Joe Gibbs

The Reggae Train

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Along with Lee Perry, Bunny Lee, and Clancy Eccles, Joe Gibbs represented the second generation of star Jamaican producers. Originators in the ska era, like producers Duke Reid and Clement Dodd, trained these pioneers of the later rock-steady sound and even released many important sides in that genre as well. Trojan Records' excellent Producer Series spotlights these behind the scenes heavyweights and Joe Gibbs' The Reggae Train stands out in particular with its wide variety of classic rock-steady and reggae sides from 1968-71. While onetime Gibb partner Lee Perry's idiosyncratic contributions like "The Upsetter" send things into the stratosphere, Ken Parker's straight soul number "It's Alright" and Tommy McCook's beautiful saxophone and trombone instrumental "Soulful Mood" help keep the proceedings down to earth. This range of musical moods was typical of the output from Gibbs and his contemporaries as ska, rock-steady, solo and trio vocal number, and early reggae were all included; the Slickers and Young Souls here contribute some nice harmony tracks while Peter Tosh's "Arise Blackman" clocks in as one of the first Rastafari anthems. Gibbs' house band, the Hippy Boys, which included Jamaican studio aces McCook, organist Gladstone Anderson, and trombonist Vince Gordon, keep the producer's trademark dense slab of sound consistent amongst The Reggae Train's varied program with up-in-the-mix bass and drums, sinewy guitar lines, and bobbing organ chords. The Hippy Boys' dynamic and tight interplay is heard to particular advantage on Ken Parker's "Only Yesterday" and the instrumental track "Hijacked." Along with producer Harry J and others, Gibbs fleshed out the thin production values of ska by spreading out the beat and as a result took Jamaican music from the golden era of rock-steady into the early reggae period. Like almost all Trojan's '60s Jamaican reissues, this Joe Gibbs overview is a high-quality release and one that reveals a distinct voice of early Jamaican music.

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