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Studio One Rocksteady 2 (SJRCD367 - 2016)

Sitting in the Park - Hortense Ellis
Rub Up Push Up - The Termites
Never Let Go - Carlton And The Shoes
I'm Still in Love With You - Alton Ellis
Give Me a Little Sign - Owen Gray
Big Mistake - The Bassies
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do - Alton & Hortense Ellis
Born to Love - Slim Smith
Bad Treatment - Cannon & The Soul Vendors
Strange Things - John Holt
Giddy Up - The Actions
It Makes Me Feel - Larry Marshall
Change Your Style - The Paragons
Trying Times - Jerry Jones
I Shall Be Released - The Heptones
The Soul Beat - The Gaylads
Run Run - Delroy Wilson
Puppy Love - The Soul Two
Riding for a Fall - Delroy Wilson
 
The period covered by this latest installment of Soul Jazz's ongoing reissue programme of the vast Studio One and Coxsone catalogue was a time during which the rhythm underpinning the music changed irrevocably from rock steady to reggae. For the most part, the repertoire here was drawn directly or indirectly from US soul music of the 1960's, although a few 'local' concerns manifest from time to time. The great producer Bunny Lee once told me that "It's not Rasta men alone who make this music", and that proposal is illustrated perfectly on the current compilation, to the extant that many of the tracks on this set could easily be considered as yet another regional style of American soul music. The influence of that music on Jamaican rock steady and reggae is almost palpable, so much so that one wonders how much more successful singers like Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Slim Smith and John Holt would have been had they been born in Chicago, Detroit or Memphis. But that is just speculation - the music here is best felt, danced to, or simply enjoyed. When it hits, you feel no pain, and that is something everybody need in these times, just as essential as it was when first made.

Steve Barrow

Hortense Ellis - Sitting In The Park
Hortense Ellis [1941-2000] was the younger sister of Alton Ellis. A fine singer - famous as 'Jamaica's First Lady of Song' -  she was especially known for her powerful live performances, on one celebrated occasion out-singing the US singer Patti Labelle. Although she recorded many tracks for Studio One - often with brother Alton, who can be heard among the backup vocalists here - she had her biggest hit with a version of Kim Carnes' '(Love Comes From) Unexpected Places' cut for Augustus 'Gussie' Clarke in 1976. Always a convincing interpreter of US soul music, here she delivers a restrained subtle version of Billy Stewart's 1965 Chicago soul classic.

The Termites - Rub Up Push Up
Not to be confused with the earlier ska song of the same title by Justin Hinds, this is a typical Studio One rock steady, and wasn't included on The Termites' only long player, although it did appear on 'Rock Steady Coxsone Style' in 1968. The Termites were Lloyd Parks and Wentworth Vernal, both eminently soulful singers in their own right, and the lyrics of this piece abound with references to US soul music. The theme - the 'rub up push up' of the title - was popular in the late rock steady period at the end of 1967; the Termites recorded similar tracks for Duke Reid ['Love Up Kiss Up'] and for Clancy Eccles ['Push It Up']. Parks went on to become a superb session bassist, most notably in Skin Flesh & Bones and the Revolutionaries, before forming his 'We The People' band and backing artists such as Dennis Brown and many more. Wentworth Vernal had a short career in reggae after the Termites ceased recording, although his solo version of Chicago soul singer Gene Chandler's 'Rainbow' remains an oft-reissued 'oldie' to this day.

Carlton & The Shoes - Never Let Go
Carlton Manning and his brothers Linford and Donald cut a bonafide classic for Mr. Dodd in 1968 with 'Love Me Forever' (featured on our earlier Studio One Classics). The rhythm track has been re-cut over and over. Carlton and the Shoes - originally the 'Shades', but a printer's error named them 'Shoes' - followed their hit with an album of the same name. This track was not included on that set, but turned up on the later Studio One CD of the album. Carlton himself recut this in 1979 as 'Forever & Always' for the late Dennis Brown's 'DEB' label.

