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Essential Jackie Mittoo

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Album Review

One is never quite sure what to make of United Artists' Anthology of Reggae Collectors Series. Did people realize they were not getting a "brand-new radiant album" as the back sleeve claims, but compilations of earlier material? Certainly the sleeve notes are misleading, but there again, so strong are all these sets that perhaps it didn't matter, as long as they weren't expecting the dubby, deep roots sounds of the day.

Jackie Mittoo was currently unleashing fabulous singles and albums with Bunny Lee when this eponymous record appeared in 1976. A true blast from the past, this compilation presents a mixed bag of nine numbers from the early reggae years when the organist was still ensconced at Studio One.

His biggest hits are all missing, no "Ram Jam" or "Peanie Wallie," but there are still a clutch of crucial instrumentals found within. The haunting "Hair Mary," the bluesy riffing on "Soul Ride," (aka "Some Kind of Memphis"), the strutting "Black Out," and the breezy "Change the Mood" are all masterpieces of mood and sound. Moving into more urban climes is the superb "Hot Tamale," and the funky work-outs of "Get Up and Get It," and "Stereo Freeze," classic cuts of their day.

What most fans could live without were the covers of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and Cream's classic "Sunshine of Your Love." The former melds the melancholy melody to a Nyabinghi-styled backing, an intriguing arrangement at least. Although "Nature Boy" went down a similar road more successfully, the latter is just plain scary.

So a couple of misses mixed amongst a fistful of classics; this is far from the definitive compilation, but at the time there was no better place to start.


Born: 03 March 1948 in Browns Town, Jamaica

Genre: Reggae

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

Keyboard virtuoso Jackie Mittoo was among the true legends of reggae -- a founding member of the Skatalites and an extraordinarily prolific songwriter, he was perhaps most influential as a mentor to countless younger performers, primarily through his work as the musical director at the famed Studio One. Born Donat Roy Mittoo in Browns Town, Jamaica on March 3, 1948, he began playing keyboards at the age of four, and was rarely far from a piano through his teen years, performing professionally in...
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Essential Jackie Mittoo, Jackie Mittoo
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