I'm sure for a lot of people, when the words Jamaica and music are put together, have visions of dreadlocked performers playing Reggae music, with great wafts of ganga smoke billowing around their heads as the hypnotic back beat moves your shoulders and hips while slowly turning your spine into jelly. But before there was Reggae, there was still music in Jamaica, and the Reggae Rasta connection that we associate with that island country really only blossomed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Great musicians like Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, and Bob Marley don't, however, just spring out of the ground with no prior musical experience. They must have been doing something in the pre-Wailer days.
Well for those of us who didn't know and hadn't heard, Heartbeat records has released a series of discs featuring the music of Jamaica that predates the great Reggae boom. Clement S. Dodd and Studio One were the focal point for the majority of the music recorded at this time. Clement opened his doors to what sounds like a who's who of Reggae superstars; The Wailers, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear, and the Heptones.
But in those days the music wasn't Reggae, it was Ska, or it was Rhythm and Blues influenced sounds from the United States. Bob Marley And The Wailers, One Love At Studio One is a two-disc collection of 40 songs that provides an indication of the styles of music that were being performed and recorded in Jamaica from 1964-66.
From the onset you know this disc is going to defeat any expectations you might have had, because the first track is the old spiritual "This Train." Next, there are the voices of the three vocalists, gone are the thick Jamaican accents and the patois of the streets and Rasta. Instead we hear clean, educated, English accents articulating the lyrics clearly and precisely.
No praises are being sung to Ja in this song; it's all about Jesus and the evils of sinning and backsliding. What a difference a few years make. In five or six years' time these same three voices will be extolling the virtues of ganga, but now, here they are, preaching the love of Christ. It's the difference between trying to make it in the music world based on what you think you need to do to be successful and doing what you want to do.