Alton Ellis - I'm Still In Love With You
Alton Ellis [1938-2008] was a giant in the pantheon of Jamaican soul-influenced vocalists; the others in this legendary aggregation include John Holt, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, Slim Smith and Derrick Harriott. All recorded for Studio One at the outset of, or very early, in their careers. Alton started with Mr. Dodd at the producer's very first session in 1959, in the duo Alton & eddy, before moving on to the studio of Duke Reid for whom he had many hits before returning to Coxsone, until he left Jamaica in the early 1970s. However, this song - along with 'I'm Just A Guy' - was one of his biggest hits for Studio One, and went on to become a much-loved classic. It also inspired many versions: in the mid-1970s producer Joe Gibbs recorded Marcia Aitken on an update of Alton's version. This was followed by deejay cuts, including 'Three Piece Suit' by Trinity for Joe Gibbs in 1976. Gibbs also used it for Althea & Donna's UK chartbuster 'Uptown Top Ranking' the same year. Bunny Lee recorded Alton's sister Hortense on an 'answer' version called 'I'm Still In Love With You Boy' and there was a further Studio One duet with Alton & Doreen Schaeffer.

The rhythm and song was still going strong when Sean Paul recut it in 2004 with vocalist Sasha, and a worldwide hit ensued.

Owen Gray - Give Me A Little Sign
Original copies of this record regularly make upwards of £700 at auction, with copies in mint condition going well over £1000. Not bad for a record that hardly sold when it was first issued, which explains it's subsequent rarity. Owen Gray was already a veteran when he cut this rock steady version of US soul singer Brenton Wood's 1967 million-seller, having started out on Vere John's talent shows in the mid-1950s.

The Bassies - Big Mistake
The Bassies comprised Clifford Morrison, Richard 'Dada' Smith and Leroy Fischer. They recorded first for Clement Dodd in 1968, cutting sides like 'River Jordan' and 'Things Come Up To Bump', the latter boasting a rhythm which was often recut in later years. In 1969 they recoded for Sonia Pottinger and Lloyd 'Matador' Daley under the group name of The Victors, with George Blake replacing Fischer. After that they just disappeared from view, although group member 'Dada' Smith later surfaced as a member of Vivian 'Yabby You' Jackson's Prophets. Nonetheless, the handful of selections they recorded for Clement Dodd - including a great version of Bob Andy's song 'I Don't Mind' - have mostly gone on to become classics of the Studio One catalogue, including this track which first appeared on the LP 'Get Ready Rock Steady' in 1967.

Alton & Hortense Ellis - Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
Originally cut as 'Breaking Up' for Treasure Isle, then for Studio One. In fact, after Alton Ellis came over to Studio One in 1968, Mr. Dodd had him recut all his Treasure Isle hits in the Brentford Road studio. This cut features sister Hortense and features a slightly different vocal take from Alton's original solo piece. Another oft-versioned rhythm, there exists a wonderful vibes cut by Lennie Hibbert, also on Studio One.

Slim Smith - Born To Love
After Keith 'Slim' Smith [1948-1973] left the Techniques in 1966, he began recording for Studio One, cutting tracks like 'The New Boss' and 'I've Got Your Number'. At Studio One he got solo billing, in particular on 'Born To Love', a great album which combined late ska tracks with early rock steady, most notably on the title track included here, a superb cover of the Temptations song. That LP also included a cover of Major Lance's Chicago classic 'You'll Want Me Back', known in reggae circles as 'You Don't Care', further reinforcing the soul-rock steady connection.

Cannon & The Soul Vendors - Bad Treatment
A blistering instrumental featuring Karl 'Cannonball' Bryan fronting the studio band the Soul Vendors. Bryan - like so many others - is a graduate of the renowned Alpha School, which he attended during 1949-1953, and recorded many sides at Studio One, for Coxsone and other producers like Harry 'J' Johnson and Harry Mudie, both of whom recorded at Brentford Road on Sunday sessions in the late 1960s. Bryan was recently rediscovered playing a street market in Toronto, seemingly well and playing in fine style.

