Awesome music from the archives. This week, The Gladiators

 

If I could visit a particular period in music it would be 1960s Jamaica. Traditional musical styles such as mento and calypso had started to merge with US rhythm and blues, jazz, and African and Latin American music to form a new hybrid, most often called reggae. For a country of three million souls, Jamaica’s recording output in that decade was astounding. Thousands of records were made primarily for the local sound systems. Their approval was tantamount to a record’s success. So much of what was released preached togetherness and celebrated identity. To call it a scene is to do it an injustice; it was more a movement of the people.

Coxsone Dodd had been producing hits for a decade by the time he opened Studio One in 1963. He produced arguably the best work made by the likes of Bob Marley and The Wailers and Burning Spear. Lee Scratch Perry was his engineer during the sutdio’s heyday and the records they made together are the ones to cherish.

Dodd was particularly adept with vocal groups and The Gladiators were the best to pass through his doors. Albert Griffiths was the principle singer and in 1968, he recruited Clinton Fearon to share lead vocal duties. That year they had their first hit with Oh Carol. For the next six years, they recorded almost exclusively in Studio One. Those recordings comprise this album.

There is something so endearing about the sweetness of the voices alone, but factor in the irresistible grooves upon which they rest and you’ve got the makings of a sound that will always feel fresh and vital. What gets me every time is the almost transcendent nature of the harmonies. These boys were singing from a different hymn-sheet with conviction and considerable grace. They reached somewhere new with it. It’ll take you there.

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