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Soul Vendors

Soul Vendors to showcase Studio 1 flavor at SNWMF 06

One-time house band for Jamaica’s premier hit machine, Studio One, the Soul Vendors have reunited and will bring the “True Sound of Jamaica” to SNWMF ’06.

The late Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One in Kingston Jamaica was often called "Jamaica's Motown" by musicians and critics alike and the resemblance was more than skin deep. Much of what we today know as reggae originated there and at competitor Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio. This was never more true than with some of the music created by one of the house bands at Studio One, the Soul Vendors. The "riddim" the Soul Vendors are most famous for is "Real Rock," which has been the foundation for countless recuts down through the years. Serving as the backing track for Studio One vocalist Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time", the track wasn't as overused as some riddims at Studio One, but gained particular notoriety when England's punk rock band, the Clash, covered the song and released it as a single to great acclaim. Since that time, the riddim has been used over and over by everyone from Michael Rose to Sizzla, and practically every artist in between, often more than once. The other horns instrumental known to many modern reggae fans (although perhaps not by name) is "Rockfort Rock," which Roots Radics used to Israel Vibration shows with.

Until recently, the Soul Vendors only had one LP explicitly credited to their name (Studio One’s “Soul Vendors On Tour” which contrary to the implications of its title is a various artists compilation consisting of studio tracks). Despite the lack of records bearing their moniker, the Soul Vendors have had an impact on reggae music far exceeding the music credited to them on a record label.  A list of all tracks they appear on would take up a number of pages but a short list of hits they backed include “Bend Down Low” by Bob Marley and the Wailers, “I’m the Toughest” by Peter Tosh, “Fatty Fatty”, “Party Time”, as well as the entire “On Top” album by Heptones, Desmond Decker & the Aces’ “007” and the album “Israelites”, as well as many hits by artists including Melodians, Stranger Cole, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, Ethiopians, Larry Marshall, Alton Ellis and Marcia Griffiths. Many of these artists, it might be noted, have made appearances in the past at SNWMF, and one could only hope for backing of the quality the Soul Vendors bring to the table.

Drummer Joe Isaacs is blunt and to the point when it comes to the history of the band and the rightful place of its members in the history of the music, whether they were called the Soul Vendors, the Soul Brothers or the Soul Dimension, all names that were attached at one time or another to the outfit. Quoting from a recently published interview, Mr Isaacs says: “Most times people who called themselves producers weren’t even there when the music was being structured; it was basically the musicians who were responsible for crafting the hit songs that are today being rated as foundation music.” Isaacs goes on to say, “One man who was key to the whole Studio One experience was Jackie Mittoo. A lot of people, even those who revere him, don’t really know the extent to which he has contributed to the establishment of Studio One and by extension, Jamaica’s music. In our time, we used to make 12 tunes every day and this man, Jackie Mittoo, was the driving force behind it all. He was the man who most times told the bassie (bass guitarist Brian Atkinson) what to play, told me (the drummer) what to play and when to roll. He was the man who created all these rhythmical patterns that are now branded as classic Reggae, but nobody knows that!”.

Commenting on the various names that were given to what amounted to the same band, Isaacs says “These different names were put together as a marketing strategy by Sir Clement Dodd who is a great man. Dodd…knows about marketing, yuh nuh. And he knows about picking artistes. He knows the business very, very well. To be honest with you, if it wasn’t for him giving us the opportunity to make these tracks I wouldn’t have anything to talk about right now. So therefore, I can say that I love this man. But as far as the music-making is concerned, is not him make them (the actual music)”.


Issacs continues, “They, the musicians of my era, were a part of building the empire of Studio One which existed from the 60s until now, which look to me like five decades, and the original people who made it happen, didn’t get recognition, didn’t get money, didn’t get nothing. But we get the greatest gift of all, we get the blessings of God who gives us life and the ability to make great music. We have no animosity towards anyone, as we firmly believe that nothing happens before the time.”

The lack of releases credited to the band was alleviated somewhat over the past couple of years when they released two albums, “Together Again” and “3 + 1”, both available in the US as well as Jamaica and the UK. Both these albums feature the current line up as will appear at SNWMF: Joe Issacs behind the drums, Brian Atkinson on bass duties, Hux Brown and Bo-Peep on guitars, former Chalice keyboardist Irvin “Allah” Lloyd covering the multiple keyboard instruments, plus a 3-piece horn section and featuring the vocal skills of King Banton.

In addition to showcasing their instrumental talents with a set on their own, SNWMF is pleased to feature the Soul Vendors as a back-up band to vocalist extraordinaire Ken Boothe as well as numerous rocksteady and reggae artists not confirmed as of this writing but to be announced soon. While the band is more than capable of delivering a complete instrumental set, they have recently backed live sets by artists such as Winston Jarrett, Derrick Harriot, Heptones, John Holt and Alton Ellis to name but a few. With such versatility, it is certain that whoever they are paired with this year will truly benefit from the sound and experience of these studio veterans, teaming up to make for another year of surprises and top-rank entertainment of historical significance at the festival!

- JB Welda

Soul Vendors Links:

The Music Of Soul Vendors - Track List


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