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 Studio One Supreme (SJRCD396 - 2017)

Johnny Osbourne & The Prophets – Keep That Light
Dillinger – Natty Ten To One
Lone Ranger – Natty Dread On The Go
Prince Jazzbo – Minstral
Johnny Osbourne – Jah Promise
Freddie McGregor – Wine Of Violence
Papa Michigan and General Smiley – Compliment To Studio One
Willie Williams – Easy
Lone Ranger – Quarter Pound Of Ishen
Alton Ellis – A Fool
Jackie Mittoo & Brentford All Stars – In Cold Blood
Jim Nastic – Chanting
Brentford Rockers – Bushmaster
The Gladiators & Brentford Disco Set – Happy Man
Dub Specialist – Still Dubbing
Sugar Minott – Jah A Love You
Horace Andy – Show and Tell
Freddie McGregor – Rastaman Camp
 
By the 1970s Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd had already proved himself to be the defining force in reggae for almost two decades. From the mid 1950s onwards he had operated the Downbeat sound system on the lawns and in the halls of Kingston, Jamaica - Forrester's Hall, Chocomo Lawn, Liberty Hall - competing with the local sound system operators of the day - Tom the Great Sebastian, V Rocket, Duke Reid's The Trojan and King Edward's Giant.

At the start of the 1960s he opened the Studio One studio complex at 13 Brentford Road, ushering in ska and rocksteady and establishing the careers of most of Jamaica's important reggae artists - a who's who of Jamaican music that included The Skatalites, The Wailers, Toots & The Maytals, Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis, Horace Andy and countless more. In short, during this era Clement Dodd came to dominate the Jamaican music world.

And yet incredibly the producer was barely half way through his musical path, maintaining Studio One's number one position in the Jamaican music scene throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s with a combination of creative and entrepreneurial innovation, combining new musical fashions and a seemingly endless capacity to adapt to constantly shifting and changing environmental conditions.

As the 1970s progressed reggae, DJ, roots and dub supplanted Jamaican rhythm & blues, ska and rocksteady, with these genres finally making way at the end of the decade for the arrival of the motherlode of new styles - dancehall. But musical fashions were far from being the biggest challenges to Clement Dodd in maintaining his business in the number one position. Competition from rival producers, political and economic turmoil on the island, and technological developments all played their part in the shaping of Studio One's musical output and destiny in the 1970s.

But by the early 1970s the weight of success that many of Studio One's prodigious stable of artists encountered meant that some were susceptible to the offers of other producers, those with greater financial weight behind them, and some began to lure away artists ever-hungry for career advancement. In the first half of the 1970s Studio One had lost Bob Marley and The Wailers (who left in 1966), The Heptones and Burning Spear all to Chris Blackwell's Island Records, all with the lure of international success on a wider scale.

You might think that the loss of three of your most important groups might prove detrimental to the identity of Studio One but this was not to be the case. Why? Because change and adaptation were characteristics of Studio One's raison d'etre ever since its creation in 1963. Dodd had already experienced early on the dramatic collapse of The Skatalites, perhaps the most important of all Jamaican groups, when they broke up after barely a year and a half in existence following the incarceration (and later death) of founding member, trombonist Don Drummond in 1965. employed as the first in-house band at Studio One, a list of artists who recorded with The Skatalites is impressive - The Wailers, Toots & The Maytals, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe and hundreds more.

But without a moment's pause Clement Dodd employed the newly formed Soul Brothers, and later Soul Vendors, as new in-house groups at the studio, Tommy McCook took many of his former band mates over to Duke Reid's Treasure Isla studios to form the Supersonics. A similarly dramatic shift in personnel occurred when Jackie Mittoo, the extraordinary musical arranger and central figure in the studio throughout the 1960s (and also ex-member of The Skatalites), migrated to Canada around 1969. When the new in-house band The Soul Dimension split up, they in turn were swiftly replaced with The New Establishment and Soul Defenders. Thus Dodd was able to view the moving on of The Wailers, Burning Spear and The Heptones as simply transitory phases, which in turn led to new opportunities.

By the end of the 1970s dancehall had become the all encompassing sound on the island. A genre that was at its heart a tribute to the classic music of Studio One created in the 1960s by other Jamaican producers and artists. New young dancehall artists across the island created lyrics and melodies while local in-house studio musicians (and later digital technology) supplied the musical backing by recreating (or 'copying' as this process is more straightforwardly described) classic foundation Studio One rhythms. As close to emulation as you can get, the seasoned producer was unphased and, as on many other occasions, Clement Dodd rose to this new musical challenge by producing a whole new era of classics at Studio One.

At the end of the 1970s a string of instantaneously classic singles began coming out of Studio One followed by the apparently effortless release of similarly genre-defining albums including Michigan & Smiley's Rub A Dub Style, Freddie McGregor's Bobby Bobylon and Johnny Osbourne's Truth And Rights, all of which literally flawed the competing producers who had mistakenly assumed that Studio One had had its day.

