Studio One Jump-up and The Race for Space – music reviews

by Jim Pinckney / 19 March, 2015
Review of the new release from Public Service Broadcasting; and Studio One Jump-Up, The Birth of Sound.
Albums are rated out of 5: • (abysmal) to ••••• (amazing).

Studio oneNicknamed Sir Coxsone as a teen in honour of 1940s Yorkshire cricketer Alec Coxon, thanks to his prowess on the pitch, Clement Dodd, boss of Studio One and producer of just about every formative reggae music artist who ever mattered, has an unparalleled legacy. Though his competition, including fierce rivals Duke Reid and Prince Buster, may also have great music to their names, it’s Dodd whose prodigious output has come to characterise the Treasure Isle’s most important musical heritage.

This lovingly remastered and impeccably selected collection lifts the lid on the roots of that sound, from a time when the influence of American stations broadcasting jazz and R&B was keenly felt by Jamaicans tuning in on their AM radio sets. Recorded between 1960 and 65, these 20 tracks encompass early crucial statements from big names such as Bob Marley & the Wailers and Toots & the Maytals, alongside lesser-knowns like Aubrey Adams, whose Stew Peas and Cornflakes with legendary trombonist Rico Rodriguez is a musically magnificent piece of culinary confusion. The signs of what’s to come in reggae’s development are evident in the nyabinghi drumming of the Mello-Cat Count Ossie & His Warickers and the proto-ska of Lester Sterlings’ joyous Whale Bone, and this spotlight on an often overlooked but still vital, jazzy and soulful period of Jamaica’s musical history is welcome and rewarding.

STUDIO ONE JUMP-UP, THE BIRTH OF A SOUND, Various artists (Soul Jazz) ••••½

LS1315_57_Music_PubServeCovAfter the sample-centric splendour of their debut album, Inform Educate Entertain, which was among the Listener’s Best of 2013 albums, British duo Public Service Broadcasting have focused their gaze on the skies, and the US-Soviet space race in particular, for their second offering, The Race for Space. The basic formula hasn’t changed, with archive samples gleaned from the British Film Institute and other sources deftly grafted onto a range of tracks that veer from bracing krautrock and chilly ambience to light dancefloor fare.

They have certainly done their homework: the album opens with JFK’s celebrated “we choose to go to the moon” speech and closes with the words of the last man on the moon, Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan. With or without the music, it’s fascinating to hear how the respective triumphs and failures of the American and Russian space programmes were originally reported. At its best on the subdued throb of Sputnik and the motoric movements of Go!, the material is right up there with the peaks on their debut. Occasionally, however, the backings can drag, or even irritate, particularly on Gagarin, which inexplicably opts for a shoddy US cop-show-theme feel, on a song purportedly about the famed Soviet cosmonaut.

On Valentina, they dispense with archival sample sources and other trimmings and bring in British female duo Smoke Fairies to coo delicate vocals in tribute to the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova. It’s a canny move, and perhaps a nod to the future, because as enjoyable as the found-sound and broadcast material is, the band needs to move on and develop if they’re to maintain interest and progress with further releases.

THE RACE FOR SPACE, Public Service Broadcasting (Test Card) •••

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