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Ska FeverStudio One Ska Fever (SJRCD 271 - 2013)

Hugh Godfrey — Mad World
Johnny Moore — Skavling Johnny
Bongo Man & The Skatalites — Marcus Garvey
The Clarendonians — Rudie Bam Bam
Jackie Opel — Old Rocking Chair
Bob Marley & The Wailers — Climb The Ladder
Jackie Mittoo — Jump For Joy
Lee Perry — Gumma
The Soul Brothers — Freedom Sounds
The Clarendonians — You Won't See Me
The Skatalites — Cleopatra
The Gaylads — Don't Try To Reach Me
The Skatalites — Ska La Parisienne
Higgs & Wilson — There's A Reward
The Skatalites — Timothy
The Ethiopians — Live Good
Don Drummond — Green Island
Bob Marley & The Wailers — Mr. Talkative
 
In the late 1950s, when Coxsone Dodd and other sound system operators began to record discs by local artists, the type of music they played was the style most popular in Jamaica at the time: American rhythm and blues. Although at first the Jamaican musicians simply tried to emulate the beat and tempo of the American originals, they soon began to introduce of their own indigenous musical heritage. So within Jamaican rhythm and blues you can hear echoes of mento, as well as hints of other pan-Caribbean rhythms such as calypso, rhumba and the merengue.

Initially these discs were produced for exclusive play on the sound systems, but when it became apparent that there was a viable market for Jamaican r&b amongst the general public, Dodd began to realise his productions on a variety of different record labels, such as All Stars, Cariboo, Worldisc, Supreme, Coxsone and Port-O-Jam. These discs were recorded and pressed at one or other of the major record manufacturers, but mainly at either West Indies Records LTD, (WIRL), originally owned by Edward Seaga, the future prime minister of Jamaica, or Federal Records, the first company in Jamaica to produce records by local musicians, which was founded and run by Ken Khouri.

By the early 1060s the fast tempo boogie-shuffle of Jamaican rhythm and blues was beginning to evolve into a more distinctly Jamaican phenomenon ska. Some of the earliest proto-ska recordings were produced by Dodd at Federal studios using session bands such as Hersang & His City Slickers, Aubrey Adams & The Dewdroppers, and Clue J & His Blues Masters. The membership of these bands was fluid and variable, and commonly included musicians such as Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Lester Sterling, Lloyd Knibbs and Johnny Moore, all future members of the seminal Skatalites. The defining characteristics of ska is the pronounced emphasis on the second beat, known as the 'afterbeat' and particularly accentuated by the guitar or piano part.

Because of the costs of studio time, many of the rhythm and blues and early ska tracks were recorded in one or two takes, with musicians and singers gathered around a single microphone. Musicians were paid for each title they completed, so the more tunes they recorded in a session the more money they were likely to be paid.

In October 1962 Coxsone Dodd opened the Jamaican Recording and Publishing Studio in the premises at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston, which had previously been a jazz club called The End and now became known as Studio One. This independence allowed Dodd's singers and musicians the opportunity to write, rehearse and refine their compositions in their own time, although still within the confines of a one-track studio. Success came quickly with artists such as The Maytals, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, Jackie Opel, Lee Perry, and Bob Marley & The Wailers, who all recorded popular hits throughout the following year in the new studio.

But arguably the greatest success of all came with the formation of The Skatalites in May 1964. Coxsone had the idea of putting together an elite band of musicians to record exclusively for his own record labels, and he approached Tommy McCook, an esteemed tenor saxophonist on the Kingston jazz scene, to put a group together. Initially McCook declined, Roland Alphonso (tenor sax) and Don Drummond (trombone) had already recorded numerous tracks for Dodd under their own names, as well as performing as members of session groups like The City Slickers, The Dewdroppers and The Blues Blasters, but it was Lloyd Knibbs (drums) who finally persuaded Tommy McCook to join the other founder members of the Skatalites: Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore on trumpet, Lloyd Brevett on bass, Jackie Mittoo on piano, Lester Sterling on alto sax, and Jah Jerry (Hinds) on guitar.

