Friday, January 20, 2012

Gone Up! Re-Up

Champion DJs From Studio One


by Jo-Ann Greene
When most people think of Studio One, it's the foundation label's phenomenal vocal groups and sensational solo singers that spring immediately to mind, along with the glorious melodies and sumptuous backings that accompanied them. The toasters that recorded for Coxsone Dodd are a definite afterthought. Champion DJs from Studio One is a valiant attempt to shift this way of thinking. And properly so, Dodd was quick to jump on the DJ bandwagon, as the tracks by King Stitt and Dennis Alcapone well prove. Across the '70s and into the early '80s, he oversaw recordings by some of the biggest DJs of the day: Dillinger, the Lone Ranger, Prince Jazzbo, Josey Wales, Brigadier Jerry and Ranking Joe among them. But beyond the originators, most of these toasters did their best work elsewhere. The exceptions, of course, were Michigan & Smiley, who helped revive Dodd's flagging fortune. It seems inexplicable that the studio responsible for the riddims that every other producer on the island was riding to fame was left at the starting gate. But one listen to this set tells you why. Every track here is cut on a classic riddim, the problem is, for years Dodd did little to create memorable versions; few featured more than overdubbed percussion and a new bassline. In fact, many seem to be cut on the original riddim.It wasn't until the late '70s that Dodd finally came to his senses and began turning things around.So, far from the hottest sounds of the day, this is more a reminder of Studio One's glorious past. That said, there are some excellent cuts here, including the much anthologized "Nice Up the Dance" and "Love Bump," alongside the exuberant "Rocking the President" from the now barely remembered Prince Francis, and Josey Wales' inevitably more laid-back but equally scintillating "Feel Like Skanking." There's also a clutch of fine cultural cuts including "Big Match," "Gun Court," "Every Man a Mi Brethren," and "Hamlock," which seems to be a retort to "Every Man a Mi Brethren," and delivered by the now forgotten Jim Nastic. The DJs may not have made Studio One's fortunes, but they're still an important part of the label's history, and this compilation is a welcome reminder of that.

1 Nice Up the Dance Papa Michigan
2 School Prince Jazzbo
3 Love Bump Lone Ranger
4 Riddle I This Dennis Alcapone
5 Bangarang Dillinger
6 Feel Like Skanking Josey Wales
7 Fever Carey Johnson

8 Pepper Rock Prince Jazzbo
9 Rocking the President Prince Francis
10 Every Man a Mi Brethren Brigadier Jerry
11 Big Match Lone Ranger
12 Hamlock Jim Nastic
13 Be a Man King Stitt
14 Home Home Dennis Alcapone
15 Gun Court Ranking Joe

Get it HERE