Champion In The Arena 1976-1977
Jackie Mittoo
Blood and Fire
26 - 05 - 2003

Track list
  1. Champion Of The Arena
  2. Hot Milk
  3. Darker Shade Of Black
  4. Drum Song
  5. The Sniper
  6. Peace Treaty
  7. North Of The Sun
  8. Jumping Jack
  9. Super Charge
  10. One Step Forward
  11. Ram Jam
  12. Brain Mark
  13. In Cold Blood
  14. Earthquake
  15. Atom Sounds
  16. Death Trap
  17. Clean Up The Arena (5:35)
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : - Backing : 4/5 Production : 4/5 Sound quality : 4/5 Sleeve : 5
Since the release of the first album "If Deejay Was Your Trade" in 1994 UK-based Blood & Fire Records have established themselves a name as one of the best re-issue labels around. This record company rightfully deserves its fame as it pleases reggae fans all over the world with releases of mainly hard-to-get gems from the past presented with the best sound quality possible, excellent artwork and great sleeve notes.
Born Donat Roy Mittoo in Browns Town, Jamaica on March 3, 1948, Jackie Mittoo entered the music business at the tender age of 14, playing professionally with his own bands The Sheiks and The Rivals. Coxsone Dodd invited him to play piano on a Studio One session and Jackie Mittoo was soon doing sessions on a regular basis. Shortly after this, a number of the regular sessions musicians decided to form their own group, and The Skatalites were born. Jackie Mittoo - at the age of fifteen - was one of the founding members of The Skatalites, one of the most important groups in the history of reggae music.
In a period of less than two years between 1964-1965 The Skatalites were the band in Jamaica, recording cutting-edge ska tunes for Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid and Justin & Philip Yap. As well as their own, mainly instrumental, releases The Skatalites were the backing band for many singers recording at that time.
When The Skatalites disbanded in 1965, Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso formed The Soul Brothers. They became the in-house band at Studio One, but also recorded under their own name. During the next three years Jackie Mittoo was almost completely responsable for every Studio One recording. In 1966 he had his first solo hit "Ram Jam", a tune used for The Heptones "Fattie Fattie" tune. A string of Jackie Mittoo albums soon followed as well as numerous singles. It also led to Jackie touring the UK in 1967 with his band renamed The Soul Vendors. Studio One put out many dozen Jackie Mittoo singles and between 1967 and 1970 five albums: 'In London', 'Evening Time', 'Keep On Dancing', 'Now' and 'Macka Fat'. In addition to his solo outings, Mittoo also remains a key figure in the instrumental recordings of the Studio One house band as the Soul Brothers become the Soul Vendors, Sound Dimension, Brentford Road All Stars and other working names. Then there's his role in auditioning every singer who passes through the studio, the writing of songs, the arranging, producing and mixing of music, to create the largest and most comprehensive catalogue in the reggae field.
Towards the end of the 60's reggae arrived at Studio One. Jackie Mittoo emigrated to Toronto, Canada. He continued to return to Jamaica during the 70's and maintained a close relationship with Coxsone Dodd, recording for Studio One as well as recording for other producers like Sugar Minott. It was during the mid-1970s that Jackie meets up with Bunny Lee to conceive the recordings on this present set. Over the next few years the Third World label put out a series of Jackie Mittoo albums produced by Bunny Lee: 'Hot Blood' (1977) 'In Cold Blood' (1977) and 'The Original' (1979). An amalgam of the tracks on 'Hot Blood' and 'In Cold Blood' are compiled for a US release on Sonic Sounds entitled 'Showcase', while confusingly 'The Original' is also released in Canada on Mittoo's own Jackie label as 'Showcase Volume 3'.
In the 70's and the 80's many artists would revive the classic Studio One tunes, hence keeping Jackie Mittoo's songs alive. In 1982 Jackie once returned to Studio One to make the "Studio One Showcase" album. In response to the fact that so many artists continued to version his music, he made this album where he versioned himself! In 1990, at the age of 42 he died from cancer.
This set includes Jackie Mittoo's 'Showcase' album in its entirety, featuring extended versions to some of the tracks and adding 7 bonus cuts for this CD reissue. The tunes featured here are do-overs of (his own!) Studio One riddims, and it's unavoidable that you compare these versions to the Studio One cuts. We prefer the Studio One takes, but we guess there is no accounting for tastes. It's obvious that the musical quality offered here has stood the test of time very well. Jackie was a fantastic keyboard player and arranger. We won't point out standout tunes as all of the tracks are well worth spinning over and over.
Musicians include : Jackie Mittoo: keyboard, Sly Dunbar: drums, Robbie Shakespeare: bass, Winston Wright: organ, clavinet, Keith Sterling: piano, Noel 'Skully' Simms: percussion, Earl 'Chinna' Smith: guitar, Carl Harvey: guitar, Jeffrey Chung: guitar and Winston Bowen: guitar. The tunes were recorded at Dynamic Studio and Channel One Studio, Kingston 1976-1977 and mixed at King Tubby's Studio. All tracks produced by Bunny Lee.
Complete with the well known superior Blood And Fire packaging -includes conversations with Jackie Mittoo and the author & Bunny Lee interview with Steve Barrow- this album is a must have set.