Although The Skatalites didn't invent ska, they were undoubtedly its pre-eminent exponents. During their short 14 months together as a group they recorded more than 50 instrumentals for Dodd under their own name, as well as countless sides as the Studio One house band backing Dodd's extensive roster of solo artists and vocal groups. When the Skatalites split up in August 1965 Roland Alphonso and Jackie Mittoo formed the Soul Brothers, which became the new Studio One house band, while Tommy McCook decamped to Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio to lead The Supersonics.

During 1966 the pace of ska began to slow down. According to some commentators this was due to the demands of the dancehall patrons who found the faster tempos too frantic to dance to during the long hot summer. Whatever the reasons, between 1966 and 1967 there was a gradual transition from ska into rocksteady. The main difference between the two, as well as the more relaxed tempo, was that rocksteady shifted the focus of the rhythm onto the bass and drums, with the horns taking a less prominent role than in ska.

The selection on this compilation features tracks from the early phase when ska was developing out of Jamaican rhythm and blues, through the golden year of the Skatalites' domination of the genre, right up until rocksteady began to take over in the late 1960s.

1. Hugh Godfrey - Mad World (1966)
Very little is known about Hugh Godfrey, except that he recorded a number of tracks at Studio One in 1966, of which only six were released. Mad World was originally released on a blank label, coupled with 'You're My Baby' by the same artist, and subsequently re-issued on a Coxsone label, backed with 'When Days Are Done' by The Summertaire Girls (actually the Webber Sisters).

2. Johnny Moore - Skavling Johnny (1964)
Trumpeter Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore was one of the members of The Cavaliers who, together with Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevett and Lloyd Knibbs, was recruited by Coxsone to join The Skatalites in 1964. Along with Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling and Don Drummond, Johnny was also a fellow alumnus of the renowned Alpha Boys School. 'Skavling Johnny' is a Johnny Moore composition where he is supported by the full Skatalites band.

3. Bongo Man - Where Is Garvey (1964)
Delroy 'Bongo Man' Byfield was probably just one of the many local artists who passed through the studio at Brentford Road hoping for their moment of fame. He recorded at least one other title for Coxsone, 'Jack Ruby Bound To Die' (also known as 'Kennedy's Grave', credited to The Skatalites), and very probably played the bongos on other recordings. 'Where Is Garvey' was originally released on the Muzic City label credited to Bongo Man, accompanied by Roland Alphonso & The Studio 1 Orchestra. The flip side was 'Guns Of Navarone' by The Skatalites (but here also credited to Roland Alphonso & The Studio 1 Orchestra). 'Where Is Garvey' was subsequently re-issued in Jamaica as 'Marcus Garvey' by King Rasta, and in the UK on the Island label as 'Marcus Garvey', this time credited to The Skatalites.

4. The Clarendonians - Rudie Bam Bam (1966)
Ernest Wilson and Peter Austin were both still in their teens when they began working as a duo for Coxsone Dodd. They recorded their first single as The Clarendonians in 1963, 'How Long' coupled with 'Hurt By Love', which was released on the Rolondo & Powie label. They were later joined by a very young Freddie McGregor, who was only 10 years old when Rudie Bam Bam was recorded. It was released on the Coxsone label in Jamaica in 1966, with 'Be Bop Boy' on the B-side. The same two tracks were released in the UK on the Rio label later that same year.

5. Jackie Opel - Old Rocking Chair (1965)
Jackie Opel joined the fledgling Skatalites in 1964 as one of their lead singers (and he also played bass when Lloyd Brevett wasn't available). As well as being a powerful singer with a six-octave range, he was also a prolific songwriter and arranger. 'Old Rocking Chair' was originally released in Jamaica on a pre-release blank label together with the second pressing of 'Dick Tracy' by The Skatalites. it was then reissued on a red and silver Studio One label, this time coupled with 'T.N.T.' by The Soul Brothers. In the UK it was issued on the Island label with 'Ska In Vienna Woods' as the B-side. It was repressed again in 1971 on a Coxsone label with 'King Liges' on the flip. Roland Alphonso provides the saxophone solo on 'Old Rocking Chair', and there is some virtuoso guitar work from Ernest Ranglin.

