Sound Dimension, the Studio One house band, created some of Jamaica's most enduring and popular riddims, unleashing a slew of seminal instrumentals, as well as providing backing for the label's myriad hits. For many reggae fans, the band's music defined the age for five years, from 1968 until 1972. With the demise of the Skatalites in 1965, pianist Jackie Mittoo set up shop at Studio One, working as an arranger, composer, and musician. His initial house band was dubbed the Soul Brothers. The rise of rocksteady saw a lineup shift and a new moniker, the Soul Vendors. The group toured Britain in 1967, and guitarist Eric Frater returned home with an echo box. Its psychedelic sound inspired the name Sound Dimension, which the band took as its own the following year. By then, the group included Mittoo, Frater, lead guitarist Ernest Ranglin, drummer Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, budding bassist Leroy Sibbles, and brassmen Vin Gordon, Cedric Brooks, and ex-Skatalite Don "Deadly Headley" Bennett, among others. When Mittoo emigrated to Canada in 1968, Robbie Lyn or Richard Ace usually took his seat, although the keyboardist returned regularly for recording sessions. The Sound Dimension opened their account in 1967 with "Walk Don't Run" and "Swing Easy," with a clutch of fine instrumentals following in 1968 -- "Mojo Rocksteady," "Musical Scorcher," "Heavy Rock," "African Chant," and "Rockfort Rock" among them. "Mojo" proved to be a particular favorite over the years, "Rockfort" even more so.
But the two that had the greatest impact were "Full Up" and "Real Rock." The former, with its easygoing air, was eventually dubbed the "Country" riddim. One of the most versioned tunes of all time, its melody would land at the top of the British chart as Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie." The biggest of them all, though, was "Real Rock"; more versions have been cut on it than on any other in reggae history. Over the years it has supported so many hits it deserves an entry all its own and, like "Full Up," it is still being avidly recycled to this day. Another clutch of great singles arrived in 1969, including "Rathid," "Soulful Strut," "Time Is Tight," "Return of the Scorcher," and "Drum Song." The latter, initially released and credited to the Soul Vendors, proved to be another enduring number. Although the Dimension continued to release excellent singles across the early '70s, none quite captured the imagination as had their previous numbers. Regardless, most proved immensely popular in the sound systems. Of course, the Sound Dimension's work can also be heard on the myriad vocal numbers released by Studio One during this era, as many of their singles were instrumental takes of the vocal cuts. Later in the decade, Coxsone Dodd dusted off a number of the Dimension's tracks and remodeled them for a new generation, with great success. Other producers had been doing that since the mid-'70s, with both the Soul Vendors and Sound Dimension riddims supporting a slew of hits. The band's numbers can be found scattered across myriad compilations -- conveniently, though, the Soul Jazz label bundled some up for 2006's Jamaica Soul Shake, Vol. 1 and 2008's Mojo Rocksteady Beat. ~ Jo-Ann Greene