This new era lasted well into the 1980s but Studio One's flow was once again interrupted at the end of the 1970s. While Sir Coxsone was still capable of combatting rival producers in the arena, the political violence on the island made it hard to sustain the business. Following a dramatic increase in violence in the run-up to the 1980 elections - where the rightwing Edward Seaga would win against the socialist Michael Manley - Dodd relocated to Brooklyn, New York. Here he was now able to spend more time focusing on international markets, but it was also from this point on that new young local producers on the island took up the mantle in the cultural vacuum created by this move. Nonetheless Clement Dodd continued to produce, sometimes voicing artists in New York, sometimes Kingston, well into the 1980s. And with the release of albums in the early 1980s like Willie Williams' Armagideon Time (after the hit single at the end of the 1970s), Lone Ranger's Badda Dan Dem, and artists of the calibre of Johnny Osbourne, Alton Ellis and Horace Andy still recording for the label, it would be a foolish man who argued against the continued importance of Studio One.

In certain ways the roots of dancehall begin with the DJs of the early 1970s, who were the first vocal artists to sing or toast over earlier-made rhythm tracks. At Studio One these rhythms were often created by The Sound Dimension in an intense period at the end of the 1960s, and then at the start of the 1970s with The Soul Defenders and New Establishment. Early DJ pioneers Dillinger and Prince Jazzbo appear here toasting new songs over classic Studio One song rhythms - The Mad Lad's Ten To One and The Eternal's Queen Of The Minstrel respectively. That both of these original songs were themselves remakes of soul tunes by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions ('Ten To One' and 'Minstrel & Queen') hints at the multi-layered musicality and chronological time-shifting quality of much of Jamaican music. The rhythm of 'Queen Of The Minstrel' is also the basis for Horace Andy's 'Wanna Be Free', Sugar Minott's 'Come On Home' and a dub version, Dub Specialist's 'Queen Of The Dub', all created at Studio One, as well as countless copy-cat songs by rival Jamaican producers and artists.

But it is the new wave of artists who arrived at Studio One at the onset of dancehall in the mid-1970s which enabled Studio One to maintain it's number one status as the whole of Kingston's rival music producers - at first Channel One and Joe Gibbs and then everyone else - attempted to challenge Clemet Dodd's position. Sugar Minott, Michigan & Smiley, Willie Williams, Lone Ranger had all grown up listening to the classic Studio One music of the 1960s, then as teenagers playing and performing over these records on their own local sound systems. After signing up with Clement Dodd, these young artists created the ultimate fan music performing new songs over their favourite Studio One rhythms; the music they created was their compliment to Studio One.

Lincoln Barrington Minott, aka Sugar Minott, started as a selector for the Sound of Silence Keystone sound system before stepping up to run his own Gathering of Youth system. He arrived at Studio One as part of the African Brothers (with Tony Tuff) to record one single No Cup No Broke in 1974 but the group broke up shortly after. After auditioning a second time for Mr. Dodd, this time to a backing track rather than a live band, Minott launched his solo career. On record he employed this same technique of singing live over original rhythms already on tape - a common phenomenon in the dancehall but new to recording - and in the process instigated the first roots of dancehall. Minott was also at the starting block of another genre, lovers rock. He recorded three solo albums for Clement Dodd before making his way to England and scoring a hit with a cover of Michael Jackson's Good Thing Going. Returning back to Jamaica he set up the Youth Promotions sound system and Black roots label, and began nurturing a stable of young artists - Ranking Joe, Captain Sinbad, Ranking Dread, Barry Brown, Tenor Saw, Little John, Tony Tuff - much in the same manner in which Clement Dodd had himself done earlier at Studio One.

Anthony Waldron, aka Lone Ranger, was born in Kingston but moved to England shortly after. He returned to Jamaica in 1971, to live in an area of Kingston known as Bowerbank. Here his neighbour Chester Synmoie introduced him to Tony Walcott, an avid Studio One fan and selector, who hooked Waldron up as a singer for the local Merry Soul Disco, and also invited him to join his Sunday morning practice sessions alongside other aspiring DJs - Carlton Livingstone, Welton Irie and Ringo.

Lone Ranger then switched from singing to deejaying and joined Carlton Livingstone on the Soul Express sound system, later moving to the Soul to Soul sound in Montego Bay, before finally returning to Kingston to join the Virgo Hi-Fi sound system once again alongside Livingstone. He and Welton Irie first came to the attention of Clement Dodd through Synmoie and Walcott. Lone Ranger first recorded for Studio One in 1977 with The Answer, based on the rhythm to Slim Smith's classic Never Let Go, followed by two singles with himself and Irie as a duo - Chase Dem Crazy and, Screw Gone A North Coast.

Waldron was able to record for many producers while working with Studio One and in 1979 had a number one hit with Barnabus Collins produced by Synmoie and his brother Leon on the Thrillseekers label, as well as hits for Winston Riley and at Channel One. He then had a massive hit for Studio One in 1980 with Love Bump and was also named DJ of the year. The following year he went on tour to the USA and stayed in New York, where he remained essentially under the radar for the next 17 years but continued to record sporadically for Channel One, Techniques and Studio One.

