These covers weren't just money spinning copies of established soul classics. In some cases they give new depth and meaning to the originals and all examples offer inspired arrangements. Covers are always difficult to judge against the originals, but the tracks on this collection almost all bring something new and welcome. I found that the more recognisable covers such as Norma Fraser's version of the Aretha Franklin classic "Respect", are less insightful as others. Particularly good are tracks 10 and 13. As with all Soul Jazz releases there's a good booklet covering the history of the genre included. A well chosen selection of tracks make this enjoyable for reggae fans and eye opening for classic soul fans. Soul Jazz have clearly put a good deal of effort into this release.
Reggae wasn't only home grown. As this collection of Clement Dodd productions shows, the US had influence there, as it did pretty much everywhere. In the case of Jamaica, radio stations WNOE from New Orleans and WINZ in Florida were received loud and clear and the black music in particular that they broadcast led to regular visits from artists of the stature of Curtis Mayfield and Aretha Franklin. Studio One was modelled on the record labels that had their own crack studio house bands, labels and studios like Stax in Memphis, Motown in Detroit, Muscle Shoals in Alabama and Criteria in Florida, so it was natural that at Studio One versions of some of the most influential soul records would be reworked in a Jamaican idiom for playing on the powerful sound systems, sometimes with different titles and sometimes with different composer credits, too, and some of the very best are rounded up here. And so we find studio band Sound Dimension's instrumental re-interpretations of Young-Holt Unlimited (Soulful Strut) and Booker T. (Time Is Tight) alongside the Jackie Mittoo's keyboard reading of Barry White's I'm Gonna Love You A Little More Baby (as Deeper And Deeper). Top singers like Leroy Sibbles transpose King Curtis (Groove Me), Charles Wright (Express Yourself) and the Temptations' political Message From A Black Man (with the Heptones) into the reggae idiom. Ken Boothe's Set Me Free is actually a gorgeously extended 12" mix of the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On, while Willie Williams, best known for Armagideon Time, covers the McFadden and Whitehead 1979 disco hit Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now as No One Can Stop Us, and the Impressions' Minstrel And Queen is revived by Cornell Campbell and the Eternals as Queen Of The Minstrels. As American black music became more politicized, militantly and sexually, through the music and messages of Sly Stone, the Temptations, Jimi Hendrix, Millie Jackson (I Don't Want To Be Right) and others, so Jamaican culture reflected this change in its music. Other examples here include Norma Fraser's adoption of Aretha's version of Respect, and Senior Soul's cover of Syl Johnson's Is It Because I'm Black, though there is still plenty of room for innocent dance tunes first recorded by the Detroit Spinners, the Delfonics and others. There is an illustrated booklet with an essay by the compiler Mark Ainley which is full of helpful facts, though it does fall short of giving composer credits or publication dates of the included recordings
what can I say that hasn't been said already about studio one records. This is another fine cd in a wide ranging series of classics and rarities from the masters of reggae. coverd are songs by the great ARETHA FRANKLIN, BARRY WHITE and BOOKER T AND THE MG'S as well as more obscure covers of likes of CAT STEVENS. If you liked the % dynamite series on the same imprint, you love this, It is the story of musical barriers being torn down and re built in the style of young jamaica, who turned up the sound system and danced.
Studio One soul is an interesting concept but a risky one. Covering songs from another albeit related musical idiom ie soul to reggae gives 2 possibilities: either the cover is better than the original or not. Sound Dimension, Jackie Mittoo, Norma Frazer, Eternals, Otis Gayle and Ken Boothe offer superb reggae interpretations that add to and surpass the original. The other tracks get lost in between to end up in a no man's land of unconvincing vocals and fusion music.