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Studio One Freedom Sounds (SJRCD 415 - 2018)

Don Drummond & The Skatalites - Rain Or Shine
The Gaylads - Morning Sun
Delroy Wilson - Just Because Of You
Alton Ellis - Sunday Coming
Jackie Opel - I Am What I Am
Peter Tosh - I Am The Toughest
Delroy Wilson - Get Ready
Mr. Foundation - Timo-Oh
Roland Alphonso & The Soul Brothers - Provocation
Leroy & Rocky - Love Me Girl
Slim & Delroy - Look Who Is Back Again
The Skatalites - Spread Satin
Barrington Spence - Contemplating Mind
Ernest Ranglin - Psychedelic Rock
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Destiny
Roland Alphonso - Reggae In The Grass
Zoot Simms - We Can Talk It Over
Jackie Mittoo - Hi Jack
"Just a short time ago who would have thought that Jamaican musicians recording in Jamaica could provide you with solid Musical Gold."
Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, 1967

At the beginning of the sixties Clement Seymour 'Coxsone' Dodd began to demonstrate that he was every bit as adept and insightful an entrepreneur as a sound system operator. During the previous decade his Sir Coxsone The Downbeat Sound System had dominated the lawns and dance halls of Jamaica and, by the close of the decade, his Studio One organisation had become synonymous with each and every aspect of Jamaican music. He inaugurated his first Muzik City record shop on East Queen Street towards the end of 1959 before opening Coxon's Dramatic & Music Centre at 67½ Church Street (entrance in Love Lane). As business expanded, he moved to 136D Orange Street, Kingston's 'Beat Street', in 1963 and later opened another shop in Jamaica's original capital city, Spanish Town, at 10 Cumberland Road.

Coxsone was one of the first Jamaican sound system operators to produce his own records too, utilising the talents of musicians including Aubrey Adams, his childhood friend Roland Alphonso, Cluett 'Clue J' Johnson and Tommy McCook. 'Shuffling Jug', credited to Clue J & His Blues Busters, is usually acknowledged to be his very first production. Although recorded in 1956 the tune was played for a number of years on acetate, or reference disc, exclusively on his sound system before being eventually released on vinyl on the Worldisc label. The early Jamaican sound system operators turned record producers rarely 'produced' their records, in the generally accepted sense, but instead employed accomplished local jazz and dance band musicians to make the music that they required to play on their sets to keep their patrons dancing.

"Coxsone came and asked me if I would do some local recordings for him. I never really thought about it as I was really concentrating on the jazz scene."
Tommy McCook

Coxsone used the recording, manufacturing and pressing facilities at Ken Khouri's Federal Records on Foreshore Road until 1963 when he opened his own studio and pressing plant, The Jamaican Recording and Publishing Studio better known as Studio One, on the site of The End, a former nightclub at 13 Brentford Road. He purchased the original one-track Ampex facilities from Federal, after they had upgraded to two-track recording, and Hedley Jones and Coxsone's cousin, Sid Bucknor installed the facilities at Brentford Road, and became its original engineers. It rapidly became a renowned training ground for new talent and almost every artist and musician of note in the history of reggae worked at Studio One often at the outset of their careers.

"It was really good... all the best people were at Studio One: Alton Ellis, Leroy Sibbles and Earl Morgan from The Heptones, Earl 'Bagga' Walker on bass... and I got to play all the instruments. They taught me at Studio One. That's where I learned everything. I always call it Studio First!"
Horace Andy

As Jamaican music began to forge its own unique identity The Skatalites, often credited on early Studio One released as 'R. Alphonso & Studio One Orchestra', provided the musical backbone for Coxsone's scintillating ska recordings. The band disbanded in the summer of 1965 and, as the music shifted towards rock steady Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso stayed at Studio One to form the nucleus of Brentford Road's house band, The Soul Brothers, who were eventually superseded by The Soul Vendors and The Sound Dimension. Together with countless un-named studio aggregations they created music that left no stone unturned, encompassing rhythm & blues, shuffle & boogie, ska, rock steady, reggae, jazz, calypso/mento, soul and gospel. There was no route map available when he started out on his musical journey and Coxsone's influences came from everywhere for, as Bob Dylan wrote, 'open up your eyes an' ears an' your influences an' there's nothing you can do about it'. Coxsone's musical mastery, and business acumen would, in turn, prove to be hugely influential and, by the end of the decade, in addition to the 'ten to twelve' studio musicians and engineers and/or arrangers under contract, he also employed 'about fifty persons': twelve in the pressing plant (on occasion Studio One artists and musicians), three shops employing two people at each of the premises, 'four or five in the office' and three sales representatives. But despite his success as a businessman Coxsone never lost sight of the importance of maintaining close working relationships with his artists and musicians:

