Reggae Anthology: Joe Gibbs - Scorchers from the Mighty Two
17 North Parade
July 3, 2008
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4/5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 4/5||Sleeve : 5|
The late 70's in Jamaica were a perilous time as the island fell into a state of emergency due to warring political factions. The "Rockers" music produced at the Joe Gibbs Studio by Joel Gibson and pioneering engineer Errol Thompson became the soundtrack of the golden era of roots reggae. With the masterful Sly Dunbar's intense and militant drumming (which some say echoed the sounds of an M-16' assault rifle) and a handful of the music most talented instrumentalists, Joe Gibbs was an ambassador of reggae music to the world.
Joel A. Gibson, better known as Joe Gibbs, was born in Montego Bay in 1945 -some sources say it was 1943-. He had qualified as an electronics engineer in the USA before returning to Jamaica to open his own TV repair shop. In early 1967 he expanded the business through selling records in his shop at 32 Beeston Street, Kingston.
He purchased a two-track tape machine and set up his own studio in the back of his shop, enlisting the services of Lee Perry, who had at that time just ended his long association with Coxsone Dodd. Aided and encouraged by Bunny 'Striker' Lee he released a string of hitsingles on his newly launched Amalgamated label. In early 1968, after Lee Perry left to set up his own Upsetters label, he employed a talented young engineer, Winston 'Niney' Holness, whose prolifiency helped maintain Amalgamated's continued success. His most consistent hit makers during this period were a vocal trio,the Pioneers and young Errol Dunkley. Throughout the rocksteady era Lyn Taitt and The Jets provided the backbone of the producer's releases.
With the demise of rocksteady, Joe Gibbs ably adapted the development of its successor, reggae. In 1970 he finally made his mark internationally with his production of 'Love Of The Common People' by Nicky Thomas, which peaked at number 9 in the UK that summer. By this time he had introduced three further labels, Shock, Jogib and Pressure Beat, opened his New York Record Mart at 11 South Parade, Kingston and created his own two track studio at 17 Burns Avenue in the Duhaney Park region of the town. During this period he cut a number of superb sides with artists like The Heptones, Ken Parker, Peter Tosh, Nicky Thomas, Ethiopians, and Delroy Wilson. He released the popular 'The Heptones & Friends' album, comprising his best singles, a year later followed by another showcase for his productions : 'The Heptones & Friends Volume 2'. Both albums became bestsellers on the island.
In 1972 he moved his base operations to 20 North Parade, Kingston and released Dennis Brown's first version of 'Money In My Pocket', soon followed by Big Youth's version 'Ah So We Stay'. At that time he teamed up with sound engineer Errol Thompson, who had left Randy's Studio 17, with whom he would enjoy a longlasting prolific and successful relationship as The Mighty Two, producing more than well over one hundred #1 hit records.
In 1975 Joe Gibbs relocated once again, setting up a sixteen-track studio and pressing plant at 24 Retirement Crescent, Kingston. For the next years the hits came thick and fast, many issued on a number of new labels, including Crazy Joe, Reflections, Belmont, Town & Country and Errol T. Jacob Miller's I'm A Natty, Sylford Walker's Burn Babylon, The Mighty Diamonds' 'Ghetto Living' and numerous Dennis Brown sides were notable hits from this period.
The Mighty Two productions covered both roots and lovers concerns. Ruddy Thomas, Marcia Aitken, Tyrone Taylor and Wayne Wade, just to name a few, voiced a string of excellent lovers tunes, while Bobby Melody, Devon Morris, Dennis Walks, Prince Alla, Gregory Isaacs, Junior Byles and female vocalist Dhaima delivered convincing roots records. Culture released their seminal Two Sevens Clash and the equally brilliant 'Baldhead Bridge'. Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson had also remarkable success with the release of the popular 'African Dub' series, containing updated recuts of vintage Studio One and Treasure Isle riddims.
In 1977 The Mighty Two released the impressive second set from Prince Far I, entitled 'Under Heavy Manners'. The same year saw the issue of Trinity's hugely popular 'Three Suite Piece', which utilized the riddim of Marcia Aitken's updated version of Alton Ellis' Studio One hit 'I'm still in love'. This success led to a whimsical follow up by teenage schoolgirl duo, Althea Forrest and Donna Reid. Despite the lyrics in the resulting release of Uptown Top Ranking being almost non-sensical to those unfamiliar with Jamaican patois, the song reached the UK charts towards the end of the year, and early 1978, hit the number one spot.
He also released several strong deejay tracks from Ranking Joe, Prince Jazzbo, Prince Mohammed, Dillinger, Luie Lepke, Clint Eastwood, I Roy and bald headed Kojak & Lisa. In 1979 Dennis Brown recorded two of his best albums for The Mighty Two, 'Words Of Wisdom' and 'Joseph's Coat Of Many Colours', comprising wonderful versions of Marley's 'Slave Driver' and John Holt's 'Man next door'. The 'Words Of Wisdom' set included a recut of his 1972 smash hit Money In My Pocket which broke into the British charts, finally peaking at a highly respectable 14.
