MIGHTY piece of heavyweight instrumental Ska from it’s, for me, greatest collective, the Skatalites. No need for me to wax about them too tough as they are well known and greatly appreciated. Suffice to say that this piece, produced by the majestic Vincent ‘King’ Edwards and delivered by the cream of the islands urbanemusicologists IS Ska. Simply put these are the musicians who ‘invented’ and created Jamaican music after 1962.
Part #7 of the Upsetter tribute….
Slowing the tempo down with the original, (Reggae), cut of a William Bell soul tune sung by foundation Jamaican vocalist and LONG time Lee Perry friend and collaborator Chenley Duffus whose career begun at the age of 12 in 1950. First recording in 1958 at Federal and then with Coxson in the early 60’s which is where he met and formed a lasting bond with the Upsetter.
Todays cut was recorded a decade later at Randy’s Studio in 1972. Backed by his brother Kenneth and cousin Keith and a trio consisting of Tommy Mc Cook on Keyboards, Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, (with his trademark attacking, military style), on drums and the man Lloyd Parks on Bass, (vocalist in his own right). A BIG hit, (the biggest of Chenley’s career), which according to Lee Perry caused tension between himself, Coxsone and Ken Khouri..Such is the nature of the intense rivalry between producers in Jamaica Coxsone wanted to fight them both !!
FAR too nice a day out there to spend it slaving over a hot keyboard so I’ll keep it brief..Today’s cut is one from the stable of the Kong Brothers whose Beverley’s Label was an important part of Jamaican recording history from the earliest days of Ska right through to Leslie Kong’s death in 1971.
The arrangements were mainly in the hands of Derrick Morgan and Roland Alphonso with most of the musicians moonlighting from Tommy McCook’s band the Supersonics who together with the Bunny Lee All Stars and The Sound Dimension pretty much played on everything that came out of the Studios in Jamaica. Not sure if they have all been namechecked yet on the theme so I’ll do it here.
The Supersonics were made up of Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Theo Beckford, Lynn Tait, Hux Brown, Ronnie Bop, Douggie Bryan, Paul Douglas, Drumbago, Hugh Malcolm and the man cited by many as the cat who gave Reggae it’s defining character Organist supreme Winston Wright.
The vocals on today’s cut are provided by a vocal group we are all familiar with, (if only by name), The Wailers featuring, (of course), Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. One of my favourites of theirs from the period..Thankfully they require no background information so I’ll just let the music speak.Enough…I’m gone to soak up the sunrays..
So what is it about Rocksteady that is different? Musically Rocksteady is built on the ‘One Drop’, (3rd Beat), whereas Ska was built around the ‘after beat’. That and the pronounced Bass evident on the Rocksteady combined to deliver a rhythm that the dancers could sway and ‘Rock Steady’ to while holding up a beer, maybe a spliff and even a girl. While Rocking Steady a man could look nonchalant and slick whereas the ‘Ska’ was all about the wild swinging of arms…not slick and certainly no chance of winding, grinding, smoking and drinking.
In fact to make it clear..Hold this quote from the drummer who many credit with originating the ‘one drop’, Winston Grennan
‘I give a hard blow on the third..that would be a hard one drop and it would cut the beat in half”
Of course there were other key players involved such as the afore mentioned Lynn Taitt, Hugh Malcolm, Bobby Aitken, Gladstone Anderson as well as legends such as Jackie Mittoo, Roland Alphonso and the Soul Brothers and of course Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. Apologies If I have missed some…hopefullly some of you musicologists out there can ‘pipe up’ and let us know?
Right enough of the words and on with the music. I was going to drop cuts chronologically but on reflection I’ll just do my best to throw down cuts that for me define the genres. If I had planned it differently I would probably thrown down a week of Rude Boy cuts that were so prevalent in 1966 but I didn’t so I’ll just continue !!
Today’s piece is from one of Jamaica’s greatest talents the pioneering vanguard Derrick ‘One Stop’ Harriott, a Cat who was there at the birth of the Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae delivering sublime musicology. Have to say that this is one of my all time faves.
Finally…Just like to add that I continually get lost for hours, days and weeks in what I consider to be one of the most original, informative and all round TOP RANKING sites out there
So what could have happened in 1966 to change the beat from the frenetic Ska to the laid back sound of the Rocksteady? Rumour and word has it that it was a combination of things that conspired..First of all popular information/knowledge has it that a heatwave swept the island forcing the dancers and musicians to slow the tempo..secondly as is often, (if not always), the case the time had come for the islands musicologists to evolve and in my experience slow follows quick. Thirdly, (and I’m guessing here), the Ganja may have influenced proceedings…
By 1966 many of the protaganists of the Ska were ‘Beardmen’ and were likely to have been ‘licking chalice’ Up Warika Hills with the legendary Count Ossie. I’m not suggesting that the Ganja was the chief reason for the shift..only one of many.
As for outside influences we only have to consider how Soul and the Vocal Group sound became dominant in America around this time and how much influence the likes of the Impressions subsequently had in Jamaica.
Finally and perhaps of most significance was the Skatalites splitting into two groups after the incarceration of Don Drummond in 1965…The Soul Brothers led by Roland Alphonso, (at Studio 1), and the Supersonics led by Tommy McCook, (resident at Treasure Isle). Notably Lynn Taitt is widely recognised as ‘Inventing’ the Rocksteady with the Hopeton Lewis cut ‘Take It Easy’ but other early pieces included Alton Ellis’s ‘Girl I’ve Got A Date’ and Derrick Morgan’s ‘Rougher Than Rough’, (all of which featured Lynn Taitt’s guitar). Whatever the reasons for the emergence of Rocksteady it was at this junction that ‘Reggae’ began to take shape with the Bass rising to prominence and it must be said, (at least from my perspective), that Duke Reid wore the Rocksteady Crown.
