Dusted Reviews

V/A - Studio One Classics

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: V/A

Album: Studio One Classics

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: Sep. 13, 2004

Consider the roll call of reggae’s premature passings – Bob Marley, Don Drummond, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Dennis Brown, Peter Tosh, Hugh Mundell, the list goes on.

Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the proprietor of the Studio One label, was 72 years old when he passed away from a heart attack in May, and had just had a street named after him. He was a survivor, and in the Jamaican music industry’s brutal social and business climate, that counts for a lot. He was on the scene from the dawn of ska up to the present day, and worked with many of reggae’s great talents.

While Studio One didn’t field much new music in recent years, Dodd continued to license his massive back catalog right to the end. So it didn’t take long for the English Soul Jazz label to put out this tribute album. If you’ve been following their other Studio One and Dynamite collections, you know what to expect. In fact, if you’re any sort of a reggae fan, you probably have some of these songs already. The packaging is long on vintage photos and glowing testimonials by surviving artists to Dodd’s importance, not so long on the sort of scrupulous annotation that, say, Blood And Fire does so well.

The set benefits from Soul Jazz’s usual muscular, bass-heavy mastering job, which makes its non-chronological mix from the heyday of ska through the dawn of dancehall flow quite well. It kicks off with an exuberant Skatalites track, “El Pussy Ska,” whose raw horn lines are punctuated by the band’s unabashedly hammy “meows.” Later on, funky instrumentals by the Sound Dimension and Don Drummond perk up the energy level, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Classics leans heavily on love songs by the likes of the Heptones (“Pretty Looks Isn’t All”), Alton Ellis (“I’m Just A Guy”), and Horace Andy (the immortal “Fever”); there’s no denying Dodd’s talent for matching great voices to the right song. But it also brings some cultural consciousness; Jennifer Lara’s “Consider Me” might sound like a romantic plea at first, but a close listen reveals it to be an impassioned plea for God to smile at last upon the African diaspora. For more specialized tastes, there are a couple solid DJ tracks; Lone Ranger snakes his bouncing-ball vocal through a dubby obstacle course on “Automatic,” while Prince Jazzbo extols the virtues of education on “School.”

Soul Jazz also has a flair for picking the keepers from the dawn of dancehall. It is represented here by Michigan And Smiley’s syndrum-soaked “Rub A Dub Style” which lays insistent, if occasionally nonsensical, chants over a hypnotic groove. And yeah, there’s a Wailers track; a very young Bob Marley actually contributes one of the earliest tracks, “Simmer Down.”

Studio One Classics is a solid tribute that lives up to its name. If you know someone who says they like reggae but hasn’t moved beyond their played-to-death copy of Legend, you’d be doing them a great favor by giving them a copy.

By Bill Meyer

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Soul Jazz

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.