Tag Archives: Soul Jazz Records

Classics and obscurities on Studio One Rocksteady 2

unnamedWith a sturdy 19 tracks there’s not a dull moment on Soul Jazz’ second installment of Studio One Rocksteady, although some of the tracks have previously been featured on countless of other albums. I’m talking about well-known songs like Alton Ellis’ I’m Still In Love With You, Slim Smit’s Born To Love and The Heptones’ I Shall Be Released.

The title is however slightly misleading since the album draws both Studio One’s deep rocksteady and early reggae vaults. And it offers a sweet mix of staples and obscure singles. Best of the bunch is The Termites’ pulsating Rub Up Push Up, Carlton & The Shoes’ melancholic Never Let Go, Cannon & The Soul Vendors’ bouncy instrumental Bad Treatment and The Actions’ up-tempo Giddy Up.

Studio One Rocksteady 2 includes a number of cuts that helped to shape reggae to an international phenomenon.

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A musical dub feast on Dub Fire Special

unnamedOn Soul Jazz Records’ third installment of Studio One dubs the crew have culled cuts from a number of different sources, mainly from Studio One dub albums released in the 70s, but also from 45s released during the same period.

As usual with the warm and organic recordings coming from Studio One the riddims are immaculate and the musicianship superb with several well-known riddims, including Every Tongue Shall Tell and Darker Shade of Black.

However, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s mixing style is rather simple and non-imaginative and most cuts are rather instrumentals than dub versions. But the sheer quality of the music makes this a very worthwhile compilation, and more melancholic tracks are the strongest.

Dub Creation – a version of Dennis Brown’s monumental Created by the Father – puts forward the haunting organ and a lingering guitar, while Libra Dub makes excellent use of the clavinet. Dakar is a spellbinding version of the melancholic Gates of Zion riddim, where Clement Dodd lifts the simple and hypnotic bass line ot higher heights.

Clement Dodd wasn’t as adventorous as King Tubby or Scientist behind the mixing desk, but he always had an ace up his sleeve – the riddims created at Studio One in the 60s.

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A successful blend of reggae, jazz and psycedelica on Man From Higher Heights

unnamedCount Ossie is a legendary Jamaican percussionist and a pivotal figure in the development of Rastafarian roots music, and in January this year Soul Jazz Records reissued Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s second album – the ground-breaking and progressive Tales of Mozambique, originally released in 1975.

That particular release is now followed by another Count Ossie set – Man From Higher Heights, an album originally put out in 1983, seven years after Count Ossie died in a car crash. And it remains unclear whether this set includes original recordings with overdubs or if Count Ossie’s post-Mystic Revelation of Rastafari players recorded it without the Count himself.

Compared to his other two albums this one is more traditional reggae, especially the first five cuts, but with a large amount of percussion and free-minded horn arrangements. The last two tracks are intensely psychedelic with tripped-out fuzz guitar and a flute on acid.

It’s a fascinating set that comes with a few surprises. The heavy fuzz guitar is one such, and the version of Pat Boone’s Speedy Gonzales is another.

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The roots of roots music on Tales of Mozambique

210395Just as many other music genres reggae has several sides; it can be insanely catchy and commercial on one hand, but also hard to grasp and uncommercial. Nyabinghi is often the latter and UK’s Soul Jazz Records has now reissued a landmark album in that genre.

Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari’s Tales of Mozambique – originally put out in 1975 – is a fascinating and spiritual journey and the follow-up to the outfit’s ground-breaking debut set Grounation.

The group was formed in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1970 and was a union of two existing ensembles – Count Ossie’s crew of drummers and horns man Cedric “Im” Brooks’ Mystics band. Both bandleaders are central characters in the development of Rastafarian roots music, especially Count Ossie who has become a mythical and iconic figure since his untimely death in 1976.

Tales of Mozambique is deeply rooted in rituals of traditional African drumming. It’s avant-garde, powerful and continues where Grounation left off. It has the same radical combination of nyabinghi rhythms, free jazz and chanting. It celebrates Afro-centric identity and traditions and tells the history of Mozambique and how it became colonized and its people enslaved.

The arrangements are loose with repetitive drumming and bass lines along with jazzy horns, reasoning and chanted group vocals.

The musicians behind this album had lots of integrity and courage because it’s experimental and revolutionary with a unique sound. Tales of Mozambique is a slice of hypnotic music history.

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Soul Jazz showcases Studio One in the 70s

Layout 1Last year UK reissue label Soul Jazz released the three disc album Coxsone’s Music, a 46 track compilation covering a lesser known side of pioneering Jamaican producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. It focused on his early days in the late 50s and early 60s.

Now the same label has turned to a significantly better known part of this music giant’s career – the 70s, a time when Coxsone Dodd started to reinvent his recordings and reversion classics from the 60s.

