Earth & Stone - Kool Roots

False Ruler
Holy Land Of Home
Devil Must Of Made You
Free Black Man
Jail House Set Me Free
That's The Way You Feel
Don't Let Them Fool You
To Come
Three Wise Men
Once Bitten Twice Shy
Dub Ruler
Holy Land
Devil Wise
Black Roots
House Of Dub
Jester Not
Wiser Dub

In the last half century the rapid development of Jamaican music has been subject to many different forces - social, political, cultural and musical. Of all these influences that of American popular music has been one of the most significant. The first Jamaican radio station, ZQI, was created by the donation of equipment of an American radio ham during the early years of WW2 - long before JBC's first broadcasts in the late fifties. However the mega wattage employed by many of the American commercial radio stations enabled many Jamaicans to tune into local broadcasts emanating from Florida and the Crescent City - New Orleans, the undoubted R&B capital of the Southern States in the forties and fifties. So an enduring Jamaican connection was made to the living US music scene with names like Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, Johnny Ace, Louis Jordan and Fats Domino becoming popular favourites on the island and role models for future singers. Due to the frequent 'weather breaks' in radio reception, and also the fact that most US stations often had a short life expectancy, the supply of tunes fell short of the demands made by Jamaican lovers and dancers. So began the despatch of agents to the States whose sole objective was to search out the hot tunes of the day and return the product to their financiers - Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd and the other sound system operators who would routinely remove or deface the platter labels in order to protect the origin of their investments. These tunes, many of which were torrid sax-driven instrumentals, provided the perfect bed for the introduction of the toaster or DJ to chat over the record in imitation of the crazier breed of US radio jock.

And so the sway of American popular music has continued through until the present day, with Jamaica mirroring many of the movements, innovations, styles and concerns of its larger neighbour. One such movement was the emergence of The Sound Of Philadelphia, the musical bridge between Motown and disco. A brand of soul which tends not to receive proper critical respect - no doubt partly, but perversely, due to its commercial success. If the engine of the Philly Sound was session band M.F.S.B. so the rhythm was driven for Channel One by the immortal Revolutionaries. And the sweet harmonies of ballad groups such as the Delphonics and the Stylistics surely had a direct effect on the Jamaican vocal groups of the same era. As is evidenced by the Channel One output of the Mighty Diamonds, the Rolands, the Wailing Souls, the Meditations, Black Uhuru, the Jays and Earth & Stone.

In 1972 Earth & Stone made their way, like so many other Jamaican artists, down to Brentford Road to work up their skills at Studio one. In 1973 they progressed to Channel One where they began to record for Ernest and Jo Jo, the Hookim brothers. As was common for the time their material was a mix of lovers and roots, but with the balanced tipped to the cultural side. Between 1973 and 1978 tunes such as 'Jah Will Cut You Down' and 'Three Wise Men' became popular on Channel one's Hitbound imprint. The duo of Albert Bailey and Clifton Howell created their own unique vocal interchange sound, each taking turn at lead and harmony. The 'Kool Roots' set was cut initially in 1978 and collates most of the group's songs for the label. It's unusual for the time in that the vocal and dub sets were released together, in the UK by Cha Cha containing both albums within a gate-fold sleeve, an expense not usually afforded for reggae release and even the artwork was above the usual standard.

Little is known about Earth & Stone, even today Jo Jo Hookim can recall few details about Albert and Clifton or their sessions at Channel One. What is certain is that the 'Kool Roots' set remains one of the great reggae vocal group albums standing alongside the Mighty Diamonds fabulous 'Right Time' as one of the major achievements of the pre-eminent studio of the era - Channel One.

Steve Barker
'On The Wire'

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