Rhythm & Views 

Various Artists

No other aural architect/producer in the history of Jamaican music can maintain the legacy or dispute the innovation of Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One label. From the Wailers to Prince Buster to the Skatalites to Peter Tosh, Studio One became reggae's response to the soul machine centered in Motown. Dodd's production skills single-handedly transformed traditional Jamaican R&B into ska, which eventually ruled the early dance halls. The Studio One instrumental formula always remained steadfast with straightforward, from-the-hip drumming, stirring bass lines and daring horn arrangements.

The dance floor-rattling Downbeat the Ruler gathers staggering and mesmerizing instrumental tracks from the late '60s and early '70s, centering specifically on the rock-steady genre, when the Sound Dimension (initially the Soul Vendors) reigned as the Studio One house band. Fronted by ex-Skatalites Jackie Mittoo and Tommy McCook, the Sound Dimension provided the backbone of many late-'60s hits, and also garnered substantial notice via their free-flowing instrumental prowess.

Highlights from the fully remastered, 18-cut compilation include the Sound Dimension's signature theme, "Real Rock," where piercing organ notes, expansive bass grooves and a trombone-fueled horn arrangement lay the foundation of one of reggae music's most revered and imitated melodies. The eternal dub mix of "Banana Walk" by Dub Specialist is both muscular and hypnotically graceful, and the Soul Vendors' spellbinding "Death in the Arena" further underscores Dodd's conception of early dub techniques.

More by Ron Bally


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