Wailing Souls ‘On The Rocks’ 40th Anniversary

Released on October 2nd, 1983, Wailing Souls’ album On The Rocks might have seemed an afterthought at the time but has endured as an important record in the group’s formidable catalog. On The Rocks was the third in a four-album run for Greensleeves Records from 1981-1984 that began with Fire House Rock in 1981; Inchpinchers the following year; then On The Rocks; and concluded with Stranded in 1984.

On The Rocks didn’t produce major hits at the time, but in the digital streaming era, it has emerged as one of their most popular albums, with the title track becoming the group’s fourth most streamed track of all time and one that is always performed in their live sets. “Baga Trouble” comes in at number seven on the groups all-time most streamed tracks list. For perspective, this is from a catalog of more than 200 individual songs.

Artistically, On The Rocks also contains the incomparable “What Is Your Meaning,” one of the most dramatic and beautiful reggae love songs ever recorded. Each of these tracks in its own way makes the case that Wailing Souls were the preeminent reggae harmony group of the era, and possibly of all time. The singers Pipe Matthews, Bread McDonald, Garth Dennis, and Buddy Haye were locked together as if they were born in one musical family.

Wailing Souls also had a greatest hits compilation released by Greensleeves in 1987 that includes their number one track, “Jah Give Us Life To Live.” In 2020, they returned to Jamaica with producer Alborosie for the outstanding Back A Yard.