"Him was a good disciplinarian... a lot of the man there with him at that time never had no father like myself and, trust me, he was a good father figure even though he wasn't giving nothing away! But Coxsone gave you something that the other producers didn't. He gave you respect. The other producers aren't giving you nothing and treat you with contempt..."
Roy Cousins (The Royals)

In the early seventies, as a new generation of artists and record producers came into their own, the importance of Studio One would become even more apparent and its influence all pervading. The Hookim Brothers at Channel One, Bunny 'Striker' Lee, The Mighty Two (Joe Gibbs & Errol T), Augustus Pablo and many more who had come to maturity imbued with the musical standards set at Brentford Road now began to use it as a template and their primary source of inspiration. And, in doing so, they fashioned the future of reggae music cutting hit record after hit record with updates of Studio One rhythms.

Don Drummond - Rain Or Shine
Ska Authentic From Jamaica Volume 2 - Various Artists - ND Records LP 1965
'Rain Or Shine' first appeared on the second volume of 'Ska Authentic' a compilation issued by Studio One by special request and popular demand as detailed in a fan letter quoted in the sleeve notes:

"My friends and I know you have the necessary material with which to compile volume two of SKA AUTHENTIC, as well as many more equally good albums. How about it Sir SKA Coxsone's Round Beat?"

It stands as a testament to the inspired, prolific creativity of The Skatalites and Don Drummond working together at Brentford Road that this had remained previously unreleased.

The Gaylads - Morning Sun
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" 1966
Winston Delano Stewart, Horace/Harris 'BB' Seaton and Maurice Roberts together as The Gaylads created some of the greatest and most popular examples of Jamaican three-part harmony vocals. By 1966 the rhythms of ska had begun to slow down in anticipation of the rock steady revolution and 'Morning Sun' is a stately, sublime song supported by a prominent brass section. Much of The Gaylads' best work was created under the auspices of Mr Dodd at Brentford Road, where they also provided harmony parts for countless other Studio One based artists, before moving on, naturally enough, to Sonia Pottinger's Gay Feet label. Delano Stewart enjoyed considerable success with Mrs Pottinger as a solo artist and their 'Dance With Me' has been versioned endlessly. The multi-talented BB Seaton would go on to an important, influential and successful career too and reprised 'Morning Sun in the late seventies when he sung, and produced, an updated version entitled 'The Morning Sun' again for Mrs Pottinger's High Note label.

Delroy Wilson - Just Because Of You
Bongo Man (Jamaica) 7" & Banana BA333 (UK) 7" 1971
One of Jamaica's most gifted and emotive singers Delroy Wilson began his career at Studio One in 1963 at the tender age of fifteen and remained at Brentford Road for a number of years creating a copious catalogue of classics before moving on to join Bunny 'Striker' Lee's hit-making stable. Delroy is in his usual effervescent form on his version of 'Just Because Of You' from soul singer Tyrone Davis who had made an indelible influence on Jamaican singers; Tyrone's 'Turn Back The Hands Of Time' and 'Can I Change Your Mind' have been covered time and time again.. 'Just Because Of You' was also released in London on Junior Lincoln's Banana label, based in Finsbury Park, who were doing a sterling, if at times unrewarding, job of promoting Studio One music in the UK during this period.

Alton Ellis - Sunday Coming
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" & Banana BA318 (UK) 7" 1970
One of the best ever from Alton Ellis, Jamaica's most soulful singer, with a song that everyone can relate to: who isn't looking forward to the weekend and a day, or possibly two, off from work? Both Jamaican and UK single releases came backed with a blistering version from saxophonist Karl 'Cannonball' Bryan, an alumni of the legendary Alpha Boys School, reminiscent of Sugar Belly's bamboo saxophone. The record was a huge hit and Alton versioned the song as 'Christmas Coming' later that same year in the run up to the Yuletide festivities and hit all over again. 'Sunday Coming', was released in the London too through Junior Lincoln, and was one of the scarce reggae releases on the New York based Tranquility (sic) label a subsidiary of Steady Records.

