That's a difficult question Cecil.
This is my criteria; major tours every few years, significant panorama appearances, community impact, most famous or recognized world wide, most famous players, financially stable, providing opportunities for its members, documented history, own their practice facilities, longevity, audio and video recordings.
These are by picks
North Stars, Trinidad All Stars. Desperadoes, Exodus, Renegades, Pamberi, Antigua's Hell's Gate, Skiffle, Silver Stars, Phase II
If you played with Gondoliers you probably know my farther. His name is Webb he use to tune for gondoliers.
Pls explain 'higher level'.
I have to agree with Mr. Valentine Despers is the greatest steelband all time. They have the greatest track record in almost all the criteria Mr. Cecil put forward. Every year around carnival time a new pan tune makes mention of Desperadoes. They have won every pan competition ever created and are also very versatile in their music selection for concerts and tours locally, regioally and internationally. The Laventille community and Despers are one extended family. Anytime steelband discussions are raise, Despers name always comes up. Despers is the only steelband to maintain an excellent relationship with their sponsor WITCO for over fifty years and still going strong.
Yes, I know there are steelbands like All Stars, Renegades, Phase II, Exodus, Harmonites, Invaders, Fonclaire and Pamberi who also fit Mr. Cecil's criteria but they don't match Despers's polished track record.
This is an impossible question , because "greatness " is so difficult to define.
Different accomplishments , not awards , must be weighed based on their impact on the steelband movement in general.
Even the management , leadership and non musical accomplishments of a band has to be considered as part of its greatness ..
For example , which band had a greater impact on the steelband world ?
Invaders , Despers , or North Stars?
And remember , there is more to pan than panorama victories .
So who created a bigger impact on the steelband scene between Cavaliers and Renegades?
And remember ,we're not talking about panorama victories , or even the band's longevity and body of work.
We're talking about the band's impact on the entire world of the steelband .
Lets look at the overall picture before answering .
Some of these things cannot be quantified , as for example the role of Hylanders in the history of the steelband
And we cannot forget the important roles of the two Antigua bands , Hells Gate and Brute Force in promoting the art form in the early days,( even though some of their historic claims are questionable )
And what about the exploits of Tripoli , and the lnternational exposure they brought to the steelband in the nineteen sixties?
In the end , it's really all about personal preference .
It is real easy to automatically pick one's favorite steelband, but the more knowledgeable one is about steelband history , the more difficult it is to give an answer.
Now , an easier, more answerable question would be, what was the best, or most dominant panorama steelband from any given era?
If the question is about Panorama , then it's a no-brainer.
Just check the list.
It's posted elsewhere on this site for your convenience .
If in essence Glenroy you mean wrong question, then I agree totally
I like your last sentence of last paragraph; if anyone should ask in the future, these a my 2 cents.
1960's North Stars. From 1962 through 1966 entered 5 competitions won 4 and placed 2nd
1968 through 1974 Harmonites had 6 panorama top three including 4 wins
1970's Desperadoes were in 6 panorama finals, winning 3 and placing 2nd
1980's Renegades had 7 panorama top three winning 4
1990's Renegades had 8 panorama top three winning 5
2000's Phase II had 9 panorama top three winning 3
Keep the music coming.
I like that , Ian .
And one cannot also forget the impact of those large , powerful , Solo Harmonltes bands of the late sixties.
I still maintain that the most memorable Panorama performance I ever experienced was Solo coming down the drag with Earl Rodney's arrangement of "The Wrecker" in 68.
Of course, apart from the size and power of the band , the more open panorama format back then may have had something to do with it.
But, whatever "it" was , that band definitely had "it" !