Sly & Robbie Presents Sound of Taxi ~ 1st Volume
December 25, 2012
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 4||Backing : 4||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 4/5|
Lowell 'Sly 'Dunbar (born 1950) and Robbie Shakespeare (born 1953) aka the Dynamic Duo aka the Riddim Twins have become the back bone of reggae since they emerged as a regular pair in the mid seventies. Until then they individually had developed their skill during live performances with their bands Skin, Flesh & Bones (Sly) and Big Relation (Robbie) and studio sessions for producers such as Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Duke Reid, Winston Riley, Sonia Pottinger, Bunny 'Striker' Lee and Prince Tony Robinson.
They first worked together with The Revolutionaries for the newly created Channel One studio and label, operated by the Hoo Kim brothers. Other regular members included Ossie Hibbert, Ansel Collins, Errol 'Tarzan' Nelson, Radcliffe Bryan, Robbie Lynn, Uziah 'Stickie' Thompson, Tommy McCook, Vin Gordon and Herman Marquis. What became known as their 'Rockers' riddims was mostly based on Studio One classics from the previous decade, made totally modern by the many drumming styles created by Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare's complementary basslines.
In 1979 Sly & Robbie joined forces independently with the (re)launch of the Taxi label, which then became their primary focus. Gregory Isaacs' "Soon Forward" was the initial hit for the label, in the early eighties followed by hits from Ini Kamoze, Jimmy Riley, The Tamlins, Sugar Minott and Dennis Brown. However the duo were willing to work for other producers too, the most notable being George Phang, Myrie Lewis & Errol Marshall and Phillip 'Fatis' Burrell. It has been estimated the pair have crafted over 200.000 songs, so it's obvious that there isn't a single great reggae singer that hasn't recorded with Sly and Robbie.
They also were important in developing the trend towards computer-assisted music and programming in the mid 1980s. Island Records owner Chris Blackwell made them the core of the Compass Point All Stars, the Nassau (Bahamas) recording band based at Compass Point Studios that was to produce classic records for Grace Jones, Joe Cocker and Gwen Guthrie among many others. Their 1987 funk and dance album "Rhythm Killers" was produced by Bill Laswell with an ensemble of musicians and showcased the duo's branching outside of the reggae market and experimenting with electronic sounds. It also produced a number 12 hit on the UK Singles Chart in 1987 with "Boops (Here to Go)", which Robbie Williams later sampled for his single "Rudebox".
In the early 1990s, Sly and Robbie introduced a novel sound with the hits "Bam Bam" and "Murder She Wrote" by Chaka Demus & Pliers. In recent years, they have produced several new Jamaican artists for their Taxi label, as well as confirmed superstars such as Elephant Man and Buju Banton, for whom they re-used their 1982 "Unmetered Taxi" riddim for the number one hit "Driver A". The mid-nineties recorded "Crazy Bald Head" and "Running Away", both by Beenie Man & Luciano and Merciless & Yami Bolo's "Curly Locks" were notable hits for the duo. In 2006, they recorded with their original group, the Revolutionaries, to produce Horace Andy's new album "Livin' It Up" and produced several hits for Cherine Anderson. They also produced tracks for Paul McCartney and Britney Spears. In 2009, "Movin' On", the new album by Bitty McLean, which they produced with McLean and their longtime friend and associate Guillaume Bougard, came out and was widely acclaimed as the best reggae album of the year. They toured Japan, Morocco (Mawazine festival) and Europe with McLean to showcase the album.
Throughout the years many compilations were released, showcasing the style and diversity of the Taxi label and their producers and musicians. Here's a quick and uncomplete list of compilations:
Ini Kamoze surprised the reggae world with his 1983 (mini) album in showcase style. Some tunes were already released as 12" singles and when the album hit the streets it became one of the top sellers of 1984. World A Music is included here. Damian 'Junior' Gong Marley used the riddim in full effect for his monster hit "Welcome To Jamrock" and a cartload of versions flooded the market in 2005 and 2006. The Wailing Souls deliver two of their best tunes here, Old Broom and Sugar Plum Plum. Too bad they have left out General Echo's wicked deejay version of Old Broom. While Sugar Minott's Devil Pickney is a straight forward top reggae tune, Herbman Hustling is a prime example of pre-digital dancehall that would become the leading style of the eighties. The sorely missed Gregory Isaacs contributes two boom tunes; Soon Forward and the extremely wicked Oh What a Feeling.
The album is a tasty selection of (early) Taxi tunes offering all songs in 7" style, no extended/disco mix/12" versions, and that's the only negative comment we can think of.