FIRE OVER BABYLON: DREAD, PEACE AND CONSCIOUS SOUNDS AT STUDIO ONE.

Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One.

Label: Soul Jazz Records.

Format: CD,

Ever since the early seventies, Rastafarian-inspired Roots music  was important part of Studio One’s output. It was recorded by many of the artists and groups who nowadays, are recognised and regarded as musical pioneers who were responsible for establishing the sound of the Jamaica. This began in the seventies when there was an explosion in popularity of Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae music. 

The spokesman for this new musical movement was Bob Marley, who during the seventies, enjoyed the most successful period of his career. Sadly, his career was cut tragically short when he died of the ‘1st’ of May 1981, aged just thirty-six. However, after his death, the popularity of Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae music continued to grow.

One of the founding father’s of the genre was producer Clement Dodd, who had founded the Studio One label in 1954. The first recordings took place in 1963 at Brentford Road in Kingston. By then, the producer had recruited The Skatalites as the Studio One house band.

Clement Dodd was also keen to explore the music associated with  the Rastafarian religion. That was why he join members of The Skatalites when they took trips to reasoning and jam sessions that were help by Count Ossie and his Rasta drummers in the Blue Mountain Hills. During lengthy jam sessions members of The Skatalites improvised over drum rhythms and chants. These jam sessions finished late in the evening or even in the early hours of the night and influenced the visiting musicians and producer.

Sometimes, Clement Dodd invited Count Ossie to his Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat Dance Party which took place on the lawns of Kingston and were hugely popular. Some nights, Count Ossie was invited to play live and became a familiar face.

By then, Clement Dodd was embracing the wider Rastafarian culture and was living his running his business in such a way that it was in keeping with Rastafarianism. Its central theme was self-determination which the producer embraced. He also was happy to work alongside the dreads to a greater extent than other producers. This is thought to be part of the reason for the longevity that Studio One enjoyed.

That longevity wouldn’t have been possible if Studio One wasn’t a successful label. By the mid-sixties it was a hit-making machine. Clement Dodd’s competitors watched enviously as the producer expanded his business which was based at 13 Brentford Road, in Kingston. Little did he know that this success would last into the seventies and beyond.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Rastafarian-inspired Roots music would become an important part of Studio One’s output. This was when the eighteen tracks from Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One, which was recently released by Soul Jazz Records and features a  mixture of classics and rarities. There’s contributions from familiar faces like Freddie McGregor, The Wailing Souls, The Gladiators, Horace Andy, Devon Russell, Cedric Brooks, Count Ossie and Judah Eskender Tafari. They’re joined by rarities from The Prospectors, The Viceroys and Pablove Black.

In 1975, Freddie McGregor converted to Rastafarianism and four years later in 1979 Bobby Bobylon album on Studio One. The highlight is I Am A Revolutionist which was written by Freddie McGregor and Clement Dodd and nowadays is regarded as an Rastafarian-inspired anthem. 

Wailing Souls released Without You as a single on Clement Dodd’s Coxsone Records in 1972. Nowadays, it’s a highly sought-after rarity. That’s no surprise as it features a heartfelt, soul-baring vocal that’s full of emotion. 

The Gladiators released Sonia as a single on Studio One in 1972.  It’s an early example of the Rastafarian-inspired Roots music that the label pioneered during the seventies. 

As the seventies drew to a close, Judah Eskender Tafari released Always Trying on Studio One in 1979. This carefully crafted Clement Dodd production is melodic and soulful with a feelgood sound. He adds wistful horns, and then midway through the track the arrangement reveals a slightly dubby sound. The result is without doubt one of the highlights of the compilation. 

In 1969, The Viceroys released Light Night as a single on Coxsone Records in Jamaica and Studio One in the UK. Hidden away on the B-Side was Ya Ho. This hidden gem was a tantalising taste of the new roots music that the label would pioneer during the seventies. 

By 1975, Coxsone Dodd and many others signed to Studio One had embraced the Rastafarianism faith. This was evident on many of the singles the label was releasing. This includes The Prospectors’ Glory For I which was released on Bongo One imprint in 1975 and features an impassioned vocal. Sadly, the single wasn’t a success and this oft-overlooked roots track is a welcome addition to the compilation.

In 1979, Pablove released his Mr Music Originally album on Studio One. It featured the genre-melting Black Inner Peace where funk, soul, soul-jazz and dub melt into one on another hidden gem that’s one of the highlights of Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One.

The Gladiators released Peace as a single on Studio One in 1978. It’s another melodic, soulful and full of social comment. This is what one expects from Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae from the seventies.

Closing Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One is The Viceroys’ So Many Problems. It’s a thought-provoking track from 1977 with lyrics full of social comment that are delivered by vocals full sadness and emotion. This is a powerful way to close the compilation.

For anyone interested in early seventies Rastafarian-inspired Roots music Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One may be of interest to them. It features many artists and groups who nowadays, are regarded as musical pioneers who were responsible for establishing the sound of the Jamaica. This began in the seventies which was when there was an explosion in popularity of Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae music. 

One of the labels at the forefront of this musical revolution was Studio One, which was founded by Coxsone Dodd who produced the eighteen tracks on  Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One. It features a mixture of classics and rarities and is the perfect primer to the Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae pioneered by legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.

Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: