For the past few years, European and American anthology labels have focused intently on reissues from Studio One. It’s understandable, given the popularity of the brand and the fact that many obscure recordings stored in the vault of the mythical Brentford Road studio have still not seen the light of day. Luckily, the English label Cherry Red has been able to brilliantly wrangle a catalog that’s almost never updated in CD form: the productions of Karl “J.J.” Johnson, one of the most popular producers of the late 1960s, who died in 1972. Seventeen of the 58 songs on Reggae Power are presented for the first time in a format other than vinyl. The period from 1968 to 1972 is covered with vocal and instrumental productions featuring several harmony trios. The genres of rock steady and early reggae (renamed skinhead reggae by British fans) are well blended, and the favoured artists of the label well represented, with a few excerpts each: the underestimated Carl Dawkins, with 10 tracks including his greatest hit “Satisfaction”, The Ethiopians with eight, The Kingstonians, Roy Shirley, and The Clarendonians. These productions are all accompanied by Bobby Aitken’s The Carib Beats (renamed The JJ Allstars). The little gems on the album are “Try To Be Happy” by The Clarendonians, “Put It Good” by The Bleechers, and “Make Good” by Stranger Cole and Gladdy Anderson. JJ Johnson had a special talent for recognizing what the audience was looking for: deep bass lines and relaxed reggae beats, which quickly became his trademark.
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