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Studio One Scorcher (SJRCD 067 - 2002)

The Skatalites - Coconut Rock
Cedric 'Im' Brooks - Mun-Dun-Gu
Tommy McCook, Richard Ace & Skatalites & Disco Height - Shockers Rock
The Soul Vendors - Ringo Rock
Jackie Mittoo & Earnest Ranglin - Jericho Skank
The New Establishment - The People Skanking
Karl Bryan & The Afrokats - Money Generator
Lester Sterling - Afrikaan Beat
Sound Dimension - Heavy Rock
Sugar Belly - In Cold Blood
Don Drummond & The Skatalites - Heavenless
Soul Brothers - Bugaloo
Vin Gordon - Red Blood
Pablove Black - Push Pull
Jackie Mittoo & The Brentford Rockers - Side Walk Doctor
Liberation Group - Namibia
Brentford Road All stars - Last Call
The Soul Defenders - Still Calling
Karl Bryan - Count Ossie - Black Up

"Oh it's such a nice tune it looks like we have to make an instrumental of this if you can't sing it!".

The name of Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd's Studio One label based on Kingston's Brentford Road has become so synonymous with 'revival' music that everyone now assumes that if it's an old, classic Jamaican record then it must be from Studio One. The reasons for this are varied and convoluted as the history of Jamaican music itself but the pre-eminence of Studio One is a product of Sir Coxsone's musical intelligence and business acumen coupled with the foresight to be able to see, as far back as the late fifties at the beginning of the Jamaican recording industry, that this music was going to be much, much more than just another passing fad. Throughout the label's entire history as well as pressing brand new records every week a serious selection of repressed oldies from Rhythm & Blues onwards was readily available from Mr Dodd and it was this ability to always see further than whatever the current styles and fashions in Jamaican music happened to be that has assured his prominent position in the history of reggae. No other producer, studio or record label can ever hope to emulate Mr Dodd's achievements. No one even comes near.

There is no denying how forward thinking Mr Dodd was by starting to make his own records back in 1959 instead of relying on scarce American Rhythm & Blues records and it is now well known how, during the course of the sixties, Jamaican Rhythm & Blues eventually translated into reggae. These first producers rarely 'produced' the records themselves (in the previously accepted sense of the term) but instead employed accomplished jazz musicians to fulfil their musical fantasies in order to create the type of music that they wanted to play on their sets. The links between the producer and the audience were very close and very real - where else could you get music recorded that afternoon and cut onto dubs (acetates or reference discs) to be played the same night to test the audience reaction? If there was a favourable response then a seven inch white label pre-release would be issued in a limited pressing selling for fifteen shillings - twice the price of a standard release at seven shillings and sixpence. It was usually only other sound men who could afford to purchase these advance copies to play on their sets thus further promoting the record and building up the demand to pave the way for an eventual release. No market research surveys were required as this music was made by people who were part of the audience directly for that same audience. It lacked any artifice and it remains real and authentic because it harboured no pretensions or intentions to reach outside of its immediate target audience. No one had their eye half cocked on a possible crossover market or even a notion of any form of international success. Sir Coxsone, wholly immersed in Jamaican Rhythm & Blues sound system culture, would initially have had no aims apart from pleasing the other members of that culture and improving his status within it. Consequently his music always had a vitality and an edge that made it into something very special and this fierce independence ironically helped it to eventually transcend these parochial beginnings. Mr Dodd proved as adept and cool a business man as he was a sound system operator and when he opened his own studio at 13 Brentford Road in 1963 his almost total domination of the Jamaican music scene was only just starting.

It's rather worrying to consider that even with Mr Dodd's own admirable and comprehensive reissue programme and the links established over the years with various companies releasing his back catalogue that the surface has yet to be even scratched and there are countless thousands of his seven inch records that have never been repressed or reissued and hours of music on tape that has never been released. The nineteen instrumentals featured here are all spellbindingly as near perfect creations as it's possible to get but there's always another nine hundred and nineteen choice cuts still in the musical vaults of Studio One that would have done just as well.

The Skatalites "Coconut Rock"
Also known as "Passing Through" and credited to Roland Alphonso when released on a Rolando and Powie seven inch the aforementioned links between Jazz and Ska are never clearer than on work outs like this as each soloist vies for attention before handing on the baton to the next man.

