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"
Cedric 'Im' Brooks "Mun-Dun-Gu"
Tommy McCook, Richard Ace &
The Skatalites & Disco Height "Shockers Rock"
The Soul Vendors "Ringo Rock"
Jackie Mittoo & Ernest
Ranglin "Jericho Skank"
The New Establishment "The
Karl Bryan & The Afrokats
Lester Sterling "Afrikaan
Sound Dimension "Heavy Rock"
Sugar Belly "In Cold Blood"
Don Drummond & The Skatalites
Soul Brothers "Bugaloo"
Vin Gordon "Red Blood"
Pablove Black "Push Pull"
Jackie Mittoo & Brentford
Rockers "Sidewalk Doctor"
Liberation Group "Namibia"
Brentford Road All Stars
The Soul Vendors "Still
Karl Bryan & Count Ossie
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.
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