Sometime during college, I fell deep into a Bob Marley phase, listening almost solely to the reggae legend while I studied his life with monkish dedication and searched like a pilgrim to uncover the rarities of his work. One day, that search led me to Amoeba Music on Haight Street in San Francisco, where amid thousands of CDs and cassette tapes, I located Bob Marley and the Wailer’s double disc One Love at Studio One 1964-1966. It was like nothing I’d ever heard, with Marley’s whiney voice lingering over rocksteady rhythms, occasionally breaking into slow ballads or flipping the other way into rapid ska beats. I was hooked, fascinated by how the music evolved from these covers of American hits to the revolutionary odes later on.
Only later did I learn that the distinctive sound was largely the work of Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd, the pioneering reggae producer who’s Studio One shaped the future of Jamaican music. Now, the legacy of Sir Coxsone, who died at age 72 in May 2004, is now fully prepared to be delivered to the masses, thanks to the releases/reissues of four new albums, including the Marley one I found at Amoeba back in the mid ’90s. The others are collections with various artists on albums titled The Best of Studio One, Full Up: More Hits, and Downbeat the Ruler: Killer Instrumentals. Each is exemplary, with artists now famous or totally forgotten, and the collection opens your eyes to the emergence of reggae, dancehall, rocksteady, and ska.
And they came just in time, for my Marley album is about worn out from too many spins on the CD player. See, while my search for Marley’s rarities seemed to end with college, I never left the phase altogether. And that’s a good thing, for we all need a serious Marley phase, which these albums can surely incite.
— Matt Kettmann