Various Downbeat the Ruler: Killer Instrumentals from Studio One

As Trojan Records has demonstrated so often, reissuing reissues can be good business. Heartbeat Records was one of the first American labels to sign and distribute reggae with releases that featured a variety of current roots acts and compilations of archival sounds. They released several outstanding Studio One collections in the mid-’80s — they were the first label to reconsider Coxsone Dodd’s career on a wide scale. These original compilations have now been remastered and reissued with bonus tracks. Downbeat the Ruler remains the pick of the litter, collecting timeless instrumentals whose rhythms have underpinned every style of reggae from their late ’60s genesis onwards. If you’ve never sampled Studio One, this is a perfect place to start — and this is no small compliment with the dozens of Studio One compilations currently available. The rock steady and early reggae grooves contained here are the Jamaican equivalent to Booker T & the MGs; ingenious rhythms, hummable melodies and inspired riffs. Unusual but impeccable covers abound from the transformation of "If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof into "Swing Easy,” to "A Darker Shade Of Black” and Jackie Mittoo’s definitive reinterpretation of the Beatles’ "Norwegian Wood.” Topped off with a ten-minute mix of "Death in the Arena”; Downbeat the Ruler still rules some 20 years after its original issue, and another 20 since its earliest tracks were recorded. (Heartbeat)