FORMAT: LP (approx £28, tbc)
THEY SAY: Ernest Ranglin’s 1996 album ‘Below The Bassline’ available on a limited edition yellow vinyl LP which has been newly mastered for 180 gm vinyl at Abbey Road Studios, and is housed in an eye-catching sleeve reproducing the original CD artwork. The package includes sleeve notes by Reggae expert Steve Barrow, author of The Rough Guide To Reggae. Originally released in June 1996 on the short-lived Island Jamaica Jazz imprint, ‘Below The Bassline’ was the Jamaican guitarist’s nineteenth solo album – his first ‘Wranglin” was released by Chris Blackwell’s Island Records in 1964. It was recorded in New York with a stellar cast of guest musicians, including Ernest’s Skatalites bandmate saxophonist Roland Alphonso, bass player Ira Coleman (Herbie Hancock, Bradford Marsalis, Pharoah Sanders), drummer Idris Muhammad (George Benson, Lou Donaldson, Grant Green) and pianist Monty Alexander (Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie). ‘Below The Bassline’ is a testament to the skill of the legendary Ernest Ranglin and the other musicians featured here.Original copies of the 1996 black vinyl LP now sell for upwards of £400, while a limited reissue in Japan in 2021 is already attracting three figure prices.
Born in Manchester, Jamaica in 1932 Ernest was a pioneer of the early ’60s Ska movement, his percussive and rhythmic guitar sound becoming a defining feature of that genre, as heard on recordings by Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley and The Skatalites. Ernest’s relationship with Island Records dates back to 1962, when he was among the musicians employed to add an ‘authentic’ Jamaican flavour to the first James Bond film Dr. No. Island Records founder Chris Blackwell was employed as a location scout for the film.
In 1963 Ernest arranged and played guitar on ‘My Boy Lollipop’ by Millie Small (UK No. 2, May 1964), the first big international Ska / Reggae hit and for many British music fans, their first exposure to this ‘exotic’ genre. Such was his versatility, in 1964 he was hired by Ronnie Scott to join his band at his famous Jazz Club in London; readers of Melody Maker voted Ernest ‘best guitarist’ in that paper’s 1964 Reader’s Jazz Poll.Future projects saw him work with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Ken Boothe, The Congos and John Holt.
WE SAY: If you skimmed past this in haste thinking “90s reggae, naaah” then please familiarize yourself with this masterful collection ASAP. It’s certainly caught our ears and is as worthy of your time as anything else you might be familiar with from the outstanding cast of players involved.