STUDIO ONE DANCEHALL-SIR COXSONE IN THE DANCE: THE FOUNDATION.

STUDIO ONE DANCEHALL-SIR COXSONE IN THE DANCE: THE FOUNDATION.

After founding Studio One in 1963, Sir Coxsone Dodd’s legendary label went on to play a huge part in shaping the sound of Jamaican music. Everything from lover’s rock, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall was recorded in Studio One by the great and good Jamaican music. That’s why Studio One is remembered as one of the most influential and innovative Jamaican record labels. This is apparent on Soul Jazz Records’ recently released compilation Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation.

Released on 30th of June 2014,  Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation features eighteen tracks. They’re no ordinary tracks though. Instead they’re a collection of singles, rarities and hidden gems from Studio One’s dancehall period. Many of these tracks have never been released before. That’s despite their dance-floor friendly sound.

They were released in the late-seventies, when much of the world had been won over by disco. In Jamaica, dancehall was providing the soundtrack in the country’s clubs. Dancehall however was quite different to much of the music recorded at Studio One.

A new breed of producers were responsible for the dancehall sound. They took classic Studio One rhythms, then got vocalists and DJs to add a vocal or rhyme. This new musical genre was christened dancehall. 

Before long, dancehall was growing popularity. It was well on its way to becoming a musical phenomena. A young and up-and-coming singer Sugar Minot noticed this. So, he told legendary producer Sir Coxsone Dodd about this development.

A musical veteran, whose career began in 1954, when Sir Coxsone Dodd set up the Downbeat Sound System. This came about after Sir Coxsone Dodd first heard R&B during a visit to the Southern States of America. 

Soon, the Downbeat Sound System was spreading the word about American R&B. Sir Coxsone Dodd began importing new records from America. He even made regular visits to New Orleans and Miami to find new music. Before long, the Downbeat Sound System was a huge success. So Sir Coxsone Dodd decided to expand. Eventually, he had five sound systems. They were run by Lee Scratch Perry, U-Roy and Prince Buster. However, having expanded, Sir Coxsone Dodd encountered a problem, R&B was no longer as popular. 

For some people, this would’ve proved the end of their musical adventure. Not Sir Coxsone Dodd. He and the other owners of sound systems decided to record Jamaican music. This would fill the void left by R&B.

Sir Coxsone Dodd’s first record company was World Disc. Originally, the label was recording music for the sound system to play. Before long, a nascent recording industry started to take shape. 

By 1962, when Sir Coxsone Dodd was recording a jazz track I Cover The Waterfront, he met two musicians who’d play an important part in his future. They were future Skalites, Roland Alphonso and Don Drummond. The Skalites became the house-band when in 1963, Sir Coxsone Dodd founded Studio One.

Studio One was the first black-owned recording studio in Jamaica. It also became one of most influential recording studio in Jamaican musical history. Some of the biggest names in Jamaican music would pass through Studio One’s doors. Among them were Bob Marley and The Wailers, Horace Andy, The Heptones, Dennis Brown, Jackie Mittoo, John Holt and Wailing Souls. They recorded everything from lover’s rock, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and in the late-seventies, dancehall.

It was an up-and-coming singer that alerted Sir Coxsone Dodd to dancehall’s popularity. Sugar Minot watched as a new breed of producers took classic Studio One rhythms, then got vocalists and DJs to add a vocal or rhyme. This new musical genre was christened dancehall. Sir Coxsone Dodd’s reaction was unexpected.

Rather than taking the producers court for using the classic Studio One rhythms, this seemed to inspire Sir Coxsone Dodd. He embraced the new sound. A shrewd businessman, Sir Coxsone Dodd decided Studio One should make their own dancehall recordings.

So, Sir Coxsone Dodd looked for the best up-and-coming singers and DJs. They would join Studio One’s dancehall stable. This included Sugar Minott, Ernest Wilson, Barry Brown, Johnny Osbourne, Lone Ranger, Devon Russell, Slim Smith, Doreen Schaffer, Brentford Disco Set and Field Marshall Haye. Each of these artists feature on Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Ernest Wilson features twice on Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation. Why Oh Why opens the compilation. It was written by Sir Coxsone Dodd and Ernest and released on Studio One in 1978. It’s a real hidden gem. Featuring a needy, soulful vocal, it’s delivered against a sultry arrangement, complete with bubbling synths. Ernest’s other contribution is Pick Them Up. Penned by Ernest and released in 1977, it shows why Ernest earned the nickname “Soulful.”

Johnny Osbourne also contributes two tracks to Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation. Both Lend Me the Sixteen and Time A Run Out were written by Johnny and Sir Coxsone Dodd, who produced both tracks. Lend Me the Sixteen epitomises the dancehall sound. Especially when delivered by one of dancehall’s finest exponents. Time A Run Out is the best of the two tracks. It has a hypnotic, mesmeric and anthemic sound that’s a reminder of Johnny Osbourne, dancehall king in his prime.

