The Revolutionaries - Drum Sound
Kunta Kinte Version One
Hotter Fire Version
A Who Say Version Two
Pride & Ambition Version
Jah Creation Version
Ride On Marcus Version
Girl A Love You Version
Plantation Heights Version
Back Weh Version
|"I really started
looking at music. Started to experiment on the drums. To see if we could
make the drum dance by itself. I worked African rhythms in and because I
was recording so much I could work on developing a sound for Reggae.
This is Reggae. This is the sound. The double drum sound..."
Channel One Recording Studio, situated on Maxfield Avenue in the heart of Kingston 13 ghetto, was the foremost recording studio in Jamaica throughout the seventies and the inevitable first choice of Kingston's musical fraternity. Many would argue that Lee Perry's work in his Black Ark Studio (see PSCD 09 'Voodooism', PSCD 19 'Produced And Directed By The Upsetter' & PSCD 32 'Divine Madness Definitely') was more creative or that Joe Gibbs' work with Errol 'Errol T' Thompson (see PSCD 37 'No Bones For The Dogs') was more commercially successful but the music made at the Hookim brothers set up, both their own productions and that of other producers, was undoubtedly the most popular and the most influential of the period. The story of the Chinese Jamaican Hookim's studio has been previously detailed in three Pressure Sound releases (PSCD 14 'Well Charged Channel One', PSCD 22 'When The Dances Were Changing' and PSCD 31 'Maxfield Avenue Breakdown'). The four brothers Joseph, known as Jo Jo. Paulie, Ernest and Kenneth had started in the entertainment industry in the sixties controlling jukeboxes and one-armed bandits. After the Jamaican government outlawed gaming machines in 1970 the family needed to find another source of revenue and they decided to build their own recording studio at 29 Maxfield Avenue.
The sound of Channel One was critically important to the Hookims and they purchased the best quality equipment such as Neuman, Sony and AKG microphones to give the 'depth' that was so important towards making "Sly's drums roll like thunder". The Hookims deliberated endlessly on the merits of various mixing boards before reaching the conclusion that an API four-track desk would meet their exacting criteria. Bill Garnett, a Jamaican living in New York, had already established a formidable reputation for his technological knowledge and he was commissioned by the brothers to install the board. He spent two weeks with the Hookims in the heart of Kingston 13 ensuring that the sound was perfect as they worked together on obtaining the required amount of separation on each track in order to give them complete flexibility. There were inevitable teething problems but the API board enabled them to customise their sound and eventually their perseverance and hard work came to a conclusion.
From the outset the Hookims ensured that the quality of the studio sound was always matched by musicianship of the same high standards. The heartbeat of the Maxfield Avenue sound was provided by the Channel One house band, The Revolutionaries, and the now legendary talents of Lowell 'Sly' Dunbar.
"Jo Jo gave me the freedom to create. I'd sit for hours with Ernest getting the drum sound right. They were really into it and they left me free to play whatever I wanted."
A mutually beneficial relationship between engineer, producer and musicians was carefully nurtured:
"Ranchie was very influential. The 'wah wah' guitar chop was provided by Duggie. I'm very proud of this as it was also unique to Channel One. Ernest would often spend the whole day just tuning the drums with Sly perfecting the Channel One sound. This could be exasperating! Ernest and I often had an input into the patterns that Sly would play. The in-house specialty was to record the drums live with the track and Ernest perfected the art of recording drums live."
Jo Jo Hookim
Originally the brothers had no intention of renting out to other producers; they envisaged the studio as being strictly for their own use and their music production as "just a labour of love". They began with veteran engineer, Sid Bucknor, at the mixing desk but Ernest, who Jo Jo described as "the most hands on in terms of the studio", took over at the controls and developed the necessary skills "by sheer perseverance". Ernest proved to have a natural ability for engineering work and, when any repairs needed to be done, the brothers would refer to the manual supplied by the makers of the board.
"Ernest Hookim has never got the recognition. When he took over at Channel One he revolutionised the whole Reggae sound and moved it twenty years forward! Ernest was a perfectionist and Jo Jo always made it his business to drive round and know what was going on".
Their recordings were unmistakable and it soon became essential for any producer who wanted to have hit records to either visit Maxfield Avenue or attempt to recreate the sound elsewhere. Jo Jo described Joe Gibbs and Bunny Lee as "the main rivals" to Channel One and Bunny 'Striker' Lee had actually been one of the first to use the Channel One Studio.
However Joe Gibbs recorded at his own Retirement Crescent studio although at times his in-house band, The Professionals, included members of The Revolutionaries. The Hookims had named their studio after Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's Studio One and many of the rhythms the Hookims updated had originally emanated from Brentford Road. This was the cause of some very bad feeling between Coxsone and Jo Jo which actually once erupted into a fist fight between the two producers that had to be broken up by Leroy Smart. Coxsone also fought back musically by overdubbing and re-releasing many of his classics with the double drum sound. 'Namibia' released on his Forward Records label, featuring Cedric Brooks and credited to The Liberation Group, could easily have been a Revolutionaries record and 'Tunnel One' from Tommy McCook, a horns instrumental to 'Hot Milk' released on the Coxsone label, was another attack on the Hookim brothers.
However Reggae music has always been created using a combination of the old and the new and perhaps there is too much emphasis misplaced on the concept of 'originality'.
Many of the best Maxfield Avenue records were first released on the Well Charge (named after Paulie's Sound System) and Disco Mix labels and on the Channel One label itself. Every single release would have its own custom mixed dub and the majority of the material on 'Drum Sound' is sourced from the version sides of these 45rpm releases.