Coxsone Dodd and his main rival Duke Reid ruled the Jamaican music scene in the days of ska and rocksteady, but when new technology arrived and reggae took the island by storm in the late 60s both producers were challenged by eager and youthful producers like Joe Gibbs, Lee Perry and Bunny Lee. It was a challenging time for Coxsone Dodd and after the success with artists like Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Skatalites, Burning Spear and The Heptones his career was starting to decline.

But challenges and increased competition drive creativeness. And this was the case with Coxsone Dodd. He refused to be beat down and embraced changes. When the new players started to relick, or maybe copy is more accurate, many of the timeless riddims recorded at Studio One in the 60s, Coxsone Dodd answered and reinvented his own riddims in a contemporary style and fashion.

Studio One Showcase brings together a mighty fine selection of tracks from this period – the 70s and early 80s. A great number of Jamaica’s premier singers, harmony groups, instrumentalists and deejays show their skills. We’re talking Horace Andy, Freddie McGregor, Johnny Osbourne, Lone Ranger, Sugar Minott, Jennifer Lara, Cedric Brooks, The Gladiators, The Heptones and Wailing Souls along with a few more.

Several of these recorded at Studio One already in the 60s, but came back when Coxsone Dodd called. Others were rising stars keen to work with the man and the myth himself. Together they reinvigorated the label. They stripped the riddims and reshaped them and explored new musical horizons. This manifested a new era in reggae and marked the dawn of dancehall.

The story is well-put in the thorough liner-notes provided by Soul Jazz head honcho Stuart Baker, who also provides a track-by-track run-down. Excellent stuff.

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Coxsone’s Music presents a lesser known side of Coxsone Dodd

SOJR323ALPThe late Jamaican producer extraordinaire Clement “Coxsone” Dodd is today probably best remembered for his recordings with the likes of The Skatalites, The Heptones and Bob Marley & The Wailers along with countless of others that started their recording career at his famous Studio One studio in the mid to late 60s.

But Coxsone Dodd started his career already in the 50s and recorded music well before ska and reggae. And his pre-reggae productions are now showcased on Soul Jazz’ monumental collection Coxsone’s Music: The First Recordings of Sir Coxsone the Downbeat 1960-62, a fascinating set featuring over two and half hours of early Jamaican proto-ska, rhythm and blues, jazz, Rastafari and gospel music.

The tunes collected, which clearly reflect the influences from shuffling U.S. rhythm and blues and jump jazz, were recorded in the years before Coxsone Dodd launched the mighty Studio One Records and are now brought together for the first time ever. And some of Jamaica’s most successful musicians and artists – including Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Ernest Ranglin and Derrick Harriott – are captured in their formative early years.

Coxsone Dodd was, along with Ken Khouri and Stanley Motta, one of the pioneers of the Jamaican recording industry and his story has been well-documented over the years, particularly by labels such as Soul Jazz and Heartbeat. But his earliest recordings haven’t received as much attention. Fortunately that has now been adjusted thanks to this thorough compilation, an album that also comes with excellent track-by-track liner notes by Studio One historian Rob Chapman.

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100% Dynamite is the bomb

unnamedI guess you’re getting old when labels start reissuing albums that you bought at their original release. For me Soul Jazz Records’ magnificent compilation 100% Dynamite is one such. It was released in 1998 and is now remastered, expanded and reissued.

This compilation is Soul Jazz Records’ best ever selling reggae release and it’s blazing hot with its tasty and eclectic mix of Jamaican music. It features ska, soul, funk, rocksteady and reggae.

The first edition of 100% Dynamite was soon followed by several new compilations in the same strong vein. Soul Jazz even headed over the Atlantic and launched two editions of 100% Dynamite NYC with reggae, hip-hop and dancehall.

Among the serious killer cuts are The Upsetters seriously funky Popcorn, Johnny Osbourne’s passionate We Need Love, Phyllis Dillon’s edgy version of Marlena Shaw’s Woman of the Ghetto, Cedric “Im” Brooks’ dread sax lead instrumental Give Rasta Glory, Lloyd Robinson’s massive Cuss Cuss and Sound Dimension’s haunting Drum Song with its seminal organ solo and melancholic horns.

These 19 tracks showcases a unique sound and 100% Dynamite is a cornerstone compilation with all killers, no fillers.

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New compilation charts the links between Rastafari and reggae

Layout 1Rastafari – a religion or maybe more a way of living – emerged in Jamaica in the 30s, a time of political and social change. But the pivotal catalyst for the Rastafari movement was the crowning of a black king in 1930 – Haile Selassie I or Ras Tafari. Followers of the movement see him as Jah, an incarnation of God.

A new compilation from Soul Jazz Records charts the many links between reggae and Rastafari. The album, which carry a hefty 20 tracks, spans nearly 30 years of revolutionary and exceptional music influenced by mento, jazz, nyabinghi drumming, anti-colonialism, equal rights and worldwide love.

