Joe Gibbs & The Professionals - No Bones For The Dogs
The Mighty Two - I Stand Accused
Joe Gibbs & The Professionals - Six Foot Six
The Mighty Two - I Am Not Ashamed Version
The Mighty Two - Su Su Version
The Mighty Two - C/W Burning Version
Joe Gibbs & The Professionals - Roots Kunte Kintye
The Mighty Two - Give It To Jah
Joe Gibbs & The Professionals - The Road Is Rough
The Professionals - No Man's Version
The Mighty Two - War
The Mighty Two - War Is Over
The Mighty Two - Informer Version
The Mighty Two - Fulfillment
The Mighty Two - Financial Business
The Mighty Two - Alan: Hit By A. Larry
The Mighty Two - Earthquake
The Mighty Two - Baldhead Bridge
|"If Gibbo danced then
the tune caan hit!"
It's said that nothing ever succeeds quite like success and in the case of the productions of Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson there was a time in the mid to late seventies when nothing else even came near to succeeding like their success. Their work together was at the forefront of grass roots reggae's big breakthrough and it captured perfectly the mood of the times for, both image wise and musically, everything was just right. Nothing was excluded if the self-styled Mighty Two, aided and abetted by the aptly titles Joe Gibbs & The Professionals house band, thought that it might help to provide another hit record. Their incredible success with reggae's new found market led one seasoned and cynical observer to complain about everyone "...singing the praises of anything else that appears on the Joe Gibbs label" and a record shop in London was actually burgled one night solely for its advance copies of 'African Dub Chapter Three!' Twenty five copies had arrived in the country; eighteen were stolen and the news was broadcast the following day on local radio with the comment "I just hope that the young men who did it are very pleased with themselves". The level of success that they enjoyed always attracts grudgeful criticism and The Mighty Two were accused of over reliance on previously popular formats and the particularly pointed 'commercial dread' epithet somehow seemed to become the accepted view of their productions but this is both untrue and unfair.
Joe Gibbs was born Joel Gibson on Jamaica's North Coast in 1945 and he grew up in the resort town of Montego Bay but "it was always very quiet and Kingston was the place that had much more excitement". As a youth he had no formal musical training but he did have a few piano lessons after he had got involved in music production and would sometimes sit in with the legendary drummer Drumbago 'around 1967' for some informal lessons. However his early passion was for electronics which he diligently studied through a correspondence Course with the National Electronic School in the USA. He was in constant demand as a technician and his work brought him all around the island and he also worked for a Canadian company who were supervising the island wide conversion to a single electrical frequency: "Previously, for example, Kingston was on sixty and Mo Bay was on forty so when the island all moved to one frequency I was busy as a technician running around sorting out the conversion work".
In 1962 he finally moved to Kingston and he opened his first electronics shop in 1966 selling and repairing radio and television sets but he soon started to sell records as well as a way of drawing people into the shop. Leslie Kong's Beverly's Ice Cream Parlour and Record Shop was over the road and Joe had watched just how readily people were drawn into the shop to buy music. With his background in electronics his move into music production was a logical step as he had always been fascinated by the different frequencies that he heard in the music and there is no denying that his 'music does have a great deal of depth'.
From the very beginning Joe Gibbs surrounded himself with the most talented people around and he employed Lee Perry to supervise his first recording session who used the talents of the legendary Lynn Taitt And The Jets and vocalist extraordinaire Roy Shirley. Together they produced the number one hit 'Hold Them', a groundbreaking early rock steady recording, that Roy had built around the sound of a Salvation Army marching band and which was promptly versioned by Studio One as 'Feel Good' by Ken Boothe. Through Roy Joe got to know Bunny 'Striker' Lee and he 'always loved Bunny's vibes'. One of the most popular records that Lee Perry made with Joe was a vengeful musical attack on his former employer 'Coxsone' Dodd that gave Scratch the name that he would give to his own label when he left Joe Gibbs the following year. 'The Upsetter' also known as 'I Am The Upsetter'. Joe still enjoys a great rapport with Scratch 'I saw him about eight weeks ago' even though Scratch's musical riposte after leaving Joe's employ, 'People Funny Boy', adopted the same vindictive stance. Niney The Observer began to work for Joe on a freelance basis and Joe laughed when he recalled that 'Niney liked working for me because I always paid cash!' It was also another way of keeping up with the musical in-crowd of Kingston and Niney was already a well respected character on the circuit. Being an outsider (and more importantly often being made to feel like an outsider) from Montego Bay Joe found it difficult to break into Kingston's relatively closed musical circles where many of the people had grown, gone to school together and worked with each other from the early sound system day. In the beginning Joe often felt excluded and referred more than once to the 'clannish vibe' around the various labels, studios and producers and in an attempt to build up his reputation he would always pay all the people that he worked with in cash. Joe had always had an ear for talent and in 1970 he scored a hit on the UK National Charts with Nicky Thomas' version of The Winstons' 'Love Of The Common People' and Nicky had worked for a while as a salesman in Joe's shop before he moved to the UK to capitalise on his hit.
