One Ironsides (SJRCD 260 - 2013)
Fabien Cooke - Mother And Child
Marcia Griffiths - Mark My Word
Freddie McGregor - I Man A Rasta
Prince Jazzbo - Natty Ling A Ling
The Paragons - Danger In Your Eyes
Drum Bago & The Rebel Group - Reggae Version
Don Drummond - Nanny's Corner
The Stingers - Rasta Don't Stop No One
Lone Ranger - Three Mile Skank
The Soul Sister - Another Night
Freddie McGregor - Come Now Sister
Dennis Alcapone - Joe Frazier (Round Two)
The Soul Brothers - Soho
Alton Ellis - Can I Change My Mind
Johnny Osbourne - Jealousy, Heartache And Pain
The Gladiators - Bongo Red
Pablove Black - Jamrec Dub
Cornell Campbell - I'm Still Waiting
|Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd released his
pioneering productions on a plethora of imprints during his long and
illustrious career. 'Shuffling Jug', reputedly Mt Dodd's first ever
release came out on the Worldisc label at the beginning of the sixties
and the producer would run through fifty plus different labels and
designs over the course of the next fifty years. Many of his competitors
stuck to one or two labels and his arch rival, Duke Reid at Treasure
Isle, never had more than half a dozen different designs. Possibly it
was a ploy by Coxsone to get radio play? Kingston's two radio stations,
RJR and JBC, were notoriously indifferent to playing 'local' releases
and featuring too many records from the same source was definitely not
on their agenda. Or perhaps he felt that variety really was the spice of
In 1963 Coxsone opened his studio and pressing plant. The Jamaican Recording and Publishing Studio better known as Studio One, at 13 Brentford Road on the site of The End, a former night club, and began his near domination of the Jamaican music scene. Throughout the sixties few producers or studios could come anywhere near Studio One. Renowned as a training ground for new talent practically every artist and musician of note in the story of Jamaican music passed their apprenticeship at Brentford Road.
By the 1970s, with the dawn of the new decade his approach was mistakenly felt to be behind the times; Coxsone's music had supposedly been usurped, firstly by the new reggae beat, and then by roots rebel rock. Nothing could be further from the truth and it was only a temporary setback. Throughout the seventies Bunny 'Striker' Lee, the Hookim brothers at Channel One, Augustus Pablo, Joe Gibbs & Errol T (as The Mighty Two) and countless others began to use Jamaica's musical past as the inspiration for their current output and all cut hit record after hit record with updates of Studio One rhythms. By the close of the seventies Studio One rhythms and songs from the sixties were endlessly done over, recut and returned to for the dance hall explosion and digital revolution of the eighties. They continue to be referenced, in one way or another up to the present day.
Ironside, one of many Studio One subsidiary labels from which this current compilation takes its name, was at its busiest between 1970 and 1973 and the bulk of the label's releases came during 1972 when Coxsone was fighting to re-establish his pre-eminence. Perhaps the label was inspired by the television series 'Ironside' starring Raymond Burr confined to a wheelchair as Robert T. Ironside, the uncompromising Chief of Detectives in the San Francisco Police Department which ran in the USA from 1967 to 1975. Or possibly it was an indicator that the sides were 'Tougher than tough' and 'iron like a lion in zion...'
It's tempting to look for patterns when all was pure pragmatism but it's probably pointless. Much of the content of Ironside releases echoed the red, green and gold Rastafarian colours of the original label (later releases were black and white in truly traditional Studio One economic style) but it wasn't always the case. A number of the cuts on this compilation came out on the Ironside label as well as alternative Studio One imprints such as Bongo Man, Money Disc, London and Coxsone. Label logos were usually printed and the titles added later and it was probably the case of what logos were available rather than a Brentford Road board meeting to decide what was going to be a Studio One Bongo Man or Ironside release. Many of the songs featured here come from reggae music's top stars and others are from artists so obscure that virtually nothing is known about them. But, to put it succinctly, this eclectic compilation is a perfect summation of the incredible breadth and depth of Studio One music.