Rastafari – The Dreads Enter Babylon 1955-83 is an in-depth look at reggae and Rastafari and includes righteous and conscious cuts from the likes of Counts Ossie, Johnny Clarke, Ras Michael, Rod Taylor and Mutabaruka.

According to the a press release from Soul Jazz, one of the earliest mentions of Ethiopia in Jamaican music can be found on mento singer Lord Lebby & The Jamaican Calypsonians’ 1955 recording Etheopia (included on the set), a cut where they sing about Ethiopianism, the political movement that calls for a return to Africa for black people.

But it was in the 1960s that Rastafarian music started to grow, particularly thanks to Count Ossie and his drummers. The visit of Haile Selassie to Kingston in 1966 was of course also instrumental and in the following decade Rastafarian reggae went global with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear and a host of more underground artists and musicians. Rastafarianism was now synonymous with reggae. It was spiritual with a political and cultural context.

But most of the cuts on this set are not for the faint-hearted. Crowd-pleasers are few and far between. Several of the songs are percussion-driven instrumentals or instrumentals heavily influenced by avant-garde jazz. A bunch of the tracks also includes chanting rather than singing.

This compilation is however a solid overview of a groundbreaking genre that became a rebel sound.

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Pure quality on new Studio One compilation

Layout 1The latest Studio One compilation on one of the world’s premier reissue labels – Soul Jazz Records – is all about pure quality and as usual with these compilations an an all-star selection of artists is featured – Ken Boothe, Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Dennis Brown and more. Sure, a number of these lovely tunes have been reissued plenty of times before, for example The Eternals’ Stars, The Heptones’ Party Time and The Gaylads’ Joy in the Morning.

The title – Studio One Rocksteady – doesn’t tell the whole truth though. It surely includes lots of rocksteady, but also early reggae, like Alton Ellis’ Hurting Me, Jackie Mittoo’s Our Thing and Duke Morgan’s Lick it Back.

The sounds are gorgeous, bouncy and optimistic, but also moody and melancholic as in Cecile Campbell’s Whisper to Me and Ken Boothe’s When I Fall in Love.

Studio One may not have been a rival to Duke Reid’s Tresure Isle when it comes to putting out beautiful rocksteady, but Coxsone Dodd had two aces up his sleeve – master organist Jackie Mittoo and bass virtuoso Leroy Sibbles. Together this trio created countless of classics, and several of these are collected on this essential album, an album with excellent sleevenotes by Lloyd Bradley, author of the classic book Bass Culture – When Reggae Was King.

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One of the best lovers rock compilations yet

Song titles such as It Must Be Love, Thinking of You and I Love You give a hint of what lies behind the album title Harmony, Melody & Style – Lovers Rock & Rare Groove in the UK, one of Soul Jazz Records’ recent compilations.

You probably guessed the genre – lovers rock. A British style of smooth reggae kick-started in the mid 70’s with Louisa Marks’ Caught You in a Lie.

Fusing the tough bass lines and relentless drum patterns of Jamaican reggae with U.S. stylish soul, elegant R&B and pulsating disco and funk rhythms, lovers rock almost became the antithesis to the dread riddims and conscious lyrics that reigned the Kingston and London sound systems at the time.

Lovers rock was an escape from the tough urban jungle of London and other big UK cities marked by racism and tough financial conditions. It was way a expressing heartaches and relationships as well as a tool for female vocalists to make themselves heard, and lovers rock is truly dominated by women, also manifested by the track list of this compilation – only five out of 25 tracks are sung by men.

Harmony, Melody & Style moves from some of the earliest cuts in the genre to its commercial explosion in the late 70’s and early 80’s to being an underground phenomenon in the 90’s.

The album includes classic tunes and ones rare as a hen’s teeth. Several of them are also extended, providing plenty of space for the mixing engineer and the players of instruments to shine. Just listen to the last one and a half minute of La Famille’s cover of Mary Jane Girls’ funky All Night Long. The interplay between the saxophone and trumpet is sublime.

The extensive liner notes – about 40 pages – is written by Soul Jazz Records’ founder and boss man Stuart Baker. It contains photography dating from the 50’s to the 80’s along with interviews and features on the artists, musicians and producers who helped define lovers rock and put it on the global music map.

Harmony, Melody & Style may not be the definitive lovers rock compilation since smash hits such as Janet Kay’s Silly Games and Brown Sugar’s I’m in Love With a Dreadlocks are missing. But those tunes can be found on almost any lovers rock compilation, and it’s a clever choice focusing on a less obvious collection of tracks, tracks just as great, but less known to other than hardcore collectors.

The album is available as a double CD pack with slipcase, digital download and as limited edition two gatefold sleeve double vinyl sets. The vinyl edition might be a bit expensive, but the investment is definitely worthwhile.

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