In the 80s The Mighty Two produced further popular Dennis Brown albums such as 'The Prophet Rides Again', 'Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow' and the crossover album Love Has Found It's Way. Another upcoming star at the time, Frankie Paul, cut some interesting sides for the Joe Gibbs Music label and recorded the album Be My Lady in 1984 for Joe Gibbs' son, Carl 'Rocky' Gibbs.
From the mid 70s to the mid 80s, when a costly legal battle concerning unpaid royalties over J.C. Lodge's international smash hit Someone Loves You Honey brought an end to recordings from Gibbs - although he did take up recording and producing alongside Sidney Crooks -, the bulk of his output dominated the Jamaican music business. During that period he and his main rivals at the time, Bunny Lee, Sly and Robbie, Lee Perry and the Hoo Kim brothers, probably have been the most influential and successful figures to produce new sounds and develop new, fascinating variants of established formulas.
Most of his productions have been re-released on the Rocky One label of his son Carl 'Rocky' Gibbs and on several Trojan albums. Heartbeat and Soul Jazz records have also put out noteworthy compilations. In 2004 Stephen Gibson, better known as 'Gibbo' started his career as producer. He was responsible for the 'Hard Times' riddim that spawned hits by Capleton and I-Wayne. The riddim was engineered and coproduced by Errol Thompson. It would be the last project he would ever engineer. He died of a stroke at the age of 55 on November 14, 2004. Four years later -February 21, 2008- Joe Gibbs died of a heart attack.
The double cd set brings us 40 classic Joe Gibbs' tunes, some of them inna extended mix and some with the deejay version. The bulk of the songs are well known and loved songs. The mix of roots and culture tunes makes the selection well worth for every reggae fan. Disc One opens with the anthemic Two Sevens Clash and is followed by Dennis Brown's 1978 recut of Money In My Pocket. This recut is sealed off in a discomix with none other than George Nooks, one of the few reggae artists to consistently manage a double identity as a singer and a deejay under the name Prince Mohammed.
Although Lloyd Parks is best known as one of reggae's all-time greatest bass players, he scored big in 1978 with Officially. He's joined by deejay Ray-I with his version called One X One. His biggest mark was made when he toasted over Jacob Miller's Natty Christmas album. Gregory Isaacs sings over the Unchained riddim his hit Babylon Too Rough. Cornell Campbell scored with Boxing Around in 1981. Here you will also find his hit No Man's Land. Dobby Dobson's Treasure Isle gem from 1967 was redone by Ruddy Thomas in 1978 inna perfect soul style. Resident Gibbs deejay Trinity cuts in to accentuate on the 'loving pauper' theme of the song by speaking of the hard times that seem to be suddenly surrounding him.
Su Su Pon Rasta remains one of the best loved roots selections ever to come from the Joe Gibbs camp. The power of the track is further enhanced by the well known deejay version Heavy Manners by Prince Far I. Another deep roots classic is Funeral by Prince Alla who recorded this classic in 1978. Disc One closes with Ghetto Girl, the brief but straigh-to-the-point tale of a lost, promiscuous girl known as 'Stay At Home'. Note the lack of synthesizer throughout the song as this is the original mix for the initial 45 single release, which was originally give the title Ghetto Girl.
Disc Two opens with a roots inspired remake of The Gaylads' classic masterpiece 'Joy In The Morning'. Bobby Melody was responsible for this fantastic remake. The disc includes a special discomix of Culture's Jah Jah See Them A Come. The song was included on their 'Two sevens Clash' album and used the Studio One Heavy Rock riddim in full effect. The deejay cut is by Shorty The President. A tune full with roots and culture. George Nooks recuts the Little Roy classic Tribal War and The Mighty Diamonds deliver their unexpected 1978 masterpiece Identity. From 1975 comes Max Romeo's Stop Picking One Me.
Dennis Walks is known for his hit The Drifter, a tune he cut for producer Harrie Mudie. In 1981 he gave us a roots classic called Almighty I. Eek-A-Mouse made fame with his recordings for Junjo Lawes. Only few know that his biggest hit 'Wa Do Dem' was an excellent recut of the 1980 Joe Gibbs production Virgin Girl. Ruddy Thomas brings When I Think Of You. It's one of the sweetest lovers rock gems ever created. It was released in 1980. My Woman by Barrington Levy is one of the most popular songs in the history of the 'Love Is Not A Gamble' riddim. Good To Be There is a song of joy and optimism blended with that little extra touch of sophistication. I can't understand the choice of Dennis Brown's crossover song Love Has Found It's Way. The man brought us so many better tunes during his life. Finally we come the Joe Gibbs' biggest effort, the one that eventually brought down the Joe Gibbs operations, June Lodge's Someone Loves You Honey. The deejay part of this 1982 discomix, One Time Daughter, is undoubtedly the most unforgettable cut from George Nooks as Prince Mohammed.
This excellent two-CD set is a well documented Joe Gibbs anthology. The tracks span the 'Golden Era' of Reggae from the mid-70's through the early-80's. Anyone familiar with these songs will realize what an outstanding collection this is. And if you are unfamiliar with these songs, this is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with them. A very nice 16 page booklet is included.