1. Fabien Cooke - Mother And Child (1970)
This deep roots tune is a classic example of one of the aforementioned serious obscurities and was Fabian Cooke's only release for Studio One before he emigrated to America in 1980. An accomplished singer, songwriter, musician, producer and recording engineer Fabian is now based in California.
2. Marcia Griffiths - Mark My Word (1968)
'Jamaica's First Lady of Song' Marcia Llyneth Griffiths signed to Studio One after a bidding contest between Byron Lee's manager, Ronnie Nasralla and Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd. Due to her tender years Marcia's father had to sign her recording contract and, because he knew Coxsone's Down Beat Sound System, Mr Griffiths decided that his daughter should go with Studio One. Her early Brentford Road recordings were slow ballads and in 1968, as rocksteady transformed into reggae, she enjoyed a series of classic hit records including 'Truly'. 'Melody Life', 'Feel Like Jumping' and a timeless duet with Bob Andy, 'Always Together'. This pair would go on to reach number five in the UK national charts in March 1970 with the Harry J production of 'Young, Gifted And Black'. 'Mark My Word' was originally released on Coxsone's Supreme label and re-released on Ironside in the seventies when the record buying public were once again warming to the foundation sounds of Studio One.
3. Freddie McGregor - I Man A Rasta (1976)
Dense, churning and uncompromising. The version side to this outing, entitled 'Rasta Revolution', is an indication of the seismic shift in Jamaican music that occurred during the first half of the seventies when the outsider tunes finally began to edge their way into the mainstream. However, Coxsone had been making records like this from the outset and was never averse to his artists performing Rastafarian inspired tunes. Freddie's similarly inclined 'Rastaman Camp' was another influential hit record from this period.
4. Prince Jazzbo - Natty Ling A Ling (1973)
Actually there are two Jazzbo versions to this particular rhythm (a recut of the inimitable Heptones' 'Ting A Ling') and the other cut is entitled 'Ring A Ting'. Always one of the most disapproving deejays it is incongruous to hear the Prince here reprising Trinity's 'Three Piece Suit' over such a jaunty backing track. The Heptones' sad refrain of unanswered 'phone calls was first recorded in the late sixties over an alternative rhythm, long sought after by collectors, and later popularised by Johnny Osbourne who used it to invite everyone to 'Come In A The Dance' on a Studio One twelve inch release.
5. The Paragons - Danger In Your Eyes (1975)
John Holt steps aside and allows Don Evans to deal with the lead vocal for this slice of Paragons perfection and Don's impassioned delivery and an insistent horn line that lodges in the subconscious adds up to one classic record. A much versioned rhythm, the song was later covered by Ras Judah Eskender under his given name of Ronald Merrills. Don would go on to enjoy a successful solo career.
6. Drum Bago & The Rebel Group - Reggae Version (1976)
The version side to 'Reggae Music' originally credited to Drumbago & The Rebel Group and produced and engineered by Coxsone's cousin Sid Bucknor. Reputedly recorded at the Roundhouse, London UK and sung by the mysterious L. Crosdale, this 1977 celebration of reggae music came out accompanied by the down beat 'Set Them free' - one of the gloomiest records ever recorded. Both records were first released on Coxsone's London Records label.
7. Don Drummond - Nanny's Corner (1963)
Supposedly released on Don Drummond's faultless '100 Years After' album, but the track in question (side two, track six) was mis-titled and is actually 'Heaven And Earth'. 'Nanny's Corner' saw the light of day on the 1988 album 'Celebration Time' credited to the Skatalites. this driving instrumental is a tribute to the small restaurant named 'Nanny's Corner' owned by Coxsone's mother and located at the junction of Ladd Lane and Lawes Street in downtown Kingston. To the best of our knowledge the track was not released as a single in the early sixties heyday of ska; leaving an outing like this on the shelf for so long might give some indication of the quantity and quality of Mr Dodd's recordings... as if any further proof was required.