When Jackie Mittoo migrated to Toronto, Canada at the end of the 1960s he was following a well-trodden path for Jamaican who, due to changes in Canadian immigration rules in the late 1950s, were able to enter the country without restrictions. His pivotal role in the music created at Studio One up until his departure might have caused concern to Clement Dodd. Mittoo was a founding member of the Skatalites, the Soul Brothers and the key figure in the studio in the 1960s as arranger, keyboardist and a solo recording artist.

But in point of fact his migration was fortuitous for both Jackie Mittoo and the forever pragmatic producer, Mittoo was able to join an already established music scene in Canada, to record on Canadian labels such as Summus and CTL, while continuing to fly back to Jamaica where he worked on numerous sessions at Studio One as well as for other producers (such as Bunny Lee) throughout the 1970s. For Clement Dodd, the continued musical relationship following Mittoo's departure meant that he now had access to a growing Jamaican musical outpost, and through this connection he linked in to a number of artists who would later prove to be important to Studio One at the end of the 1970s.

Johnny Osbourne was born in Kingston in 1948 and attended the Alpha Boys School alongside members of the Skatalites, Joe Harriott, Dizzy Reece, Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace and many other Jamaican musical luminaries. In 1969 he recorded an album for Winston Riley's Techniques label, Come Back Darling, and promptly left for Toronto, Canada the next day to join family who had migrated there a few years earlier. The album was in fact recorded at Studio One, hired out as a session by Riley. The record cover features Osbourne boarding the Air Jamaica plane for Canada (our own Jackie Mittoo - The Keyboard King At Studio One similarly features Jackie Mittoo at Kingston airport about to depart for Canada). In the 1970s Osbourne became a member of the Canadian reggae group Ishan People but in 1979 decided to return to Kingston, Jamaica. His first point of call was 13 Brentford Road where he had long-wished to record as an artist, having never managed to be seen by Clement Dodd at the Sunday audition sessions regularly held at the studio.

Whether or not Osbourne had been storing up his creativity, a few years after his return he literally held the Jamaican music scene in his hands. After visiting Mr. Dodd and reminding him that he had recorded an album for Riley at Studio One in the 1960s, he was invited to sing over some old tapes, which were updated with overdubs from the in-house players, the Brentford Road All Stars. This resulted in the ground breaking Truths And Rights album, as well as numerous singles recorded for the label during this period. Osbourne, like Lone Ranger, was able to work concurrently with other producers including King Jammy, Bobby Digital and Junjo Lawes while continuing to record for Studio One, and in the process became one of the most in-demand singers on the island throughout the 1980s.

Another Jamaican artist to migrate to Canada was Willie Williams who began his musical career running the Tripletone sound system in Duhaney Park, Kingston in 1967. A year later he recorded his debut at Studio One, the track Calling, which (only) appeared on the 1968 Studio One compilation album Reggae Time. He and Bobby Kalphat then started their own label, Soul Sounds, in 1969, releasing music by Delroy Wilson, The Versatlies and Rhythm Force (actually a pseudonym for The Wailers). He moved to Toronto in 1974 and, like Jackie Mittoo, split his time between Canada and Kingston. By this time the small ex-pat Jamaican community in Toronto had grown to include trumpeter Jo Jo Bennett, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Osbourne, Lord Tanamo, Leroy Sibbles (The Heptones), Leroy Brown (ex-Hippy Boys), guitarist Lynn Taitt, Bryan Atkinson (ex-Soul Vendors) and others. In Canada Williams worked together frequently with Jackie Mittoo, who contributed to Williams' debut album Messenger Man released in 1978. The following year working with Mittoo and Clement Dodd, he released Armagideon Time, a prescient update on the classic Real Rock rhythm first created by The Sound Dimension at Brentford Road. (Armagideon time was then in-turn covered by the punk band The Clash). This was followed up at the start of the 1980s with an album of the same name also released on Studio One.

Freddie McGregor's 1980 album Bobby Bobylon placed him at the centre of Studio One's revival during this era. In fact, McGregor had already had a long established career in music ever since he was an incredible seven years old - when he was known as 'Little Fredddie McGregor'. Born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1956, McGregor came to Studio One as part of The Clarendonians alongside Ernest Wilson and Peter Austin. McGregor continued to work at Studio One throughout the 1970s as a session singer and drummer. In the mid 70s he converted to Rastafarianism, and began releasing classic new tracks such as Rastaman Camp (featured here) and, in similar fashion to Sugar Minott, proto-dancehall cuts such as Come Now Sister based on earlier rhythm tracks with new overdubs from the in-house players known as The Brentford Road All Stars/Disco Set/Rockers. It was the all-defining single and album Bobby Bobylon that fully established him, in the process revitalising the fortunes of both Clement Dodd and Studio One during this time.

These young artists, as well a number of original and return artists (including Alton ellis, Horace Andy and many others), were all given the opportunity to pay their greatest respect to Studio One by creating the defining new music of this new era, with songs that combined all the musical and technological developments of the 1970s - dub, deejaying, discomixes, syndrums, synthesisers and more - while using rhythm tracks from the previous decade, in order to create the sound of the future. Dancehall. In this process they helped maintain Clement Dodd and Studio One's number one position as the defining force in reggae.
 
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