John Holt - Strange Things
Although John Holt's group the Paragons had started their career at Studio One, their greatest success came for Duke Reid, with cuts like 'The Tide Is High', 'On The Beach' and more. After he left the Paragons, Holt returned to Studio One where he cut an excellent series of solo recordings including 'A Love I Can Feel', 'Stranger In Love' and 'Make Up'. He also cut this, an original composition by the singer. The lyric relates the 'strange things' that happen on a Friday night, between girls and boys 'under a golden moon that shines a silver light', although sadly John himself is 'lost like a wandering sheep' and unable to participate in the fun. John had an undoubted gift for songs that displayed a slightly 'magical' tone in the lyrics - witness 'Ali Baba' - and he later revisited the song for producer Phil Pratt. Other cover versions include one by Freddie McGregor and Junior Reid, which though perfectly competent, cannot approach the composer's original lick.

The Actions - Giddy Up
The Actions were Ephraim 'Jerry' Baxter and Bertram 'Ranchie' McClean. As the reggae era dawned, they cut a series of songs at Brentford Road, several of which were created as the studio's response to the success of such tines as the Pioneers' 'Longshot' produced by Joe Gibbs. Thus they made 'Catch The Quinela', 'Sukey Get A Blow' and this effort, which details some of the famous horses who appeared at Caymanas Park racecourse. Coxsone also released some of their titles under the name of the Splendours. In the early 1970s, Baxter went on to found Well Pleased and Satisfied with Hugh Lewis, while Ranchie went off to join a band called the Invincibles; by the mid-1970s, he was playing rhythm guitar with Sly Dunbar and Lloyd Parks in the Revolutionaries. For a while Baxter kept the name Actions, recording the original cut ['Holy Mount Zion'] of what later became 'Open The Gate Bobby Bowa' for Randy's, before hitting with the brilliant 'Sweetie Come From America' and others for Sonia Pottinger.

Larry Marshall - It Makes Me Feel
Larry Marshall is another relatively unsung hero of Studio One even though his 'Nanny Goat' has often been cited as one of the earliest reggae tunes. Whatever the merits of that argument, his contribution has been immense. Whether on his songs like 'Your Love' or 'Throw Me Corn', or on his work in the studio rehearsing singers such as Horace Andy, Freddie McKay and Burning Spear, or again when he alone was able to find the right dubs for all the sound system owners who would come to Brentford Road, he was the go-to man at the studio during the early 1970s. His song here is a typical example of Coxsone's sound during 1971; a languid reggae rhythm underpins Larry's beautiful tenor on the heartfelt lyric, with Alton Ellis clearly audible on backing vocals. Pure magic!

The Paragons - Change Your Style
The Paragons here are simply John Holt, double-tracking his voice on this admonition to the rude boys - the hooligans of the lyric -  and advising that they should 'let love fill your soul'. As usual with John Holt, this is a fine-crafted lyric, underpinned by a tough Studio One reggae rhythm, with Vin Gordon's trombone prominent in the song's main riff. Coxsone evidently agreed, because he also released this cut, duly extended, in his 12-inch series in the late 1970s.

Jerry Jones - Trying Times
Jerry Jones was a US vocalist who was booked for an engagement at the Hotel Kingston, and ended up staying a few months, during which time she recorded an album for Studio One, from which this track - originally recorded by Roberta Flack on her 'First Take' LP in 1969 -  was taken. Backed by the Sound Dimension, it has maestro Ernest Ranglin contributing an insinuating fuzzy-guitar line to Jones' version of this Donny Hathaway/Leroy Hutson composition. Again, the soul connection is made explicit.