So with that in mind the first cut has to go to the Duke and the Majestic Vocal Group known as the Techniques whose fluctuating line up included some of the great Jamaican vocalists; Slim Smith, Pat Kelly and Winston Riley, not forgetting cats such as Bruce Ruffin, [who wrote this cut], Junior Menz and original members Frederick Waite and Franklyn White.
Clearly influenced by The Impressions this one epitomises Jamaican Vocal Group Harmony. 1967? recording on the Duke’s Treasure Isle label.
Various Cats have laid claim to ‘inventing’ the Ska but as far as I can hear it seems to have been more of an evolution. In an attempt to provide a little insight for those who are not clued up on the historicity of Jamaican musicology before Ska there was what’s known as ‘Shuffle’ which to be brutal was more of a home grown version of American Jump/Rhythm & Blues so popular in the dance. Early Operators such as Tom The Great Sebastian and Count Nick were followed by hungrier Cats such as Duke Reid, Coxsone Dodd and Prince Buster who needed a constant source of new material to ‘mash up the dance’ and ‘Kill’ opposing Sound Systems. The competition was ferocious and it was this more than anything that fed the emerging scene for home grown talent. Combine such a need for a constant supply of fresh cuts, (Concurrent with the decline of Rhythm and Blues and looming Independence from colonial rule), with Jamaica’s strong sense of ‘national’ pride and identity and the stage was set for ‘Ska’
Coxsone led the way by setting up the legendary Studio 1 recording studio in 1963 and the icing on the cake was a collective of the hottest musicologists on the island coming together in 1964 as the Skatalites. As previously mentioned on themusicologist Jackie Mittoo was Coxsone’s musical director and as such is as responsible as anyone for defining Ska.
Today’s cut is a prime slice of the Skatalites pie from 1964? featuring the majestic Jackie Opel on vocals and the combined talents of any number of Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Knibb, Lester Sterling, Don Drummond, Jah Jerry, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore and Percival Dillon…in a word..BOSS
Penultimate cut of the Jamaican Vocal Group selection…listening back over the proceedings I can’t help noticing that it has been heavily weighted in favour of the 60’s and with hindsight perhaps I should have called it ‘Sixties Jamaican Vocal Group Action’…still, hindsight is not all it’s cracked up to be as “too much thought spoils the action” in my opinion so even though there’s only two cuts from outside of the ’60’s, (make that 3 with todays), I hope this hasn’t dulled your enjoyment over the last couple of weeks.
Today’s outing on themusicologist is one from the Channel One stable which ruled the dancehalls, turntables and airwaves back in the mid 70’s after Coxsone lost the crown following major departures such as Jackie Mittoo, Leroy Sibbles and most of his big selling artists in search of a fairer deal. Channel One was set up by the Hookim Brothers and had the premier ‘Lab’ on the Island as well as the hottest young engineers and musicians such as Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespere and Don D Junior as well as stalwarts such as ‘Marquis’, Sticky and Tommy Mc Cook.
This cut features the vocal abilities of Donald ‘Tabby’ Shaw, Fitzroy ‘Bunny’ Simpson and Lloyd ‘Judge’ Ferguson known collectivley as ‘The Mighty Diamonds’ making a heartfelt plea to the establishment to ‘Have A Little Mercy’
penultimate cut on the players selection and it’s another pearl from Jamaica. a Winston Wright organ led version of one of themusicologists favourite pieces of early Reggae, singer Dobby Dobson’s top ranking song ‘Your New Love’
although a singer of some fine songs Rupie Edwards was and is better known for his skills as a producer, having worked with such luminaries as Johnny Clarke, The Heptones, Gregory Issacs, the great Joe Higgs and foundation DJ’s U Roy and I Roy, (to name a few), and his contribution to the development of ‘Dub’ is sometimes overlooked. before the ‘version’ became the standard B-Side to every Jamaican 45, Rupie Edwards was experimenting with the instrumental and this one is an example of his capabilities.
(Probable Session Line Up)
Saxophone – Tommy McCook
Trombone – Vin Gordon
Drums – Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis
Guitar – Hux Brown
Piano – Gladstone ‘Gladdy’ Anderson
Bass – Clifton ‘Jackie’ Jackson
Organ – Winston Wright
this week it’s the turn of ‘Mr Soul of Jamaica’, the legendary Kingstonian..Alton Ellis.
foundation reggae artist who has been recording authentic Jamaican music since the late 1950’s !!
starting out his recording career with Coxsone, (Dodd), before he had set up Studio1, Alton Ellis has been at the forefront of Jamaican music for almost half a century and stands as tall as any other artist Jamaica has produced. name checked by most, if not all, of the Jamaican singers that followed as an inspiration, Alton recorded and worked with all the major players of the Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae periods..musicians, producers, engineers..have all been touched by the mans qualities. you don’t come by the name ‘Mr Soul’ for nothing…(checkback to the first of the six/six/six artists..Sam, (Mr Soul), Cooke. musicology #75-83)
setting the tone for the coming week of Jamaican musicology this piece is taken from his 1967 album ‘Mr Soul Of Jamaica’ produced by rock-steady king Duke Reid the ‘Trojan’ and backed by Tommy McCook and the Supersonics
just like to mention that Alton is, (hopefully), recovering from treatment for a serious life threatening illness and if any one is in contact with him please let him know that this weeks tribute to a legend on themusicologist is all about him and his musical legacy..wishing and hoping for a full recovery