Studio One Showcase: The Sound of Studio One in the 1970s (Soul Jazz)
The venerable Soul Jazz label has done the world yet another solid with this fantastic release featuring the Studio One record label. It’s almost impossible to overstate the centrality of Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd’s prolific operation to Jamaican pop music. Starting in the ’60s, organist Jackie Mittoo presided over innumerable sessions featuring almost every major figure of the era—including Alton Ellis, Burning Spear, Marcia Griffiths and, yes, Bob Marley. Studio One became known as the Motown of Jamaica, and quality productions didn’t flag a bit in the ’70s.
This collection delivers more than an hour of pure joy (after a curiously moody beginning with Horace Andy’s “See a Man’s Face”). You get prime toasting from Prince Jazzbo on “Jah Dread” and the irrepressible Lone Ranger on “Fish Tea.” You get wonderful R&B-inflected tracks from Myrna Hague and Jennifer Lara, and extended jams from The Gaylads & The Brentford Disco Set. If you’ve heard this stuff, you already know the mighty Studio One. If you haven’t, you need to.
The Beatles had Badfinger; Big Star might have had Prix. Alas, Prix (rhymes with “free”) was unknown compared to Badfinger. Hell, the band was unknown compared to Big Star, although its members hailed from the same fertile Memphis scene and dealt from the same power pop deck.
Singer/guitarist Tommy Hoehn and guitarist Jon Tiven formed Prix in 1975, recording at Memphis’ famed Ardent Studios and releasing singles on pioneering punk label Ork. Here, Hozac collects the Ork singles, along with everything else Prix recorded. The sound is a bit muffled—ironic, given that Ardent sired Big Star’s celestially perfect recordings, and that Big Star’s Chris Bell helped produce these tracks. But Prix’s tunes are often dazzling—“Girl” and “Love You Tonight” should be classics. Like Bell and Eric Carmen, Hoehn leans to the urgent side of power pop vocals, and Tiven’s lead guitar punctuates the yearning melodies with peals of sad-boy sexual frustration like it’s the last day of school and you don’t know when you’ll see your crush again.
Eccentric Soul: Sitting in the Park (Numero Group)
From the percussion and strings that open “A Portrait of God’s Love” by Cindy & The Playmates, you know you’re in good hands again with Numero Group. The latest release in the relentless crate-diggers’ Eccentric Soul series is Sitting in the Park, and though devoid of Billy “Fat Man” Stewart’s titular classic, it’s full of similarly radiant ’70s soul. It’s also a tribute to recently deceased Chicago DJ and collector Bob Abrahamian, whose records supply this collection. Suitably, it compiles Chicago-area artists, mostly forgotten vocal groups with names such as Mist, Enchanters and Oneness.
Resistance is ridiculous. Shades of Brown’s “How Could You Love Him” lays down funked-up beach music backed by a righteous Hammond organ. A nasty breakbeat kicks off Master Plan Inc’s “Try It (You’ll Like It)” and leaves behind a jittery bass drum pattern that brings a delicious tension to the singer’s suave entreaties. And Oneness’ “Hard to Know” sounds like the music of Hall & Oates’ dreams. Sitting in the Park is wonderful, transporting stuff.