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V/A - Studio One Roots Vol. 2

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Artist: V/A

Album: Studio One Roots Vol. 2

Label: Soul Jazz

Review date: Jan. 22, 2006

The bloat endemic to CD culture seems hardly an issue when faced with the second installment of Soul Jazz’s Studio One Roots series. Though brimming with 19 tracks, the disc, like most of the British label’s Jamaican compilations, hardly feels exhaustive. That is, it’s hard not to want, and even harder not to believe the proprietors of Clement Dodd’s estate won’t find, evermore. Maybe they’ve even calculated how much longer these archives can fuel their output, when exactly the well of riddims and calypso blues will be spent; that may explain the diversification of their catalogue with anthologies of Haitian Voodoo chants and Brazilian post-punk. But with no signs of the Dodd reels running out, the Studio One sound system hardly falters on this new release.

Bookended by two lengthy dub-infected sides (Willie Williams & The Sound Dimension’s “Jah Righteous Plan” and “Tommy McCook & The Discosonics’ “Tenor of The Call”), the bulk of Studio One Roots 2 are 7”-sized distillations of American soul, slow-brewed ska, and jazz-tinged rocksteady all fermenting in tape hiss and hinging on skeletal yet liquid rhythms and coagulated harmonies. The loosely woven tangle of voices and rolling bass-line in Ken Brooke & Joe Higgs’ “Message of Old,” the floating dialogue and tight jangle of Zoot Sims’ “Small Garden,” the ghost lead and nimble drums of The Saints’ “Sleeping Trees” and the airlifted churn of Prince Francis’ “African Skank” are but a few of its finest specimens. An afternoon swim in their warm tides is requisite.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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