Jackie Opel - I Am What I Am
Coxsone (Jamaica) 7" & Rio R117 (UK) 7" 1966
Dating from 1966 this unabashed ska record comes from one of the most popular performers of the period, Jackie Opel, who was born Dalton Sinclair Bishop in Bridgetown, Barbados. Jackie was brought to Jamaica in the early sixties by Byron Lee, a man who could spot talent at home and abroad. Once settled in Kingston his powerful voice, strong enough to soar over the raw ska backing tracks, earned him the name of the 'Jackie Wilson of Jamaica'. He excelled on slow tortured ballads too including what is regarded as his signature tune, 'Cry Me A River', and Mr Dodd released two albums with Jackie: a sure sign of his popularity in a market driven by seven-inch singles.

Peter Tosh - I'm The Toughest
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" & Island WI3042 (UK) 7" 1967
James and Bobby Purify's 'I'm Your Puppet' written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, reached Number Five on the USA R&B Chart and Number Six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966. Many versions of 'I'm Your Puppet' followed but Peter Tosh's ominous 'I'm The Toughest', 'Peter's biggest hit of the sixties' was the only one to adopt and adapt the melody and lyrics into a proud rude boy boast. peter later informed Roger Steffens and Leroy 'Jodie' Pierson that his 'choking or belching out the words 'tough' and 'rough'' were in imitation of the infamous 'High Priest', Emmanuel Zachariah 'Zackie' Palm, leader of the Phoenix gang, whose name is mentioned in a number of rude boy rock steady songs@ have a close listen to Prince Buster's 'Judge Dread' where Zackie is named in full. Peter returned to 'I'm The Toughest' in 1978 while working with Rolling Stones Records when the song appeared on his 'Bush Doctor' album and an accompanying single. Mr Dodd then re-released the original Brentford Road version backed by a dubwise interpretation entitled 'Toughest Version'.

Zoot 'Scully' Simms as Mr Foundation - Time-Oh
Coxsone (Jamaica) 7" & Studio One SO2061 (UK) 7" 1968
As one half of Simms & Robinson, later known as Bunny & Scully, Noel 'Zoot'/'Scully' Simms was one of the founding fathers of Jamaican music. Together with Arthur/Roy 'Bunny' Robinson, a friend from school, the duo recorded some of the earliest Jamaican shuffle & boogie tunes for Ken Khouri's Federal Records and 'Dada' / 'Baba' Tewari's Caribbean Recording Company. Scully not only went on to become a perennially in-demand harmony singer, his work with Alton Ellis in particular is outstanding, but also one of the island's most sought after percussionists. Alongside Uzziah 'Cool Stick' Thompson his name appears in that role in innumerable musician line-ups on the reverse of the LP sleeves. In addition to many un-named session bands he played with Lee Perry's Upsetters, Striker Lee's Aggrovators, the Hookim Brothers' Revolutionaries, The Roots Radics and live on stage, along with many other stars of the firmament, with Peter Tosh and Jimmy Cliff. Between 1966 and 1968 he recorded a number of superb rock steady into reggae sides, including this elegant beauty, under the more than appropriate epithet of Mr Foundation.

Delroy Wilson - Get Ready
Coxsone (Jamaica) 7" & Island WI3050 (UK) 7" 1967
For a period during the sixties Mr Dodd released Mr Gordy's productions in Jamaica through a pressing and production licensing arrangement and Detroit's 'The Sound Of Young America' translated effortlessly into Kingston's 'The Sound Of Young Jamaica' in more ways than one. Coxsone's sponsored radio show was entitled 'The Sound Of young Jamaica'. The Temptations' 'Get Ready', written by Smokey Robinson and featuring the stellar talents of Eddie Kendricks on lead vocals, was a sizeable hit in the USA in 1966. Delroy's rock steady version. a tour de force from the following year, went on to assume a life all of its own, stamped with the Delroy Wilson trademark of quality, and during the following decade, he would re-record 'Get Ready' for both Striker Lee and the Hookim brothers at Channel One.

