The title of “King” in regards to a craft or technique in the arts is often thrown around a little too loosely these days. That said, I’m going to use it here with the disclaimer that my application of the word is not hyperbole; for Jackie Mittoo, one of the founders of the legendary group The Skatalites and musical director of Jamaica’s label and recording studio Studio One, the crown as “Keyboard King” is earned and appropriate. I’m no aficionado of musicology (although I pretend to be sometimes) but I’ll tell you this: Jackie Mittoo’s importance to the development and influence of the numerous different styles of music that came from Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s cannot be measured. With that I humbly give you this week’s edition of The Joup Friday Album: Jackie Mittoo The Keyboard King at Studio One.
Man this guy was cool. Think about it. He worked with Bob Marley, Lee “Scratch” Perry and Bunny Lee among countless other outstanding musicians who came out of Jamaica during its Golden Age of music. Studio One was IT. Ask anyone in the know: any musician, any music historian, any music journalist, and they will agree. Mittoo was the man behind things, the one often not recognized as such. His work with The Skatalites alone can attest to the that. I mean “The Guns of Navarone” paved the way for music and social influence on Jamaica and in a larger scope the world for that matter.
Jackie Mittoo went on to play in Toronto, Canada for the good part of the 70’s including a stint with Earth, Wind and Fire. He recorded a tune that was covered by The Clash titled “Armagideon Time.” He toured Africa in the 1980s. I could go on and on…and on again for that matter. Instead, let’s get to The Keyboard King.
Jackie Mittoo The Keyboard King at Studio One is a compilation album… well kinda. It sure doesn’t play like a compilation album. It’s well put together and the sound and quality is consistent throughout the entire recording. The album is comprised of cuts from solo albums such as “Keep on Dancing,” “Jackie Mitto Now,” and “Macka Fat.” There are also studio cuts never released on previous efforts. The album covers a wide expanse of years for Mitto’s music.
What stands out: the tone, the timber and the style. When you listen to it through there are times you’d swear you’ve heard this before somewhere, and you may very well have in one form or another. That classic analog ska reggae organ sound can be directly tranced to Mitto. You hear right off the bat on the lead cut “Get Up and Get It.” You also hear the R&B and soul and blues for that matter. It’s all there. And then talk about Ska will ya? Ok, “Killer Diller” it is. Mittoo rips it apart… runs on the keys no one had ever done before or even came close for that matter. Fast forward a bit if you want (though you won’t need to) and you hear the oddly named downtempo numbers “Reggae Rock” and “Oboe.” Mitto even brings the funk in with the track”Juice Box.”
The tail end of the album fails to fall off at all. Track 10 – simply titled “Drum Song” – has a world beat with afro-beat element to it. Soon after that he chills it back out with “P Cafe.” A few more stellar tracks and onto the terrific conclusion “Darker Shade of Black.” A full hour of terrific music. Anytime and any situation, spinning “The Keyboard King” will be the right time.
So yeah, I guess I never thought I’d agree with any such title but Jackie Mittoo, you are The Keyboard King.
As always…listen, but find it and buy it. Also as always if you can, vinyl is the optimum medium for music.
Tag goes to you Thomas. Pick us a winner as usual.
Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is an artist developer focusing online on front end development and keeping up with new techonolgies. Photography has been his most recent and strongest passion. He’s shot thousands of photos throughout the years only recently display a larger portion of his library here on Joup.