6. The Wailers - Climb The Ladder (1964)
Bob Marley sings the lead vocal with harmonies delivered by Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Junior Braithewaite and Beverley Kelso. The Skatalites provided the backing to most of the early Wailers' singles, this one dating from The Wailers second recording session at Studio One in July 1964. 'Climb The Ladder' was originally released in Jamaica on a red and silver Coxsone label, coupled with 'Straight And Narrow' (repress copies can be found on red, yellow or blue vinyl.) It was later repressed, again on a Coxsone label, with Bob Andy's 'I've Got To Go Back Home' on the B-side. Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore contributes the spirited horn solo.

7. Jackie Mittoo - Jump For Joy (1967)
Jackie Mittoo was only 16 years old when he joined the Skatalites on piano, the baby of the group, but he was already an experienced veteran of the Kingston music scene, having been a member of The Vagabonds, The Rivals, The Sheiks and The Cavaliers before joining The Skatalites. 'Jump For Joy' was recorded when Jackie was a member of The Soul Vendors, the Studio One house band that followed The Soul Brothers. It was released in Jamaica as the B-side to the second pressing of The Heptones' 'Fattie Fattie', first on a pre-release blank and then on a Coxsone label.

8. Lee Perry - Gumma (1964)
Lee Perry first began working for Coxsone Dodd as a 'gofer', or general handyman, running errands including the delivery and collection of records from Federal Records' pressing plant. He later took on the more important roles of auditioning and recording new talent once the studio at Brentford Road was up and running. Perry recorded more than 30 original compositions as a vocalist while at Studio One, either under his own name or as King Perry, King Scratch or Lee King Perry. 'Gumma', credited to King Scratch & The Dynamites, was originally released in Jamaica on a Coxsone label as the B-side to 'Timothy' by The Skatalites. Bothe sides were subsequently released in the UK on the Ska Beat label in 1965. The laid back saxophone solos are by Roland Alphonso.

9. Soul Brothers - Freedom Sounds (c.1966)
'Freedom Sounds' by The Skatalites was the blistering opening track on the original Jamaican edition of the influential Ska Authentic album from 1964 (and can also be found on Soul Jazz Records' first Studio One Ska compilation). This previously unreleased version by The Soul Brothers dates from the transitional period when the faster tempo of ska was gradually slowing down and evolving into the more relaxed pace of Rocksteady.

10. The Clarendonians - You Won't See Me (1966)
A beautiful rendition of The Beatles' classic lament of unrequited love in a late-ska/early-rocksteady style sung (most likely) by the duo of Ernest Wilson and Freddie McGregor. The first Jamaican issue appeared on a Studio 1 label coupled with 'The Jerk', and was later reissued on a Coxsone label backed by 'You Can't Keep Me Down'. The original pairing with 'The Jerk' was later released in the UK on the Ska Beat label.

11. The Skatalites - Cleopatra (1966)
The title refers to the 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor. The first solo is sung by Tommy McCook, and the second solo by Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore. Tommy McCook also plays flute. The original issue was released in Jamaica on the Port-O-Jam label (wrongly credited to Don Drummond & The Skatalites), with 'She Pon spot' by Sugar Belly & The Canefields as the B-side. In the UK it was released on the Doctor Bird label together with 'From Russia With Love', both sides credited to Roland Alphonso and The Soul Brothers. An extended version can be found on a Studio 1 12" discomix as 'Shockers Rock' credited to Tommy McCook, Richard Ace, The Skatalites & Disco High (which can be found on Soul Jazz Records' Studio One Scorcher compilation).

12. The Gaylads - Don't Try To Reach Me (1966)
The Gaylads, consisting of Harris 'Bibby' (or BB) Seaton, Winston Stewart and Maurice Roberts, were one of the most versatile of the Jamaican vocal harmony groups. They made their name recording calypso, mento and ska titles in the early 1960s on labels such as C&N and Port-O-Jam, and continued recording for Dodd until the end of the decade. This obscure release is an intriguing ska/rocksteady version (with different lyrics and without the sound effects) of '2-4-2 Foxtrot (The Lear Jet Song)' by the American psychedelic/folk/rock band The Byrds (!). It was originally released in Jamaica on a Coxsone label, coupled with @Why Did You Leave' by The Heptones. The same tracks were issued in the UK on the Studio 1 label in 1967.