Roland Alphonso & The Soul Brothers - Provocation
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" 1965
When The Skatalites broke up in 1965 former members Tommy McCook took over the role of house band at Arthur 'Duke' Reid's Treasure Isle Studio on Bond Street and Roland Alphonso assumed a similar role at Mr Dodd's Brentford Road studio. The Soul Brothers continued recording ska scorchers, including the excellent 'Provocation', but as the pace of ska slowed down to the more measured pace of rock steady Lyn Taitt & The Jets at Federal (and just about everywhere else), Tommy McCook & The Supersonics at Treasure Isle and The Soul Brothers and The Soul Vendors at Studio One began to shape and fashion the sound of rock steady and the direction of Jamaican music. Membership of The Soul Brothers was fairly fluid but, in addition to 'Master Musician' Roland Alphonso on tenor saxophone, key members also included Bryan Atkinson on bass, Joe Isaacs on drums, Jackie Mittoo on piano and organ, Harry Haughton on guitar, Bobby Ellis on trumpet and Denis 'Ska' Campbell also on tenor saxophone.

Leroy And Rocky - Love Me Girl
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" & Studio One SO2042 (UK) 7" 1968
The Leroy here is none other than the inimitable Leroy Sibbles from The Heptones, vocalist and bass guitarist extraordinaire, and his singing partner is Anthony 'Rocky' Ellis probably best remembered for the rock steady anthem 'I Am The Ruler'. This heart-breaking song has subsequently been sung over many times, on occasion by Leroy himself, and was memorably covered by The Mighty Diamonds and an un-credited I-Roy on the short lived Channel One 'Economic Package' seven inch series in 1975. The bass line from the Channel One version, now known as 'The General', formed the basis for an early 'one rhythm' LP, 'General For All General' which featured ten dancehall style versions of 'Love Me Girl' in 1974.

Slim And Delroy - Look Who's Back Again
Up Town (Jamaica) 7" 1966
Although Jamaica's foundation singers constantly studied each other's artistry and approach in the studio and on stage they rarely recorded duets. Consequently this pairing of Slim Smith and Delroy Wilson is almost as rare as the Up Town label it originally appeared on where it was backed with 'Free Soul', one of Jackie Mittoo's greatest ever outings. A gentle approach, where neither singer wants to outperform the other, masks the strong sentiments of the song which is another plea for tolerance and understanding amongst Kingston's warring rude boy factions.

Roland Alphonso & The Studio One Orchestra - Spred Satin
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" 1965
One of the earliest releases on this set and originally credited. like many of the records from this period, to The Studio One Orchestra, who are given second billing after Roland. Later re-releases were credited to The Skatalites and 'Spred Satin', a version of 'Last Date' by Floyd Cramer, is a shining example of ska at its very best. I always erroneously assumed that 'Spred Satin' had to be a misspelling but it probably refers to a brand of house paint advertised at the time as 'The 100% Latex Wonder Wall Paint'. Who knew?

Barrington Spence - Contemplating Mind
Studio One Blank/Pre 7" 1968
A soulful vocalist from the school of unabashed emotion Barrington 'Barry' Spence first worked as a custom broker and told Carl Gayle in 1975 that he made his debut with Duke Reid before recording 'eight songs with producer Clement Dodd (Sir Coxsone) in a vocal trio called the Soul Boys. They earned £15 between them for 'High Blood Pressure' (an original song aka 'Blood Pressure') which Barry says sold around 12,000. Others were 'You Were Wrong', 'Give Me What I Want' (the Paul Anka song). The group quit singing and Barry quit singing to resume work as a custom broker in 1969. But In 1972 he decided to dedicate his time to music'. Barrington went on to enjoy great success with 'Prince' Tony Robinson with songs including his version to Junior Byles' 'Curly Locks', entitled 'Let Locks Grow', which Big Youth deejayed to stupendous effect as 'House Of Dreadlocks'.

The refined rock steady 'Contemplating Mind', a solo recording, only ever saw release as a blank label pre-release which might give an idea of how Mr Dodd viewed its sales potential at the time. However, with the high interest in all things rock steady, the record has now been recognised for its sparse, fragile grace.

