Published Feb 05, 2016In the rock'n'roll, blues and soul worlds, record labels and studios like Sun, Chess and Stax have acquired a mythic reputation. An equivalent in the reggae genre would definitely be Jamaican studio/label Studio One. From the mid '50s on, producer/label head Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd played a key role in shaping Jamaican music, while the '70s proved to be his most creative period.
That is vividly and entertainingly confirmed by Studio One Showcase, a nicely compiled collection of some highlights of the decade. The compilation format suits reggae well, for it was individual cuts rather than full albums that ruled the roost back in those heady days. Showcase features prime tracks by many of the top reggae acts of the day, alongside singles from artists you've surely never heard of. Major names here include such genre greats as Horace Andy, Sugar Minott, the Mighty Diamonds, Johnny Osbourne, the Heptones, Freddy McGregor and the Gladiators, and all these smooth-voiced singers deliver the goods nicely. There's a smart mix of reggae-pop tunes, lovers rock ballads, solid roots reggae and dub-driven tracks, though the dub here is lighter in tone than the work of King Tubby and Lee Perry from the same era.
Half the cuts here are short and sweet, clocking in at under three minutes, while a couple, from Judah Tafari and the Gaylads & the Brentford Disco set, stretch out to seven and eight minutes, allowing the riddims to stretch and breathe appealingly. Not every track is a winner, but the hits to misses ratio of the 18 here is high. Add in attractive packaging and informative liner notes, and you have a winner. (Soul Jazz)