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Studio One Roots 2 (SJRCD 114 - 2005)

Willie Williams & Sound Dimension - Jah Righteous Plan
Al Campbell - Take A Ride
Cedric 'Im' Brooks - Satta
Ken Boothe & Joe Higgs - A Message Of Old
Jackie Bernard - Jah Jah Way
Devon Russell - Jah Hold The Key
Zoot Sims - Small Garden
The Saints - Sleeping Trees
Larry Marshall - Run Babylon
Vin Gorgon - Babylon Rock
The Gladiators - Talawah
Prince Francis - African Skank
Cedric 'Im' Brooks - Full Time
Prince Lincoln - True Experience
Joseph Hill - Behold The Land
Winston Matthews - Sun Is Shining
Karl Bryan - LK Strut
Count Ossie & The Zion All stars - Holy Mount Zion
Tommy McCook & The Discosonics - Tenor On The Call
 
It's no surprise that this second set of roots based music culled from the vaults of Studio One maintains the high standards already set by the first volume as in the tradition of Jamaica's wider indigenous record industry all the labels owned by Clement Dodd not only created trends but did so by reflecting what was happening on the streets and by echoing the desires and concerns of the common people.

Up until the late sixties Mr Dodd had succeeded in business through the astute use of talent spotters, arrangers, engineers and general fixers who all assisted in the miscegenation of Caribbean indigenous musics such as mento and calypso with the local adaptations of jump blues and r&b imported from the States. But through the exciting but short-lived developments of rocksteady and ska there was no perceptible consistent lyrical theme of most music recorded at Studio One or any other of the island's studios.

Burning Spear changed all that with his first singles and albums recorded at Brentford Road. Spear, coming to Clement Dodd via a recommendation from Bob Marley, had a ready-made vision of a music dedicated to the raising of black consciousness, spiritual rigour and the promotion of Africa as more than just a yearned for destination. Although musicians such as Leonard Dillon (the Ethiopian), the Abyssinians, Justin Hinds, Joe Higgs et al covered this ground before at Studio One and elsewhere, none had managed to deliver the message with such consistency, clear dedication and so compelling a manner as Spear who managed to pave the way for the refashioning of the ghetto sufferer as hero. Not long afterwards a whole series of albums followed that are now rightly regarded as classics of the genre, including Johnny Osborne's "Truth And Rights", the Wailing Souls' "Studio One Presents" and Freddie McGregor's "Bobby Bobylon".

Although it's unclear who actually first applied the term 'roots' to define a sub-genre of reggae it's generally reckoned that the 'golden age' of roots ran from the mid-seventies to the end of the decade. And not un-coincidentally it's around this time that Clement Dodd initiated a reissue programme of many of his earlier favourites bringing his music to a younger generation - and producers such as Joe Gibbs and the Hookims at Channel One perpetuated the legend of Studio One by re-versioning classic Studio One rhythms. And into the early eighties even Clement Dodd revived his old rhythms for the demands emerging dancehall style.

What we have on this second volume is a selection that runs back and forth from between the late sixties and early eighties, showcasing classics, rarities and a fabulous clutch of inexplicably unreleased gems at last seeing the light of day, tantalising and teasing us for a future volume 3...

Willie Williams - "Jah Righteous Plan"
Willie Williams is obviously best known for his 'Armagideon Time' on an early dancehall refurbishment of the 'Real rock' rhythm cut for Mr Dodd in 1979, the tune turned out as something of an albatross as the smooth proto-electro instrumental dominated the feel of the cut rather than the great vocal delivery and it was such a big hit that he was always unlikely to cut anything as good again. 'Jah Righteous Plan' almost gets there, on the Silvertones' 'Smile' rhythm this version is sourced from a ten inch plate edited with the vocal segueing into the booming dub.

Al Campbell "Take A Ride"
Apparently not the same Al Campbell who recorded for Coxsone as part of the Thrillers in the 60s, little is known about the guy on this impassioned vocal plea for unity found previously amongst the treasure on the rarely seen Studio One compilation 'Pirate's Choice' and perhaps better recognised as the rhythm on the title track of Johnny Osbourne's classic 'truth and Rights' set.