8. The Stingers - Rasta Don't Stop No One(1973)
Another obscure vocal group that might be, or might not be, the same Stingers who recorded 'Forward Up' for Lee 'Scratch' Perry. Echoed by a lovely organ refrain the understated message comes through load and clear. It's all about peace, love and understanding.
9. Lone Ranger - Three Mile Skank (1977)
A deejayed tribute to Three Miles in Kingston from one of the most influential mike men of the late seventies and early eighties sung over the 'Full Up' rhythm. Anthony Waldren, aka The Lone Ranger, was not 'born away in a manger' but in Jamaica and emigrated to the UK as a child where he spent his youth in London before returning home in 1971. He began deejaying three years later, using the name of the most renowned television stars of the fifties and sixties, for a local sound system in the Dunkirk area of Kingston. His early recordings for Studio One paved the path for his break into the big time and Mr Dodd re-released a selection when the Ranger broke big. 'Three Mile Skank' was included on their monster 'Badda Dan Dem' album in 1982.
10. The Soul Sisters - Another Night (1971)
Another record whose provenance is shrouded in the mists and mysteries of time. Although The Soul Sisters probably have nothing whatsoever to do with the celebrated Soul Brothers session band they might possibly be related., perhaps distantly, to The Soul Sisters who recorded 'Jesus Is Mine' and 'Man From Galilee' for Mr Dodd's Tabernacle subsidiary label, which he reserved for his gospel recordings. A sprightly record whose sentiments and touching, fragile vocal delivery bear many of the hallmarks of the UK lovers rock phenomenon.
11. Freddie McGregor - Come Now Sister (1979)
A twelve-inch only release with Freddie in fine style over the immortal 'Get In The Groove' rhythm from The Heptones. Equally adept at deep roots and love songs Freddie's apprenticeship as a member of the Clarendonians and as featured vocalist with the Soul Syndicate must surely have prepared him for all kinds of everything. The 'Get In The Groove' rhythm was a staple of the early eighties dance hall period when a rhythm was not even considered to be a rhythm unless it originated from Brentford Road. Any amount of versions followed, including a fair number from Mr Dodd, but few approached the heights of 'Come Now Sister'.
12. Dennis Alcapone - Joe Frazier (Round Two) (1972)
Burning Spear's brooding introspective 'He Prayed' was originally built as an album track for 'Studio One Presents Burning Spear' and the rhythm was then versioned by Joe Gibbs and used for two wonderful Big Youth seven inch releases in early 1973: 'The Big Fight' and 'Foreman vs. Frazier'. On the first release Big Youth championed the favourite, undefeated heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, to come out on top of the Sunshine Showdown in Kingston's National Stadium against undefeated challenger George Foreman. But 'Floorman' floored 'Smokin' Joe' Frazier in no uncertain terms halfway through the second round and in 'Foreman vs. Frazier' the Youth altered his allegiance: ...'cause I used to say it's Joe'. Dennis Alcapone rode the original rhythm for Mr Dodd with the added bonus of a horns cut credited to The New Establishment entitled 'Joe Grazier' on the b-side. Mr Dodd also released an extra spare dub cut on a separate Iron Side seven inch entitled, you've got it, 'Joe Frazier' where mixing engineer extraordinaire, Sylvan Morris, gets a pugilistic Morris Tuffest credit. On tracks like this Dennis demonstrates just why his voice was 'insured for half a million dollars'.
13. The Soul Brothers - Soho (1966)
A spirited sixties tribute to London's famous, or even, infamous, bohemian quarter and now home to Soul Jazz Records! The multi-talented Soul Brothers, formed by Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso after the break-up of The Skatalites in August 1965, successfully bridged the gap between ska and rocksteady down at Studio One. Originally released in 1966 on the Jamaican Studio One label 'Soho' was also released nearer home on Rita & Benny King's Ska Beat label based in London's Stamford Hill.