Cedric 'Im' Brooks "Mun-Dun-Gu"
No other cut exists to the dense pounding rhythm that forms the core of this one. Cedric Brooks had this to say about it: "'Mun-Dun-Gu' is an African word sound name that I called Carl McDonald the conga player. I believe he's on here too with Vin Gordon's Group featuring Privy and David Madden".

Tommy McCook, Richard Ace & The Skatalites & Disco Height "Shockers Rock"
A startling remix of "Cleopatra" from Roland Alphonso and The Studio One Orchestra. This was one of the first Studio One twelve inch releases where the original seven inch single was cut up and extended - you can spot the joins on this rare foray into dubbed up Ska? - and it proved to be a huge hit on the Belgium Ska scene in the seventies. Two different mixes appeared on separate twelve inch releases.

The Soul Vendors "Ringo Rock"
A transition record between Ska and Rocksteady as The Skatalites mutated into The Soul Vendors via The Soul Brothers. The links between the frantic pace of Ska and the leisurely, elegant ease of Rocksteady are not always clear but here we have a text book example of how it was done.

Jackie Mittoo & Ernest Ranglin "Jericho Skank"
Based around the traditional spiritual "Wall Of Jericho" here we have two of Jamaica's finest ever musicians basking in the enjoyment of each others company without a hint of rivalry as each one patiently and blatantly, appreciates the other's contribution. Sometimes Paragon Don Evans' New York release of "How Sweet It Is" over this rhythm on a Music Lab ten inch in the early eighties ensured its undying popularity with the younger set.

The New Establishment "The People Skanking"
One of Studio One stalwart Sylvan Morris' best-ever and most seriously atmospheric and haunting mixes using Alton ellis' masterful "The People" only ever available on the hard to come by "Jamaica Today The seventies" album but Alton is omitted entirely from the mix here and Jackie Mittoo's organ work is brought to the fore in this object lesson in restrained mixing techniques. Dub does not always have to rely on special effects and gimmicks and Sylvan Morris' name deserves to be up there with the better known and more celebrated Dub masters.

Karl Bryan & The Afrokats "Money generator"
Alto saxophonist Karl Bryan remains sadly under-recorded and under represented in the story of Jamaican music but he shone brightly on a handful of buru based releases including the beautiful "Money Generator" which probably generated very little money when it was first released on the Money Disc label.

Lester Sterling "Afrikaan Beat"
Proving once again that anything can be used for inspiration in Jamaican music as king of easy listening Bert Kaempfert's foray into the language of colonial exploitation turns the tables on the slave drivers and is given a joyful new lease of life. One of THE most versioned rhythms of the eighties dancehall era with Barrington Levy's "Under Mi Sensi" the cut that truly popularised the rhythm.

Sound Dimension "Heavy Rock"
Another staple of the dance hall era versioned as "Our Thing" and updated by Frankie Paul for Mr Dodd as "Programme" featuring a strong trombone lead from Vin 'Don D Junior' Gordon as the rhythms changed from Rocksteady into Reggae.

Sugar Belly "In Cold Blood"
A Studio One original woefully under exploited by its originators when it was mercilessly plundered in the mid-seventies by Channel One in particular and countless others in general. Sugar Belly, another unsung originator, is as at home here as he is on his more traditional Mento offerings.

Don Drummond & The Skatalites "Heavenless"
The battle still rages as to whether this is Vin Gordon or Don Drummond. It was credited to Vin Gordon when released in the UK on the legendary red and white Studio One label in 1969 but the twelve inch mix featured here is credited to Don Drummond and first saw the light of day as the B-side to the wonderful Carlton & His Shoes parting shot for Mr Dodd "Let Me Love You". Its popularity proved so great that Mr Manning's classic was relegated to B-side status and this was promoted to the A-side. Jah Thomas used the rhythm for Triston Palmer's "Entertainment" in the early eighties which proved to be a key record in the development of dancehall music.

Soul Brothers "Bugaloo"
A Jackie Mittoo soul Brothers' organ led celebration that sounds as if it emanated from the deep south of America rather than Western Kingston and typifying the Reggae musician's ability to transcend all barriers every time. An obscure Gaylads vocal cut also exists.