Joe had opened his studio in Duhaney Park in 1968 'a simple but effective two track studio modeled on the studio at Federal Records'. The Amalgamated name came from his electronics company even though 'people always had difficulty pronouncing it!' and within a year he also opened the New York Record Mart on South Parade. It was a success from the outset: "It was in a great location and people would pile off the bus straight into the shop". A few years later (in 1971) he opened the shop and studio in Retirement Crescent. Niney first introduced Joe Gibbs to Errol Thompson when Errol was still working at Randy's: "Gibbo, you want engineer?" as Niney appreciated just how good an engineer he was. Joe and Errol rapidly established a rapport and a working relationship that has lasted to this day and they both felt it was like putting one over on Randy's when Errol moved over the road to work with Joe in 1975.
Errol Thompson, also known as ET or Errol T, remains one of the unsung heroes of Jamaican music seemingly always in the background yet his musical innovations were continually at the front of reggae's commercial thrust. his first engineering job was down on Brentford Road at Studio One and one of the sessions that he engineered was for Bunny 'Striker' Lee when Max Romeo voiced his infamous 'Wet Dream' - much to Mr. Dodd's disgust! His next move was to Randy's Studio 17 on North Parade where he teamed up with his old school friend from Glenmore Road School Clive Chin. A selection of their classical work together can be found on the Pressure Sounds collection '17 North Parade' (PSCD/LP 17). Errol's engineering innovations began to shape and form the early stirrings of dub music where the Randy's board's switches as opposed to King Tubby's faders gave a unique and individual sound. Errol was always much more than the resident engineer at Studio 17 and Clive Chin described his contribution thus: "An innovative producer. You see Errol is the history of certain music in the seventies... (he put) a microphone in the toilet and flush it just to get the sound effect. If I could turn back the hands of time Errol would never leave Randy's. He was the innovative one. I felt like something left me when he left".
The pair ran auditions together searching for new talent to work with and from early out Joe would handle the ones with a more gimmicky feel while Errol T would deal with the ones with a more roots based content. If Joe heard a conscious song "I would a say - boy you better make sure Mr. T like it!" and the pair soon established a pool of talent that included Dennis Brown "A unique talent - in a class by himself".
The music on this set shows the complete contrasts of The Mighty Two at the height of their powers and popularity as it ranges from deepest darkest dubs of serious roots rhythms to gimmick laden productions abounding in special effects. They would usually mix the dubs together with Joe often chipping in ideas for the quirky noises - his background in electronics proved very useful here although by his own admission he never had great rhythmic sense and he was never much of a dancer. The other members of the team would tease him mercilessly about this: "If Gibbo danced then the tune caan hit!" but he had a great feel for music and they would demand take after take until the feel was right: "Often we would cut a tune three of four times. The last cut would be mine and the one with the best feel".
The set opens with 'No Bones For The Dogs' an instrumental version to Alton Ellis' 'Why Birds Follow Spring' originally recorded for Treasure Isle with particular nice trombone work and some strong early deejay style interjections.
'I Stand Accused' - The Mighty Two. A version to 'Babylon Too Rough' from Gregory Isaacs based on a heavyweight cut to 'Easy Take It Easy' that Dennis Brown originally recorded for Studio One. Gregory's meaningful lyrics update Dennis Brown's plea for tolerance and the brooding, mournful echo version adds immeasurably to the atmosphere.
'Six Foot One' - Joe Gibbs & The Professionals. A version to 'Naw go A Them Burial' by Prince Allah who had recorded the song for Freedom Sounds as well as continuing a Levitical theme that the Wailers had first touched upon with 'Burial' for Wail N Soul M. The militant style drumming is marvelous on this Mighty Two original.
'I Am Not Ashamed Version' - The Mighty Two. A version to Culture's 'I Am Not Ashamed' and originally 'I've Got A Feeling' by The Heptones for Studio One featuring more militant style drumming and overloaded with special effects such as running water, babies crying and random car horns.
