices, close harmonies, and sharp Rasta lyrics that stress cultural consciousness; even their few love songs are written from that perspective. The first incarnation of the group was founded by lead singer/head songwriter Keith Porter and Ronnie Davis. Originally known as the Westmorlites (both Porter and Davis were raised in Westmorland), the band included such other members as Roy Smith, Lee White and Lloyd Ricketts. The Westmorlites stayed together long enough to record one single "Hitey Titey" on the Studio One label and then Davis left to sing leads with the Tennors, another successful early harmony band. From there, Davis went on to become a distinguished solo artist with several albums and over thirty 45s to his credit. Porter also embarked upon a solo career and recorded for several different Kingston producers including Clancy Eccles, but eventually he tired of the scene there and returned to the country where he performed with different groups on the hotel circuit and in small local clubs. Eventually, Porter decided to record again and returned to Kingston where he ran into Davis. The latter had just written a new tune," Won't You Come Home," and asked if Porter could provide some lyrics. Porter enthusiastically agreed, returned to the country, and two days later returned with "In A Dis Ya Time." Porter and Davis recorded the 45, but the track was credited to Porter (on a subsequent reissue, the song was credited to the Itals). The two made the single without thinking about re-forming a group, but two producers, including Lloyd Campbell liked what they heard and suggested they stay together. The success of "In A Dis Ya Time," persuaded the two to remain together, with Lloyd Ricketts rejoining them a short time later. This was during the mid-'70s and the Itals released many 45s on several different labels. Some of their best, including "Time Will Tell," "Don't Wake the Lion" and "Temptation," were released on Spiderman. The taut backing of the Roots Radics can be heard on several of these tracks, many of which have been gathered by their primary label Nighthawk and released as Early Recordings 1971-1979. The Roots Radics went on to play on the Itals earliest albums such as their debut Brutal Out Deh (1981). Shortly after the release of their 1983 album Give Me Power, the Itals embarked upon their first U.S. tour. In the mid-'80s, they had some legal trouble when a Cleveland-based reggae group, I-Tal sued them for stealing their name. As there was ample proof that the Itals had been recording and performing first, they didn't have much of a case and the Jamaican group came out on top. The Cleveland band subsequently changed their name to I-Tal U.S.A. In 1987, the Itals released their Rasta Philosophy, and again proved to be a consistently strong group with such tracks as "Don't Blame It on Me," and "No Call Dread Name." Not long after it came out, Lloyd Ricketts was sent to prison and was replaced by solo artist David Isaacs, who had recorded many singles and had a couple of albums released in Jamaica and the U.K. At first he was only a temporary replacement, and then Isaacs was to become their opening act, for their next U.S. tour, but as Ricketts was unable to legally enter the U.S., Isaacs became a permanent member. Sandra Brennan

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