In 1976 a lot of reggae classics were released. One of them was The Gladiators’ Trenchtown Mix Up. A look back at a unique reggae album.
The story of The Gladiators starts in 1946 when Albert Griffiths was born. In 1968 he and some friends founded The Gladiators. The group had immediate success after the release of their single Hello Carol. Early 1970s Clinton Fearon and Gallimore Sutherland were added to the group, completing the classic line-up. Besides working on their own material, they regularly worked as session musicians at Studio One in Kingston, Jamaica. The group released some singles, but around 1974 they started taking their career more seriously.
After meeting producer Tony Robinson, who was a fan, their career started to take off. Following the release of a couple of singles with Robinson, the group caught the eye of the British Virgin Records, who signed the group in 1976. They subsequently went into the studio to record their debut album at Joe Gibbs Recording Studio.
Trenchtown Mix Up
The group recorded their debut album with a couple of session musicians, including master drummer Sly Dunbar and percussion wizard Uziah “Sticky” Thompson. The result was impressive, the album Trenchtown Mix Up was a beautiful, richly orchestrated reggae album.
It ticked all the right boxes lyrically as well. The album title was lifted from a newspaper article describing the rise of political violence on the island. Many songs are about stopping violence and bringing peace, but the majority is about personal challenges, like giving up on gossip, lying and discrimination and leading a life of virtue according to the rules and laws of Jah. But the overall message can be found in Know Yourself Mankind: “this is 1976, we don’t want no more war”.
The album has a nice, clear production and shows the group in all its (vocal) splendor. In the very first song the beautiful (harmony) singing is immediately prominent. The album contains two older re-recorded songs: Mix Up, originally released as Bongo Red and Hello Carol, their 1968 single. Both Bob Marley provide added value to the original performances.
All songs written by Albert Griffiths, unless stated otherwise.
- Mix Up
- Looks Is Deceiving
- Chatty Chatty Mouth
- Soul Rebel (Bob Marley)
- Eli Eli
- Rude Boy Ska (Bob Marley)
- Know Yourself Mankind
- Thief In The Night
- Hello Carol
- Albert Griffiths – guitar, vocals
- Clinton Fearon – bass, vocals
- Gallimore Sutherland – guitar, vocals
- Lloyd Parks – bass
- “Sly” Dunbar – drums
- Uziah “Sticky” Thompson – percussion
After Trenchtown Mix Up
In 1978 Trenchtown Mix Up was followed by the equally beautiful Proverbial Reggae. After the albums Naturality, Sweet So Till and Gladiators the deal with Virgin was ended.
During the course of the 1980s the group released no less than 11 albums on different labels. In 1987 regular band member Clinton Fearon left the group, reducing the band’s core to Griffiths and Sutherland.
In the 1990s the output was drastically cut back: just 3 albums were released. In 2005 the group released Fathers And Sons, on which Griffiths, who was already ill by that time, passed his legacy on to his sons. A fitting farewell, for it’s a great roots reggae album with beautiful music. On December 15th, 2020, Albert Griffiths passed away, he was 74 years old.
What do you think of The Gladiators and Trenchtown Mix Up? Let me know!
The Gladiators image: youtube.com
The Gladiators – Trenchtown Mix Up image: spotify.com
The Gladiators playing guitar image: djdmac.com