14. Alton Ellis - Can I Change My Mind (1970)
'Mr Soul of Jamaica' often described himself as an interpreter of other people's songs although this self deprecation was typical of a man who did much to make a living reality of indigenous Jamaican music. His own song writing talents were awe inspiring but whenever he took on a soul classic he made it all his own ... 'Willow Tree', 'Too Late To Turn Back Now', 'You've Made Me So Very Happy' ... the list goes on. His interpretation of Tyrone Davis' insightful 'Can I Change My Mind' backed by Brentford Road's finest is nothing short of masterful.
15. Johnny Osbourne - Jealousy, Heartache And Pain (1979)
After making his recording debut, 'All I Have Is Love', in 1969 with The Wild Cats at Studio One Johnny Osbourne moved on to work with Winston Riley; their 'Come Back Darling' was one of the biggest hits on the newly founded Techniques label. On he day the vocals were completed for the album of the same name Johnny emigrated to Toronto, Canada where he joined The Ishan People. The group disbanded in 1979 and Johnny returned to Kingston where, back at Studio One, he recorded 'Jealousy, Heartache & Pain' and two more extremely popular singles: 'Forgive Them' and 'Love Is Here To Stay'. These huge hits led to Johnny recording an album down on Brentford Road. Released the following year, 'Truths And Rights' was immediately acknowledged by critics and record buyers alike as a certified classic and, with Sugar Minott's 'Live Loving' and Freddie McGregor's 'Bobby Bobylon', helped to herald the renaissance and re-establish the relevance of Studio One productions with a new generation of record buyers.
16. The Gladiators - Bongo Red (1971)
The Gladiators built an entire collection of classic records at Studio One including 'Roots Natty', 'Jah Jah Go Before Us', 'Righteous Man', 'Watch Out' and 'Bongo Red'. there are two slightly different versions of 'Bongo Red' on separate seven inch releases and a flying cymbals extravaganza straight to bunny @striker' Lee's head entitled 'Bongo I' credited to Tommy McCook & The Gladiators Band. Albert Griffiths, one of Jamaica's best songwriters, signals the rise of Rastafari in Kingston's ghetto areas and Trench Town's numbered streets. In a highly unusual move for Studio One the original releases were dated August 1974. Although Albert declares 'I man don't like to get mix up by pushing me mouth in something I can't prove' was Mr Dodd actually staking an earlier claim on Bob Marley's 'Knotty/Natty Dread' breakthrough that same year? In the wake of increasing interest in all things dread The Gladiators were signed to Virgin's Front Line label and went on to enjoy considerable overground success with albums such as the electrifying 'Trench Town Mix Up' which opened with 'Mix Up'... a retitled update of 'Bongo Red'.
17. Pablove Black - Jamrec Dub (1972)
Perhaps a dig at the copycats and pretenders to the Studio One throne as Paul 'Pablove Black' Dixon, a gifted keyboard player, musical arranger and Twelve Tribes of Israel stalwart, works over an entirely original rhythm named in honour of Mr Dodd's Jamrec publishing company. Pablove Black was one of the select band of musicians who, recording under the name of the Brentford Disco Set, revitalised Studio One in the late seventies and early eighties and made the label a force to be reckoned with once again.
18. Cornell Campbell - I'm Still Waiting (1977)
Bob Marley's 'I'm Still Waiting' has probably been enthused over more than enough times already but will always be one of the biggest indicators that there is life away from roots rock reality in Jamaican music. This slow, tortured ballad is the best Impressions song that Curtis Mayfield neither wrote or recorded and was voiced, with subtly changed lyrics, on three separate occasions by The Wailers at Studio One. In 1976 Lloyd Charmers updated the song with the late lamented Delroy Wilson and the addition of a swinging rhythm at Federal Studios. Delroy's version was a massive reggae hit and should have followed Ken Boothe's 'Everything I Own', also produced by Lloyd Charmers at Federal, into the UK national charts. However, it remained unreleased in the UK and was only available through specialist outlets as a costly pre-release record. Cornel Campbell's version was an underground hit in the wake of Delroy's recording and echoed the delicate beauty of The Wailers' original. Mr Dodd later returned to the song and employed Delroy to sing it over one more time using The Wailers' original rhythm and harmonies.
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