Ernest Ranglin - Psychedelic Rock
Ernest Ranglin - Sounds and Power Studio One
Everyone tends to assume that all Jamaican classics originated at Studio One but this is a Brentford Road version to the irrepressible Derrick Harriott's 'Psychedelic Train'. It's all academic actually and it's a pleasure to hear Ernie Ranglin's fluid guitar work in the context of this answer version to Derrick's production of The Chosen Few's (backed by The Crystalites) 'Psychedelic Train'. A huge reggae hit in 1970 the record was inspired by the introduction of The Temptations' version of the Isley Brothers' 'It's Your Thing' from the 'Puzzle People' album. A cut of Ernest Ranglin's 'Psychedelic Rock' was first released on the Studio One compilation album 'Jamaica All Stars Volume 1' in 1970 and this further version, with additional chorus lines, first appeared on 'Sounds & Power', a showcase of Ernie Ranglin's copious Studio One catalogue, in the late nineties. Not to be confused with 'Psychedelic Rock' from the Sound Dimension, an interesting alternative version to the anthemic 'Rockfort Rock', which is a version to 'El Cumbanchero'. Version galore... you can hear them by the score.

Zoot Simms (as Mr Foundation) - What's The Matter, We Can Talk It Over
Coxsone (Jamaica) 7" & Coxsone CS7095 (UK) 7" 1969
In the autumn of 1968 the rhythms of rock steady gradually began to accelerate into the increasingly strident reggae beat and this lovely track dates from that epochal time. The churning backing track is provided by the then Studio One house band, the Sound Dimension, whose name had apparently been taken from an echo and reverb unit purchased in the UK on The Soul Vendors 1967 tour for sixty guineas. Soundimension, a freestanding echo unit created by a British technician Ivor Arbiter, was 'a compact portable device providing echo and reverberation effects when used in conjunction with any studio amplifying system'. In 2004 Scully Simms, and Bunny Robinson, were awarded a Badge of Honour by the Jamaican government in belated recognition of their sterling contribution to Jamaican music.

The Wailers - Destiny
Coxsone (Jamaica) 7" 1965
A very early Wailers recording for Studio One from the summer of 1964 created at the same session as 'Tell Them Lord' and 'Christmas Is Here' with Bob Marley on lead vocal backed by Neville 'Bunny Wailer' Livingston and Peter Tosh. Also accompanying the trio on the session were two more members of the Wailers, Junior Braithwaite and Beverly Kelso, who would soon leave the group, and Blossom Johnson who was Joe Higgs' girlfriend at the time. Singer and songwriter Joe Higgs, already a recognised star as one of Higgs & Wilson, played a defining role in the development of The Wailer's music tutoring the group at the outset of their careers in voice control, harmonies and stagecraft.

The Sound Dimension featuring Roland Alphonso - Reggae In The Grass
Coxsone (Jamaica) 7" & Coxsone CS7077 (UK) 7" 1968
A cover version of Hugh Masekela's 'Grazing In The Grass' from the time when reggae was still a new phenomenon and the spelling had still to be confirmed and consequently, this was titled 'Regay In The Grass' on the original Jamaican pressings. In London we were still trying to get to grips with the shift from rock steady too and I remember closely examining the dancers on the cover of the 'Reggae In The Grass' LP from a variety of angles with some friends in a local record shop trying to work out the dances they were doing in the grass to see if we were getting our moves right.

Jackie Mittoo & The Sound Dimension - Hi Jack
Studio One (Jamaica) 7" & Studio One SO2082 (UK) 7" 1969
Also known as 'High Jack' this popular organ instrumental, with un-credited deejay exhortations, really was the sound of now back then and typical of the predominantly organ driven music from the year reggae broke into the UK National Charts. It's reminiscent of Delano Stewart's 'Dance With Me', although without the bridge, and the title was probably a reference to the then current spate of aircraft hi-jackings. Jackie Mittoo was far more that one of the most talented keyboard players ever and his role in the development of the Studio One story as an arranger, songwriter and musician was pivotal to the label's lasting success.

The final word has to go to Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd:
"Obviously it would be better to cut the Chatter and Spin the Platter..."

Who could disagree?

Noel Hawks
All material © Copyright Soul Jazz Records