Trying to imitate or copy a sound without sounding dull is tough. Many have tried but few have succeeded. Roberto Sánchez from Santander in north Spain has however managed to produce records that are both foundation rocksteady and roots reggae. Reggaemani got a chat with him from his studio on the day Alpheus new album From Creation hit the streets.
Roberto Sánchez is a talented man. He is a producer, engineer, singer, song writer and musician. He also owns and operates A-Lone Ark Muzik Studio and A-Lone Productions (his label) as well as heads the Lone Ark Riddim Force, a live and studio band.
The label was created in 1997 and has since its inception released tunes from both veterans and newcomers.
Last January saw the acclaimed release of And God Said to Man from foundation singer Earl Zero. That album was in a style that Roberto Sánchez is most comfortable with – late 70’s roots.
The new album from Alpheus is a completely different story. From Creation is all about rocksteady and ska – Jamaican music from the 60’s – and is based on riddims from producers Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and one of the many unsung heroes of reggae – Phil Pratt.
“It’s like a old picture”
“I’ve always loved Studio One productions and the productions just before Jackie Mittoo left for Canada. You know the tunes from Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe. They’re amazing”, says Roberto Sánchez, and continues giving a comparison between two legendary labels:
“Treasure Isle has always had a more sophisticated sound. I love the rawness of Studio One. It’s warm and not a lot of clarity. It’s like an old picture”.
Rocksteady for the first time
But the album is not entirely based on other producers’ riddims. Roberto has managed to pen a few by himself as well.
“I wasn’t really into rocksteady before I did this album and I had never worked with this kind of riddims. My aim sound is late 70’s and Channel One”, he says, and continues:
“In the 60’s in Jamaica they were doing it U.S style. It was quality back then. Just listen to Lynn Taitt’s guitar play. In the 70’s it was rawer. In rocksteady they tried to be musicians in the full sense of the word”.
Started recording in 2006
From Creation has taken some time to record. Roberto and Alpheus met in 2006 and the first tune they recorded was Ultimate, a cut of Phil Pratt’s Dirty Dozen, originally performed by trombonist Vincent “Don D Junior” Gordon.
“Already back then, we thought of doing an album together. The album was recorded between 2006 and 2010. It was finished last summer and it took some time to decide how to release it. We decided to do it ourselves”, he says, and continues to explain how he and Alpheus work together:
“We complement each other. Alpheus knows ska and rocksteady very well and I know minor chords riddims. And the results are amazing”.
Even though From Creation only has been out for about a week, critics have already praised it.
“We have had great response so far from media and radio. Many people seem to like the album”, he says and continues:
“I think people like it because it has original feelings. It’s from a golden era in Jamaican music. It’s also made with care and love. It has an amazing style and I think it’s Alpheus best work yet. It’s just pure loving’”.
More to come
Some of the finest music in the rocksteady era was made by vocal harmony groups like the Gaylads, the Melodians, the Techniques and the Uniques. Roberto is thrilled by the idea of making this kind of music again.
“It would be amazing to record a vocal group. The Viceroys are touring now and they would be my first choice. Tetrack would also fit on a rocksteady riddim”, he says.
But that is not in the pipeline. Not yet anyhow. Instead Roberto has plans to put out singles from Linval Thompson and Keith Rowe (Keith in Keith & Tex, responsible for hit song Stop That Train). Keith Rowe has voiced two riddims on the From Creation album.
“I’ve also started recording a showcase album from Milton Henry. It’ll be released next year. There’ll be no more albums from me this year”, he explains and continues:
“I also hope to do some more dub versions from the From Creation album. We also recorded a lot more than what’s on the album. Those songs will hopefully be put out as 7, 10 or 12 inches”.
A FEW FAST ONES TO ROBERTO SÁNCHEZ
Johnny Osbourne – Truths and Rights
At the moment Little Roy’s False Talk
Studio One and Cornell Campbell´s Stars