Vin Gordon "Red Blood"
Eerie and brooding this is about as far from a commercial release as it's possible to get from 'Don D Junior' a dub of which appeared on the "Bionic Dub" album but, needless to say, this record has assumed cult status over the years that have ensued since its original release.

Pablove Black "Push Pull"
Burning Spear's timeless "Swell Headed" receives the Pablove Black treatment as his stabbing keyboard lines closely follow the Spear's melody line. First released at the height of Burning Spear mania in the mid-seventies when the rest of the world eventually caught up with the genius of Winston Rodney some five or more years after Sir Coxsone had originally recognised his potential.

Jackie Mittoo & Brentford Rockers "Sidewalk Doctor"
While the title was lifted from a film the song was actually Doris Duke's "Woman Of The ghetto" which was covered by both Hortense Ellis for Randy's and Phyllis Dillon for Treasure Isle and countless instrumental and deejay versions followed in their wake. To the best of our knowledge no Studio One vocal cut has ever been released to this classic rhythm, featured here in its Music Lab 10" incarnation.

Liberation Group "Namibia"
In the mid-seventies Jamaica's younger producers and musicians began to discover their rich musical heritage and the Hookim brothers at Channel One with their house band The Revolutionaries propelled by the ubiquitous drums of Sly Dunbar released a radically entitled series of recordings based around Studio One instrumentals such as "Frozen Soul" which became "Leftist" and "Freedom Blues" which inspired the massive hit "MPLA". Mr Dodd fought back with his own revolutionary titles such as "Namibia" released on the forward label.

Brentford Road All Stars "Last Call
Another dig at Channel One's mid-seventies dominance as 'Horse Mouth' utilises Sly Dunbar's militant double drumming technique. starring Don Drummond although Reuben Alexander also features on this exclusive dub plate only mix.

The Soul Vendors "Still Calling"
One of the most uncompromising of Studio one's countless house bands featuring Cedric Brooks and put through the echo chamber to modernise the sound but it's strange how these updates now sound more old fashioned than the untampered with original pieces. The vocal to this one is the obscure "Rasta Calling" from The Nightingales with the same bass line as Delroy Wilson's sublime "Cool operator".

Karl Bryan & Count Ossie "Black Up"
Karl Bryan shines again on another beautiful buru based workout originally released as the B-side to King Stitt's version to Dennis Brown's immortal take on The Van dykes' "No Man Is An Island" appropriately entitled "No Man Version". Jackie Mittoo and Karl Bryan fit together like a hand in a glove on this meandering and meditative marvel

Quite what made the Studio One rhythm section so extra special has been a matter of much heated discussion and earnest debate over the years amongst musical scholars and although many musicians branched out on their own very few ever bettered their works that they had made while at Brentford Road. Of course having the most talented band of musicians available at your own studio with no-one watching the clock gave considerable scope for experimentation and enabled the pushing of boundaries still further. Working in the studio and bouncing ideas off each other and putting their ideas down on tape meant that previously unimagined levels of creativity were reached - presaging the Beatles occupation of Abbey Road only this time with a constantly changing line-up of players:

"If I had my own studio I could spend more time for perfection.... we had ten to twelve musicians employed weekly say Monday to Friday working from ten to five".

The list of Jamaica's most talented singers who have passed through the hallowed portals of 13 Brentford Road is truly awe inspiring yet nothing has seized and held the reggae audience's imagination more than Mr Dodd's instrumentals. Many of these became almost common property in the seventies as, most notably, Chanel One, Joe Gibbs and Augustus Pablo along with scores of others adopted and adapted these musical and rhythmical templates and this practice has continued up until the present day. The influence and repercussions of Studio One music are immeasurable and Mr Dodd has helped to shape and fashion the phenomenon of reggae music more than any one else ever. He still remains a diffident figure amongst far brasher and lesser personalities although he did admit a few years ago:

"Thank God for the effort I made when I was younger to dedicate myself to putting out the music. The music I've produced is timeless and the demand for it is simply limitless."

There is an everlasting quality to his music that seldom exists in the work of other producers because unfettered creativity was given precedence and commercial considerations were shown the back seat and there is a feeling that permeates the greatest Studio One recordings that this music really could go on forever.

Noel Hawks
(Dub Vendor) August 2002

 
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