Beware Of Your Enemies - Creole
The tradition of exclusive Sound System only play continues and, until now, the opening track on this album, 'Kunta Kinte' could only ever be heard on a Sound System played out on what has become known as a 'dub plate special'. Perhaps the most in demand dub plate ever finally secures an official release here and it rightly deserves its legendary status among Sound System followers as "the most famous dub plate of all time". Based on a remixed and speeded up cut of Creole's stirring 'Beware Of Your Enemies' and featuring a synthesised flute part it is named after the hero in Alex Haley's 'Roots' saga and its driving drums recall those days of slavery.
Hotter Fire Version
Hotter Fire - Ranking Trevor
Ranking Trevor, one of the period's most popular deejays, does his thing over a cut of The Mighty Diamonds' 'Them Never Love Poor Marcus' complete with customary essential introduction... "Strictly rockers from the Diamond selection..."
A Who Say Part Two
Sly Dunbar is not only on the drums here for the first cut, Ernest Wilson's classical 'I Know Myself'', but also in the producer's role as Althea & Donna prove there was a little more to their oeuvre than 'Uptown Top Ranking'. Hugely popular on the Sound Systems where the 'A Who Say?' refrain would inevitably inspire the response of 'Go Deh'.
Roots Man - I-Roy
A very unusual release where one of the classic Channel One Maxfield Avenue rhythms, 'Fade Away' from the great Junior Byles, gets a King Tubby's Dromilly Avenue style mix down that deepens the sense of dread and foreboding. Originally available on a UK seven inch.
Pride And Ambition Version
Pride And Ambition - Leroy Smart
One of Leroy Smart's best ever songs, straight from the heart. Originally recorded for Gussie Clarke who released the tune on Bob Marley's Tuff Gong label. Mr. Smart later sung it over for Jo Jo down at Channel One who issued it as one of their innovative but short lived 'economic package' series that featured a full length 'disco mix' on a seven inch single.
A stirring horns driven work out to Horace Andy's 'Illiteracy' one of Horace's best, but least well known, songs originally released on the Big House label under the auspices of Mr. Dodd at Studio One. This cut was first released on the in-demand 'Scanking Dub' twelve inch single.
War - The Wailing Souls
A superb instrumental dub work out to The Wailing Souls incredible 'War' taken from the 'Reaction In Dub' album. The part two of both the UK and the Jamaican twelve inch releases featured the talents of Ranking Trevor.
Thinking - The Tamlins
Ken Boothe first transformed Garnett Mimms' USA hit into a brooding soul classic for Studio One and The Tamlins went with his introspective version rather than Garnett Mimms' not quite so downtrodden original.
Jah Creation Version
Jah Creation -Creole
Another seriously in demand Channel One single based on The Heptones' classical 'Love Without Feeling' for Harry Mudie and featuring the horn line from The M.B.V.'s 'Theme From The Gun Court' which Jo Jo and The Revolutionaries would transform into another Sound System anthem 'Shaka The Great'.
Ride On Marcus Version
Ride On Marcus - The Enforcer
Little is known about The Enforcer apart from the two faultless singles 'Ride On Marcus' and the truly unbelievable 'Pay Them'. Both were stylistically influenced by The Mighty Diamonds but are delivered with a thunder that is all their own.
A superb update of Burning Spear's anthemic 'Swell Headed' first released on his 'Rocking Time' album. This Revolutionaries version has been culled from the obscure Jamaican release only 'Satta Dub' LP.
Another classic Revolutionaries cut to another classic Studio One rhythm 'Things A Come Up To bump' from The Bassies. The Mighty Diamonds sung it over as 'Catonine' and this particular cut, with added horns, has also been taken from the 'Satta Dub' LP.
Girl A Love You Version
Girl A Love You - Horace Andy
A beautiful song, which Horace sang over a few weeks later for King Jammy's, is here carried by Horace's searing vocal, the magnificent rhythm and the incredible mixing on the dub side.
The Revolutionaries see to another Studio One classic taken from the 'Scanking Dub' twelve inch and this time The Righteous Flames' 'I Was Born To Be Loved' gets the Channel One treatment. The restrained mixing here allows one of the music's most enduring bass lines to shine.
Plantation Heights Version
Plantation Heights - Dillinger
There can be no denying that Dillinger was the man of the moment and that his reputation was made down at Maxfield Avenue adding his contribution to Channel One's vocal hits. His observational style was much imitated but he is not always given the credit he deserves for his inspirational approach. Here he deejays over The Mighty Diamonds' beautiful 'I Need A Roof', a version to Larry & Alvin's touching 'Mean Girl', for Studio One.
Back Weh Version
Back Weh - The Mighty Diamonds
One of The Mighty Diamonds' lesser hits of the period but undoubtedly one of their best; it's also one of The Revolutionaries' best rhythms which, strangely enough, was never exploited to the full.
Jo Jo moved to New York in 1977 following his brother Paulie's death and after this tragedy he felt that "much of the enjoyment (of the music business) went out of it for me" although he still returned to Kingston once a month to supervise the recording sessions. The success of Channel One continued into the new decade as the emphasis shifted towards the Dance Hall style but, with the advent of digital technology, it would no longer occupy its premier position in Kingston's studio hierarchy. However the characteristic 'militant' Channel One drum sound will always be immediately recognisable. The coming together of Sly Dunbar and the Hookim brothers was, as Sly recalled, "like one family trying to move the music forward". The music that they created together was "more than a background, more than a business" but was instead " a personal expression of all that they themselves felt most deeply and believed in most fully" and will forever define the sound of seventies Reggae.
Harry Hawke - April 2007
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