Jackie Mittoo Champion In The Arena (Blood & Fire) Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It's no surprise that most of the past attention on reggae organ master Jackie Mittoo has focused on the classic rhythms he helped create with the Skatalites and the various Studio One house bands. Champion In The Arena builds on the legend, focusing on the work Mittoo recorded in 1976 and 77, when he was making frequent trips between his new Toronto home and King Tubby's Jamaican studio. The instrumental scorchers here, featuring a typically all-star band including Sly Dunbar, Chinna Smith and Robbie Shakespeare, capture Mittoo in typically expansive form, stepping beyond his background role in the Skatalites with lengthy organ and piano solos. Even more explosive are Mittoo's pioneering experiments with synthesizers and electric keyboards. All that's missing now is a set of the easy listening and incidental pop Mittoo recorded while living here.