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Soul Jazz Records has issued a couple dozen outstanding compilations of unusual music ranging from New York punk-funk and Philadelphia soul-jazz to Yoruba music and Haitian voodoo drumming. Particularly great are their releases of both vintage and modern Jamaican music, of which “Joe Gibbs Productions” is the latest.

After Gibbs moved from Montego Bay to Kingston in the 1960s to open a hi-fi repair shop, he soon found himself circulating happily in the same circle as the city’s musicians. In the late ’60s, he delved into music production and founded the Amalgamated record label, asking an intriguing young man named Lee Perry to help him produce records. Perry had been working for the legendary Studio One, doing odd jobs and some producing. He did very well at Amalgamated and within a few years he earned enough money to go his own way and start his own label, Upsetter, which tested the boundaries of Jamaican music in strange and wonderful ways.

Talented as Perry was, though, he wasn’t the only producer in town, and Gibbs replaced him with a fellow named Errol T. Like Perry, Errol T. got his start at Studio One but had most recently been working as an engineer at Randy’s Studio 17, where he developed a knack for weird dub techniques that, in addition to the usual reverb and delay, included door bells, cuckoo clocks and the sound of toilets flushing (incidentally, “Randy’s Vintage Dub Selection: Dubbing at Randy’s 1969-1975,” another excellent Jamaican compilation, has just been released). Gibbs and Errol T. became known as The Mighty Two and until the mid-’80s headed one of most creative studios during a particularly rich period in Jamaican music history.

The music on “Joe Gibbs Productions” is an intriguing mixture of what sounds like straight-ahead A-side reggae and some trippy, dubbed-out B-sides. If you’ve listened to other collections of Jamaican music, some of these tunes, or at least their rhythms, will sound familiar. Sometimes very familiar. The reason is that Gibbs’ house band, The Professionals (which included killer drummer Robbie Shakespeare), was also the house band for other studios at the time, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to rerecord tunes with a different singer who came up with new lyrics. But far from being a disappointing repetition, this album shows how the same musical ideas can often be taken in different directions and implicitly suggests that good music goes deeper than just one song.

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