Boss Reggae
Ernest Ranglin
Federal / Dub Store Records
Vinyl LP / Digital Release
April 11, 2016

Track list
Side One
  1. Grandfather's Clock
  2. Soulful I
  3. Liquidation
  4. Dr. No Go
  5. Everybody's Talking
Side Two
  1. Pop-A-Top
  2. Sweet Sensation
  3. Scoopy
  4. There's A Fire
  5. My Elusive Dreams
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Lead Instrument : 5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 5
A pioneering force behind the rise of Caribbean music, guitar virtuoso Ernest Ranglin was born in Manchester, Jamaica in 1932. He was still a boy when his music peers realised that he had that 'something special'. Starting on ukulele, it didn't take him long to graduate to guitar, and then to master it. He played locally and in the Bahamas with various groups that benefited greatly from his poise, virtuosity, delicious ear for harmonic progressions, long lines and perfect timing. A teenage Monty Alexander could often be heard playing in Ernest's group.

Ranglin's session work at the famed Studio One helped give birth to the ska phenomenon, which during the late 1950s began taking Jamaica by storm. In 1964 Ernest went to Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London and so impressed the owner that he became resident jazz guitarist for some 9 months. There he made "Wranglin" for Island Records, after his first "Guitar In Ernest" and then "Reflections". Ernest was also a primary creator of ska music (and reggae) and in England in 1964 he launched the hit song "My boy Lollipop" with Jamaican singer Millie Small. In 1973 Ernest was awarded the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican Government for his contributions to music in Jamaica. He played on many classic '70s recordings. He was the lead guitarist on the Lee "Scratch" Perry recording sessions at Black Ark Studios for the "Heart Of The Congos" (1977) album by The Congos. He was also awarded the Musgrave medal in 1992. In recent years, Ernest Ranglin has gone back to his roots and has made various cross cultural collaborations and concept albums. With more then 30 albums under his belt he's still active in the business.

"Boss Reggae" - originally released in 1969 - is one of the handful of albums Ernest Ranglin recorded for Ken Khouri's Federal Records. The label and studio was founded and run by Lebanon immigrant Ken Khouri who established Jamaica's first pressing plant called Record Limited. In the '60s many of the local producers such as Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid & Price Buster visited the studio to record their early productions. After a fire at the headquarter, the facility was partly damaged and they reconstructed the studio to an up-to-date world-class studio. The studio asked Ernest Ranglin to join them as a musical director and continued to release commercial hits, which of many broke into local charts. In the late 1970s, Ken Khouri decided to immigrate to the United States and he sold Federal Records to Bob Marley and became now Tuff Gong.

The album collects ten tracks, most of them being (jazzy) instrumental cover versions of reggae hits as well as pop hits. The album opens inna traditional style with his reworking of the standard "Grandfather's Clock". It is a standard of British brass bands and colliery bands, and is also popular in bluegrass music. Next comes an awesome fine cut over a Lee Perry production by David Isaac, "Since You Are Gone". The Upsetters did the instrumental cut "Soulful I". Put on repeat! "Liquidator" is a well known reggae instrumental recorded by the Harry J Allstars in 1969. Here Ernest relicks it in fine guitar style and he calls it "Liquidation". Ernest had acted as arranger on several tracks of the James Bond movie Dr. No. "Dr. No Go" is his interpretation of "Three Blind Mice". The pop classic "Everbody's Talkin" comes next and is followed by another reggae classic, "Pop-A-Top", a reggae hit for Andy Capp. The Melodians' hit tune "Sweet Sensation" has always stood in the shadow of their Treasure Isle hits. Check out the organ dominated version out here, complete with some background vocals. His interpretation of The Gaylads' "There's A Fire" also features backing vocals. "Scoopy" is a self penned instrumental. The album (only 28 minutes!) ends with "My Elusive Dreams", an uptempo reworking of the country classic made famous by David Houston and Tammy Wynette in 1967.

The reissue is done by Dub Store Records out of Japan. The company is the major Japanese ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall reissue label run by the eponymous Tokyo based record store. The label aims at accurately covering the 50-plus years of Jamaican music. Dub Store Records has so far issued recordings from labels and artists such as Studio One, Federal Records (Federal, Kentone, Merritone), Jammys, Bunny Wailer's Solomonic, Derrick Harriott, Kiddus I, Redman International, King Tubby’s Firehouse, Fam's, BMN and much more to come.

Nice one!