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70s Roots Reggae by Jamaican masters The Gladiators
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70s Roots Reggae by Jamaican masters The Gladiators

Albert Griffiths and his band The Gladiators worked with pioneering reggae producers like Coxsone and Jamaican greats including the late Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

By DannyVeekens
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In the early years of reggae, the music scene in Jamaica was dominated by a handful of producers including Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, Prince Buster, and Duke Reid. Before tasting his first success with The Gladiators, frontman Albert Griffiths accepted a job as a mason after a series of unsuccessful studio sessions. Ethiopians frontman Leonard Dillon (a.k.a. The Ethiopian) was one of his co-workers. Together they convinced their employer, Leebert Robinson, to fund a recording session at the famed Studio One. The outcome, "You Are The Girl," was Griffiths' official debut, released on the B-side to the Ethiopians' 1966 hit, "Train to Skaville." That refueled Griffiths’ confidence in music—a year later, he started his own band: The Gladiators.

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Their early work was produced in affiliation with Clive Chin (whose father Randy Chin started VP Records in 1958) and Duke Reid, before scoring their first Coxsone-produced Jamaican chart hit "Hello Carol" in 1968. Other hits like “Freedom Train” followed at the dawn of the 70s, the decade when reggae music started reaching massive audiences outside of the islands of Jamaica.

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Studio One is where things officially started for Griffiths. That's also where the sling of hits by The Gladiators continued throughout the 70s: Studio One released their roots classics like “Bongo Red,” “Jah Jah Go Before Us,” and “Roots Natty,” which even reached the reggae underground in the UK. That eventually got The Gladiators a record deal with Virgin Records, which led to the Prince Tony Robinson-produced Trenchtown Mix Up album in 1978 boasting hits, revisions of earlier Studio One recordings, and a couple of Bob Marley covers. Together with later albums Proverbial Reggae and 1979’s Naturality, the albums were considered as a triptych of classics.

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Symbol of Reality

When mainstream interest in reggae was fading, Virgin Records decided to move their focus to homegrown artists again. But The Gladiatorsfreedom train still didn’t reach its final destination. Under the wings of US-based reggae label Nighthawk, they kept on going with albums including Symbol of Reality (as available nearly in full on Tracklib) and 1984's Serious Thing.

Below you find all songs taken from Symbol of Reality, in order of appearance on the tracklist (with exception of “Small Axe” and “Stand Alone”). To make up for those two missing tracks, we’ve added the Instrumental Dub Version of the title track, as released for the first time in 2018 by Omnivore Recordings:

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4:29
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4:19
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3:28
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3:34
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3:32
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3:48
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3:55
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3:23
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3:36

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