Cedric Im Brooks "Satta"
Cedric Im Brooks has recently gained a new found popularity via Honest Jons Records' excellent compilation derived from the albums he recorded under his Light of Saba incarnation. Recorded as Im & the Sound dimension this is just one of the many Studio One reworkings of the Abyssinians' immortal 'Satta Massagana', featuring Im in a breathy, smoky style with the steady vamp of Jackie Mittoo's organ underneath and probably Vin Gordon's trombone taking the intervening chorus line.

Joe Higgs & Ken Boothe "A Message Of Old"
This righteous slow ska plaint first saw light on the flip  of the Dudley Sibley's Studio One 45 'Run Boy Run' and sometimes the singer is incorrectly credited rather than the superstar duo of Boothe on lead and Higgs on harmonies in a vocal delivery reminiscent of R&B legends Dr Feelgood and the Interns. The 'do as you would be done by' tune has Boothe and Higgs breaking into a wonderful scat before fading. One of Joe Higgs' roles at Studio One was as vocal tutor to the roughly-hewn Wailers. 'There's A Reward', a single he cut with Earnest Wilson as Higgs & Wilson, provided an uncredited melody template for the fruit of Paul Simon's reggae dalliance 'Mother And Child Reunion'.

Jackie Bernard "Jah Jah Way"
Jackie Bernard is perhaps better known as the lead singer of Jamaican vocal trio the Kingstonians who had their greatest success between 1968 and 1970 with Derrick Harriott produced singles 'Singer Man' and 'Sufferer'. The group went on to work briefly with producers Leslie Kong and Rupie Edwards before splitting up just as the roots reggae era began. This little known Bernard cut is on a one away rhythm that impressed Prince Jazzbo enough to cut a DJ version.

Devon Russell "Jah Hold The Key"
Hailing from the Jones Town border of Trenchtown Devon Russell was a member, along with Cedric Myton (later of The Congos) and Prince Lincoln (later to form the Royal Rasses), of Studio One group the Tartans. Although Devon was an avid devotee of Curtis Mayfield he managed to develop a soulful singing style of his very own. Criminally under-recorded as a solo artist and dying an untimely death just a few years ago this cut, sharing the rhythm with Freddie McGregor's 'Rastaman Camp', is a timely reminder of one of Jamaica's greatest voices. His 1983 Studio One 'Roots' album remained mysteriously unavailable for many years and his crowning achievement remains as a take on Curtis' 'Darker Than Blue' for Earl 'Chinna' Smith on High Times.

Zoot Sims "Small Garden"
This one's a real treat, a take on the old 'stepping razor cum small axe' themes. although made famous by Peter Tosh and the Wailers respectively the subjects are sourced from Jamaica's folklore and street talk. Harmonies provided by the redoubtable Enid Cumberland, of Keith & Enid fame, who performed vocal coaching duties on behalf Mr Dodd (and made a sensational late appearance on the Studio One Story DVD!). Undoubtedly named after the cool American jazz saxist partner of Al Cohn, Zoot Sims underlines the largely unacknowledged sophistication of many Jamaican singers and musicians from the period who were both geographically and creatively close to the influential source of jazz and R&B.

The Saints "Sleeping Trees"
The Saints were more familiar residents of Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio so discovering a tape box with this unreleased tune was a bit of a surprise! Perhaps the impenetrable lyrics may have something to do with the non-appearance of this tune in the past, but these days just adds to its allure - "let's take another walk in the dark and lonely forest..."

Larry Marshall "Run Babylon"
Vin Gordon "Babylon Rock"
from Lawrence Park in the garden parish of St. Ann, home of Burning Spear and Jah Bob, Larry Marshall's best work was for Studio One and together with Alvin Leslie as Larry & Alvin scored massive hits in the late sixties with the singles 'Nanny Goat', 'Your Love' and 'Throw Mi Corn' before going on to produce a fine, largely self-produced, mix of lovers and roots through the seventies. The vocal is followed by a beautiful unreleased trombone version from Vin Gordon aka Don Drummond Jnr. who went on to become one of the key session players in Jamaica producing great music for many notable producers including Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Joe Gibbs before moving on to become part of the Aswad Horns and latterly a member of the reformed touring version of the Skatalites.