The Heptones - I Shall Be Released
A rare Dylan cover although the Wailers did their own take on 'Like A Rolling Stone' in the mid-1960s, and Burt Walters did a version of 'Blowin' On The Wind' for Lee Perry. This features the Heptones, the trio who, together with the Paragons, Melodians and one or two others dominated the dance halls of the late 1960s. Lead vocalist Leroy Sibbles, together with backing vocalists Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn were Coxsone's most successful vocal group, eventually cutting four albums for the label, and a host of 45s. Although the group reunited to recut this song for Lee Perry in 1977, the resultant track didn't quite match up to Coxsone's first cut.

The Gaylads - The Soul Beat
The Gaylads - comprising Harris 'B.B' Seaton, Maurice Roberts and Delano Stewart were one of the more significant vocal groups recorded by Studio One. They even ran auditions at the studio for a time. Following on from early hits for the label like 'Lady With The Red Dress' - a tune audibly inspired by Motown's Four Tops - they made this explicit acknowledgement to their inspiration, that is US soul music. Dating from 1967, the lyric is an exhortation to move to the groove of US dances like the shing-a-ling, the boogaloo and the shake, sung over a tough rock steady rhythm. After this the group moved over to Miss Pottinger's Tip Top label, cutting classics like 'Hard To Confess' and others. The group then went their separate ways, with Seaton working with Duke Reid and others. Nonetheless, their period of success with Mr. Dodd [and Mrs. Pottinger] remains a high point of Jamaican music.

Delroy Wilson - Run Run
Another member of the Jamaican soul pantheon, Delroy Wilson [1948-1995], a child prodigy for Coxsone in the days of ska. As he told this writer in 1995 "In days like that that you have a sound war... I came along and it seems like I was the missile...". Delroy went on to cut some of the most enduring classics for Mr. Dodd in the transitional period between ska and rock steady, like his sublime 1966 cover of the Tams' 'Dancing Mood', and then on into the reggae period with songs like 'Rain From The Skies', 'True Believer' and many, many more. He also continued to cut the 'sound clash' lyric as manifested on 'Run Run', tough and uncompromising.

The Soul Two - Puppy Love
The Soul Two only recorded three titles for Studio One - 'Won't You Bring Your Love', 'Once I Had A Heart' and this track. The duo comprised Beneto Brown and Dennis Richards, and 'Puppy Love' was duly included on the compilation album 'Ride Me Donkey - Solid Gold from Jamaica', credited to the Soul Two. They had also been credited as 'Bennett & Dennis' on other releases. 'Puppy love' is another song that marks the transition between late rock steady and early reggae; it subsequently reappeared in an extended mix in the late 1970s with newly overdubbed drums. The same track appears on a late 1970s release 'Studio One Showcase Volume 2' but this time mis-credited to 'Barry & Heptones'.


Delroy Wilson - Riding For A Fall
Another classic from Delroy, again taken from the US vocal group the Tams, from their 1964 album 'Presenting The Tams'. No less than seven songs from this album were covered in reggae, by Delroy, Derrick Harriott and others.

The song is another dealing with disappointed love, delivered with heartfelt emotion by the great Delroy. One of the most influential Jamaican singers - for example on Dennis Brown - Delroy went on to enjoy considerable success in the early 1970s with producer Bunny Lee, including such classics as 'Better Must come', 'Cool Operator' and many more. He also enjoyed a massive UK reggae hit in 1976 for Lloyd Charmers with his version of Bob Marley's 'I'm Still Waiting', and continued recording and live performances until his untimely death.

This then is the sound of Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd during a period in which Jamaican music changed from rock steady to reggae. It was a time when Coxsone still ruled the dancehalls, and arguably the years between 1967-1972 remain the highest point of his success. After this, other producers came to dominate Jamaican music, and although Mr. Dodd enjoyed further successes, and his original rhythms, recut by others, would support so much of subsequent Jamaican music, he would never quite dominate the music again, as he did in the period covered by this compilation. It was a genuine golden age, nothing less.

Steve Barrow - November 2016
 
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