I don’t know about you, but I’ve been scooping up as many Jamaican 60s/70s comps as money allows of late. I’ve found through my past two blogs – this one and the other one – that whenever I write about dub or ska or rocksteady my traffic numbers fall precipitously, and the only people who care to comment are Luc and Tom, both Belgians of some renown (Luc’s the guy behind BATARANG and A MILLION MILES FROM NOWHERE and has superlative taste; Tom is probably the person most responsible for getting me deep into dub vis-à-vis some great writing in his 1990s ‘zine BAZOOKA). That’s okay, we know that many of you are tainted by college-days Bob Marley bongouts going on the dorm room next to you, but I’d like to maybe offer up at least one fantastic compilation that’ll set you on the path toward the righteous and true.
It’s called “STUDIO ONE SCORCHER”, and it’s a collection of instrumentals from Coxsone Dodd and the crew recording in-house at Kingston’s Studio One, primarily in the 60s. Many of these smokers - most rooted in ska and faster rocksteady tempos, some barely leaning into early reggae (and which therefore slow down the pace considerably) – have been sampled and re-sampled over and over again to make dubs and as the backbeat for tons of Jamaican music since. While listening I had a lot of fleeting “I know this one” moments, but it was just the horn line or maybe a passage that I knew from some other 45. There’s one in particular that’s among the wildest tracks I’ve ever heard – “Shockers Rock” by Tommy McCook, Richard Ace, The Skatalites & Disco Height - wow. This has this crazy middle eastern horn line that slithers into a very fast ska rhythm, and is just one of those songs that would proceed absolute chaos on the dance floor, like doing the the hora at a drunken Jewish wedding. There are other tracks by SOUND DIMENSION, SOUL VENDORS and JACKIE MITTOO – all “backing band” legends of their time – that panic nearly as frantically. The more contemplative ones near the end of the CD are also quite good, and bring the ship in to port quite well. I know there’s a second volume of these out now, and it’s for sure on my wish list. Highly, highly recommended.