'Su Su Version' - The Mighty Two. A version to 'Su Su Pan Rasta' from Heptone Dolphin 'Naggo' Morris. A Mighty Two original where the rhythm helps to reinforce all of the suspicion and mistrust implicit in the lyrics. An interesting alternate cut minus horns was released recently on a Joe Gibbs 'revive' seven inch in Jamaica.
C/W Burning Version - The Mighty Two. A version to the chilling 'Burn Babylon' from roots hero Sylford Walker built around a bare, understated Mighty Two original with some especially strong piano work.
Roots Kunte Kintye - Joe Gibbs & The Professionals. Based around 'Hypocrites', another Wailing Wailers' Wail N Soul M release, this is the version side to 'John Saw Them Coming' from top deejay Trinity where, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, he advises: "You see black people ought to know themselves. Huh! You can know this by watching the movie 'Roots' at night on television".
Give It To Jah - The Mighty Two. A haunting version to 'Heart And Soul' from the legendary Junior Byles who Joe had first met when he recorded The Versatiles. Originally 'Mean Girl' from Larry Marshall at Studio One.
The Road Is Rough - Joe Gibbs & The Professionals. A version to 'Be The One' from The Heptones and featured on the 'Dub Serial' album, one of the first dub albums ever released, and the sparse, reserved style of the mix clearly shows how much earlier this dates from in comparison with the other recordings on this set. Great tape rewind at the beginning.
No Man's Version - The Professionals. A version to 'No Man's Land' from Cornell Campbell which was originally 'Up Park Camp' from John Holt for Channel One and with an abundance of the honeyed tones of Eternal Cornell Campbell fading in and out of the mix.
War Is Over - The Mighty Two. A wicked stereo version to Little Roy's classical 'Tribal War' as performed by George Nooks.
Informer Version - The Mighty Two. A truly ludicrous phased out deconstruction of 'Jah Jah See Them Come' from Culture. This cut appeared on the B-side to 'Informer' by Prince Mohammed and was originally 'Our Thing' by Jackie Mittoo also known as 'Heavy Rock' from the Sound Dimension.
Fulfilment - The Mighty Two. This is a version to 'Two Sevens Clash' from Culture which was an original Joe Gibbs rhythm that caused a serious stir in 1977 the year when two sevens clashed. This particular cut is a version to 'Prophesy Reveal by Bo Jangles where he quotes the words of Marcus Garvey in an oratorical and declamatory style.
Financial Business - The Mighty Two. A cut to 'Commercial Business' by Trinity and originally 'Love Is Not A Gamble' by The Techniques for Treasure Isle. A completely unrestrained mix.
Alan. Hit By A. Larry - The Mighty Two. A wild cut to 'Real Rock' originally from the Sound Dimension at Studio One. The most well known Joe Gibbs cut is Junior Murvin's 'Cool Out Son' but this wicked piece comes from the Belmont release of 'Hog & Goat' from Trinity again this time commenting on the sound man's hardware: "Me say two piece of amp and one changer. Equaliser a the danger".
Earthquake - The Mighty Two. This slow rumbling take on Lizard's (also known as Clive 'Azul' Hunt) Belmont release 'Fight I Down' is a little uncharacteristic of The Mighty Two featuring some beautiful, gentle guitar work from Bingy Bunny.
Baldhead Bridge - The Mighty Two. A twelve inch extended disco mix version of Culture's nursery rhyme inspired ('London Bridge Is Falling Down') originally released at a time when versioning Studio One rhythms was the only way to get a hit. When Mr. Dodd released his cut, 'Mr. Baldwin' by The Gladiators, everyone assumed that he's been holding the original piece in his vaults all along and had finally released it in response to this huge hit. Who knows? And furthermore no one's telling!
Joe stressed that teamwork and fun were the key elements in his productions with Errol but he also pointed out that you had to be tough to be able to deal with some of the more menacing physical characters in the Kingston musical rat race especially for an outsider. It is these contradictory elements that so often lend an edge to The Mighty Two's work together - packed full of hook lines and melodies yet still loud, dynamic and aggressive. In transferring the original seven inch forty fives to tape the engineer remarked on the clarity of the production and how incredible well engineered and balanced all of these records were. The beauty of The Mighty Two's work was the way in which they took so many of the elements of Jamaica's mid-seventies dread and dub drenched music and made it into a wholly complete and readily accessible musical form. It speaks volumes for both their musical and technical expertise that they were able to make so much of the cutting edge and quite seriously avant-garde to fashion and produce a package that was able to cross over to the rest of the world in such an explosive manner.
Harry Hawke - August 2002
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