REVIEW: Jackie Mittoo – Striker Showcase, March 2017

By Liam Monaghan

On the 3rd of March 1948 in the market town of Brown’s Town, Saint Ann Parish, Jamaica. A Donat Roy Mittoo was born and musical greatness had acquired a new member. Mittoo grew up in a music family and began learning to play the piano when he was three under the tutelage of his grandmother.

As many musicians in Jamaica did, many worked in studios, joined house bands, tried to find a deal. Mittoo made his mark in music In the 1960s where he became a part of the The Skatalites and their colourful history as well as The Sheiks, The Soul Brothers, The Soul Vendors and Sound Dimension. Mittoo had been involved in an extensive amount of records and noticeably one of his more known compositions in this period was titled “Darker Shade of Black”. Mitto worked at Studio One and made his name at that label’s Brentford Road base in Kingston during the 1960s

After leaving the island of wood and water, Mitto immigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada at the end of the 1960s. It was in Toronto that he set up Stine-Jac Record Label and record store. There he recorded three albums, Wishbone (Summus), Reggae Magic (CTL) and Let’s Put It All Together (CTL). In 1970, his song “Peanie Wallie” was reworked into a song called “Duppy Conqueror” and recorded by The Wailers and Mittoo’s song Wishbone was a hit in 1971. He co-wrote “Armagideon Time” (later recorded by The Clash) with Willi Williams, released in 1980.

In the 1980s, Mittoo often worked with foundation Reggae singer Sugar Minott and in 1985 he travelled to Ghana with British Pass The Dutchie stars Musical Youth and while there, recorded tracks that would later be released on the album Jackie Mittoo in Africa. In 1989, he briefly rejoined The Skatalites, but left when his health started to deteriorate. Mittoo entered a hospital on 12 December 1990 and died of cancer on 16 December at the age of 42.

Striker Showcase finds Jackie Mittoo re-visiting much of his Brentford Road past for producer Bunny ‘Striker” Lee, classic 70’s recordings that proved extremely popular in the rockers era. This remastered 2CD, released by VP Records, set collects together three classic Jackie Mittoo albums (Showcase, Keyboard King & Hot Blood) and fleshes them out with extra choice cuts.

I was excited when the opportunity came up to listen to the riddims that Mittoo had built. As a huge fan of King Tubby and The Scientist I was curious to hear the riddims and which direction Mittoo took his sounds. It’s quite difficult to break down each track so a general overview and some of my personal favourite riddims is what ill run through. It’s hard to find any dark riddims across the CDs, by dark I mean heavy, weighty with bass and deep. The keys stand out in the majority of the riddims and for obvious reasons they were always going to in a Mittoo production.

Champions Of The Arena is a nice way to kick off the collection. For me personally it’s very middle of the road and a balance of dub with splashes and echoes ringing out and across the room but the keys make the mood very light and bubbly generating a positive vibe.

Hot Milk reminds me of a riddim that you could expect popular UK artist Judge Dread to deliver one of his witty numbers across. Another bass heavy riddim but the keys are organ like and the guitar strokes ring across the riddim giving that Reggae vibe which follows Champions Of The Arena nicely and we’re off to a positive start.

Darker Shade Of Black follows the Hot Milk and I’ve heard this riddim sampled so much in Reggae music from the decade of Mittoo, which just goes to show how powerful this riddim was. The keys create a hook that will have you humming the riddim all day long.

Onto the Drum Song and there’s an element of jazz funk in this record. As the riddim kicks off there’s a picture that’s painted in your head consisting of afros, flares possibly Starsky and Hutch on a stake out. Coming away from photos and images, Drum song has clear influences of Mitto’s time in Africa with the bongo drumming rippling away in the background.

Shooting us in the ear with moody sultry vibes is The Sniper. This is probably the most chilled track I’ve heard so far. Relaxed drumming sequences create a calm platform for some intense guitar strumming which sets the speed of the track and simply keeps the groove.

I really didn’t know what to expect from this collection of music but I’m pleasantly surprised by how the riddims are not dictated by the bass and the drums but more the keys. The keys throughout constantly uplift and riddims and bring positive vibrations. There’s no denying that Jackie Mittoo is an unsung hero of Reggae music and his influence and creations need to be celebrated amongst the younger generation. A great collection of music overall.

Jackie Mittoo — Striker Showcase
Release date : Mar. 10, 2017
Label : VP Records


DISC 1 The Jackie Mittoo Showcase
1. Champions of the Arena
2. Hot Milk
3. Darker Shade of Black
4. Drum Song
5. The Sniper
6. Peace Treaty
7. North Of The Sun
8. Jumping Jack
9. Super Charge
10. One Step Forward
11. Death Trap
12. Earthquake
13. Atom Sounds
14. In Cold Blood
15. Ram Jam
16. Clean Up The Arena

DISC 2 The Keyboard King/Hot Blood
17. The Thriller
18. You’ll Never Find
19. A Rocking Sensation
20. World Of Love
21. Creative Rock
22. The Avenger
24. The Penetrator
25. Mediator
26. A Standing Ovation
27. Jah Rock Style
28. Merry Go Round
29. Locks And Keys
30. Hot Blood
31. Man On The Hill
32. Disco Jack
33. Channel One Crash
34. Brain Mark
35. Dub Cut

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