On Thursday 21-2-08 producer Joe Gibbs passed away at Kingston's University Hospital of the West Indies from a heart attack. Aged 65.
Born in Montego Bay in 1943, Gibbs left Jamaica to train as an engineer in the US. Returning to the island in the mid-1960s to set up a TV repair shop, it wasn't long before he began to sell records. In 1967, shortly after this sideline proved a runaway success, he took the step of setting up a recording studio in the office at the rear of the building.
His Amalgamated label was very successful. With Gibbs bringing in other producers, first Lee Perry and, then Winston Holness aka Niney the Observer. Producing great music with Errol Dunkley, Sir Lord Comic and the Pioneers.
Gibbs had international success, scoring a UK top 10 entry in 1970 with Nicky Thomas's 'Love Of The Common People'. By the mid seventies he had teamed up with Errol T. Gibbs and Thompson would soon become known as "The Mighty Two". Throughout the mid-1970s, they continued to produce the biggest artists in Jamaica -
However, the end of the decade would bring about their most famous work, from Althea & Donna's 1977 pop crossover anthem 'Uptown Top Ranking' to Culture's Two Sevens Clash -
Gibbs never enjoyed quite the same level of success later in his life, but by this point he could afford to slow down, although by the late nineties he had rebuilt his studio and released very good albums with artists like Jackie Brown and Alton Ellis.
Various Artists - Joe Gibbs Productions - Soul Jazz - CD
Gibbo unlike so many producers - as always had some really good various artists LP/CD out representing his works. From the early days of Trojan to more recently Heartbeat. Soul Jazz rather than copy those compilations concerntrate on the late rockers era. So on this set you find groups like Culture, Mighty Diamonds, and DJ's like Trinity representing the late Rockers era - with some outstanding tune like 'Two Sevens Clash' from Culture and 'Identity' from the Mighty Diamonds. When you get to the early Dance Hall Style you find Joe Tex and U Black, Junior Murvin. Nigger Kojak and Liza and Bigger T. Sadly old Gibbo's biggest Dance Hall hit (aside from all the stuff with DB) is Cornell Campbell's 'Boxing' a massive dance hall tune. That still sounds fresh today. Its a shame he don't bring it back as a one rhythm album - now there's an idea!
Joe Gibbs - African Dub - Joe Gibbs - 1975
The first in a series, and one of the better ones. The opening tracks on the album tend to be rhythms intercut with each other which is annoying more than interesting. After that though the album settles into a very relaxed mood. With all of the big rhythms of the day, including the likes of 'Rockfort Rock'/'Half Ounce' 'Unchained'/'Schooling The Beat' and 'Riot'/'Worrier'. Also present are a few Joe Gibbs originals which are also in the same style. A no thrills set that still sounds good.
Joe Gibbs - African Dub Chapter 3 - Joe Gibbs - 1978
Towards the end of the seventies dub became more and more full of gimmicks. It didn't cause the downfall of this musical artform, but it didn't help. This album was the first very popular dub set containing extensive use of gimmicks. Lee Perry had of course dabbled with them from the start of dub. However this was something else. Really and truly the rhythm tracks here are so good, and the mix by Errol T so clean that it doesn't need anything else. Still if you like doorbells and stuff, this is for you.
Joe Gibbs & Friends V/A - The Reggae Train - Trojan - 1988. A few years ago it was reported that Joe Gibbs was building another studio or was about to reopen his old one. Yet like Coxsone, you can't help having mixed feelings about Gibbo. Just check out all the talent on this album and all the great music. People like him should have been able to do a lot more for all the people he's worked with over the years. He and others may argue that they did their best - fine. Let's just hope that the lessons have been learned, and when success comes their way again - it will be built upon.