Skatalites - Rolling Steady
The story behind Rolling Steady
In 1983 the original Skatalites (minus trombonist Don Drummond) re-formed to appear at Jamaica’s Sunsplash Festival where they supported Peter Tosh. While they were in JA preparing for the show, they recorded eleven tracks at the newly opened Music Mountain studio prompted by Jackie MIttoo and under the guidance of producer/promoter Tony Owens. This was almost the last time the Skatalites recorded in the country of their birth.
It's not entirely clear what happened at those sessions, but it seems that after five days of recording the band members fell out. By then nine tracks had been more-or-less completed, and on the remaining two no horn parts were recorded. At that point Jackie Mittoo apparently absconded with the 24-track master tapes.
Many years later the tapes were somehow rediscovered courtesy of Tony Owens and some mixes were produced, but by then the original analogue masters were beginning to break down through ageing, and one song (Rolling Steady) had to be abandoned. The remainder were mixed down, but the steady clogging of the tape machine heads from the decaying tape is clearly audible on most of the mixes, which start off sounding fine and progressively become more and more 'wooly'. Several mixes were faded early in an attempt to hide the problem.
After those mixing sessions somebody must have realised that time was running out, and that unless something was done these unique recordings would be lost for ever, so an attempt was made to copy everything onto Alesis ADAT. Unfortunately the transfers all suffer from the progressive decay in quality noted above, only in many cases it's become more severe. These ADAT copies of the original analogue tapes are all that Motion Records had to work with, and before the advent of digital audio restoration most of the recordings would probably have been written off, as their condition was so poor.
However a long period of painstaking restoration work at Motion Studios brings us to the point where all nine of the completed originals are fit to be released. All of them run to their full recorded length, and there's very little to betray how close they came to being lost for ever.
Not surprisingly there's been a great deal of interest in this album since we initially announced it in July 2006. At that point we couldn't possibly have anticipated how difficult it was going to be to bring it to a releasable condition. Hopefully the paragraphs above now explain the long delay, but also bring the news of a truly excellent outcome.
Rolling Steady will be released on CD and download by Motion Records on September 17th 2007. The CD features a beautiful 8-page booklet with photography by Lee Abel and notes by David Katz. A vinyl version will follow.
Musicians on the album: Jackie Mittoo - Piano. Tommy McCook - Sax. Lester Sterling - Sax. Roland Alphonso - Sax. Johnnie Moore - Trumpet. Lloyd Knibb - Drums. Lloyd Brevett - Acoustic Bass. Jah Jerry - Guitar. Calvin Cameron - Trombone. Lord Tanamo (Joseph Gordon) - vocal on Big Trombone.