London’s consistently excellent SoulJazz Records are finishing 2015 very strongly and it looks as though they will be starting 2016 in a similar vein.
Rastafari: The Dread Enter Zion 1955-1983 (CD SJR312) was released a couple of months ago and brilliantly demonstrates the depth and variety of musical expression the followers od Rastafari were able to achieve, ranging from the Mento of Lord Lebby; the Ska of Laurel Aitken; the Nyahbingi drumming of Count Ossie, Ras Michael & Bongo Herman; and the Roots of Johnny Clarke & Ashanti Roy among others. In classic soulJazz style, in which they set certain parameters and then break them, they also include a Q.Q, track from Reggae’s digital era. Nothing wrong with that though as, for such an eclectic mix, the collection works remarkably well together. As ever the album is supported with comprehensive notes and photographs documenting the political and social circumstances which gave rise to the cult that spread from its local roots right around the globe.
Coxone’s Music (SJR CD323) is a more recent issue comprising a mighty 3 CDs of Coxone’s early recording from his pre-Studio One days. Each disc comes with a generous playing time (one criticism, possibly the only one, of SoulJazz is that several of their albums are a bit light in terms of the number of tracks included) probably due to these tracks now being out of copy write. No doubt for the same reason many of these tracks have already been reissued on Sunrise’s ‘Down Beat shuffle – The Birth of a Legend’ (SUNRDD013) that company’s own tribute to Coxone’s recordings at Federal Recording Studio. Sunrise are also responsible for the many ‘The Story of Blue Beat’ re-issues that have appeared in recent years as those records have come out of copy write. As many of Coxone’s recordings were given a UK release through the UK’s Blue Beat label several of them therefore have now been re-released over all three projects.
As the first proper recording studio in Jamaica Federal doesn’t always receive the credit it deserves. It was the Australian recording engineer, Graeme Goodall, who, aware that the records he was making were destined to be played on poor quality systems in the open air, was responsible for ensuring that the bass was recorded loud and heavy, and in so doing helped create Reggae’s defining feature.
Keen to maintain a source of the American musical styles, which over the years he had grown to love, Coxone had to rely on local musicians to create it for him when Black American musical tastes changed and developed. Clearly influenced by R’n’B, Blues, Jazz, Soul & Boogie, many of the featured artists, such as Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Theo Beckford among others, would go on to become stalwarts at Brentford Road’s Studio one where they would create an informal academy which in turn would produce a seemingly endless roster of singers and musicians.
Not only is this an important collection curating the early years of one of the music’s most important producers, but the recordings in turn capture some fantastic performances in a variety of styles by youngsters who would become the genre’s elder statesmen.
In addition SoulJazz have just issued a set of four classic AA sided 7” singles from Studio One, and a press release regarding a new CD, ‘Studio One Showcase’, scheduled for release in the early New Year. Having seen the track-list it would appear to be a Showcase of the breadth and depth of available Studio One talent rather than a song followed by its dub/instrumental counterpart. Given the care SoulJazz lavish on Coxone’s back catalogue the quality is surely guaranteed.
Another item sure to further whet the appetite of Reggae aficionado’s is the news that also in the new year the company will be releasing Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation of Ras Tafari’s ‘Tales of Mozambique’, which if memory serves was originally issued in the Uk as a triple album in 1976. Triple albums are rare in any genre especially so in Reggae, and although the set has subsequently had a couple of low key re-issues on CD in France a full international release is long overdue. Clearly 2016 is already shaping up to suggest it is going to be something special.