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Joe the Boss: The Productions of Joe Mansano

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Album Review

Trinidadian student Joe Mansano arrived in England in 1963 aiming for a degree in accounting, but within a few years he'd be pouring over records of a very different kind. Selling Jamaican singles out of a beauty shop in south London, Mansano was soon feted as the best record salesman in the capitol and by 1967 he handled his own shop, Joe's Records. The following year, Mansano took his first step into production, overseeing the calypso-tinged instrumental "The Bullet" by Rico & the Rhythm Aces. However, it was a slightly later production, "Life on Reggae Planet" that was the first to be pressed onto record and released by Blue Cat in late 1968. In May, 1969, the newly launched Trojan label gave Mansano his own Joe imprint, inaugurated by the release of Patti La Donne's "Friends & Lovers," backed by the instrumental "Hot Line." Joe shared its matrix number with the Duke imprint until the following year, when Trojan gave it its own, JRS. The Critics and Nyah Shuffle's "Behold" single was the first to bear these letters. By now, Mansano's productions were flooding the British reggae scene. Unlike his main competitor Dandy Livingstone, Mansano was strictly a producer with no pretensions to vocal talent. Perhaps that's why the bulk of his releases were instrumentals, laid down by the Cimarons or Rico & the Rudies, a penchant this extravagant, 56-song two-CD collection reflects. In Jamaica, keyboardists were already boldly pushing the hornmen aside, but Mansano refused to follow this trend, with many of his productions boasting stellar solos from trombonist Rico.

Equally notable beginning with his first recording: Mansano made use of DJs, notably Hopeton Reid who appeared under a dizzying array of aliases — Joe the Boss, Pama Dice, and Dice the Boss among them. Mansano's other main DJ was Lloyd Campbell, also known as Lloyd the Matador (not be confused with Jamaican producer Lloyd Daley, who employed the same moniker). Reid's chatty style allowed for such innovations as dual DJing — "Battle Cry of Biafra," and conversational discs like "African Meeting." There again, the producer wasn't averse to borrowing other's grand ideas, both the popular "Trial of Pama Dice" and its follow-up "Appeal of Pama Dice" were retorts to both Prince Buster's "Judge Dread" and "Wreck a Pum Pum." Musically, some of Mansano's instrumentals versioned popular hits, "Hey Jude" is a prime example, or were bouncy originals lit up by Rico's sizzling solos.

Mansano was hugely popular among the West Indian and skinhead crowd, and released a slew of seminal singles across the reggae age, although their popularity was never reflected in the British charts. This set compiles them all, and many, many more equally exciting numbers. A reggae extravaganza!

Joe the Boss: The Productions of Joe Mansano, Joe Mansano
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