Windel Haye features three times on Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation. His first contribution is Haunted House, which he cowrote with Scorcher. That’s an alias of Sir Coxsone Dodd. It featured on a double-A-Sided single. The other track was Cornell Campbell’s Conversation. Then Windel dawns the guise of Field Marshall Haye on Roots and Herb Style. It which has a heavier, modier, roots reggae sound, which I much prefer. For his final contribution, Windel Haye and Captain Morgan collaborate on Flood Victim. Written by Sir Coxsone and Windel, it was released as a 12” single 1978. Sadly, the track was hidden away on the B-Side of Johnny Osbourne’s Water More Than Flour. A track beautiful and moving as Flood Victim deserved a better fate than that.

Green Tea and Chassy are responsible for one of the highlights of the compilation, Ghetto Girl. Driven along by braying, growling horns, an uplifting and joyous dancehall track unfolds. 

Devon Russell’s Thanks and Praise showcases the way reggae music was heading in the late-seventies, early eighties. Classic Studio One rhythms were combined with studio and electronic trickery. Bubbling synths and dub-tinged drums provide the backdrop as Devon Russell combines elements of gospel, reggae and soul seamlessly.

Any record with the word disco in the title is sure to divide opinion. After all, disco is Marmite music. You either love or hate disco. Me, I like some, but far from all of the disco produced. I do like Rebel Disco, a track from the Brentford Disco Set. With a name like that, they sound like a crew of dodgy London soul fans. Not the Brentford Disco Set. They create a delicious slice of mellow, funky, jazz-tinged and soulful reggae. Without doubt, it the highlight of Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation.

Doreen Schaffer’s soulful, heartfelt, rendition of I Don’t Know Why is designed to tug at the heartstrings. Just one listen and you’ll realise this. There’s even a nod to William Vaughan’s Be Thankful For What You’ve Got during the lyrics to this beautiful, soulful, hidden gem.

DJ Dawn and The Ranking Queens’ Peace Truce Thing, uses for inspiration Althea and Donna’s Uptown Ranking. It was a number one single in 1977. In the hands of DJ Dawn and The Ranking Queens, the track takes on a laid-back, melodic sound that’s truly irresistible.

Sugar Minott was the man who introduced Sir Coxsone Dodd to dancehall. As a result, he was one of the first dancehall singers signed to Studio One. He released Peace Treaty Style in 1978. It was written by Sugar and Sir Coxsone Dodd, who produced the track. With a impassioned, soulful vocal, delivered against a dubby, arrangement, it shows another side to Sugar Minott. Often, his music is perceived as reggae-lite. Not here. This is far from the lightweight, poppy reggae he’d release later in his career.

My final choice from Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation is Barry Brown’s Far East. This is dancehall with social comment. Far East wasn’t released until 1993, when it was released on the Street Wise label. By then, Barry was a reggae veteran. He’d eventually release over 150 singles and twenty albums. Sadly, he died ten years ago in 2004, and Far East is a reminder of what Barry Brown was capable of.

Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation sees Soul Jazz Records continue to pay homage to Sir Coxsone Dodd’s legendary Studio One Records. This latest trawl through Studio One Records’ vaults, sees Soul Jazz Records focus on dancehall.

Dancehall was quite different to much of the music recorded at Studio One. It saw a new breed of producers take classic Studio One rhythms, and got vocalists and DJs to add a vocal or rhyme. The result was a cross between disco and hip hop. This new musical genre was christened dancehall. Before long, dancehall was growing popularity. It was well on its way to becoming a musical phenomena. That’s when Sir Coxsone Dodd climbed onboard the dancehall bandwagon.

Before that, much of the dancehall being released was good, but Sir Coxsone Dodd’s dancehall releases were showstoppers. No wonder. Sir Coxsone Dodd had a keen eye for a talented musician or vocalist. He brought onboard some of the best up-and-coming musicians and vocalists. The result was a rejuvenated Studio One. It enjoyed an Indian Summer, during the late-seventies and early eighties. That’s thanks to Sir Coxsone Dodd’s determination to innovate.

That’s what he did with dancehall. Just like he had with lover’s rock, ska, rocksteady, reggae and dub, Sir Coxsone Dodd ensured Studio One released pioneering music. That’s what he’d been doing throughout  his musical career. A talented and shrewd producer, songwriter and businessman, Sir Coxsone Dodd transformed Studio One into one of the most important labels in Jamaican music. That’s where it stayed. There’s a reason for that.

Constantly, Sir Coxsone Dodd ensured Studio One reinvented itself to stay relevant. Always, Sir Coxsone Dodd was looking for the next big thing. That was always the case. Whilst others were climbing on the bandwagon, Sir Coxsone Dodd was looking for the next big thing. The next big thing in the late-seventies was dancehall. Sir Coxsone Dodd was responsible for some of the best dancehall music ever recorded. That’s apparent when you listen to Studio One Dancehall-Sir Coxsone In The Dance: The Foundation, which is a glorious glimpse of the pioneering music Sir Coxsone Dodd was producing.

STUDIO ONE DANCEHALL-SIR COXSONE IN THE DANCE: THE FOUNDATION.

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