13. The Skatalites - Ska La Parisienne (1964)
The title, most likely Coxsone's suggestion, refers to a nightclub in Harbour View, east Kingston, where The Skatalites frequently performed (including their fateful performance on New Year's Eve 1964 when Don Drummond failed to turn up, with subsequent events leading to his arrest for the murder of his girlfriend Marguerita Mahfood). The band split up in August 1965, following Drummond's incarceration in Bellevue Lunatic Asylum. @Ska La Parisienne' was only issued in Jamaica on a pre-release blank label, coupled with 'One Kiss In The Morning' by Lord Antics (copies can be found on red or blue vinyl). Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore delivers the first solo, and the second is from Tommy McCook.

14. Joe Higgs & Roy Wilson - There's A Reward (1965)
Joe Higgs and Roy Wilson recorded half a dozen titles together for Coxsone Dodd during the early 1960s, two of which were co-produced by Winston Chin Quee featuring The Mighty Vikings band. 'Your Love Is Mine' and 'There's A Reward' were both recorded at Brentford Road and were issued as two sides of a single on the Wincox label. The Mighty Vikings were a 12-piece band that was formed in the early 1960s in Kingston by their manager and leader Winston Chin Quee. They performed as a backing band on over 20 recordings at Studio One during 1964 and 1965. All titles released on the Wincox label were co-productions between Winston Chin Quee and Coxsone Dodd.

15. The Skatalites - Timothy (1964)
'Timothy' was originally released in Jamaica in 1964 on a Coxsone label as the A-side of the single with Lee Perry's 'Gumma' on the reverse, and in the UK in 1965 on the Ska Beat label. It features solos by Lester Sterling on alto saxophone and Don Drummond on trombone, with Tommy McCook on flute. It is not known who sings the vocal percussion (but possibly one of The Hiltonairs, who were in the studio at the time).

16. Ethiopians - Live Good (1966)
Leonard Dillon made his first recordings at Studio One in 1965 under the name Jack Sparrow. That same year he met street-corner duo Steven Taylor and Aston Morris, and together they for The Ethiopians vocal group. They recorded at least 10 titles for Coxsone during the ska and rocksteady era, including 'I'm Gonna Take Over Now' (which can be found on Soul Jazz Records first Studio One Ska album) and 'Owe Me No Pay Me' (on Studio One Groups). 'Live Good' was issued in Jamaica on a red & black Studio 1 label by The Soul Brothers, and subsequently released in the UK on the Ska Beat label.

17. Don Drummond - Green Island (1965)
Don Drummond recorded more than 25 titles for Coxsone under his own name, as well as many others as a member of The City Slickers and The Blues Masters, before joining The Skatalites in 1964. 'Green Island' has a complicated pressing history. It was first released in Jamaica on a yellow & black Studio 1 label, coupled with 'One Last Kiss' by The Wilson Brothers (Delroy & Trevor). The second press was then issued on a pre-release blank with 'Phoenix City' by Roland Alphonso & The Soul Brothers on the flip side. The second cut of 'Green Island' was later repressed together with 'Kennedy's Grave', credited to The Skatalites rather than to Bongo Man Byfield, on a Coxsone label.

18. The Wailers - Mr Talkative (1964)
'Mr Talkative' is a Bob Marley composition, and he also sings lead. Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Junior Brathewaite and Beverley Kelso provide the harmonies. As usual the group is backed by The Skatalites, with Roland Alphonso delivering a typically distinctive saxophone solo. 'Mr Talkative' was recorded at the same session that produced 'Climb The Ladder' in July 1964, and was originally issued in Jamaica on a red & silver Coxsone label, coupled with 'It Hurts To Be Alone'. (Repressed copies can be found on coloured vinyl in a variety of different hues, including red, blue, green, orange and yellow). It was subsequently released in the UK on an Island label in 1965.
 
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