The Gladiators "Talawah"
Apparently the story about large stacks of unreleased masters down at Brentford Road is not so apocryphal, and here to prove it a prime piece of roots sway from Albert Griffiths and the Gladiators 'Talawah' - in other words 'powerful'. In 1979 a dalliance with Virgin's Frontline prompted Mr Dodd to issue a retrospective of their excellent early singles for Studio One 'Presenting The Gladiators'.

Prince Francis "African Skank"
Prince Francis was a young DJ from Port Maria, clearly under the influence of label mate Dennis Alcapone, who cut a bunch of sides for Studio One while still a school boy; many of these are only just seeing the light of day and this charming mix of mento and calypso styles preaching renewed African awareness predates the sound of African Head charge by about fifteen years.

Cedric Im Brooks "Full Time"
Another rarity just for this set - an unreleased instrumental with the mighty Cedric 'Im' Brooks blowing a cool sax over a broiling rhythm bed.

Prince Lincoln "True Experience"
Also originally found on the 'Pirate's choice' set this, along with 'Daughters Of Zion' and 'Live up To Your Name', are the three tunes Prince Lincoln recorded for Clement Dodd after splitting with the Tartans in 1969. another distinctively expressive Jamaican voice, this time influenced by the burgeoning modern sounds of Philadelphia as he developed the crossover concept of 'inter-reg'. He got back together with another ex-Tartan Cedric Myton, and together with Clinton Hall and Keith Peterkin formed the Royal Rasses who in 1974 cut the largely ignored but classic 'Humanity' album. Although the set spawned two great hit singles in 'Love The Way It Should Be' and 'Kingston 11' the success he so richly deserved did not follow - but at least he became a roots legend in the process.

Joseph Hill "Behold The Land"
A great showman and one of the most charismatic performers to be produced amongst the thousands competing for success in Jamaica, Culture's Joe Hill has an instantly recognisable vocal style. Hill started his career at Studio One as a member of the soul defenders releasing the solo single before going on to score internationally in militant style with Joe Gibbs and 1977's 'Two Sevens Clash'.

Winston Matthews "Sun Is Shining"
First released in the UK in 1971 on Studio One's Banana imprint Winston 'Pipe' Matthews, from the Wailing Souls, takes the Wailers already edgy 'Sun Is Shining' and converts it into an eerie duo with a plaintive melodica. If any similarity of delivery with Bob Marley can be detected it's probably because they both had Joe Higgs as a vocal tutor. The Wailing Souls traced a career trajectory starting with Prince Buster, through Studio One and Channel One into the late 70s when Island signed the band and released the classic 'Wild Suspense' to international acclaim.

Karl Bryan "LK Strut"
There was a time when reggae fans had to be satisfied with just one cut of this rhythm, but what a cut! Burning Spear's 'Door Peep' or 'Door Peeper (Shall Not enter)' sounds to all the world like it wasn't recorded naturally but emerged from a separate dimension in space and time. we had to wait for a long time to check Prince Jazzbo's DJ version 'Imperial I' from his 'Choice Of Version' set, then came a version with an instrumental following the vocal on the first CD reissue of Spear's debut 'Presenting...' Now, out of nowhere, comes this unreleased Karl Bryan instru-lite take with what sounds like Eric Frater's chopping guitar keeping it funky.

Zion All Stars "Holy Mount Zion"
Count Ossie's burro drums, of course, on a familiar Rasta theme with peace and love a journey away. The rhythm to 'Holy Mount Zion' is perhaps better known as the totally off the wall 'I A See' by Dub specialist from 'Juck's Incorporation Part One'.

Tommy McCook "Tenor On The Call"
Leader of the immortal Skatalites, tenor giant Tommy McCook - along with fellow Skatalite Jackie Mittoo - was a prime mover in bringing ska, rocksteady and reggae to the level of international credibility and recognition. Learning to play sax at Kingston's Alpha Cottage School for 'wayward' boys his schooling continued between the Rasta camps in the hills of Clarendon with Count Ossie and the relative sophistication of Jamaica's dance bands on the Jamaica's north coast tourist spots. The original of 'Tenor On The Call' is to be found on the flip of the 12" discomix of Cornell Campbell's cover of the Madlads 'Ten To One'.

Steve Barker
Thanks to Mark Ainly and Rob Chapman for his invaluable 'Never Let Go' Studio One singles listing and rhythm directory.

 
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